TBT: How to Make it as a Musician

Recently a client’s father asked if his aspiring musician daughter should put a physical care package of sorts together to send out to labels, managers and PR. He thought that this was the best way to get someone’s attention who could help out his daughter’s career. After politely disagreeing, this is what we suggested instead:

It’s really difficult to try to summarize how to make it as a musician.  Especially in the current market.  There used to be a defined set of steps to take but now the easiest answer is: it depends.

I think the be all and end all is good music.  With a budget you can push crappy music, but eventually it filters out and the public loses interest.

So assuming an artist has good music, what are the next steps?

First, determine what content you are releasing:  Is it a single, an EP, an album a video or some combination of the foregoing?

Set a release date and focus all of your attention at getting as many taste makers (blogs, websites, music influencers, friends, families, super fans etc.) to be aware of that date.  Try to get some press (local or otherwise) to focus on the release and tease the public as to when the release is coming out so that you can maximize the attention on the day of your release.  There are many ways of doing that: contests, give aways, bonus tracks etc.  Something that will get people excited.

Once the music is out, you have to continue to push it.  Usually this is done with touring.  Sometimes this is done with radio promotion (which requires a decent budget).  The press push continues and you look at where your music is performing well.  Hit press in those areas as well as venues and try to tour there.

All along, you should be trying to sell merchandise (if you have it) at your shows and online.  Bundling music with shirts, stickers etc. can help.

Try to get other musicians to support your release (and support there’s as well).  You need other musicians for several reasons; touring with support, features on their songs, more fans to reach out to etc.

All the while, create new content.  Whether that means releasing a video, releasing concert footage, releasing a b-side track or a follow up song, you have to stay present and can’t afford for too much lag between the time of releases.

Throughout this process you need a lawyer to make sure that everything is properly documented.  Producer agreements, feature artist agreements, registrations etc.   It is much cheaper to handle ahead of time then after the fact.  A solid lawyer is usually the first thing you need when starting your career as a musician.  Ask other entrepreneurs as to what professional they hired first.  Typically it is either an accountant or a lawyer.

While a manager and PR team may help, it still comes down to content and the artist working full time on the project.  No one will work as hard as you do for your own art.  End of story.  Artists who expect or hope that a manager will get them to where they want to go typically don’t even need a manager.

Demo packages are pretty useless these days.  You need an EPK to be able to easily email people key information about yourself (contact info, social media numbers, soundcloud links etc.) but demos or promotional packages are ignored by industry folks 9 times out of 10.

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