So, you want to start a career in music? Welcome to the club, my friend! A lot of people are still waiting in line to get into the music business. But what if I told you that there are a few things you need to learn in order to skip that line and start doing a real thing? Knowledge is power, no matter what you are doing, so keep reading to find out where to start if you want to go straight into success.
In the following text you will find 16 critical points that you must take seriously, but remember that your success in the music industry ultimately begins with the quality of your music. Therefore, make amazing music and be aware of everything that can be helpful on your journey!
1. Figure Out Your Place in the Music Industry
- Do I want to be a singer?
- Do I prefer playing instruments?
- Do I want to be a singer who writes my own music?
- Is music production more appealing to me than performance?
Remember, there is no such thing as a wrong answer. Everyone can find a palace in the music industry. There are many music career options to consider if you do not like being in the spotlight. Taking an honest look at your skill sets and what you enjoy doing will help you determine what is best for you in terms of starting a career in music.
It is important to think creatively because the possibilities are endless. You could work as a studio engineer, stage manager, film music composer, music teacher, etc.
In the following text, you will learn more about the dilemmas that most aspiring musicians face when starting their music careers:
- Making self-composed music or doing covers?
- Having a band or going solo?
- Going independent or signing with a record label?
Making Self-composed Music or Doing Covers?
When they first start out, a lot of musicians have trouble deciding what kind of music they want to play. The key is to play the music that you like and enjoy, the music that makes you feel amazing, because only then will your audience be able to connect with you.
Once you’ve found your groove, you will choose whether you want to compose and perform your own music or prefer to work on covering songs by other musicians. Your skills are, ultimately, what matters. Start with covers if you are not yet comfortable writing your own music. Even if you perform your own songs, most musicians will advise you to regularly practice songs by other artists. Doing covers will help you improve your abilities and gain insight into the composition of songs. It will change the way you hear music, which will improve your performance, whether you are a guitarist, singer, drummer, or producer.
Having a Band or Going Solo?
A solo artist is not required to share the spotlight or the creative authority with anyone, and also gains a higher profit. However, there are some drawbacks as well. You might grow lonely and have a ton more work to do.
The idea behind starting a band is to find people you click with, start playing music, any kind of music, together, and develop a level of comfort with each other. The secret to a great band is in the chemistry that all the members share, but you will find yourself in circumstances where there are disagreements and confrontations, both of which have their benefits and drawbacks.
Consider what would make you feel the most comfortable.
Going Independent or Signing With a Record Label?
Once more, using a DIY approach guarantees that you have total control over your music, your shows, and everything else. But this also implies that there is a lot of work involved. For example, you might discover that responding to emails takes more time than writing or practicing music.
If your workload becomes too much for you to handle and you have the financial means to do so, put together a team that will assist you. Therefore, seek out record labels willing to sign you on as an artist if you feel the administrative work is wearing you out and you aren’t spending enough time on your music.
Signing with a label undoubtedly has advantages because it can offer you resources, contacts, and knowledge that let you concentrate more on the creative aspects. However, being signed to a label frequently entails making many compromises. Many of the choices affecting your music and your image will no longer be yours to make. When selecting a label, be cautious. Spend time researching and contacting record labels whose ideas match yours rather than impulsively signing a record deal.
2. Set Specific Goals
Setting goals and objectives will help you avoid wasting time. Work on short-term goals, such as recording a song until a certain date or playing a specific number of gigs. This will keep you focused and productive.
On the other hand, try looking at a broader perspective. Create long-term goals. Some aspire to be independent performing artists who travel the world. Others may wish to simply create music in order to obtain sync licensing deals for commercials or films. Not everyone will have the same ambitions or goals. It may take some time to figure out what your long-term goal is, and it may change as you gain experience. When you set long-term goals, you will find it easier to move forward and make better decisions.
3. Invest in Your Growth
Realizing that you must first invest in yourself is a necessary step in starting a career in music. Whether it’s a matter of time or money, you must be willing to put in the effort to learn and complete tasks.
You will need money to develop your music career, whether it be for hiring someone to create your website, paying for studio time, having CDs printed, hiring a designer for your merchandise, or hiring a vehicle to travel to performance venues. You must be willing to risk the money and believe in your own abilities. How can you expect fans or anyone else to put money or time into you if you can’t invest in yourself to look professional and create high-quality music?
Should I Only Focus on Making a Career in Music?
Tossing everything aside and attempting to support yourself through music right away is probably not a good idea. If you’re standing well financially this may not apply.
The circumstances of each person will vary, even though some are fortunate enough to enter the music industry without holding down a regular job. Don’t think working a day job is bad because we all have bills to pay and other adult obligations. You must schedule practice time no matter what. While doing this might require giving up some free time, it is totally worthwhile. At first, it may seem challenging to strike a balance between work and practice, but you’ll soon discover that it can work if you are self-disciplined. Also, being a musician is not cheap. You will need to upgrade and modify your equipment frequently, even if your cost of living is low. Without a day job at first, this can be challenging.
