Independent Artists: Why You Need to Understand the Music Business
Being a classically trained musician, having years of intense music studies under your belt, knowing how to mix and master fresh beats, and having the vocal range of Mariah Carey are all great selling points for any artist. But it’s equally important to understand the business side of the music industry.
A common downfall for many artistic minds is that they have such tunnel vision for the creative aspect of music, that they overlook all of the other factors that play into building a successful career. Here are some key reasons why independent artists need to have a firm grasp on the inner workings of the music business, and dedicate as much time researching the industry as they do perfecting their craft.
It’s not just about talent.
It takes more than a skilled ear, a powerful voice, or the right look to launch a career in music. At the end of the day, it’s called the music business – so as much as artists would rather ignore the logistics and concentrate on writing the next chart-topping single, all of that creative work will go to waste if there’s no business knowhow in the equation.
There’s an endless number of talented singers, musicians, songwriters, and producers out there, but many of them have no idea about what happens behind the scenes. You’ve probably heard the saying, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard enough.” This couldn’t be truer. Understanding how the music business operates is key. Raw talent is a fantastic starting point, but it won’t necessarily rocket someone to the top of the industry.
You need to understand how the industry works.
When you hear a song on the radio or watch a singer perform live, all you’re seeing is the final result. You don’t see all the work and production that went into delivering that song or performance to the masses. Think of music as a shiny, new car – it requires vision and creativity to think of the concept of what the car is going to look like. But without teams of engineers, marketers, branding experts, and salesmen, that car would never be available for anyone to purchase. The same principle applies to music.
Many artists will write and record a great song or demo, only to end up asking “Now what?” It’s important to understand processes such as copyrighting, licensing, publishing, and submissions, or else that song isn’t going anywhere. With technology and social media changing every year, there’s also new marketing platforms popping up. Needless to say, there’s always something new to be learned, and even long-term veterans of the music business are constantly educating themselves in order to stay up to date with the latest industry news.
Knowing your rights is crucial.
While knowing how to properly pitch your work and building strong business relationships is important, you also need to understand the rights that you, as an artist, are entitled to. Many songwriters and producers are losing out on royalty checks, simply because they don’t know how to shelter their work. Even Psy, who made millions of dollars off “Gangnam Style,” didn’t receive all of the royalties he should have been paid through YouTube alone. Know your money. Protect your work. And know exactly what percentage of each song or album’s earnings should be going into your pocket.
Everyone is replaceable.
Regardless of how much talent you may have, no artist’s career takes off without the right hookups, branding strategy, and promotion. Nobody in the music industry stands alone – you have to be part of a “tribe,” even if you’re a solo act. Understanding the business side of music gives you an edge and helps in separating yourself from the pack.
In cities like New York and Los Angeles in particular, aspiring artists are a dime a dozen. But only a small percentage of them will ever have a lucrative career. If music is your passion and you’re fighting to get your foot in the door, then increase your chances of success by being proactive, doing your homework, and reading up on the industry. At the end of the day, knowledge is power.