We’ve all heard the complaints about the current Music 3.0 music industry model: physical product doesn’t sell anymore, download sales don’t make up for the shortfall, and streaming music cannibalizes sales and pays a pittance in royalties. Then let’s heap on the accusation that music today is so formula and soul-less and generally a shadow of what it once was. But how does that explain the recent success of Mumford & Sons and Adele? Here are two principles that hold true in any age.
Entries in music business (55)
Last week I asked a question on my Facebook page which was:- “QUESTION! For anyone looking to get a job in the music business. I’m looking for 7 questions that you would like answered as to how to get a job in the music industry. What would you like to know?” I got a couple of questions back which I thought I would answer in blog form as the answers would be too long for Facebook comments so here there are – incidentally if anyone else has a question that they need help with please post it on my Facebook page and I will answer it for you.
“This is my last chance, my last kick at the can.”
i heard those words today… and it stung.
don’t say that.
The Last Chance Saloon,
a funeral parlor
for ambitions not achieved.
saying these fateful words means:
…you’ve already created a conscious limitation for yourself.
…you’ve already thrown up a barricade you won’t maneuver past.
…you’ve already signed a death warrant on your future potential.
I created the conceptual model to understand the independent variables that help predict music consumption, along with predicting how much change in those independent variables can impact one’s consumption of music in a way that leads to revenue for an artist, an artists’ label et al.
When I was in college, I held several part time jobs to make ends meet. One of those part time jobs was playing guitar at a few restaurants every month. Nothing glamorous, but I was happy to be playing guitar. I started keeping track of how much money I made on those gigs to see if I could justify quitting one of the other part time jobs.
It turns out keeping a detailed list of my music income has served me well over the last 10 years. I was eventually able to justify quitting all of my day jobs and become a full time musician, and since being a full time musician, I’m able to keep a finger on the pulse of my various streams of musician income. Just as a shop owner keeps track of her inventory and carries whatever products are in demand, I’ve been able to assess and adjust my inventory of music jobs that keep me in business.
Over the last 10 years the way I make a living has changed dramatically. I’ve never made a lot of money, but I’ve been able to make more each year despite the changes in the music industry and economy in general. Here’s my method and what I’ve learned along the way.
Electronic Dance Music (EDM), and to a lesser extent Hip Hop, are much better poised to thrive in the new music industry than traditional bands (live guitarists, drummers, vocalists, etc). Lefsetz has been talking about this phenomenon for a while but it’s only been recently that the truth of his claims have become apparent..
Traditional bands have, and always will, exist. I’m not arguing that. What I am saying is that the environment for the new music industry is far more favorable towards electronic music than it is traditional bands. If we take equal amounts of each type of band, over time we’ll see more electronic groups for all of the reasons listed below.
For more and more musicians, the idea of stardom seems to be further and further away. While some still see stars in their eyes, a great number have come to the realization that the goal is now a lot different, since just making a living in music can now be considered a success.
So the big day is fast approaching. You are leaving the ivory tower of college in a few weeks and are about to enter the work force. Most likely the only thought on your mind is how to get a job.
The ideal is to have a job locked up and waiting for you before you graduate, so you can enjoy your last month at college. This is what all your friends in other majors are doing. The computer scientists are getting flown across the country and eating lobster. The engineers are meeting with on campus recruiters. The management and business students have already found a good position at the bank where they interned.
The music industry does not work this way. Very few companies hire in advance. Music companies are not structured to wait several months for an entry-level candidate to graduate college. They hire when they need a body, not because there is an influx of new talent every spring, like some other industries. While this is frustrating, it actually creates a new opportunity.
Your goal as you enter the music industry should not be to find a job, but rather to develop a career. Getting your first job will be a byproduct of this process, but jobs are temporary and a career lasts a lifetime.
Think of your career development in four levels
Recently music industry analyst Mark Mulligan presented his plea for a serious adoption of a new music format. He claims that most new business model ideas in the music business are retail innovations, but not format innovations. In short, he argues that the new music format should be Dynamic, Interactive, Social and Curated (DISC). For the full vision, check out his speech at midem 2012, or read his full 15-page ‘manifesto for the next generation of music products’.
In my thesis about marketing music through non-linear communication, I wrote a case-study about a record label called Twisted Music and their remarkable adoption of an excellent business mentality for the digital age.
I often like to compare business practices of other industries and to take the lessons learned to apply it towards a music career. The other day, I was thinking about the food industry and it was so much like our world in music. I grew up in a very entrepreneurial family and started helping my parents’ restaurant business when I was still in elementary school so many of these lessons came quite early in life.
Here in Portland, OR, most people are starting their food business in the form of a food cart. It’s less expensive, there’s less risk, and you’re often grouped together in a “pod” of other food carts so often times you’ll just get crowds of hungry people who would like some food but are unsure of what they’d like yet (or you can be exposed to the customers of other carts). Picture yourself as a chef who wants to make a living doing what they love for a living: cooking. Not much unlike the music industry isn’t it?
We read so much doom and gloom about the record business every day that it’s easy to think that pretty soon the whole thing will come crashing down. Cheer up. It’s not as bad as you think.
You don’t need to be an industry insider to know that the ticketing segment of the music business needs a major overhaul. Concerts are more relevant to the industry now than they have been in a very long time, but there’s a lot more to be done if we are to see them reach their full potential — for artistsand their fans. Thankfully, movers and shakers like the innovators behind new school ticketing platform TicketFly still exist.
Every now and then, I go on an open mic binge and discover new little spots and new artists honing their craft. There was this one girl who was absolutely amazing. I told her what I did and she started asking questions. Our conversation came around to how one can get the right exposure and further their career. I shared with her a lot of things, but one of them was about reaching out to industry insiders and building a professional network that will help propel her career forward. It’s not enough to play live. You have to also work hard at building your professional network in the music industry. Finding contact info is easy. There are directories and registries out there you can buy. However, there are some realities concerning industry people that you have to understand before you reach out to them. Or else, you’ll only annoy and alienate them. Here are those realities.
So how hard is it really? You write songs and sell them, that’s all there is to it, right? Unfortunately the music industry isn’t quite as simple as we’d all like it to be. There are many different sectors through which an artist must pass and even more ways in which these sectors can be negotiated and traversed. To successfully navigate the music industry one must learn what happens in each of these sectors and how they inter-relate. To help you get started we have a ‘Map of the Musical Universe’ courtesy of PRS (click to enlarge).
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(Updated July 8, 2015)