Starting a Career in Music


STARTING A CAREER IN MUSIC

 

So many times I come across musicians trying their best to start a career in music but struggling to find out the best way to do it.  They are swimming upstream and forever trying to play catch up with no clear direction.  They have no game plan to go by or even goals set to measure their progress. It is my intention with this blog post to help set a few things in motion for musicians who are struggling with this particular issue.  We all know how paralyzing it can be to feel completely overwhelmed, and this is not what you need when launching a career.

First and foremost you need a vision. A definable vision statement that you can explain who and what you are.  A mission statement is next and this explains the path you are taking to get to your vision. It’s hard to sell yourself to any industry expert if you don’t know who and what you are and where you want to go.

Then you need to develop a business plan of some kind. It doesn’t have to be some monster plan until you are seeking capital or label placements.  You need to have at least the goals and marketing plan done here.  Basic financials would be great as well but can be added later.  There is no point in recording a CD if you don’t have a fan base to sell it to and a way to distribute it you will just have a garage full of unsold CD’s.   It always best to have a game plan before making major purchases. Remember YOU are the product not the CD.

Once you do you have a plan in place, image together and a CD or EP to market, plan on spending a couple years on just this one package of music. You don’t need to rush into another writing another CD. Chances are that while this music may get old to you, most won’t have heard it and it is fresh to them.  Then you need to concentrate on booking yourself as much as possible.  Keep at it as much as you can and don’t give up.  You most likely are not going to find a good booking agent until you have radio airplay, management and a label.  This is up to you so be diligent!

This is just a quick lesson on what to be thinking about so work hard, play out as much as possible, track everything you sell and give away and let wisdom guide you!

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18 responses to “Starting a Career in Music

  • Business Market

    wise…although you did see bands like REM who were afforded the time to grow really slowly over a long career until eventually they were huge. Business Market

    • Debra Russell

      But I think that’s exactly the right model for today – grow slowly over time. Plan on a long career, not instant stardom. Work for the music not for the fame.

      It requires the skill of delayed gratification – for many, a skill not well developed in our sitcom solution in 30 minutes or less, google for instant gratification world.

      Learning to celebrate the baby steps and short term goals is key to long term career success, IMHO

  • MomHen/Jeanette

    thumbs up, David. Good post, good advice!

  • Charlie Stout

    Only a few paragraphs here – but it’s amazing how many artists and groups seem to get this wrong! By wrong I mean 30K in the hole on a CD with 950 units left to sell and a cruel clock ticking on a worn-out image!

  • Lee Jarvis // US Music Jobs

    In a nutshell, that’s about it! Modern music careers should (and often do) take a similar form to this. Having a realistic view of success means you can structure achievable goals. You can then plan to work towards them, and utilise the immense ocean of musician’s tools that are available online. Work hard, smart and efficient, and get the help of good people where necessary!

    Lee Jarvis.

  • Debra Russell

    Absolutely! I’d also add immerse yourself in your industry. Don’t just learn the music, learn the music business. Go to conferences and showcase – but even more importantly – go to learn. Go to the break out sessions, workshops and panel discussions. See other people’s showcases and notice how are they presenting themselves, how are they marketing themselves. Particularly watch the folks who are the next rung up from you – what are they doing that works.

    And David’s advice about $$ on your CD counts here as well – don’t spend tons, but spend something. Find the right conferences for your genre and your geographical area. A lot of bookers won’t book someone they haven’t seen, so booking conferences are a great way to be seen.

    Read books by experts and read blogs. Always be learning.

  • David Knight

    This is great advice. More and more I’m seeing artists who need to understand that gaining knowledge in all aspects of the music business is important! It’s no longer a “sex drugs and rock and roll” industry for artists! It’s now really, the business of music. As David mentioned, without a vision there is no you, as a band a solo artists are you as a person for that fact! You must have vision, you must have a plan that supports that vision and most of all you must set your plan into action with out FEAR! If the plan does not work, look at it again and edit the plan adjust your goals if need be and then “HIT IT AGAIN!”

    Also, it’s very important for all artist to increase there financial IQ. There’s no excuse for not understanding basic accounting. There’s no reason to not under stand cash flow, there’s not reason not to understand how to use an accounting software just as well as you know how to use Pro Tools or Logic. We as artists must begin to take care of ourselves. “The Whole Artist!”

  • Manisha Shahane

    Short & sweet post…encouraging, while realistic. My favorite part is about avoiding the “monster plan”. Many people have trouble planning at all, but some who are business minded might get lost in the details and lose sight of why they are writing a plan to begin with. Putting anything down on paper helps and then if you hit a wall, just let it go and do your thing.

    I have two drafts of plans … one from 2005 and another from 2008…I call them DRAFTS because I never finished them and I felt badly about that. However, the 2008 one was quite thorough (and I was told I should publish a book out of it for beginners, but who reads books these days * sigh * LOL ). I hit a wall when it came to projecting the financials because of my need for precision and realizing how much had changed since the previous release. How would I project digital sales/phys sales and also one must take into account whether sales of the new album would lead to sales of the old one and on and on. I let it go, realizing that the purpose was served.

    A few months ago I read a post by a well-known & financially successful young tech entrepreneur about how business plans aren’t necessary (which generated much conversation) and felt much better about the fact that my “draft” was a draft. And it will be until I revisit it again. : )

    I do have to say that the research I put into it has been helpful to me as I see my vision unfold and as I prepare to release my second album. A young performer contacted me about planning and I told her that even if she puts something down on a paper napkin, it is better than nothing. Make sure the plan doesn’t overwhelm or discourage you…keep your vision in mind and move forward towards it – just as you said.

    The most important thing to realize is that you can’t project everything…new technologies will develop and you will have new ideas. Give yourself a framework and then allow for flexibility and change within that. I almost think we should scrap the word plan for something else…when I think of it, I’ll write a blog post. : ) : )

  • lucille

    I love this website, the information is great and I have bookmarked it in my favorites. This is a well organized and informative website. Great Job!

  • Deborah Halasz

    I’m just now getting involved in music promotion and doing research for local artists on local venues. I’ve found there’s numerous ways to be involved in the music industry and all can be exciting.

  • How To Start a Music Career « Sketchbook: Notes About Music and the Arts

    […] names, private jet owners, and paparazzi magnets, most people who want to become musicians seem to miss the basics. “They have no game plan to go by,” says blog author and agent David Lowry, “or even goals […]

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