The music industry may seem like one big ocean and sometimes it’s easy to get lost while trying to navigate to an unknown state.
Or even worse – you might drown and never to be heard from again. But don’t let this happen to you.
If you are contemplating launching a career in the music industry, it is important to arm yourself with knowledge.
I know that sounds like a cliché and you probably heard that time and time again from the experts and music industry insiders.
So I’m not going to preach the same old advice.
In this industry (in any industry for that matter), you need a base of knowledge (and on-going learning and training) in order to sustain your career.
The entertainment industry is known for being fickle. You might be hot today and gone tomorrow.
This applies to recording artists, genres, labels, managers, et cetera. No one is immune to the trials and tribulations of life. That’s how the game works.
In my humble opinion, there are three types of knowledge that you need in the music industry and are as follows:
- General Business Knowledge
- Industry Knowledge
Now let’s go over them in detail so you can get a better perspective.
General Business Knowledge
It doesn’t matter whether you are running a supermarket, an events company or a record label – business is business.
Ever heard of a serial entrepreneur? If not, this is someone who is involved or runs businesses in different industries.
Someone like Richard Branson comes to mind.
But we all have to start somewhere.
Say you want to be an artist manager but you lack general business knowledge and experience.
What do you do?
You can find a client to manage and take over the role of “business manager” too. Someone has to do that job and that person can be you!
In that way, you will learn as you go.
If you manage artists, the first thing that you need to do is to get organised. You are a manager, after all, so you should lead by example!
By getting organized, I mean that you should operate like a real business. Setting up a formal company (which you should), a business bank account should be at the top of your priority list.
On a day-to-day basis, you will be dealing with basic things like Tax Invoices, documents, clients, etc. And you should ensure that everything works in concert.
When you understand how business works, it’s easier to make a transition from one business to the next. It’s not rocket science.
If you don’t know how your industry operates, you’re setting yourself up for some nasty surprises.
Even if you do have general business knowledge (and experience), it doesn’t mean you should (you shouldn’t) walk into any industry blindly.
Sure, you won’t know everything from the get-go. But you should at least familiarize yourself with the fundamentals.
If you are an artist, it’s not enough to know how to record and produce music. I’m not the first person to say this and I sure won’t be the last.
We have heard countless stories of artists being “robbed” by record labels, managers, etc.
But when you walk into any industry, you shouldn’t expect anyone to educate you. The responsibility is yours!
For example, say you sign a recording contract; you should know how many labels will be handling your release(s).
This is important because a record deal might appear to be good commercially but bad financially.
I will give you an example just to illustrate my point.
Say Artist X signs to Label A. Label A has a “distribution” deal with Label B. But Label B also has a distribution deal with Label C
When the album is completed, it has to go through that channel until it gets released. The probabilities of a project being successful are high because of the support behind it. BUT……….
That’s three companies (middlemen) handling your music. And everyone has to get a cut! So your royalty pay-out will be minimized because of that.
This is very common in the industry.
So pay attention and don’t overlook such things or you will play the victim and complain about being “robbed”.
All knowledge ultimately leads to self-knowledge. The legendary Bruce Lee came up with the line, not me.
Self-knowledge can save you from a lot of trouble. If you are wondering what I’m talking about, don’t worry I’ll explain this further.
We all have strengths and weaknesses. There are things we like and there are things we do not like.
Going back to the example I mentioned above. Say you were presented with a recording deal today.
Knowing what you know now, would you sign a deal with three or more labels handling your album?
If you are an aspiring record label owner, my question to you is: Do you know your risk tolerance?
Knowing your risk tolerance is important as a business person. Again let me explain this further……
Most independent labels rely on majors to break their artists.
Artists signed to these independent labels wouldn’t be as big (mainstream) without the marketing and distribution clout of the major record companies.
The majors are the ones taking the risk at the end of the day.
Maybe you might be thinking “I’m going to do it myself and do what the majors do” (which is possible considering that we are now in the digital age).
But you would have to spend your own money (or borrowed) on marketing, promotions and distribution.
Even if you do have some resources, but how much money are you prepared to burn?
Those are questions that you have to ask yourself. But asking the right questions will lead to the right answers.
Do you even have the temperament and tolerance of managing different artists and egos?
Spreading yourself too thin can do more harm than good especially if you don’t have a strong arsenal and resources to back up your ventures.
You don’t have to do things just because you think you have to. It’s easy to get lost if you don’t know yourself.
Sometimes it’s best to pick a struggle and stay true to yourself. And as the saying goes, if you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.
Did I miss anything?
I’d like to know some of your thoughts and suggestions on the comments section below