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Written by Ramsey Brown.
A career in the music industry seems like glitz and glamour — that is, to those who are not actually knowledgable on how the music industry truly operates. The reality is that the music business is a tough one to be in and it is certainly not for the weak-hearted.
If you are pursing a career in the music industry, there are many harsh truths that you need to be aware of first. This business can eat artists up and spit them out, if they go into it blindly. This is why we are going to share with you 11 harsh truths that everyone pursuing a career in the music industry needs to know. Let’s dive in!
There’s no question that the music industry has drastically evolved over the past few decades. But we aren’t talking about the taste, preference, or type of music made. There have been major tides on the marketing, promotion, and production side of things — and only those strong enough to ride along are left standing.
With the growth of the digital era, music promotion and marketing accessibility has hit an all time high. This has given more musicians the opportunity to shine without the need of a major label behind them. This means, the success of an independent artist largely relies on their marketing abilities much more than the quality of their music.
Today’s musician need more marketing talent than they do musical talent. They also need to be more active online then they need to be in the studio making music. What sells fans is the person behind the music and their popularity online, then the music comes after. Your music may be fantastic but you are not marketable or likable as a person, there is almost no chance of you making it in the music business.
The music industry is one of the most difficult industries to break into. Not because the standard for music quality is so high, but because it takes much more than talent to be a successful artist these days. Tough skin is one of the most essential traits to a sustainable music career.
A music career is not for the weak-hearted, as you will have your hopes and dreams shot down in your face more times than not. Artists must be assertive, invulnerable, and insensitive to criticism or insults.
You will be made fun of, told that your music stinks, you will hear that you are never going to make it in the business time and time again. But you can never let this get under your skin or in the way of you achieving your goals. The ability to push through the constant adversity is a necessity, and it will make you a stronger and better music professional in the long haul.
It doesn’t matter how experienced your manager is or how great your marketing team is — the future of your music career solely lies in your own hands. So many upcoming artists believe that when the right team comes along, or when the big label scoops them up, that is when they will make it.
However, this isn’t true. Almost anything someone else can do for your music career, you can do yourself. It’s just a matter of you going out there and getting it on your own, rather than waiting on someone else to bring it to you. If you want something in this industry (and in this world in general), you have to go out there and grab it. There is almost nothing the music business or someone else can provide you with that you cant provide yourself.
With every little move we make being public knowledge thanks to social media and the internet, cancel culture is at an all time high. As an artist, you need to move accordingly and make smart choices not only when it comes to your music career, but also your every day life.
One wrong comment, tweet, picture, video, etc., can easily ruin a career. Even if you are not currently in the public spotlight but get famous later down the road, people are waiting to pull up your dirty laundry from the past and air it out.
As an artist, you will be watched and judged by everything you do or did prior to fame. As your career rises, be ready for your haters to arise with it — and give them as little ammo against you as possible.
If you’re pursuing a career in the music industry, not only will you receive a ton of rejection, but you will receive much more rejection than acceptance. Successful musicians must grow accustomed to this fact and learn to continue pushing forward despite how many no’s they may hear.
It can be grueling getting so much dismissal, especially when your music is your passion. But it’s important to remember that out of a hundred no’s, you are bound to get one yes. It takes a ton of strength to keep fighting after being denied so many times — but this strength and willpower to keep grinding is ultimately what separates successful musicians from unsuccessful ones.
A lot of people forget that the music business is well, a business. If you are an emerging musician, think of yourself as a start-up company. There are a TON of costs that go into starting a business — and there are a ton of costs that come with being an upcoming musician.
Sure, there are a ton of free services out there that are beneficial to independent artists but as the saying goes, “you get what you pay for”.
If you really want to get your music out there, there are necessary costs that come with gaining visibility. Good marketing and promo campaigns cost money, good music videos cost money, good features cost money. These upfront costs are essential investments that artists must endure to launch their careers forward.
Another harsh truth is that for most people, you are only as valuable as the money you can make them. If someone takes interest in you as an artist, it’s probably not because they are a huge fan of your music and want to help you out. It’s more likely that they have ulterior motives.
In the music business, almost nobody helps somebody out of the kindness of their heart — which is fairly reasonable to believe. Just like in other relationships whether it be romantic, personal, or business, there is always going to be a balance of give and take.
If a manager, investor, label, brand, etc. wants to get involved with you and assist with your music career, they are ultimately wanting something from you in return. In this business, people’s intentions will always be geared towards ‘how can this artist benefit me and my company?’ or ‘how can this person make me money?’ This isn’t necessarily always a bad thing, it’s just something to be aware of moving forward in your career.
If you’re an emerging musician, you’ve probably begun to realize this point on your own. This relates to our point mentioned above about most everyone wanting something from you — but to add to this, most people will tell you exactly what you want to hear in order to get what they want from you.
False promises are just apart of the game. As an artist, you have the mindset that if it’s not written in a contract, nine times out of ten it’s typically just a bluff. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is. It’s great to have high hopes, just don’t ever get your hopes up too high.
On the outside of the music business, people may think artists walk into the studio, record great music, release a hit record, and get paid the big bucks. But for those of us on the inside of the industry, we know there is much more that goes on in the industry than just that.
Today’s artists have to worry about their artistic image and direction, demographic considerations, marketing, censorship, courting radio and music networks, music critics' opinions, royalties and percentage splits, and paying close attention to trends. It's never just about music, for better or for worse.
There is a ton of politics that go on in the music industry. Knowing the right people and butt-kissing the right people will get you further than your actual music ever will, which bring us to our next point…
Having connections and knowing the right people is beneficial in any industry, but for the music industry — it’s a necessity. You don’t need a big fancy degree to land your music dream job, nor do you need a ton of music experience or business knowledge under your belt. What you do need is relationships with important industry professionals.
Reputation and word of mouth is everything in the music business. It’s so important to know the right people so they can help put you a position of success. At first, it may seem impossible to meet these people but remember, everyone starts in the same place.
The way you navigate networking opportunities will impact your future for years to come. The quicker you realize this is a fundamental process of the business, the quicker you'll start seeing results in your music career.
Becoming successful and losing friends go hand-in-hand, in every industry. Becoming a musician takes a lot of hard work, dedication and time put in. In order to become successful, there is a ton of personal transformation that needs to take place. Therefore, you won’t be the exact same person you were when you first started your music journey.
When this change begins to happen and when the people around you aren’t receiving as much attention from you as they once we’re, those friendships begin to diminish. Self improvement takes aligning yourself with people who have similar goals and ambitions as you do.
If people from your past aren’t as interested in success as you are, they will naturally begin to exit your life, and you should be glad they are. You should always surround yourself with people who make you a better overall person and support your goals as much as you do.
We hope that these 11 harsh truths about the music industry do not scare you away from pursuing a career in the music but instead, make you more aware of what you are getting yourself into going in this business.
It's certainly not all glitz and glamour like some people may believe, but if you have a true passion for music and enough drive and ambition to get through the harsh truths that go along with it, you will be on your way to success.
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© 2023 Omari MC, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
© 2023 Omari MC, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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