The Good (And Bad) Ways To Start A Music Career & Break Into The Music Business
by Tom Hess
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Gamblers and investors.
Which type are you?
Are you gambling with your music career or investing in it?
Let’s find out:
How “gamblers” operate in the music business:
Gamblers in the music business operate like poker players in a Las Vegas casino.
A gambler hopes to win, but quickly folds to cut his losses if he feels he isn’t holding the winning hand.
Gamblers bet on their hand, hoping to get lucky, win big and win fast… they don’t invest for long-term gains. They have zero attachment to the hand they are holding.
Imagine this common music business scenario:
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So, what do they do?
Instead of learning how to improve album sales…
... they go back into the studio and spend (gamble with) more money making another record, hoping to make it big next time.
This continues until the band runs out of money or loses its motivation and falls apart like most bands do.
Would you like to be in a band like that?
These musicians are gambling (not investing) with the success of their music career. They also want someone else (a record company, a manager, a promoter, a publisher, etc.) to gamble on them too.
Here is another common music business scenario:
A record company signs you to a deal without doing any research on you beforehand.
They hope that you become successful in the music business, like a poker player hopes to get lucky and get the winning hand.
You are excited to get the attention of record companies in general and you feel your music career dreams are about to come true.
… 2 weeks later, the company discovers something about you that worries them.
So, what happens?
They drop you like a hot potato and you never hear from them again - ending your dreams of success in the music business.
How would you feel being “signed” by a record company like that?
It doesn’t work like that anymore in the music business.
Bottom line is: You don’t want to ask anyone to gamble on your music career.
You want an investor to invest in you.
How “investors” operate in the music business:
Who are some of the biggest investors in the music business?
They invest their time, money, expertise, resources and reputation into musicians to help them become successful.
Record companies usually play the long game.
Unlike gamblers, they generally don’t give up on their investments at the first sign of trouble. They know that it takes time for musicians to become successful.
(I emphasize "usually" and "generally". That's because some record companies also operate with the predatory "gambler" mindset.
And if such record company ever offers you a record deal - you better run away as fast as your legs will carry you.)
But in the music business, record companies protect their investment during any temporary downturns, instead of abandoning it like gamblers do.
There is a catch! Actually, there are 2 catches.
- Record companies are investors - not charities.
Their goal is to make money from their investment into you (and all musicians they work with).
This is the only reason why record companies are in the music business.
- Record companies are VERY selective about who they work with.
They do their due diligence, to minimize their risk and maximize the return on their investment.
What are the things record companies look for in musicians (and in you)?
Watch this music business video to find out:
What Are The Music Career Lessons Here For You?
Music Career Lesson #1: Become Who You Want To Attract.
If you want to attract investors into your music career, become an investor yourself.
Here is how:
- Learn about the business side of music. The more you know about how business works, the easier it is to become successful in the music business.
Everything in business (including the music business) revolves around marketing, sales, accounting, management, operations, people skills and technology.
Invest the time to learn the basics of each field to expand what you offer in the music business. This puts you light years ahead of most musicians who only focus on music alone.
- Invest into meaningful music business relationships. Contacts matter little in the music business… but real, authentic relationships matter a great deal.
A relationship takes time and effort to develop and each relationship is a building block of your reputation.
Read this music career article to learn how (and why) to develop solid relationships in the music business.
- Develop a solid work ethic. Get used to doing more than what is expected of you… and doing things that you aren’t obligated (or paid) to do.
When you do, you stand out from the crowd, like a raisin on a coconut cake.
- Build your track record of music business success.
Want to attract the attention of record companies?
Show them everything you’ve achieved on your own, using your own resources, network and resourcefulness.
THAT is what gets them interested in you.
- Improve your financial situation. The better your personal finances, the easier it is to invest into long-term growth of your music career.
- you can afford to go on a short tour and make little (or no) money, so you can grow your fan base and make more money on future tours.
- you can afford to work in the studio for 8 weeks to record an album without worrying about paying your bills.
You don’t need to become a millionaire before someone in the music business invests in you. But you cannot live paycheck to paycheck either.
Record companies are more likely to invest in your music career when you aren’t struggling financially and are able to invest in your career on your own.
Music Career Lesson #2: Making It In The Music Business Is Easier Than You Think.
I’m not saying it’s easy…
… but I am saying it’s much easier than most think it is.
You probably think that you are competing with thousands of musicians who want the same opportunities you want in the music business.
This is only half true.
There ARE thousands of musicians who want to make it… but most of them are not serious competition for you.
Most musicians are gamblers. They do little or nothing to really invest in their music careers.
So, what does this mean for your career in the music business?
You don’t have as much competition as you think.
Focus on becoming the best version of yourself that you can be with every action you take in your music career.
When you do, you leave most of your “competition” in the dust and attract opportunities other musicians only wish they had.
Music Career Lesson #3: Think Like Record Companies Think.
Remember how record companies research many things about you before deciding whether or not to offer you a record deal?
What if you made a list of all the ways you can add value to record companies and minimized your risk?
- You could study how the music business works (so record companies don’t have to spend money teaching you things you can learn on your own).
Reading articles like this is a good start. Getting music career mentoring from a proven mentor is a bigger step above that.
- Do the things you want record companies to do for you … on a smaller level.
For example: organize a small tour around your area.
You may not make any money on the tour, but you gain valuable music business experience in:
- Live performance, stage presence & tour logistics
- Budgeting, merchandise sales & ticket sales.
- Building relationships with promoters and venue owners.
Question: “Tom Hess, am I guaranteed to the attention of record companies in the music business if I do these things?”
Answer: Of course not. There are no guarantees in music business (or in life) about anything.
If you don't invest time, energy and money into growing your career, why should record companies in the music business do it for you?
You now know more about what it takes to make it in the music business than most musicians. The next step is to learn how to get attention in the music business, so you build your career faster. Download this free music career eGuide to learn how to get record companies to notice you & start building a career you can feel really proud of.
About Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He trains musicians how to leave their day jobs and build successful fulltime careers in the music industry.
Ready to succeed in the music business? Learn how to build a music career you’d be proud of.
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