Often, we don’t think of “the music industry” as being a beautiful thing.
Often, we’re complaining about how it’s ruined — how shitty acts get attention while real artists starve, busting their ass to get 30 people out to a show.
But there is beauty in the industry.
One of the most beautiful things about starting a band and getting involved in the different levels of the industry are the people you meet.
Finding like-minded people with similar goals is invigorating. It’ll make you want to work harder at what you do.
(And not because you want to ‘beat’ them).
But, as noted above, music is more than art—it’s an industry.
“Industry” tells us that this is a business. And “business”—forever it has been, forever it will be—is about money.
It’s important to understand that you are an artist, and everyone else is a business.
This includes your manager, your booking agent, your record label—even other artists, to an extent.
Why look at it this way? Why the black-and-white difference?
The people that work with you and for you will be motivated by money.
Yes, they may also be motivated to work with you because they enjoy the music you make.
But if the money’s not there, then they won’t be there either. That tells you that first and foremost, it’s about money.
And you know what?
Like everyone else, these people need to put food on their tables.
Their jobs aren’t easy—booking tours, managing your distribution avenues, garnering you press—all require quite a bit of time, and come with a side portion of stress. To expect compensation for doing these jobs isn’t a bad thing.
And if the money isn’t coming in, it’s understandable that they won’t be able to provide those services any longer.
Again, in telling you this I’m not trying to turn you away from these people.
It’s just important to realize the truth so you can use it to your advantage.
Why is this important, and how can it help you?
By understanding someone’s motivation, you can get them to do things for you much more easily. This is where you need to step into their mindset.
Let’s look at an example.
Say you’ve started to get a bit of attention in your major metropolitan area. You’ve been approached by two folks who’d like to manage you. You’ve had a taste of what each of them can do for you. Now, you have a decision to make: which of these two managers do you sign?
Don’t think about which one you like better, or what they’ve done for you in the past.
Think only about what they’re able to do for you in the future.
If this sounds a bit heartless, just flip the script:
What would they do if you suddenly stopped paying them?
They’d drop you in a second.
Does that sound heartless?
You are an artist, they are a business.
How many important contacts does Manager A have? How does that compare to Manager B? Is Manager A much more socially awkward compared to B? Will A be willing to stick up for you and play the bad guy in cases where you need to get what you’re deserved?
“But Manager A is our best friend!”
You’ve heard the phrase “don’t mix friends and business”. It doesn’t end well for anyone.
Realize that only the people you make music with are “part of the band”.
To be “part of the band” means “not business”.
You are an artist, they are a business.
Your bandmates are in it with you. They are the only people whose motives don’t have a dollar sign attached to them.
You’re an artist — your prime motive is the music. The art.
This is why it’s important that you’re close with your bandmates, and trust them. You have to be able to rely on them for anything you need.
Yes, you should definitely have contracts with the band members.
Technically, this is ‘business’, but more than anything, it’s protecting each other and the art from those who are “in business”.
You need to protect each other’s interests — especially the art.
Don’t write in order to be widely accepted. Write the music that you want to hear — then figure out how to market it.
Making money off your music is important. It allows you to focus on your craft full-time.
You are an artist.
They are a business.
Music is more than art, it’s an industry. You need to have some business savvy if you want to make this a career. Part of that is learning and living the phrase “it’s not personal; it’s business”.
Don’t be fooled by thinking that everyone else is there to help you solely out of their goodness of the heart. People can have good intentions and still be motivated by money.
If you speak their language, everyone will be better off.