The Thing Is .... “Why”
Updated: Aug 21, 2019
How do you get into the music industry as a musician, producer, songwriter, engineer, publisher, record label ???
Wow, thats a HUGE question, a lot of job titles and believe it or not I have been successful at all of them.
These are the QUESTIONS you have to know the answers to for YOU.
1. WHY do YOU want a career in music ?
2. Are you prepared to do WHATEVER it takes to be the best you can be ?
(These thoughts and discussions are based on my personal experience and may or may not apply to you depending on your skill set and personality. It is, however, my perspective based on real life information and not textbooks. When it comes to the movie and music industry I notice a lot of people have an opinion. Make sure to check out sources and try to listen to opinions that are based on real life experience / success.)
1. You better have a really good ‘why’ in order to succeed at this game even though it maybe enough at the start just to be obsessed with music.
I was so obsessed with music that I was never without it, on my Sony Walkman, Panasonic Ghetto Blaster, the car radio or my parents Grundig record player. I had such a hunger to understand music more fully. Nothing could have got in the way of me figuring out why certain melodies, chords, instrumentations and vocal qualities gave me goosebumps. At the same time I would sit in front of my parents record player for hours on end fascinated by how the sonic quality affected me. For instance I noticed when recordings lacked bass it stopped you feeling the music in your body, and conversely if there is no top end (treble) it can result in a recording becoming dull and boring in its energy. I knew it was important not only how the music notes themselves affected you but also the sonic quality. It should come then as no surprise then that I have ended up producing and mixing some of my biggest records.
At a certain point you do need to find your true ‘why’ in order to get past all the road blocks you will inevitably encounter on your path to success. There are so many easier ways to earn money than the emotional rollercoaster ride a music career exposes you to. You will never be the same again once you go through it all but definitely better and stronger if you survive and come out the other end. There will be many times you want to give up on your music dream and every time that happens you had better have a damn good ‘why’.
This is my ‘Why’. I have been blessed with a talent and desire to make music which I am so grateful for. It would be the biggest waste of my life not to take the gift that has been given to me, develop it and use it to do the most good I can, both for my family and others. This is my purpose in life, second only to being as good a dad, husband and son as I am able.
What is your ‘Why’ ?
2. Talent alone in the absence of hard work is overrated and past your middle school years, by itself, will keep letting you down. Having said that, sheer hard work and no talent leads to a frustrating life also. This later statement however is very rarely the case. In my experience we all generally have a desire to do something we have a talent for. It can however, sometimes be the case that some people have an exceptional talent but no desire to pursue that particular vocation. My younger brother is the perfect example of this. He is an exceptional flautist and given my time recording many orchestras, he could have made it in to any of the highest level ensembles if he had the desire to do so. His decision not to is something I could never relate to, but after over 20 amazing years in the music industry I do understand that it takes an excessive amount of emotional resilience and drive to not be torn in to pieces and spat out by the industry. My brother is now a very successful economics and business studies teacher at one of the most prestigious schools in the UK and definitely made the perfect decision for him. He plays music frequently and continually wows audiences with his playing. I am not going to sugar coat this, for some of you reading this, keeping music as a hobby will be the best decision you ever make. For the rest of us who have no option but to go full steam ahead, read on.
THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS (except one) ! This should be your mantra every time you have an important decision to make. If you take the path of least resistance it will lead you astray and most probably right back to your starting point or worse a few years down the line. The only one exception to this no shortcuts principle is RELATIONSHIPS and I wish someone had spelled it out to me before I learned it the hard way. It still takes time and success to build your own relationships unless of course you use your families. We can never do anything without relationships and this is a topic for a future post . Having said all this, it’s also very hard to be a famous artists‘ son, daughter, sibling, etc., and it is near impossible to be successful in your own right using their name brand. On the very rare occasion it does work, say Enrique or Miley, it is the exception not the rule. On the creative side of things there is always a reason that a person is successful and not the rest of their family but their name does get you in the door!
I have however seen so much happen for those on the business side of things with the use of the right relationships if the music is fantastic. At the end of the day given all I am about to say, we can not conquer this business or any other business for that matter without other people buying in to what we are doing or helping us at some point . Money in itself can only go so far, but hard work is ALWAYS required no matter what, to take you all the way.
If you have talent, work ridiculously hard and develop the right relationships (spending THEIR money), then thats about all you can do. Now all you need is a ton of persistence and then maybe, just maybe, the stars SHOULD align for you lol.
The No Shortcuts Mantra is the best way for us to develop our skill level and in the professional game of music either strive to be the best at what we specialize in or get out. There are over 100K new songs being distributed every week. The world does not need another mediocre song or artist but we are all in need of amazing songs and artists to get us through things and inspire us at certain times in our lives. There is also nothing like a true music legend. (I know you are out there so show yourself!)
I have been fortunate enough to work with the best artists, producers, engineers etc etc in the world and without fail their longevity comes with, yes being talented, but in addition, out working their competition without exception. They live, breathe, sleep music every single day. They know that they are so fortunate to be doing well and don’t take anything for granted. The money and fame comes at a cost and there is a price we all pay for everything worth having or doing. The thing is when it comes to music you don’t care as you love it so much you just do it and enjoy every minute you are in it. Phew! That was exhausting just writing that. Those of you relating to this, music is probably for you. Those reading with concern that they might only have 4 hours of sleep a night for many years and not a lot in the bank, keep your options open in terms of a career.
A degree mindset and work ethic . YOU DO NOT NEED A FORMAL QUALIFICATION to do this job. Please avoid spending thousands of dollars going to university so you can be qualified on paper to be an artist , producer etc. There is no such qualification. I do believe any knowledge is good but with creative jobs please just get around the people actually making a living doing the job or the people that your chosen niche requires. We are not talking Harvard and law right now (except with classical music maybe) . With pop music , it’s worth having your teacher be Drake, Elton John , Bono, Skrillex, Herbie Handcock, Timbaland (see masterclass.com) , Haans Zimmer, Beyonce, Ed Sheeran, Jay-Z, Chris Martin, Manny Marroquin, Bob Clearmountain, Spike Stent, you get what I mean. Someone who has no idea how to make money in the real world should not have 3-4 years of your life. Here are the main exceptions , you generally have to go to a college for classical music for the most part OR find the world renowned pianists/professors to teach you privately. The name associations and lineages are hugely important, this is true of Pop, Urban and Jazz also . Dr Dre co- signed Eminem, Lil Wayne co - signed Drake . Notice that all the piano players / musicians associated with Miles Davis go on to be famous in their own right , that’s not an accident. This is how the world of music works . No one tells you this and this is my golden nugget of info for you . Get hustling and associated as soon as possible as it outweighs any qualification. You have to be the best to get the best people to associate with you or be of huge value to them somehow. If your niche career requires you to go to a certain college then by all means go do it. I think you understand what I’m saying here.