4. Continue to Develop Your Skills
Keep refining your talents and skills. Whether it’s singing, rapping, or producing, keep practicing and learning. Never stop developing as an artist!
When I say you need to find time to practice no matter what, I really mean it! Although it might sound cliche, practice really does make everything perfect. Even if you are gifted, if you don’t put the time and effort into improving your abilities, you won’t get very far. For their live performances as well as to write better music together, bands need to regularly jam and practice. Even if you are a DJ, you should continue to refine and practice your transitions. Instrumental musicians can only improve by repeatedly performing their fundamental exercises.
Playing the same thing repeatedly might become monotonous. However, it will be simpler if you invest more time at the beginning of your music career or before you start your career in music. Your performance ability should be almost instinctual. Keep in mind that no one enjoys watching an artist stumble while playing on stage.
What to Keep in Mind While Practicing
Playing your instrument well when you are by yourself is one thing, but playing well consistently in the studio or on stage is completely different. Hence, you need to keep training and practicing to play well in those professional environments. If you want to start a successful music career, you will need to specifically practice your ability to play consistently well in a variety of high-pressure situations.
Therefore, the next time you practice, concentrate on playing whatever you already play consistently well rather than trying to play something faster or learn something new.
So, you need to practice under different circumstances to be able to play well under stress. For example:
- Play the instrument while standing and walking around.
- Play while your eyes are closed.
- Play in front of as many people as possible to gain confidence.
- Practice at a bit faster tempo than you will need for the performance.
- Focus on the parts where you tend to make mistakes. Don’t brush them off in the hopes that you won’t make the same mistake again.
When we are talking about those infamous mistakes, you should also know that no one plays at 100% every time. There will always be a few minor errors, and that’s perfectly acceptable. However, the point is that those little stumbles don’t disrupt the rest of the performance. Carry on and play as if the mistake never happened.
That is yet another thing that can be practiced! You can accomplish this by purposefully including little mistakes in your musical parts (but never to the point where they disrupt your proficient playing).
This not only teaches you how to handle mistakes gracefully but also teaches you how to maintain composure under pressure.
5. Create an Outstanding Online Presence
These days, social media plays a significant role in our lives. In addition to being a fantastic live performer, an artist needs to have a carefully curated online presence that is relatable to their fans. Create accounts across all social media such as TikTok, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, etc. Post interesting videos related to your music and what inspires you. For example, read this guide to learn how to make your song go viral on TikTok. Discover the benefits of social media and be where your target audience is.
You should also have a clean and professional website. You can showcase and sell your albums on a website, post the dates of your events, engage with your fans, or just tell your story there. A website is like your online resume. I am sure you are asking yourself, can you just work with social media? Isn’t it enough? It depends on what you plan to do, but from my experience, having a website is a huge plus. It increases your chances of being recognized and allows your audience to find all your news in one place. So, help your audience while also helping yourself.
Pro tip: A professional photographer can help you get high-quality images of you or your band that you can use for your bio, website, and social media. This is great advice for those just starting out. If you come across as unprofessional, people may subconsciously associate you with lower quality and someone who is not deserving of their attention. For this reason, high-quality visual elements (photos, graphics, and videos) are essential to a successful online presence.
6. Networking Is the Key
You need to network in the music industry! You should get to know other musicians, event organizers, tour managers, and other professionals because you never know what opportunities they might present to you.
The purpose of networking is to establish connections, meet musicians with whom you might collaborate, and identify potential team members, such as a manager, booking agent, or photographer. You’ll need a team, but you likely won’t have the money to pay them right away. As a result, you’ll need to collaborate with people on the same level as you and value what you offer.
Creating connections within the local music and community scenes should be one of your first priorities. By becoming familiar with the various music venues and building connections with other local musicians and artists, you can network in your neighborhood, city, or educational institution. Building a local support group will help you go through this journey easily.
Of course, you should do this in person and on the internet. You can find fans online, but that’s not all it is. Networking opportunities are available; you just need to know how to use them. Look for relevant online forums where you can participate and help out artists similar to you. By doing this, you can make contacts in the industry and meet other artists with whom you can collaborate in the future.
- Be friendly to everyone you encounter, whether it’s the venue’s sound engineer or stage technician.
- Remember that a successful gig requires a team to pull it off.
- Make sure your actions have a positive impact on others.
How you present yourself will frequently determine whether or not you are considered for a position.
7. Make Your Team Early On
We now have the ability to easily record music using personal laptops with high-quality equipment in the appropriate acoustic setting, but if you lack experience in some areas, make sure to have someone knowledgeable and skilled handle the rest.
