Top 10 Mistakes Musicians Make When Trying To Get Into The Music Business
by Tom Hess
If you want to become successful in the music industry, there are many things you need to know and do. But even if you get all that right, you can prevent yourself from reaching big success by making critical mistakes along the way (and there are many potential mistakes one could make, when not being careful). After coaching and mentoring many musicians and bands seeking a career in music, the same patterns of false assumptions, problems and mistakes appear over and over again. Here are the top 10.
Mistake #10 - Not having a compelling image that is congruent with your music. Most musicians (and bands) severely underestimate the importance of their image. Yes, music is about 'music', but music business success is about a total package that includes music, image and visual stage show among other things that need to be fully developed in a congruent way.
Mistake #9 - Trying to ‘get your name out there’. Although this seems to be a main goal of most musicians and bands, it is the wrong approach to start with. Before trying to be seen and heard as much as possible, it is often more important to focus on ‘converting’ the people who hear and see you into becoming actual fans. This ‘conversion’ is the first key to your promotional success, NOT getting seen or heard as much as possible.
Mistake #8 – Believing that social media websites are the keys to online music promotion for musicians and bands. Social media websites are a tool. They are ONE piece of the online music marketing puzzle. Music industry companies (record labels, artist managers, booking agents, etc.) are far more interested in the popularity of YOUR website, not how many friends you have at MySpace, YouTube, Facebook or any other website that you do not own and control. Want to impress the industry with your band’s promotion? Build your website traffic.
Mistake #7 - Not investing enough time into building your music career. Most musicians spend most of their time on music, but put very little effort into the many other critical elements needed to make it in the music business. If you are already a talented musician, you should invest at least 50% of your time into starting or advancing your music career. If you are still developing your musical skills, you should still invest around 25% of your ‘music’ time into building a future music career.
Mistake #6 - Surrounding yourself with people who are negative, lazy and lack ambition. If you are very serious about becoming a professional musician and building a great career in music, then you absolutely must surround yourself with like-minded musicians.
Mistake #5 – Having merely mediocre live performing skills. Many musicians, who are not yet in a good band, put off developing their live performing and stage presence skills. This is a big reason why talented musicians don’t get into really good bands that they audition for. Your music may be good, but a live 'show' requires more than great music. If people only wanted to hear the music, they would listen to you at home. Both fans and record labels want (and expect) to see a REAL show. Neglecting this area results in talented musicians and bands becoming quickly forgotten.
Mistake #4 - Focusing on increasing the ‘quantity’ of fans instead of the ‘intensity’ of your fans. The ‘number’ of fans you have should always be your secondary focus (not your primary one) if you want to become successful in the music industry. The fact is, it is not the number of 'fans' that matters most, it's the number of FANATICS which will contribute more directly to your success (or lack of it). This is particularly true in the beginning of a band’s music career. Focus more effort on converting your existing fans into raving fanatics. Learn to do this and the number of your overall fans will increase through powerful word of mouth.
Mistake #3 – Not enough cash flow to support your music career. Like it or not, it takes money to build a music career. Even if other people/companies are paying for your record, tour support, merchandise, etc. you still need to have the freedom to pursue opportunities as they come. Sadly, many musicians miss opportunities because they can’t afford to take advantage of them. In addition to a decent income, you also need the flexibility of being able to take time away from that income source to go into the studio, go on tour, etc. That is why learning how to teach guitar is such a great way to achieve both if you learn how to become a highly successful guitar teacher.
Mistake #2 – Not enough depth in your music relationships. There’s an old expression, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” In music this is often modified to, “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” The truth is, it’s not about either. The most important aspect of connections within the music industry is how deep are the current relationships you have now and will develop in the future. You don’t want to simply know people or be known, you want people who know you to have a real deep connection with you so that you are always on the top of their mind when opportunities present themselves. Ask yourself, “What can I do right now to deepen my existing relationships further on an ongoing basis?”
Mistake #1 – Having a fundamental misunderstanding about what record companies look for - and expect from new bands. This is a huge topic, but in a nutshell, it’s very useful to think of record companies like a bank that lends money to people or small businesses. Record companies make most of their decisions about whom they will work with and what the terms will be in much the same way that a bank will determine whom they will loan money to and what the terms of the loan will be. Both record companies and banks basically want to see 3 things:
How much value do you bring to the deal right now.
How much risk do you bring with you right now.
- How much potential value and risk might you bring to them in the future after they invest in you.
If you want to buy a house, the bank wants to know a lot about the specific house you want to buy and EVEN MORE about YOU. Record companies are the exact same, they want to know about your music, your talent and your band, but they also care as much (or more) about YOU (and your band mates) as people. What about YOU makes a record deal a good or bad investment for them.
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