Making it big in the music industry requires hard-work and dedication – and a solid understanding of the myths surrounding it! By identifying and coming to terms with the biggest myths about the music industry, you can do away with common thought patterns that might be standing in the way of your success. Throughout my career, I’ve been posed with a lot of questions, such as:
1. How can I make it big in the industry really fast?
2. How can I become famous?
3. Where can I find a major label that would sign me?
4. Can I even do this at my age?
These questions, unfortunately, stem from some of the biggest myths in the industry. Let’s explore these myths in detail.
Myth 1: You can become successful overnight
A lot of people are motivated by a desire to succeed, and musicians are no exception. Often, though, you may not even realize it, but you aren’t entirely sure what ‘success’ means; let alone how to achieve it. When opportunities come your way, promising you an easy path to success, you should be very suspicious of it.
Because there is no path to overnight success. At the very least, it is statistically so rare that you may actually be better favoured, if you were to try your hand at playing the lottery.
Although there is no hard-coded route to success, a sure-fire way of upping your chances of success is to combine a mix of elements. The right path to success is a blend of hard-work, determination, persistence, talent, teamwork, and (I cannot emphasize this enough) hard-work!
Something that you should know is that I do not believe that becoming a musician has to be ‘more’ difficult than taking up a day job, which is a common belief that people have when trying to succeed in the world of music.
Day jobs are generally associated with more formal structures and career paths, which may not necessarily exist when you choose to be a musician. Although a lot of people thrive in more structured environments, there’s a lot that people don’t tell you about when it comes to having a regular, non-music day job. You generally believe that it’s easier to be successful when you have a 9-to-5 desk job, but when you look into the finer nuances of it, you notice that succeeding at a desk job also requires the exact same things that a music career does.
The point here is: Success will NEVER come easy! You have to work hard, no matter what you do.
Myth 2: You need to be famous to be a full-time musician
STOP trying to be famous! One of the biggest misconceptions about trying to do music full-time is that you need to be famous in order to sustain yourself. Whether you are an instrumentalist, vocalist or producer, you can be a full-time musician even if you’re not churning out Billboard Top 100s consistently, or even at all!
What you do need to do is dive deep into learning more about the present context of the music industry. As an artist, one of the core skills you need to develop to put your music out there, is understanding where you can reach people.
Now, more than ever, it is vital for you to create a personal brand and treat yourself as a ‘product’. The last couple of decades have seen the world of music expand, giving rise to new ways of finding and listening to music. By reading about the different ways and contexts in which people find music, you stand to make the most of a wide spectrum of opportunities, from streaming to merchandising. A couple of the most important things to do as a musician in the digital age are:
Networking with your peers
An abundance of online communities gives you the chance to bounce your work off of other people in your field, collaborate with other artists, and get access to precious advice from professionals in the field.
How often have you shown your work to your family and friends, but ended up feeling like they were just saying they like your work because they’re biased? When you’re an artist, this feeling that your loved ones are just being nice to you is common.
A great way to figure out whether you need to do better or tweak certain parts of your music, is by finding a neutral sounding board. Online communities of musicians can help serve this purpose.
Some common platforms to network with other musicians (both, artists and music business experts) are Facebook and Reddit.
Exploring marketing opportunities
Another significant consideration is some sort of a ‘buzzword’ that you’ve certainly heard before – Digital Marketing. But is it merely a buzzword or is it something a lot more valuable?
Today, digital marketing can be the turning point in your musical career.
Firstly, what exactly is digital marketing? Instead of a textbook definition, let me illustrate with an example.
Say you decided to shop for guitar strings online. What path did you take? Did you Google it? Head straight over to Amazon? Where and how did you finally buy the strings? These are important questions that help guitar string manufacturers decide where to sell their products. That isn’t all, though! To sell their products successfully, these manufacturers will want to generate awareness about their product so that people know that they should buy this product. Additionally, they will want to highlight the benefits of buying their product over those of another manufacturer. They then choose to leverage digital platforms to show off their product to their audience on the platforms that their audiences are likely to find them on. This is digital marketing.
Musicians can use digital marketing for a number of purposes, such as growing your fanbase, promoting your music, striking conversation with your audience, and so on. To do this right, your primary aim should be to understand your audience. Some common questions you might need to ask yourself are:
Who’s listening to my music?
What do they like?
Where do they find new music?
How do they learn about new music?
Answers to questions like this help you plan out content marketing. A great content marketing plan leveraging the platforms where your audience is most likely to find you or hear about you is a widely-renowned step towards your musical success, today!
Myth 3: I need a major label
I get it. You’ve often heard that you need a major label to be successful and you’ve even evaluated the pros of having one. The advantages of having a record label seem to make a very compelling case for being signed onto one.
But you DON’T need a major label. Everything that you do need is right in front of you.
Take digital distribution for instance. It’s incredibly cheap, making it very difficult for you to make excuses for not putting your music out there!
Another reason that you should rely on your own skills and determination is that when you are signed by a label, you no longer have complete control over what your music will be like. You will not have 100% control over what you write, whom you collaborate with, the frequency at which you release your material, and even how you look in the public eye. If you are a musician that enjoys creative freedom and prefers having more control over the kind of music being created, then looking for major record labels is definitely barking up the wrong tree!
So while music labels do come with their advantages, you do not NEED a label. There is an unprecedented availability of platforms for you to distribute your music on – and the best part is that you do not need to break your bank for it!
Myth 4: I’m too old, I’m too young
When it comes to music, I promise you, age is merely a number. Your age only matters as much as you let it matter.A quick Google search will show you that there are lots of professional musicians (in various aspects of the music) who are actually 30 and older!
It isn’t your age that matters, but what you create and whom you’re selling it to. Your audience, which in business terms is your target group, is crucial to your success. Most successful companies and brands in the world (across industries) know their target group well.
You can get to know yours, too! Going online has made it far easier to conduct research into the genre that you are, what niche you cater to, and how your audience reacts to your style of music. The better you understand your audience, the more improved your capability to communicate with them is – because it helps you understand the type of content that people care about and want to see! By this, I don’t just mean the music you create, but any content that you use to reach out to your audience, such as online talk shows, live performances on social media, and so on.
If age matters, it’s most likely not yours, but that of your audience’s that matters!
The bottom-line is…
…You’ve got the talent and you’ve got the passion. Now, with these common myths debunked, you are also a lot more confident about your future as a musician, because it’s a lot more within your control than some of these myths may have led you to believe!