MUSIC BUSINESS FAME & OPPORTUNITY – HOW TO GET STARTED

This is not
a precise “how to get into the music industry” manual. Anyone who
knows anything about the music business knows the difficulties when trying to
‘make it big’ and the pitfalls if you are lucky enough to get there.
What this
article does it give pointers as to starting out and maintaining some momentum
when the inevitable setbacks occur. 

Fame in the
music business is a topic that gets enough coverage due to the plethora of
fame-based TV shows (especially reality TV lately) and the eternal allure of
the music industry in general. It is probably the single most attractive dream
career for most people. But (predictable) there is a problem. It is HARD. Often
it seems near-impossible to get a look-in fame wise and almost as difficult
just to get any job music-related because of the avalanche of competition that
is the demand for those jobs versus supply.

Commitment

I write this
article since I often get asked about opportunities for playing in bands,
performing at theatres/with orchestras or just getting a job in the sector. The
underlying principle I find behind all this is simple – the COMMITMENT and
DETERMINATION (in that order) of the individual to succeed. This will do more
for somebody trying to get into the business than talent or luck alone. Why?
Because: A – there are many talented people out there wanting to work in the
music industry and: B – luck is unrealiable, something one hopes and waits for.
Commitment on the other hand, means you do whatever it takes, no matter
what

If for example, you are a pianist and you know you need to
practice every day, even if you have no upcoming audition or concert, then you
practice – no excuses. Determination, if it were just the sole attribute you
had, would mean you’re willing to persist but that you let yourself ‘off the
hook’ when it comes to the importance of everyday practice. You might
rationalise why today is not such a good day to practice and then focus on
other things, whilst still telling yourself how determined you are to
succeed. 

I say this
because when I was younger, I wanted to get a job at a well-known record company
(who didn’t?) as a producer/songwriter and was determined as possible to
succeed. I read books on fame, composition, music theory made a mixtape AND CD
along with a CV which I sent off to them. None this worked. I was determined,
but crucially, was not committed long-term, to learning everything I knew about
music production, songwriting and making connections in the industry. I thought
all that, especially networking, was too much hard work just to get a job, and
being a graduate at the time, rationalised why I had to focus my energies
elsewhere. Therefore that  determination I had early on, tailed off along
with any commitment I might have made to get a job at a record company.

Goals and Focus

When you
combine commitment and determination with talent however, you then have
something potent that will drive you. Now let’s look at the ways in which you
can help your chances of working in the music business:
1.   Know what you want and
be passionate about it
    This obvious point would scarcely need including if it weren’t for the
number of people I encounter who tell me they want to be a “multiplatinum selling producer“, singer, DJ or whatever. Each time I hear this ask the person “and do you have a great
interest in this area or know anything about it? Their answers always surprise
me, ranging from “er, not really” to “I though about it and the
money would be so cool!” It’s enough to say, don’t fall into this type of
thinking. Love what you do and everything else will follow. This is the
fundamental truth about success in all areas of life. 
2.   Get noticed
     By this, I mean start
playing/performing your work in front of others, even if it’s to the cat. Play
in front of the family/friends and ask for feedback. Do the same outside. Seek
any avenue, any venue and get playing! Many famous musicians started by simply
playing wherever anyone would listen and so this is a reliable path to go down.
Exposure to these situations will get you used to performing in front of an
audience and will quickly tell you whether you have it in you to become an
entertainer, for that is the difference between being just a musician who
performs in front of others and someone who can captivate and ‘wow’ the
audience. A few ways you can get started on this are:

           

·        
Organising your own
concerts/gigs
·        
Offering to play for others
at events/functions/auditions
·        
Helping out with your local
school or church’s music activities
·        
Open mic sessions at
pubs/bars and other venues
·        
Busking

3.   Learn everything there
is to know about your instrument/speciality
    I mentioned earlier about wanting to work at a record
company as a music producer and songwriter. The things I did (for a while at
least), were read about songwriting, sound recording, production, composition and study music
theory and sound recording. I also bought music production equipment (keyboard, sound
modules, samplers, synthesizers, drum machines), read the user guides and asked questions on areas I did
not understand at website forums.
4.    Meet up with friends and others who are already doing what you want to do. 
     I knew a guy from church who had a
career as a session musician, touring with some big names and who also was able
to use sound recording equipment as he also produced jingles and other music
for different clients. I arranged to meet him one evening at his place and
learn everything I needed to. I actually went to his place before to get my
mixtape (which I planned to send to the record company) critiqued but on this
particular night, I wanted to learn about production. From that night, I
learned more from jut sitting and observing him in action with all his
equipment than I could have learned from all the book reading. 
5.   Learn to market yourself and network.  
    You are the only one that’s going make this work
so it pays to find every channel to promote yourself and form connections. Even
if you’re still at school, you can join a music group/band or simply get
together with someone you know who plays in a band and either form something
together or pick their brain regarding what they are doing to get noticed. Find
the most successful people and learn how to get connected in the industry based
on their past experience. Also, you must be able to use marketing channels
whether they are simple flyers, noticeboards at schools/shops, cards in
newsagents, to internet marketing using Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and (shock!)
– Myspace (despite it’s fall in popularity Myspace is still a good option for
promoting your music). 
Another area
that isn’t used much, but which can prove useful is print media, in particular,
newspapers. I mention this because I have experience in this area. Years ago,
when I was 14, my parents rang the local paper in North London suggesting a
story in one of their ‘talented individuals’ feature. The story was that I was
one of the youngest people to take and pass my grade 8 in piano exam, competed
in local music competitions and gone on to perform in public with more
accomplished musicians at nearby venues, one being Millfield House in North
London. To my (and secretly, my parent’s) surprise, the paper were interested
and sent round a reporter and his photographer to interview me (or so I
thought) . 
After the Easter holiday, when I returned to school, my picture and
the story was plastered on the walls near the door of my classroom and I got a
real teasing from friends as there were quotes in the feature which I clearly
hadn’t said and which sounded out of character e,g, “I don’t like football
much but prefer to spend all my spare time playing piano for relaxation!”)
Lastly, commit to excellence.
This is the only standard that will do. Passion, determination, knowledge are
fine, but unless you determine that you want to be the very best at whatever
you do, you’ll have little to no chance of catching an A&R
/agent/promoter’s attention or simply getting that top job at whichever company
you’ve dreamed about. The competion will just be too fierce. Don’t do what many
on reality TV shows do and quit the job, just keep working diligently on
perfecting your talents and making yourself invaluable for whoever you wish to
work for. Good luck.

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