Many singers and bands chase their own tails in search of music success but…
To Create A Successful Career In Music
You Must Be Driven By Excellence NOT Hype
GigFanatic is different. Instead of selling you some pie in the sky ideas like “put yourself out there” or “create some hype around yourself” or “act like a star” we’ll teach you to approach the music business like (drum roll please)… a business. This way you’ll finally learn how to:
After selling multiple millions of albums worldwide and making every mistake I could, I’ve found theses three principles are at the core of building a sustainable and consistently successful career in the music business. Those who ignore any of them struggle and eventually fail while those who focus on improving in all 3 areas significantly increase their chances of winning in this game.
Plan Your Approach: Start Making Music Like It Matters
For most of us, songwriting is something that kind o’ happens to you. You get a sudden bolt of inspiration, whether in the form of a melody or some words or sometimes both and so the journey begins. When the moment has passed and the song is (hopefully) complete, you might have a song that the whole world loves and plays on repeat or you may end up with words set to music that no one cares about.
When you approach songwriting (and by extension, a music career) in this way, your success or failure ends up being based upon mood, feelings and plain old dumb luck. If you make music as a way to pass the time then this is fine but if you want to make it into a career then an entirely different approach is required.
Many would-be singers and bands are shocked to discover that the music business isn’t actually about them and their music. It’s about dollars and cents. Creating something that’s already in high demand and selling that. In short… the music business is first and foremost a business.
The music business is NOT about you or your band. It's about creating value. It's about dollars and cents. It's a BUSINESS. Treat it as such.
As such your approach to the music business has to be strategic. Singing about your cat Felix may put a smile on your face but are there enough other people who care enough to actually buy this song to make it a viable income source? If not, then not only will you not be able to cover your recording costs, you probably won’t be able to buy him that Bluetooth enabled scratching pad you’ve been eyeing either (sorry Feliz).
A serious foray into the music industry has to consider some very important things before a word is written or a note is played. Things like:
- Is your music a good fit for the market you’re going after?
- Is this market big enough to sustain a lasting career?
- Is your music on par with what your competitors are making and is there space for you?
- Is there a clear path for you to get your music to the people you’re trying to reach?
- Do you have the budget to reach them?
Everything needs to be thought out and planned to a surprising level of detail if you hope to have a chance to thrive in the music industry and it’s most creative types’ unwillingness to do this that often thwarts their success before they even start.
Don’t let this scare you away though because it’s a lot easier to do than you think and in most cases you won’t be expected to do all of the planning yourself. This is where the right team comes into play. There’s a pretty large group of people who all need to be on the same page in order for this to work. People like:
- Record label execs
- Radio DJs
- Marketing & Promotions teams
- Booking agents
- Show promoters
These are just some of the people who you’ll need to collaborate with in order to get your music from your head to the masses. They each have a very particular way of working and they all have specific needs but where your music intersects with these needs magic can happen and change your life in an instant.
They’re working to a specific plan and, once you start creating the type of music that makes executing that plan easier, you start to build a career that benefits everyone. This leads me to Principle #2:
Structure Your Creativity: Make Music That Gets Noticed
Anyone can write a song about anything in any way they feel at the time. This is how I started writing songs. I had no plan, no structure and no reason to write any other way. Once I decided it was time to turn this into a career however, I quickly discovered that this approach simply wouldn’t do.
The huge difference between writing for yourself and writing for profit comes down to who you’re writing for. Whereas before I was writing for myself, a professional songwriter is now compelled to write for an audience which includes but is by no means limited to:
- Radio listeners
- Concert goers
- Radio station program directors
- Record label A&Rs
The huge difference between writing songs for yourself and writing songs for profit comes down to who you’re writing for.
With the size of your audience growing from one (namely you) to a much larger and far more demanding group, the requirements will now change. There are industry standards to meet and minimum levels of quality that simply must be adhered to and this just gets you heard by the gatekeepers. No guarantees that your songs will get anywhere beyond that level. You need to score high in many areas if you hope to progress to the “next round”. These areas include:
- Song Structure: your songs will need to have a particular format and structure that matches the genre it will potentially compete in. If you listen to pretty much every popular song on the radio now you’ll hear this structure at work.
