Building a career in music is tough. And anything but simple. It always was and it is even more so now. In the pre-digital days, there was a system - a crappy, bloated, intentionally complex system - but a system nonetheless. It was still gambling, but there were winners and everyone played by the same rules. But now, we still have the vestiges of that system and we aren't sure what is necessary or valuable and what is just desperately hanging on to the past. There are fewer and fewer winners and the rules are all but gone. So you have to find your own way. Create your own path. There isn't a book or a website or a person who can wrap it up in 100 pages or a lunch meeting and tell you what will work for you. But find good people and good sources that give you insights and principles and guidelines that you can then apply to your career and your life. There is no "new model" and there are no pre-fab answers for how to make it in music. So know what you want. Read, listen, learn, and work your ass off. Look for opportunities and jump on them when you see them. And tweak it as you go, focusing on the things that do work and throwing out the things that don't. I'm sorry. I know you want something short, sweet and concrete, but sometimes the truth just doesn't fit into 160 characters.
There are a few things that I see and hear over and over again that I'd like to go"on the record" about. If it seems dark or negative, I don't mean it to be. There are some wonderful things that I love about this business, too (a future post, perhaps?). I just get frustrated by the people who get caught up in the distractions and machinations of being "in the business." So here, in no particular order are 5 Ugly Truths About The Music Business.
- Networking is just another name for using people. And it's a shitty way to live your life. Success in this business (or any other) isn't just about who you know. You have to actually do something and offer something of value or no one is going to do anything for you. It's true and it's a good thing.
- This business is full of icky old guys who have made a lot of money and will promise you the world just so they can hang out with a hot young woman (or worse). If you do it thinking you're getting something for nothing, that makes you just as icky as them. Oh, it also makes you stupid.
- Making something isn't just an afterthought. It's the point. Whether it's a song or a show or a video or a business venture. The greatest idea in the world is just an idea. It's worth nothing until you put it into action. Concentrate on less promises and more production.
- Talent isn't enough. You have to work your ass off. And even then it's a total longshot.
- You don't have to be rich or famous to have a successful life in music. There is a whole class of working musicians out there who earn a living making music that they are proud of. And many who earn their living otherwise and embrace music in their personal time. In both cases, they are living rich, incredible lives with families and friends and memories to spare. You should consider yourself lucky if you get the chance to be among either group.
So, there you have it – my take on the ugly truths. And I've decided that I will, in fact, do a post on 5 Wonderful Truths About The Music Business. Look for that one soon. And thanks for stopping by and checking out the blog.