Know The Music Business: Get Real. Even Realer.

by Matt @ Kurb on February 16, 2009

I really wanted to write a blog again –  should I say, ANOTHER blog / rant – about artists getting real.

I know I can’t help most artists and it makes me worried about a lot of the talented artists out there who just really have no clue about how the industry works now, they don’t have any business skills and they don’t really have a grasp on a compelling yet realistic concept of how money will make it’s journey from the pocket of their fans into their own in this new digital era.

And there’s gonna be no label to sign them.

I tried to be good at music, I did, I still do a bit, but unfortunately the only thing I’m good for is making money. Sucks for me. Oh well.

I’ve worked with dozens of artists and there’s so many who just seem to think that once they’ve ticked a few boxes they’re ready to begin a serious career – that is actually getting some sales, playing paid gigs to more than 12 people, and creating the kind of attention online that can be converted into cash by someone like me.

You see having a nice myspace, having a website, having a blog, having a sign up form with an email list, having a video, having a release digitally distributed . . .

None of these things represent the arrival of a successful music act.

All of those things mean you might be ready to START promoting yourself. Not finished.

Not having those things means you haven’t even started to get serious. You’re not even ready for serious promotion, you haven’t even finished building your platform!

Arriving as a music act means fans going crazy to get and hear the music and see you play it, even if that is just 100 people. People who are excited. People who are turned on. That’s not going to happen overnight but it’s not going to happen at all if you’re just passive about it.

Artists pay for my knowledge and experience. Not for me to substitute it for the passion that they’re not bringing to their online presence.

Sure, when you guys are massive I’ll find some 19 year old to follow you around with a camera posting to twitter about it. But right now the $200 p/month you’re giving me doesn’t quite cover that.

So unfortunately YOU are the only one who can build an authentic brand with your content.

A lot of music people I consult with think they know. They got this idea of how it will work out for them. I don’t know if they’ve been watching too many movies or what because movies and tv aren’t going to give you any perception of what the music business as it is now really is.

Have you ever seen a movie where the rock and roll star gets rich and famous from signing up thousands of people online to his email list? Nah, I didn’t think so.

See, when I say “music business” I mean the getting the money part, the bit I’m concerned with.

Whether your songs or talent is good enough or not is always going to be an issue, but that’s not the part I concern myself with. Very few musicians are able to make it on talent alone and I think this is becoming more and more the case.

Souljah Boy is no Mozart. But the skills he bought to the table were for a different era, a digital era and that has nothing to do with whether you think Souljah Boy or Mozart is “good”.

I don’t make judgements about music here on this blog. I make judgements about how much money can be generated from it.

So in closing As Bob Baker said recently in one of his blogs, don’t let anyone tell you there’s a right way for you to get ahead in the music biz. Which is good advice about avoiding bad advice, the  thing is don’t get pushed into some false wisdom – okay sure, you may not be falling into that “gotta get signed by a label” trap, but what other false assumptions maybe leading you down another dead end? If you’re young and getting into music seriously, don’t let yourself develop this perception about “the way it is”.

Don’t get stuck on some point about paying your dues and getting your chops – or whatever it is for you,  I guess what I’m getting at is that there’s a lot of musicians who I deal with who’s dreams are riding on some fairly shaky assumptions, don’t be one of them.

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