"‘They Say music isn’t a proper job and that you have a one in a million shot at making a proper living."
This post comes to hopefully inspire all of you new songwriters and composers out there. Traditional thinking will probably make this statement true for most. Read on if you are happy to hear some uncomfortable truth, a small dose of reality and risk the odds:). I apologise in advance if I appear over passionate in wanting to pass on what I have learnt so far.
Here are a few things I have come to realise and I hope this can give you a head start with your career choice. I am going to be blunt and overly candid in what follows. It really is to assure you that Music can be a great career if you are prepared to do what it takes;
"We all have to be able to do what we NEED to do in order to do what we WANT to do"
Straight off the bat here comes another sweeping statement but none the less one I have found personally to be true .
Most people do not have the desire to work hard enough.
"Talent in itself will only take you so far. At the top of any career EVERYONE is talented “
Your success depends on and is directly or even exponentially proportional to the amount of work you put in and I don’t mean 9 to 5 hours . I mean from the minute you wake up to the minute you go to sleep. EVERYBODY I know who has a music career and especially the most successful don't do anything else but make music. They write it , record it , mix it , produce it , dream about it, market it and in any of the aforementioned combinations. This is true especially at the beginning stages and even right up to earning the first few million dollars (and beyond) . In order to remain sane you have to LOVE, be OBSESSED with, live , breathe and sleep music . There are easier ways to earn a living and make money. For music to be your main source of income (and given you want to thrive not just survive), it has to be your absolute focus
Advice I have been given and am passing on to you:
1.Learn your craft - it takes enthusiasm, energy, Work Ethic oh and did I already say Obsession. The 10,000 hour rule is just the beginning.
2. Do what it takes to become your best - self discipline and constant ego checking is required. Our egos wreck relationships and therefore a lot of opportunities fall by the wayside. Someone said this to me -: "Why should anyone care about your music" when there is so much of it ? - I'll tell you why, you and YOUR team make it so! YOU NEED A TEAM or should I say an army. The least you can do is be the best you can for yourself and your army otherwise who is gonna want to fight for you ?
3. Listen to music and absorb it in to every pore of your body, - music is a sociable art and should be shared. Know what your peers are doing that is working for them and be encouraging to them. Notice I am not saying compare yourself to them as you have your own individual path. Sometimes it takes a while to know what your exact path is going to be and your friends may get results before you. That is OK and quite normal . Just know that when you do what is NEEDED based on your own tangible results it will lead you on your own correct path. It took me 10 years of earning £5 / hour to have my first successful song. Needless to say all my friends had bought their houses and were very settled before I could afford to do anything like that.
4. Study the people who you want to be like , they are not there by accident . - for example Shakespeare and Beethoven have most probably already composed and said it better than the majority of us are ever going to, so learn from them 😂 (and whomever their equivalent is to you ). - you can’t afford to be too precious. Be attached to your work while you create it and then like anything else you love truly “Let it Go” for its own sake, especially if you want to make money. I already mentioned in a previous blog 50% of something is better than 100% of nothing. This takes working on your mental maturity and isn’t really in our human nature . This job combines your creativity , heart and soul with business acumen. It is a huge emotional investment and human beings don’t always make sound business decisions when emotion is involved. For this reason alone most people don’t become successful and get swallowed up by the entertainment industry. It takes WORKing on your own mental state and ego by reading books and speaking with mentors who have walked the path you are about to.
5. There is a huge price to pay to have one of the best careers in the world and I don’t just mean financial. . Everything valuable comes at a cost and with music it’s a time / emotional investment beyond anything you can imagine. if you are like the few lucky successful producers / writers / musicians / artists, you most probably already know it’s the only thing you want to do and you appreciate every little step as a stepping stone to your eventual goal.
6. Music is a REAL job and I still don't feel I'm working when I am creating music. All the other 'stuff' however, like the conference calls, emails, running a publishing company, record label as well as creating, is a ton of responsibility and just like lifting weight you slowly become stronger and it gets more manageable. This non creative stuff is what overwhelms creative folk and you do need a good overview even if you have people to run it for you. Read books and subscribe to courses etc on everything to do with music like digital marketing / social media etc. (Check all sources first so its not just another so called 'expert' with no credentials)
If you are still here and I haven’t put you off 😅, here are a few things I wish someone had told me early on in addition to the above points : -
1. Music is about people and connecting with everybody not just being a good musician, composer, producer etc. When people 'like' you only then will they give your music a proper shot and only then will they want to know more about you or work with you. Make lots of friends and strong relationships, its what drives everything. A recommendation from the right friend goes a long way and stops you needing to blow your own money. It is however important not to use your time just to take shortcuts by hoping you meet the right people. Put your own work in consistently. I have found in the music industry, people help you most when they look good by doing so.
2. It is important today for everybody to build an audience for themselves. Back in the day, a record label could put a big budget behind what they believed in and because they controlled all the gate keepers, money went a long way to getting you the exposure you needed. Today however, people have a lot more freedom to discover and listen to what they want. My friends don't even listen to the radio and instead build playlists on Spotify and Apple Music mainly. No one wants to be told what to listen to anymore. Its an era of in-direct discovery. We do still really get music suggested to us but its a lot more low key than before. Go build that following as well as your craft and do it all together from the start. There's no point having a masterpiece nobody wants to hear because they don't know you exist !
3. Be the artist and own it! (I don’t mean financially, I mean be authentic ). In todays market you have to be the thing that everybody gets to see and hear about. Its much easier for you when your name is in front of everyone. Most people don't know who has written, produced, recorded or mixed this weeks no 1. They do however know who the artist is in most cases. Even if you chose never to make a live appearance you still have to be the thing the 'public' care about. Its more work but much more rewarding if you can find your niche. DJ's are a good example- very few are exceptional artists but they seem to have big smashes with the best vocalists and writers. Learn from them
4. My one bit of financial / business strategy is as follows :- 50% of something is better than 100% of nothing . Team up with people who compliment your skill set and do deals with the managers / publishers etc that have had success over a long period. It’s not by accident they continue to do well. Notice I mention this concept a few times now
mic drop - over and out
All the best to you always