The music industry we have today is a very different place than the old music industry still portrayed as modern in movies and television.
In the old music industry, you had to make demos and network until the faithful day when a label would be willing to sign you and invest a million dollars or more of their hard earned money into your career. Even if you were signed, you would still have to get on your knees and pray that you get really lucky again and end up in the 10% of signed artists who actually turn a profit. (You heard me right, even in the peak of the music industry, only 10% of signed artists made money, the other 90% of signed musicians LEFT WITH LESS MONEY OR MORE DEBT THAN THEY HAD BEFORE THEY WERE SIGNED.)
There is a concept in economics called the Tyranny of Space and it ruled the music industry. The music stores only had so much space on their tables and shelves to display your CD. There was even less space on the air in the form of radio spins allotted for new artists. In the old music industry, you could have a great record charting in the Billboard Top 20, be touring all over and for all intents and purposes have “made it” only to lose your deal and be dropped because the label found someone in your niche with slightly better numbers, This is the Tyranny of Space. Lucky for you, with the rise of digital distribution, it died.
The old music industry can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because it’s dead. Rejoice. With a decent computer and audio interface you can run the same recording software used by the best studios in the world. (Sound proof room not included but get over it.) The costs associated with making a record are much less expensive now and distribution barriers of entry went away when server memory became cheap. Better yet, Facebook ads are cheap and most of social media is free.
When the Tyranny of Space died, to some degree so did luck in the music business. You can write and record music you love without a label now. You can find your audience online without a label now. You can sell your music without a label now. You can crowdfund your projects or take on private investors and use other peoples money without a label now. And if you do that enough you can change what mainstream music sounds like, at which point a label will find you.
So How Do You Do It?
There is a new music industry in town and with it a new tyranny. The Tyranny of Too Much Space. (I know, we just can’t get it right.) Have you ever spent so much time on netflix trying to decide what you want to watch that you realize you could already be halfway through something by now? Nothing really stands out. This is the Tyranny of Too Much Space. When everybody is a blip on the radar, how do you separate yourself from the noise?
There are as many answers to this question as there are self proclaimed experts on the music industry. I believe it is 20% making good music, the best product you can, and 80% making a good business, running the best enterprise you can. If you are a musician in the new music industry, or want to become a part of the new music industry, then you are a business. So it is time to keep reading, to keep improving, and to start acting like the business you are.