Working in music is more than a nine-to-five job; it necessitates a great deal of dedication, often for little pay or recognition. It doesn't help that there's a lot of misconceptions on how to get into the music business and what to do once you're there.
So, here are a few facts about the music industry. They're designed for artists, but they're also useful for those in the business world. Some are upbeat, while others serve as a wake-up call. They are all, however, critical to comprehend.
Knowing music isn't the same as knowing the music industry.
Being able to ace the pub music quiz, attend a lot of concerts, and rattle off a list of labels doesn't mean you'll be able to book the shows, run the labels, and so on.
There are certain practicalities in the music industry, both financial and otherwise, that are simply not evident until you have to, say, make sure the CD run is on time and the review is actually released as promised. Even if you understand the relationship between brands, manufacturers, and retailers, you won't really "get it" until you've seen the mechanism from the inside rather than from the outside. The two worlds are diametrically opposed.
Make no mistake about it: If you want to succeed in the music industry, you need to love music and know a lot about it (well, not really; some people who run music companies don't know anything about music and are just skating, but they inevitably fall through the ice). However, don't think that a lifetime of music nerddom marks you as an expert in the industry. You'll not only perplex people, but you'll also be totally wrong and miss out on the chance to learn how things work properly.
Selling your music is still a viable option.
This one is a bit of a toss-up. In the music industry, there is a heated debate about free music, with some believing that all music should be free and that merchandise and live shows are the only ways to make money. That's a bit far-fetched. Yes, there is a decline in music sales. Yes, there is a lot of free music available.
The truth remains that your fans want you to continue making music, and they are willing to pay you for it. The trick is to strike the right balance between tempting your fans with freebies and providing them with the opportunity to purchase high-quality music at a reasonable price in the format they want.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution that will work for all. Different genres of music have different trends in terms of releases and release formats. Save your pennies and give it to your fans if they want vinyl. Give it to them if they're all digital all the time. Offer them CDs if they ask for them. (And, yes, CDs are still sold.) (Really.)
You must be aware of the target audience. Finding out what works will take some trial and error. One thing you should do is ignore the notion that your music is nothing more than a marketing tool for selling T-shirts, coffee mugs, and concert tickets. Merch is crucial, and it should be included in your strategy. It shouldn't be THE strategy, though.
The Fundamentals Are Still Important
There is a lot of emphasis on this app or that social networking tool for musicians these days. These tools are useful, but they are secondary to the fundamentals. Writing good songs and performing live shows are still the cornerstones of any successful music career. Without the special marketing software, you can make it in music, but you can't make it without the music and the shows. At least not for the time being.
Additionally, no one has ever said, "I'm not a big music fan, but I really like this band's take on social networking and music promotion. When are they scheduled to perform?" That isn't to suggest you shouldn't educate yourself about industry issues or actively participate in shaping the direction your chosen industry can take.
A good album, on the other hand, has more impact than a facebook, a blog comment, a headline, a new software application, or a new social networking website. If you're an artist, your first priority should always be your music.
Social Media Won't Help You Save Your Musical Career
Social media can be an effective tool for engaging with your fans and keeping them engaged. If you don't give it the attention it deserves on your priority list, it can become a major distraction. You can possibly think of a number of musicians who have developed a presence on a social networking site. Let's see how many you can come up with. What percentage of the total number of cloud-based musicians does your list represent? Well, exactly.
Don't let being popular on social networking sites overshadow the other aspects of your music career. At any time. Also, never pay anyone to "teach" you how to efficiently use social networking sites. There is no such thing as a magic recipe. There are none. Being yourself and figuring out what feels good for you is the best way to succeed on these pages.
You don't need to pay anyone to show you how to do that, despite what some people may tell you. It's not a difficult job. Simply hop in. You'll figure it out. There are more free tools dedicated to providing advice on this kind of stuff than you might expect to read in a lifetime if you need any advice on what works and what doesn't.