- Song Topic: Certain topics lend themselves to higher levels of marketability in certain genres than in others. You need to understand your chosen genre enough to know which topics have historically done well and which ones have failed. Right away this will narrow the number of topics you can sing about but it will also make sure you don’t waste time writing about subjects destined to fail before the songs are even released.
- Lyrical Content: The way you choose to talk about a topic can literally make the difference between a hit song and a flop. For those of you who worry about not being able to use your creativity when you write commercial songs, this is where you need to pull out all the stops and get as creative as you can. Your choice of words make all the difference here. Case in point - there are huge amounts of songs that talk about love. Some hit, other don’t. In may cases the reason is simply the lyrical content.
- Production Quality: This matters plain and simple. Making a beat is one thing but turning it into a song is something completely different. Talented producers understand this and their songs sound so much better than those who don’t. If you listen to songs produced by David Foster, Teddy Riley, Timbaland and a handful of others you’ll see excellent examples of this.
To consistently succeed in any of these areas you MUST take a structured approach to creativity. Your number one objective here is to achieve Excellence. Depending entirely on mood or vibe can lead to success but it’s a strategy based on luck and luck has a tendency to run out.
Another excellent place to apply this concept of structured creativity is in the live show. If you have a huge budget then you can hire a show production crew to plan and execute an amazing live show that can have the audience talking more about the visual aspect of the show than the songs you played.
If, on the other hand, your budget is limited (or non-existent) you’ll need to tap into the unlimited wealth of your imagination to add interest to your live shows. Simple things like your choice of outfits, song choice/order and choreography can do wonders for an otherwise forgettable live performance.
By adding structure to your creativity you now open yourself up to taking full advantage of Principle #3:
Strengthen Your Relationships: This Is A Relationship Business
Every successful song is a collaboration. I don’t care if you wrote every word, sang every line and played every instrument. Even if you walked the song down to the radio station or uploaded it to your Spotify account yourself, I am yet to come across any artiste who has a successful song that wasn’t a collaboration.
Let me explain.
I don’t mix my own songs. In fact the only instrument I play is a microwave (I can pop popcorn like I was born doing it). This means that every successful song I’ve ever worked on had to have musicians, studio engineers and mixing engineers just for the finished song to be recorded.
When it came time to getting these songs on the radio I didn’t take them there myself. My manager did. And when it came time to making them available for sale neither of us stood on the street corners selling CDs or telling people to go stream. These things were handled by a record label.
Here’s the thing: in many cases no money changed hands to get all of these things done because of one simple thing:
We leveraged the relationships we had built to get every step of the music creation, marketing and distribution process taken care of. I know of no force in the music business more powerful than relationships. And from what I’ve observed this seems to be true in every other industry too.
I know of no force in the music business more powerful than relationships. And from what I’ve observed this seems to be true in every other industry too.
But what if you don’t know anyone yet?
I’m sure anyone who’s reached this far into this manifesto will have this question. If you’ve been paying attention to the underlying theme throughout these principles the answer might not surprise you. You build relationships by meeting people and you attract these people by letting excellence drive everything you do.
People can’t help but be drawn to other people who strive for and attain excellence in their chosen field. Whether they’re singers, scientists or entrepreneurs, their pursuit of excellence affords them a level of admiration that can’t usually be explained by the people drawn to them.
Some can even get to level where the mere mention of their name automatically opens doors that would be closed to most others. The (easily missed) advantage here is that instead of seeking partnerships and collaborators, people who operate at this level are sought out ie. Instead of chasing opportunities, opportunities come to them.
Managers, record label execs, club owners, show promoters, radio station staff members, fans and a long list of others play critical roles in the success or failure of a career in the music business. Time spent building and strengthening these relationships is essentially money in the bank.
Ready To Start Your Journey?
There’s so much to learn about how the music business works and what you need to do to succeed in it. Mistakes can be very costly if you don’t know what you’re doing so I advise you not to go it alone. If you’re considering going down this path then I’d love to help you avoid the mistakes I’ve made and get to the good stuff faster.