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« Professional Way Of Life | Main | Treat your music like NPR »
Monday
May312010

Why All Musicians Need To Have The Business Know How

The music industry, as we all know, is constantly changing. That’s a dead issue. Forget about digital downloading and piracy, they can both be overcome with the correct business strategies. So, what I want to talk about instead is a observation I’ve been noticing for a while now; There is a serious lack of business knowledge in the music industry.

When I say this, I’m not really talking about major labels (Although some of their signings do make you wonder), I’m more about the grass route independent musicians. There are many with enough talent to satisfy even the harshest critics, yet they’ll never quite fulfil their potential. It may be that they’re not sure how to effectively promote their music, or it may be that they’re not sure how to manage their budget. Either way, without at least some business knowledge you won’t get very far at all.

The thing is, a lot of musicians don’t realise they have to take the time to learn business side of the music industry. Many just go with the flow and learn as they go along. Now personally, I’ve never been of fan of making mistakes and THEN learning from them. If it happens, so be it. But I’d much rather learning as much as I can in the beginning so I can get things done correctly the first time around. This’ll keep your journey sailing smoothly, and save a lot of time and effort on re-doing things from previous mistakes.

The reality is, the business aspect of things isn’t that hard to grasp. It does however require the desire to learn and a bit of patience. As with most things in life, having business knowledge won’t allow you to achieve your goals over night. What it will do however, is allow you to manage your work load better and choose the best opportunities to progress your music career. To many people end up spending too much time and money to achieve too little, wasting months and years in the process.

If you make music but don’t actively seek better practices of doing things, now is the time to start looking. Don’t learn how to promote your music and you may as well keep making music in your bedroom. But I’m sure your music is worth more then that… To our success!

Shaun Letang is the founder of the Independent Music Advice website, a website dedicated to helping musicians learning the business aspect of the music industry. If you want years of music business experience at your finger tips and don’t want to learn the industry the hard way, what are you waiting for? Come and get advised!

Reader Comments (9)

More musicians need to keep track of accounting. I know so many people that say, "We sold out of our pressing of 1000 discs. We sold 1000 discs!" But then you ask how many were given away free or sent for promo & they can't answer it & sometimes they remember they only had 500 pressed. I guess that's part of why distros want labels to use Soundscan, so many folks aren't lying as much as they just have no idea what's going on.

That's so true Brian, a lot of musicians really have no clue about what's going on around them. Too many people end up giving out their music for free with nothing in return, for every piece of 'Free' music you give out you should at least get an email address or promotion from the fan in return. I haven't heard of Soundscan before though, I'll look into it now...

That's so true Brian, a lot of musicians really have no clue about what's going on around them. Too many people end up giving out their music for free with nothing in return, for every piece of 'Free' music you give out you should at least get an email address or promotion from the fan in return. I haven't heard of Soundscan before though, I'll look into it now...

"Forget about digital downloading and piracy, they can both be overcome with the correct business strategies."

WTF planet are you broadcasting from?

This was 5 paragraphs of fluff, man, there's nothing kind I can say here.

So Justin, are you saying you'd rather spend your time and effort making everyone stop the downloading rather then approaching your personal music career from an angle that will work?
People will continue downloading music for the foreseeable future, and there's nothing that the average musician can do about it. So why focus on it? Instead the issue needs to be worked around, and more money made from other avenues.

If you think me saying musicians need to gain business knowledge to progress in this changing music industry is 'fluff', that's up to you. But without the correct business knowledge, no (Or next to no) independent musician would be going anywhere. Fact.

No, I'm saying this was poorly written, referenced nothing real in terms of numbers or facts, and it's something that everyone here has taken for granted for 3-4 years now. It's not your ideas, it's your execution.

There was no need to put in numbers, facts or reference anything as I was simply stating that more people need to learn the business side of the music industry.

And it's not something that's been taken for granted for 3-4 years, if that was the case everyone in the music industry would be implementing their business skills to push their music further forward. This however is not the case, as I see many talent musicians not getting very far due to them not knowing how to push their music effectively.

If you feel the execution was not very good that's your opinion and I can't argue that. I will say however you don't have to read any more of my posts if you don't want to. Thanks for the feedback.

I completely agree with what you're saying here. So many musicians lack business skills and miss out on opportunities. But one thing that is never clear when folks write about this topic is where do you go to learn the business side? You can take workshops, go to music conferences, buy books, get a degree, and much more. There are many ways to learn, but there is an overwhelming amount of resources, which makes it hard to know where to start.

More specifically what should musicians learn about the business side? I'd argue they should know a few things: 1) Trends in the industry (sales, decline of labels, growth of internet), 2) Trustworthy websites/widgets that help promote music, 3) How to talk about their music with anyone on all platforms (in person, video, blogs, live performances, website, social media), and 4) Methods for organizing their goals, defining success, and having less talk and more doing.

It'd be cool to have a follow up post on this.

Brian Franke
Singer/Songwriter
www.brianfranke.com

June 13 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Franke

Hi Brian, thanks for your comment. You're right, it's often not clear where to go to learn about business aspects of the music industry. All of those methods you mentioned have pros and cons, but I guess it's about how the person best takes in information. I'm personally trying to set up my website as a useful resource for independent musicians (Not many places give advice on how to make a career out of music without the end aim being signing to a record label), but it's still early days and there's a lot of things I haven't included on there yet.

I feel the main thing musician should be learning is how to market themselves. This is many people's biggest let down from what I've seen, if you've talent and you know how to market yourself you've a good chance of going far... Marketing yourself means you can get in front of fans (Who will like you as you've talent) as well as people who can help take your career to the next level.

You also need to know trends like you said, as there's no sense putting using dated practices that no longer have a big impact (But I suppose that slightly falls into marketing). Knowing finances to an extent is also essential.

I've got a few posts lined up for Music Think Tank, a follow up post may be on the cards...

June 15 | Registered CommenterShaun Letang

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