Most people believe that there is a pronounced disconnect between the art of music and the financially motivated music business. I bleed green for my Irish heritage so I mean no offence to Sir Morrison, but in my experience, the two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the most successful artists have an aptitude for effortlessly balancing between the two worlds. An artist in today’s music business needs to be fiercely protective of their art, and just as keenly attuned to their business decisions. For instance, did you know that Beyoncé manages her own career? She is responsible for contractual obligations and negotiations as well as which songs will complete her next album. She is known as a music superstar, but using a universal business view, we should first acknowledge her as a successful entrepreneur. Her empire is vast: sponsorships, touring, and album sales. She has become a worldwide brand that encompasses a feministic and glamorous lifestyle. Her fans are forever loyal. “Who runs the world?” Beyoncé!
Since opening my marketing and product management consulting firm, I have spent countless hours with artists who are trying to find their way through the spider web of the music industry: male, female, band; different levels of success; different areas of mastery; and different goals in life. They always sit across from me in a dark and loud coffeehouse and gulp as much from me as they can in the finite time we have together. I hear the same questions, the same concerns. I give the same advice and the same anecdotal stories from the hundreds of albums on which I’ve worked. Some projects went on to sell millions and some never made it to the stores. These repetitive issues and my stories now fill this website so that you may become impervious to the spider’s silky thread.
As we move through the different elements required to become a successful artist, I hope to provide inspiration for your endeavor. I want you to discover your brand and utilize the tools to build a company from the ground up, all while staying true to the art and maintaining a comfortable work/life balance. I’m going to take you beyond the basics and focus on the more practical do-it-yourself solutions for the musician who wants to forgo conventional business plans.
As much as my advice comes from a corporate background, you will not see a breakdown of royalties (ugh, Math!) or cumbersome contractual issues. For those topics, I have great recommendations above. Instead, we will discuss how the industry functions, who the players are, and how artists can manipulate the system to win. After clawing my way up the corporate ladder, I now believe, especially as the 21st century speeds ahead, it is essential to incorporate the new scientific studies of positive psychology in order to prosper in any field.
Positive Psychology is the scientific study of human flourishing, and an applied approach to optimal functioning. It has also been defined as the study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals, communities and organizations to thrive. – Positive Psychology Institute of Australia
Grit, perseverance, and optimism are all traits that are found within the most innovative and respected leaders from Bill Gates, to Martin Luther King Jr., to Presidents and other world leaders. They gave themselves the power to reach the success they desired and to rebound from any missteps. Even the fittest businessperson can have difficulty existing in such a dark, menacing place as the music industry, but with these Darwinian practices and learning how to define your own success, you will not only survive, but also thrive. These principles will carry through your life and career.
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but there is no such thing as an overnight success. The band Fun. seemed to have hit the top of the charts overnight with one of the most played songs of 2012 with “We Are Young,” but did you know they had formed the group five years beforehand? And before that, they had spent years playing in other bands. What made them keep going when they were playing to empty rooms and barely getting by?
Chris Stapleton is another decade long success story. He played in rock bands, wrote for superstars, won Grammys for his work in bluegrass, and “overnight” became a country music sensation. His album debut was barely noticeable to anyone outside the music industry until his performance on the CMA Awards with Justin Timberlake months later. The point is that every artist weaves a complex path to stardom, trying to avoid hidden potholes. But just like all things, if you arm yourself with knowledge, you can protect yourself from dubious pitfalls.
I’ve never thought of myself as an industry insider, just someone out there trying to help people realize their dreams. I had a boss once who gave a speech as he took over the reigns as President of the record label, in which he said:
- I wake up every morning and look in the mirror. First, I ask myself if I still love what I’m doing and if I’m still a fan of the music. Then, I ask if I am still making people’s dreams come true. The day I say ‘no’ to either of those is the day I quit this business.
It is not only my duty, but also my greatest passion to help anyone who wants to learn more about this crazy, alluring business. This desire is why I teach, why I help my clients, and why I’m spilling it all here. The day I can no longer help artists achieve their dreams is the day I quit this business.