The music industry is one of the most alluring and lucrative industries in the world, carrying a gargantuan volume of sales from decades past, and ever expanding with new technologies and artistic ideas. It's capable of giving somebody the level of explosive business growth that can take someone from poverty to riches, and give them the freedom to do so by focusing on their own art. If that doesn't sound like a fantastic career, I don't know what does. However, it's important to highlight the fact that it's not all sunshine and rainbows... There are many who fail in the music industry and become even more disenfranchised as a result. Stand on the back of giants and learn from the mistakes of many who came before you. That is to say, learn from common mistakes before actually making them. This article will teach you six of the biggest mistakes you can make when getting into the music industry, what can happen when you commit them, and how to actually avoid doing so!
Don't Burn Bridges: Cultivate Positive Relationships
A lot of times artists who are new to the music industry are taken advantage of by practically everybody they encounter. It's an industry with a lot of greed and nepotism, and a lot of the 'big-wigs' will take you for what you're worth before you even realize what exactly that is. It's important to avoid this, but even more important is to build a distanced, yet professional relationship with those you elect not to work with in the beginning. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of experience before one of these people will treat you with respect. It's sort of like hazing, the new guys always catch a ton of flak, but as soon as you're a 'Sophomore' you're much more widely accepted. It doesn't make this kind of behavior acceptable, but it's important to remember that these people have the influence to ruin your reputation. It's important to maintain a level of professionalism even if you believe someone is trying to take advantage of you. Decline offers kindly, and move on. Of course, if the image you're attempting to build is that of a hard gangster or metalhead, it may be significantly less damaging to your reputation if you're rude to these people. But keep in mind that one day these people may be holding the door open or closed for a more important deal or relationship for you.
Conversely, if somebody in the industry collaborates with you or helps you, it's important to show them that you appreciate it. These people should be held in high regard, and considered when new opportunities arise wherein you are able to assist them with their careers. Kindness can be rare in this industry, as with many others, and it's important to foster relationships with respect and kindness early and often.
Embrace Musical Diversity: Don't Get Stuck in a Single Genre or Style
A lot of total beginners enter the music industry thinking they're entering a totally different industry such as the 'rap game'. While there's nothing wrong with setting your sights on a particular style or genre early on, make sure to branch out and create your own unique music. This often includes mixing and matching aspects of different groups, musicians, and genres to make music that truly resonates with you. When something resonates so deeply with yourself, it's much more likely to find a spot in the market, and even more so if it's totally unique. Many rappers incorporate R&B into their style, and some metal and rock groups embody the punk attitude. Find your mix to stand out against the crowd. It's also important to note that your style is likely to evolve over time, and grow with you as an artist. Album over album, most artists have significant changes in style, sometimes changing genres entirely. Look at Machine Gun Kelly; in 2012 he was just a rapper, but somewhere in the late 2010s his style evolved to be more of a pop-punk.
Focus on Your Strengths: Avoid Being a Total Newbie
Everybody has their skills and strengths, and it's a good idea to emphasize that when getting your career off the ground. For instance, if you have experience making beats, you could use that skill to reach out to other artists and collaborate with them. Then, once you've got a couple of smaller names in close contact, you could try to invite them to collaborate with you on your music. Even another smaller artist being included will help you gain traction, as opposed to posting records to nobody. This is especially true if you aren't working with a large and reputable record label. You could also leverage these early relationships to open at shows, where you may be seen by many fans of similar artists, giving you a jumping-off-point.
Note that it's not a great idea to become a jack-of-all-trades early on in a music career, instead reaching out for collaborators to help in areas where you lack skills. For instance, if you're a strong songwriter, but you don't know the first thing about producing a beat, reach out to rookie beatmakers, to try and make a track together. This gives everyone opportunities to hone their skills and build relationships and creates stronger pieces before you've had the experience to become a fully independent musician.
Master the Art of Self-Promotion: Building a Personal Brand
As mentioned in our article discussing the future of music, many new musicians are rejecting the predatory contracts and record deals, instead focusing on self-promotion. However, without the know-how to create a personal brand, it's going to be difficult - if possible to have a fruitful music career without experienced record label personnel on your side. Some will say that "If you build it, they will come", however, that couldn't be further from the truth in the music industry. There are dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of artists more talented than you who have yet to be discovered on a broader scale. But that's okay, it doesn't mean you can't be discovered. It just means that they aren't putting in the work to make their bodies of work visible to the broader world. You just need to make music that resonates with a group of people and then reach them.
If you're quite young, you've got the upper hand. It's pretty likely that you're familiar with video sharing platforms like YouTube and TikTok, which are some of the best ways to reach broad audiences. It's a good idea to capitalize on trends within your industry, as well as more generic trends like the ones you'll see on TikTok. Many of these can be adapted to your industry/niche to gather wide-scale attention. However, don't forget to pay attention to your fans and engage. It's not enough to just post your music videos to YouTube and go silent. Start conversations with your fans and facilitate them amongst each other.
To sum up the main bits of advice given here: don't burn bridges, embrace musical diversity, focus on your strengths, and build a personal brand. Of course, there are many more mistakes you can make, and multiple ways of dealing with these potential pitfalls. Just keep in mind that you need to be careful and intentional to make it in the music business, especially as an independent artist. Making any one of these mistakes can cause you to take a huge hit to your music career, and make it that much harder for you to repair your brand going forward. Take these practical tips on building a music career in stride, never stop learning, and follow your dreams!
If you're considering this path in the music industry, take the first steps and follow your dreams! Read The Beginner's Guide to Working in Music for you to get started!
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