Success in the Music Industry
So I started opening my eyes to opportunities for success in the music industry. And as soon as I did opportunity was everywhere. I started moderating an Internet forum with over a million users as a volunteer. Before long I was being paid, then I was being paid more to write articles for a newsletter, lessons, and transcripts of recordings. And then a bit more to edit the contributions of others. Then I was getting free gear to review for the newsletter that I could give away in competitions. My music teacher was also an in-demand session player who couldn’t fulfil all the engagements he was invited to participate in, so he recommended me. Previous gigs in my local area meant the owners of venues knew me. Have an act cancel? Give me a call. Maybe a band’s guitar player fell over and broke his hand? Give me a call. I recorded EVERYTHING, becoming an engineer and producer. I still record everything. And in amongst the filler there will be an occasional bit of killer. I collate that and turn it into a saleable product.
The list above is neither detailed nor exhaustive but gives an insight into one of the main keys to being a success in the music industry. Versatility. I have always had the drive to do things myself. I get frustrated when I can’t do something, so I go and figure out how. By wanting to do everything, and by becoming capable in many areas of the business, I am able to make myself useful in lots of different ways to all kinds of people. And in music just like any other trade, when you are useful, people will want to employ you. If you become really useful you may find you have more work than time in which to do it. And when you get there, your prices can go up. I love variety. I’m told it is the spice of life – it certainly stops me going crazy. The more work you do, the more people you meet. The more people you meet the more opportunities come your way. Do your job well and treat people well, and you will always have more work than you need. And suddenly you’ve become successful in the music business, you’ve made money and you didn’t need to become a star to achieve it.
And as we speak of ever-increasing opportunity – never say no. Or at least don’t say no until you’ve given it a good go. You may not see it now, but not being a star has some really big benefits. Until I played classical guitar at a wedding, I had never played classical guitar at a wedding. I was a bit out of practice and hadn’t played classical guitar at all in several years; very nervous of being a let-down, but I also really needed the money. I considered the worst-case scenario, which I judged to be not playing as well as I hoped I would. I knew I would play well enough for the audience, and I wouldn’t want to let down a customer, nor ruin a special day. So I took the job, and it went really well. It isn’t really my ‘thing’, so I don’t seek work playing at functions, but if somebody asks I wouldn’t say no. If I was famous, the risks associated with making a fool of myself would be greater, the risks of failure would be greater, and the impact on future work of that failure is also likely to be more significant. Little old me, who nobody has ever heard of? The blast radius on that one is going to be a good deal smaller, and likely a lot more survivable. You too can be a success in the music industry! So, grasp opportunity with both hands, particularly if opportunity means money. We want to make a living here, and there is no shame in being a jack of all while you work at mastering a few.
The Internet has completely revolutionised the music business, the routes to market we all have available to us and the tools we can use to get there. You can teach yourself just about anything if you have the patience to do so. And I recommend you do. Doing everything yourself gives you absolute control, minimises your costs and makes you more valuable as a musician. If a producer has the choice of a session guy, or a session guy who can read music and has a background in composition, who do you suppose he will get the better result from? If you get to the point where there are things it is more economically viable for you to pay somebody else to do, by all means do so. Even then, if you ask someone to do work for you that you could do yourself, you can give their work proper quality control and be confident in the results.
We all know music’s megastars, with their huge houses, fast cars, and fat bank balances. We’ve already been reacquainted with the archetypal musician who is less useful than a large pizza. This book will detail several areas of the music business that allow the enormous number of musicians who live very comfortably between these two extremes to do so happily, and with as much stability and security as is possible in today’s world. Over the last 5 years I have, on average, made in excess of £85K every year from music which I think it’s fair to consider success in the music industry. I got my last mortgage approved on solely the income from music. My interests have become many and various over the years, so I will not claim 100 percent of my income is derived from music now, but it has been in the past, and I could easily live on my music income today.
I have made plenty of mistakes over the years. Plenty! But if you get your mind right you can consider each an opportunity, even if it is only the opportunity not to do the same thing next time. I found my own path to success in the music industry, becoming self-sufficient before I could truly consider myself ‘successful’. My childhood spent learning multiple musical instruments was a huge advantage, but I had the disadvantage of being talked out of music as a career. I had the advantage of a day job that would cover my necessities while I built a solid alternative, but the disadvantage of it taking an enormous amount of energy which I would have much rather used for music. You might be a better musician than me, you will almost certainly be a better business person than me, and if you’re not a better pianist than me… don’t do that for a living. Seriously. You cannot fail to be a better musician than half the people you see on MTV, so make the most of the combination of talents you hold that is unique to you, and go for it!
Go for it!
I had only been playing around 3 years when I started being paid for it – you absolutely DO NOT need to be the best player of your instrument in the world. You need to make the most of what you have and play to your strengths. I am, for instance, a pretty inventive lead guitar player, but I’m a distinctly average rhythm player. I don’t enjoy it and am perhaps not as motivated as I should be to improve – though I continue to work on it in the spirit of bettering myself as an artist. What do I do with that? Play to my strengths. When I play rhythm I ‘cheat’ by adding a lot of fills and lead lines to keep myself interested. If I’m given a score to play, no problem – my personal challenge is imagination with chords rather than the mechanics of playing. But I overcome. Making a living as a musician is no less challenging than any other career based on talent, but success in the music industry is very achievable if you’re dedicated and passionate enough to overcome the inevitable setbacks you will encounter on the way.
I don’t want to crush anybody’s hopes and dreams; you might be a giant star one day, and once you’re done rubbing it in my face I’d love to hear how fantastically things have worked out for you. To quote the lottery ads on TV ‘It could be you!’ And it could – somebody is going to get famous and be a success in the music industry. There is a very good likelihood that several somebodies will get famous who you consider to be inferior musicians. People can seemingly get famous, and thus rich, for just about anything. Or indeed nothing. There is, however, nothing to stop you following the advice in this book to keep yourself dry in the rain until the fame train pulls up at your station! You do not need to be a star to make money in music, or to be a success in the music industry!