However, even if you are one of the few artists who enjoys managing the entire business operation and does it well, it is fine initially. Still, it would be challenging to advance in this manner when your music career takes off. If you want your music career to succeed in the future, you’ll need to find capable people you can trust. In the end, you want collaborators eager to advance and work hard alongside you and aren’t just out to cash in on your successes.
Who Do You Need on the Team?
Music producers: Finding a producer to help you write and arrange your music is necessary if you are not skilled at creating music. In order to make your record sound professional, you will also need mix and master engineers. It is critical to work with a producer who understands both your music and your aesthetic. Find someone who will interpret your ideas and work magic into your music rather than working with someone just because they have a fascinating background.
If you have the necessary skills, you can do it yourself. However, keep in mind that getting input from other producers is important because their unbiased perceptions will often spot details that you might have missed during recording or mixing.
Managers: Once your career takes off, you and the rest of the music industry will communicate with each other through your music manager. Make sure they understand your objectives. Managers occasionally serve as booking agents as well.
Promoters and Agents: You’ll also need to communicate with booking agents and gig promoters, in addition to the music team. They are in charge of getting you the gigs you need and telling others about your music.
Your team will grow as time passes. You will require assistance from others more as your schedule fills up. Your team will eventually become like a second family to you. As your career develops, you should think about adding the following individuals to your team:
- Marketing experts
- Visual artists and photographers
- Entertainment Lawyers
8. Understand How to Distribute Your Music on the Internet
By putting your music on Soundcloud and Youtube, you can start building a following for your music career. However, you’ll eventually need better distribution, especially if you want to be taken seriously. You need a music aggregator (music distributor) to get your music into major outlets like Apple Music, Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Music, and many others.
A few popular online distributors are:
These aggregators distribute your music directly to the major streaming and digital sales platforms, bypassing record labels. These services not only aid in getting your music onto platforms for purchasing and streaming it, but they also provide administrative publishing services that aid in obtaining royalties. Do your research before choosing one because their prices, fees, and available tools will vary.
You might experience extremely high music streaming numbers if you can get your music added to an editorial playlist on Spotify or Apple Music. As an artist, this can result in a lot of exposure. As a result, you might think about using services like SoundCampaign. We assist musicians in getting their music featured on Spotify playlists by connecting them with playlist curators.
Of course, you won’t be able to make a lot of money from your music right from the start. Even so, it’s great to be aware that as a recording artist, music producer, songwriter, and/or composer, you may be able to generate a variety of income streams from your music when it’s played or used in various contexts. Of course, assuming you own the copyright to the songs. When someone streams your music on platforms like Spotify, Pandora, or Youtube, for instance, you are entitled to compensation or royalties from those companies.
9. Know How Music Copyright Laws Work
Protecting your music is one thing that is easily overlooked. When you release something, you must have copyright over your music and all necessary licenses. It’s crucial to have publishing rights because they protect you from plagiarism. Also, if your music is being used for commercial purposes, this will guarantee that you receive your royalty.
The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers is an organization that pays royalties to artists who register with them. A company called Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) assists musicians in obtaining music licensing. ASCAP and BMI are Performance Rights Organizations. In the US, these organizations are in charge of royalties. SongTrust is a better choice for you if you want to license your music internationally.
Keep in mind:
- To prevent potential legal action, be sure to know what you can and cannot do if you are a beat maker who uses samples to create a derivative work.
- If you play in a band or other group, you must decide how you will divide ownership of the music you produce together.
- Even though discussing money and ownership can be difficult, it’s crucial to do so early on. When it comes to rights and investments, every member of your band, manager, or agent needs to be on the same page.
10. Develop Business Mindsets
Although music is your passion, keep in mind that it is also a business. Remember that you are not just doing this as a hobby, but rather as a business. Be unbiased when making decisions.
Arguably, promoting your music is just as crucial as creating it. But, of course, making high-quality music is your top priority; marketing it through various channels comes second.
It might be difficult to strike a balance between the business and creative sides in order to create quality music, but that’s what you need to deal with. Check out our blog post to learn more about choosing the marketing plan that works in 2022! Read our article How to Create a Music Marketing Plan that Works in 2022.
At some point, you will need to do the following:
- Create a marketing plan.
- Develop a business plan.
- Identify your target audience
- Know how to use branding
- Make a budget for promotional and other expenses
- Employ an accountant to manage your finances and file your taxes.
- Make use of legal counsel for assistance with contracts
If you intend to hire others to handle aspects of your business and marketing, it is critical that you continue to educate yourself in these areas and understand what to expect from them. Even if you dislike the business aspect of music, you still need to be knowledgeable and educated to make the best choices for your career.
