4 Of The Worst Music Career Questions You Can Ever Ask
By Tom Hess
Every week hundreds of musicians from all over the world write to me with questions about building their music career. Yet, from the flood of emails I receive, only a handful of musicians ask the ‘right’ questions. The rest (the majority) ask questions that:
- Are based on false assumptions, misconceptions and misunderstandings about how the music business works.
- ‘Seem’ like appropriate questions to ask, while in reality putting the person asking them on a COMPLETELY wrong track, far away from their music career goals.
- Skip many other important steps that the person asking the question must do first to grow their music career. In other words, many musicians ‘get caught speeding’ - a concept I wrote about in the article on how to become a professional musician.
To build your music career as quickly as possible, you must identify what questions you should NOT be seeking answers to, and instead learn to ask much higher quality questions that will help you make the fastest progress possible in the music industry.
Industry Looks For In You?
Bad Music Career Question #1: How Do I Get A Record Deal?
To understand why this question is a bad one to ask, first try answering this question: “Why should anyone give you a record deal?” If you think that it’s because your music is great, sorry, this is never a good enough reason (on its own) to even ask other people to give you a record deal. Nobody will put hundreds of thousands of their hard-earned dollars at risk simply because "your music is great". Why? Because doing so would be a really bad investment. In fact it is not even an investment, it's an irrational gamble (like buying a lottery ticket). If you saved a few hundred thousand dollars, would YOU go and spend it all on lottery tickets? Or would you look for an investment that has a proven track record of being profitable at least on a small level? ... Of course you would seek the best investment, because you are smart. This is also exactly what record labels do.
If you are serious about getting a record deal, then you should STOP asking a meaningless question of ‘how to get signed’ and instead recalibrate your entire goal (in this area) to first make yourself a ‘great investment’. To do this, you need to do a lot more than simply write good music, have good recordings, send a press kit to the right people and have a Facebook page.
Here are the proven steps you need to take to turn yourself into an attractive investment for any record company:
- Understand exactly what the music industry looks for in musicians before signing them.
- Do everything you can on your own to build your music career independently first. As mentioned above, record companies will carefully look at your ‘track record’ of success before deciding if working with you will be a good investment for them. The more success you have achieved on your own (as an independent musician) the more likely you will be to attract their attention.
- Get music career training from a mentor who has already helped lots of musicians just like you to successfully get record deals and build successful music careers.
As you successfully grow your career as an independent musician, you won’t have to keep ‘looking’ for ways to get a record deal - record companies will seek YOU out instead!
Bad Music Career Question #2: How Can I Avoid Becoming A ‘Starving Artist’?
Most people make the false assumption that making a living in the music industry means either: ‘making it big’ - selling millions of albums and touring around the world or ‘being a starving artist’ - playing your music on street corners for spare change just to make ends meet. This music industry myth causes people to sabotage their careers, either by getting day jobs unrelated to music and ‘trying to do music on the side’, or being afraid to even enter the music business.
Truth is, there are plenty of ways to make a very good living in music and there is a MASSIVE ‘middle class’ in the music industry. More importantly, it’s actually EASIER to make good money and be secure as a professional musician than it is to succeed in most other competitive industries. However, to make this happen, you must start by asking a higher quality question. Instead of asking yourself “How can I ‘avoid’ becoming a starving artist?”, you should ask yourself “How many different ways can I make money in the music business?”
While working in the music industry, you don’t have to work paycheck to paycheck as you would with a ‘normal’ job (where you only have a single source of income). You can (and need to be) making money from many different sources at once. This makes working in the music industry a MUCH more stable career choice because you aren’t fully dependent on only one source of income at any given time. Some common ways you can make money in the music business include: selling your own music, playing live gigs or recording studio parts (as a session musician). In addition to these things, there is one step you can take right now that will quickly boost your music related income:
Learn how to teach music lessons and attract a lot of students. By doing this, you can instantly create many sources of income (having dozens of students) while working only part time hours each week. This will give you the flexibility to work on furthering your music career, take time off whenever you want and have the money to support yourself. Read this article about teaching guitar lessons to find out how you can start teaching music right now.
When you build lots of independent (and congruent) streams of income as described above, it’s very possible (and not that hard) to earn 6 figures and beyond in your music career (I know this, because I’ve trained many musicians to do it). To learn more about how to make this happen, read this article about making money in music.
Bad Music Career Question #3: Where Should I Relocate To Start A Successful Music Career?
Most musicians assume that their chances of music career success go way up if they live in a big city with a big music scene. This assumption drives them to relocate from one city to another, looking for music career opportunities to fall into their lap. Then when they don’t find any success in the city they moved to, they either continue relocating from one city to another, or stay where they are, wondering why music business opportunities don’t seem to appear for them.
The reality is that your location has NOTHING to do with your potential to become successful in music. In today’s world especially, it’s easier than ever for musicians to sign record deals, release music, plan and conduct world tours, do session work (and a lot more) no matter where they live. The most successful musicians in the industry did not become so simply because they were fortunate to live in one location vs. another. If that was the case, there would be no successful musicians living in any cities other than the ones known for their big music scene. Fact is, the principles that make music career success possible work exactly the same no matter where you live.
So rather than wasting time, energy and money trying to find the one ‘perfect’ location to start your music career, follow the path to success that has PROVEN to work over and over again. It consists of the following steps:
- Identify your specific music career goals using the process I describe in this article about setting your musical goals.
- Develop (or get a music career mentor to help you develop) a strategic plan of action for reaching the goals you set for yourself.
- Consistently invest time into carrying out your plan to expand your career and move towards your long term goals.
By focusing your energy where it needs to be (on the steps above) vs. on meaningless hunt for the perfect location, you will achieve success much faster and easier.
Bad Music Career Question #4: How Do I Get Lots Of People To Listen To My Music?
Most musicians want to get their music ‘out there’ and heard by as many people as possible, thinking that this will somehow translate into earning a good living in the music industry. However, the sheer number of people who hear your music actually means almost nothing in and of itself. The only thing that matters is the number of those listeners who turn into a super intense following of fans who will do anything to support you and your music.
So before you ask yourself “How do I get tons of people to listen to my music?” you should ask this question: “How can I grow a following of hardcore FANATICS?”
AFTER you ask (and take action on) the question above, THEN it will also become important to grow the overall number of people who hear your music (because you now will have a much better chance of turning many of them into super hardcore fanatical followers).
To learn how to make more money with your music and turn your fans into fanatics, read this article about promoting your music.
Now that you’ve learned why the most instinctive/common sense questions can steer your music career towards a dead end, here is what you should do right now to get back on track towards success:
Step 1. Start thinking more deeply about your music career goals. Use the resources mentioned throughout this article to get lots of clarity about how the music business REALLY works.
Step 2. Ask yourself much higher quality questions about what steps are really needed for you to reach every one of your music industry goals.
Step 3. Don’t make the mistake of navigating the music industry on your own. Get music career training to follow the quickest and most direct path to achieving success in the music industry.
Build a successful career in music with an experienced music industry mentor.