(NB: This article is written by well known music career mentor, touring musician and guitarist Tom Hess)
Are you searching for ways to make it in the music industry?
In order to break into the music business and develop a long-lasting, successful career, it is important to (first) eliminate all of the misinformation you have heard about becoming a pro musician.
Truth is, believing in music industry “myths” will cause you to waste time, energy and money while never getting any closer to your music career goals.
People in the music industry are sent tons of mail each day containing recordings and other materials from talented musicians. Most of these musicians have spent their whole life working on their musical skills in order to get signed to a recording contract.
Unfortunately, 99% of these musicians will not get signed, nor will they even hear back from the companies they send their music to.
In many cases, music companies throw away a lot of the materials they receive from random musicians. This results in a lot of frustration for most musicians and leaves them wondering why they work hard on their musical skills but can’t seem to break into the music industry.
On the other hand, there are plenty of musicians who DO become successful in the music industry.
Building a fulfilling and profitable music career is actually not as difficult as it may seem. However, the majority of musicians do not succeed because they believe in false ‘conventional wisdom’ about the music industry that ruins their chances of achieving their musical dreams.
To break into the music industry and become successful, you must avoid the following music career building approaches that most people consider ‘common sense’:
I. Pursuing A Music Degree In Order To Become Successful In The Music Business
One of the most common music career myths is thinking that a music degree is the key to becoming a successful professional musician. It’s true that you can learn a lot about ‘music’ by going to university to get a music degree.
However, if you go to college to get a music degree for the sole purpose of making it in the music industry, you are almost guaranteed to fail because most music courses do not cover the specific topic of “how to build a music career”.
Even if you take classes about music business, they will only present you with a general model of how the music business works. They will NOT show you exactly how to build a successful career for yourself (by keeping your personal goals in mind).
In fact, there are tons of musicians who graduate from big music universities only to realize that they are still clueless when it comes to actually earning a living through music.
If you go to university with the intention of getting into the music business with a degree, you will at best learn a lot about music – but end up back at square one in terms of building a music career. At worst, you will also have enormous amounts of fees and debts to pay back.
People who work in the music industry are not concerned with whether you have a music degree or not. To them, it is MUCH more important that you know how to help them build their music careers, earn more money and become more successful (this requires a lot more than just musical talent).
In reality, very few professional musicians have music degrees because they simply never needed them. They made it in the music business by working together with a mentor who trained them in all the skills they needed to build value for others and earn a great living in music.
II. Taking Music Career Advice From Others Who Have Never Succeeded In The Music Industry
Chances are, you have already received a lot of advice from the people in your life about what you should do to become successful in your music career. Most people will be happy to give out ‘expert’ tips or conventional wisdom even when they really have no authority to do so.
Generally speaking, these people are sincere in wanting to help you, but since they have never achieved anything significant in the music industry, their advice is more likely to send you down the wrong path than to lead you toward success.
Consider this: Asking people for music career advice (when they have never actually succeeded in the music business) is like training for a marathon with a trainer who hasn’t run a mile in his life or asking your dentist for legal advice. Additionally, asking advice from musicians who attempted to succeed in music (and failed) is equally as dangerous for your music career.
Although these people are perfectly willing to tell you how you should build your music career, they do not really have the authority to do so – they will only lead you down the same path they took (which ended in failure).
Truly successful musicians do not build their careers from the conventional wisdom of people they know or amateur musicians who never made it. They work together with a mentor who has already achieved great success and can use his experience to help them effectively reach their music career goals.
III. “Playing It Safe” By Working A Full Time Job And Doing Music On The Side
Most musicians think that the only way to break into the music industry is to work at a safe and secure job while pursuing music on the side. In many cases, they are lead to believe that they can only attempt to get into the music industry once they have saved up enough money (many years down the road).
Unfortunately, when people use this approach they end up getting stuck working 40 hours per week and never find the time to work on music. After training many musicians around the world to succeed in the music industry, I have seen this happen countless times.
The reality is, you only have a finite amount of energy to spend during your day. When you spend it primarily working at a job that is unrelated to music, you will not have any left to go toward making progress to become a successful professional musician.
The worst part is, musicians who take this approach fail to become successful in music and feel a lot of regret and resentment later on in life. There is nothing worse than this.
To build a successful long-term career in the music industry, you make your music career your #1 focus and plan for it accordingly.
If you work a lot of hours at your job and have little time to pursue your musical goals, there is a problem. In fact, many musicians have been in this same situation and gone on to become professional musicians. You too, can overcome this.
The best way to break into the music industry while working a full time job is to create a backup plan centered around your main music career goals. This plan should gradually help you transition away from your job in a safe and secure manner while giving you more time to work on music AND keeping you financially stable along the way.
IV. Trying To Make It In Music On Your Own
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when trying to make it in the music industry is attempting to build your music career by yourself. This is the approach that leads countless musicians to failure.
Why? Because when you try to build your music career alone you are forced to either ‘guess’ about which actions you should take next or copy what someone else is doing (and ‘hope’ that it works). Without the expert guidance of a mentor who has already gained many years of experience as a highly successful musician, it is nearly impossible to ‘guess’ the correct course of action you must take to further your music career.
In addition, it will not help you to copy what “seems to be working” for others because their situation is different from yours – what works for them will not necessarily work for you.
If you use these approaches, you will eventually stop trying to break into the music industry and continue working at a full time day job for the rest of your life or, spend many years trying to succeed in the music business while becoming increasingly frustrated because you can’t seem to make any progress.
V. Hoping To “Get Discovered” By Uploading Your Music Online
When it comes to breaking into the music industry, most musicians immediately wonder how they can put themselves out there to new fans, record labels and music companies. In an effort to do this, they upload their music to as many websites as possible thinking that this is what you are supposed to do to get noticed.
The truth is, this approach will rarely get you even a handful of listeners, will not help you earn a good living as a musician and will ‘never’ get you heard by the right people in the music industry (who can help you move your career forward). Here are the reasons why most people who take this approach will fail:
- They do not understand how to effectively promote themselves and their music.
- They don’t have thousands of enthusiastic fans waiting for the release of their new album.
- They have no strategy for attracting new fans while simultaneously transforming their current fans into true FANATICS.
- They do not have a strategy to help them earn a living through multiple sources of income at once.
Musicians who achieve the greatest success in their music careers do NOT merely upload their music online and wait around to get discovered. They create a strategy for working toward their musical goals while raising their personal value in the eyes of other in the music industry (by expanding their fan base and building other important music business skills).
After doing this, they simply approach the companies they want to do business with and negotiate a partnership that will bring the most benefit to both sides of the deal.
If you are serious about breaking into the music industry and becoming a successful professional musician, it is imperative that you work together with a mentor as soon as possible.
By doing this, you will reach your musical goals in much less time and finally be able to make a good living as a musician.
About The Author
Visit his website for music instruction to get many free musician resources to help you start a career in music and learn about the music industry.
There’s one thing I’ve got to say about Tom Hess that really impresses me and that is he’s not shy in telling you how it is and at the same time, he goes into great detail about the things he wants to talk about.
I will make sure that there will be more pearls of wisdom from Tom Hess in future posts but until next time, just get out there and do it,
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