11. Develop Your Release Strategies
You must prepare a release schedule for any content you have, whether it be a single, an album, or a music video. Your music won’t magically gain popularity if you randomly upload it to the internet. Hence, release plans are important. Establish deadlines and make sure to meet them. Release dates are planned by artists or their public relations departments weeks or even months in advance.
Give your audience plenty of notice when something is coming up. You can do this by posting audio samples or video trailers announcing the release date on your social media accounts. This will spark interest and keep your audience interested. This will keep your audience interested and pique their curiosity.
Don’t forget to organize your licenses and uploads. It is not a good idea to wait until the last minute because many things could go wrong.
Pro tip: Speed has become a crucial aspect of music production. By “speed,” I mean how quickly you can consistently release new music to stay in the public eye and keep fans interested.
12. Make Captivating Music Videos
People are drawn to visual elements. A great music video can help your career bloom. The truth is that quality music doesn’t necessarily require a high budget. Videos made on a shoestring budget frequently gain popularity online. All that matters is how fascinating and captivating they are.
Find artists who are willing to cooperate with you and with whom you can be your true artistic self. Work on your ideas thoroughly and always ask for feedback.
13. Make Your Live Show Better
If your audiences aren’t entertained, they won’t pay to attend your performances. Make certain that each live performance is enjoyable. Your audience should feel completely satisfied, even if there are only 5 people there. Play a variety of gigs. You will gain a tremendous amount of experience and help to expand your comfort zone.
Determine whether you are a storyteller who can captivate the audience with a conversation between songs or an artist who performs the entirety of your setlist without giving the audience a chance to rest. You can judge this more accurately with the more shows you perform.
Recording your performances as much as possible when you first start is a good idea. This will not only assist you in producing content for later releases, but it will also assist you in identifying areas that require improvement. Evaluate yourself after each performance because it can be challenging to be objective about your work.
Remember that your fans didn’t have to come to see you perform live; they could have enjoyed your music in the comfort of their own homes. They’ve made an effort, so you should too. Lighting, backdrops, and even equipment are visual components that significantly enhance performances. Stick to an aesthetic when creating your visual presentation; don’t let it be random.
14. Discovering Your Most True Self
Before you begin your journey, list your ideals and values. Always be true to who you are. Be distinctive because an artist’s music is driven by their authenticity. All the feelings and encounters that went into its creation are embodied in it. Even at the top of your career, you must maintain your authenticity.
Music that comes from the heart can connect with a listener. Even though it is simple only to create music for financial gain, this is a very limited perspective. Doing something just because it will sell is not a good idea.
Establish Your Artistic or Brand Identity
To make it simpler for people to recognize and set you apart from other artists, you need to develop your brand identity. It’s too ambiguous to describe yourself as a “male singer” or “a producer from New Jersey.” The idea is to make it clear what people can anticipate hearing from you. Other than music, what other scenes, subcultures, pastimes, lifestyles, or interests are you into?
Creating your brand and identity enables potential fans to assess whether your music speaks to them. Keep in mind that not everyone will enjoy your music, but also keep in mind that you need to find listeners who will value your work and truly understand it.
15. Always maintain your mental health
Your overall well-being greatly depends on your mental health. It’s possible that you’ll have moments of self-doubt, but it’s crucial to avoid letting these negative feelings rule your mind.
Regular exercise or participation in a physical sport is one of the best ways to combat depressive and anxious feelings. In order to maintain good mental health, many musicians engage in yoga and meditation. Stress can also result from fatigue. Try to distract yourself by picking up a new hobby. Do whatever brings you peace and enjoyment, and be open about any problems you may be experiencing. Never hesitate to ask for help!
16. Prepare your mind for a long journey.
The fact that only 20 of your friends and family members listened to your first song on YouTube doesn’t guarantee that you won’t have thousands of listeners in the future. It really does take time and effort to build a reputation for yourself and gain traction. As a result, you must mentally prepare for the long run and strive to stay on the path you have chosen, no matter what.
You’ll be rejected, given no response, ignored, and perhaps even made fun of. It’s all part of the adventure that leads you to the ultimate goal in the music industry. Don’t worry about what others are doing or have done. Move at a pace that is comfortable for you.
You don’t have to do it by yourself, though. You probably know at least one musician friend or family member who you can ask for advice!
Starting your career in music is quite intricate and requires hard work. As you can see, there are numerous factors to consider when getting started in the music industry. I advise you to take your time and not rush things. Once you’ve created a thorough plan, it’s time to get started. You will find yourself in various situations over time, but the key is to believe in your craft and keep moving forward regardless of the obstacles you encounter. The most important thing is to create high-quality music that will resonate with a large number of people. Find your audience and keep them engaged. Don’t compare yourself to others because you are unique in your own way, so cherish that uniqueness, and it will be rewarded.