When we’re young and asked what we want to be when we grow up, many of us will say we want to do something creative like being an actor, writer, or musician. But, as we get older and start to have the harsh realities of the world drilled into our heads, most of us will trade our dreams for something more practical. It’s not that we no longer aspire to rock out in stadiums worldwide or express ourselves through music, but that we don’t believe we’ll be able to do so and still pay our bills.
But many people do succeed in music, so why can’t you be one of those people? In reality, if you just hold tight to that goal and approach it wisely and realistically, you should be able to achieve your dreams of working in music – and even making money off of it. These five tips can guide you in building the career you always wanted.
1. Be A Business Person
Listen, we get it. Music is art and you’re in it for the self-expression and love of the craft. But if you actually want to translate that passion into a career, you’re going to have to be as business-minded as you are artistic. Sure, put music first, but put the hustle second. If you can’t put on your business person hat (or tie) every so often, you won’t stand a chance.
There are many ways that being business-minded will help you. It’ll push you to work hard, hustle, and keep going in a difficult industry. It’ll help you understand what is profitable in order to best market yourself to record labels or reach an audience as an independent musician. It’ll help you keep your finances in order with a clear mission and business plan. And it’ll allow you to deal with other people, like venue bookers, agents, managers, and studios, more professionally. Among many, many other things.
2. Keep Up With Current Trends
Ten years ago, nobody could have predicted that streaming would come out of nowhere and change the face of the music industry but, alas, it has. Today, if you don’t consider streaming and social media as part of your music marketing strategies, you’re going to fall behind. Follow the industry in order to stay up to date about the current best way to promote music or, even better, the future best way to promote your music. For example, in this current time, you might want to focus on how to get on Spotify playlists, TikTok influencer marketing, and Reddit music promotion. But, most likely, in a few years, there will already be new platforms to think about.
3. Think Beyond The Stage
Like Nickelback said, we all just wanna be big rock stars. But there are so many other professions in the music industry that can make for a long and profitable career that is still entirely involved in the thing you so love. Consider if you would be open to pursuing a job such as being a songwriter, DJ, instrument repairer, studio musician, working in a music store or in music marketing, a roadie, a music journalist, a music lawyer… the options are endless and extend far beyond the jobs that get the most fame and fortune. And most of these are still plenty creative. Best of all, they’ll give you the money and contacts you need to be able to work on your own music on the side.
4. Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
Be careful of falling into the trap of thinking “Okay, I’m going to take my music career seriously! I’m going to invest my own money into recording an album, book my own gigs, and sell my record after shows.” The idea is great, and it’s wonderful to be so gung-ho, but stop and think before you invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into something you’re not sure will succeed. Start small. Dip your toe into digital music marketing to see if there is a demand for your work. Start with a single and an EP before you commit to a whole album. Invest a little and see if it pays off before you invest a lot.
5. Read Your Contracts
If you do get lucky and manage to get offered a contract with a record label, it’s seriously critical that you do your homework, read your contract, and understand each and every stipulation on the page. There are just too many horror stories of artists getting screwed over by predatory contracts that leave them worse off than they were before they started. Don’t agree to anything you’re not comfortable with. You don’t have to take the first deal you’re offered. Negotiation is an option, and it won’t hurt you to try. We promise, you’ll regret it if you don’t.