To break into the music business you’ll need to have a few basics “in.” You may ask, “what on earth is she talking about?”
Let me explain.
Like in any business, specific terminology (jargon) is used and expected to be known when you communicate with your associates. A general knowledge of that industry is also expected of you. Of course, you can’t know everything when you are breaking into the music business, but you should have a pretty good idea of how things work. That’s why it is important to educate yourself about the music business—before you try to break in.
Numerous resources are available for this and I would recommend you spend some time familiarizing yourself with the music business. You’ll be glad you did.
One of the best resources I’ve found is a DVD created by Universal Music Group titled Inside Sessions – The Music Business: An Insider’s Guide to Breaking In. In this video you’ll go behind the scenes with music producers, label execs will reveal how to get your first job in the music business, and top recording artists will share with you what it took for them to succeed. Interviews are with Sheryl Crow, Sting, Tommy Mottoloa, Enrique Iglesias and many more music business heavyweights. It’s a hard-to-find item, but if you can get it, it’s worth it. Just read the success stories at amazon.
Another valuable resource is Donald S. Passman’s All You Need to Know About the Music Business. What’s nice about this one is you really get the BIG picture of the music business. Written by an entertainment attorney, the book covers record deals, songwriting, music publishing, royalties, music on the internet, new industry trends and more. His humorous and illustrative anecdotes make the book easy-to-read and easy-to-understand.
Choose a Music Career
Once you have a better idea of how the music industry works, you can decide what direction you’re going in. This is important, because the music business as a whole can be quite overwhelming. You’ll just be spinning your wheels if you don’t know where you are going. If you’re not sure, you may need to intern at a few different types of music companies. If you do know what music career path to take, then GREAT! You’re one step ahead of the game.
A friend of mine, who is now a Music Editor for the TV series “CSI Las Vegas,” first worked at a radio station, then for a symphony orchestra, then in a recording studio, and finally as an office manager for a major TV composer before she discovered what she loved best. So don’t be afraid to try new things!
Basically what you’re doing here is setting a goal.
Maybe you don’t like that word. How’s this…What is your dream job? Got it in mind? Well, that’s your goal–like the word, or not! To succeed in anything you need to have a goal. It’s what gives you a direction to follow. Let me repeat…To succeed in anything you need to have a goal. Got the point? OK, let’s move on.
Make a Plan
The next ingredient to succeeding requires a plan. You know, I’ve read stories where guys have made it without a plan and that’s great. They did, however have a goal, which is the more important of the two “basics.” My viewpoint is that you are better off with a plan than without one, because otherwise you can easily get sidetracked and end up in some other place. A lot of music majors end up with 9-to-5 non-music jobs after they graduate college because they didn’t do the planning. They became too concerned with “earning a living” and got sidetracked from their dream. Don’t let that happen to you. Just make a plan.
How do you do that? Simple. Treat your goal as a business and write a business plan. A book that bridges the business world with the music industry is Succeeding in Music: A Business Handbook for Performers, Songwriters, Agents, Managers, and Promoters and it will help you with your business plan. It’s written for both musicians and musical entrepreneurs and shows you how to plan for success. This user-friendly guide also includes a CD-ROM with checklists, resources and templates for planning and managing your career. Whether you’re starting or strengthening your music career, a business plan will help you achieve your goal.
The Secret Weapon
This next “basic” will help you get on your road to success a million times faster than without it. It’s a 10-letter word and may make some of you cringe, but don’t. It’s really not that bad and it can be a whole lot of fun.
Before I let the cat out the bag, imagine this…You’re new in town and you don’t know anyone. After awhile you might get pretty lonely. So what do you do? You join a local organization or go out and have a drink with your new co-worker. You talk to people. At first a little, then more and more. Next thing you know, you have friends. Nothing wrong with that. So, what exactly were you doing?
The word only makes someone’s hair stand up when they have the idea they have to go out and sell themselves to strangers. This is the wrong idea of networking. The way to really take advantage of networking is to go out and make friends. This way you gain a person’s trust before you start asking for work.
I actually co-founded a music networking organization 7 years ago and was amazed at its success for helping people find work–especially for those who had just moved to LA and were brand spanking new to the music industry. I’ve witnessed first-hand the power of networking and would give it my highest recommendation for you. You’ll have to do some research for opportunities in your area, but if you sign up for the Music-Industry-Jobs.com JobWire you’ll get listings of the major events world-wide so you can get yourself out and networking.
In the meantime, you can pick up my friend Dan Kimpel’s book Networking in the Music Business for networking strategies that will get you the best results. I’ve known Dan for years and can tell you that he will tell you like it is, and keep you interested with his high-energy style (both in person and in writing). And, he really walks his talk. I’ve seen him at just about every major music function I’ve ever been to, schmoozing and doing “his thing.”
To recap the “basics” then:
1. Familiarize yourself with the music business and get educated. Read books, articles, magazines, etc.
2. Set a goal. In other words, choose your music career.
3. Make a plan (and put it into action). Remember, any plan is better than no plan. The better it is, however, the better your chances are for succeeding.
4. Get out there and network like crazy! Make friends, be interested in them and gain their trust before you go all-out promoting yourself.
These actions will give you a good head start to breaking into the music business. Do them and win!