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Five Things to Look For in a Music Manager

Why Most Musicians Fail to Break into the Industry

by Tom Hess

Looking to break into the music industry? Here is a surprising fact about the music business that you might not be aware of:

Each year, music companies receive countless demos, videos and other items from musicians who all possess exceptional musical talent. Many of these musicians have spent years developing their musical skills to the highest level and are hoping that they will 'catch a break' when a music company likes their style and offers them a contract or a record deal. That said, the overwhelming majority of musicians will never hear back from the companies they attempt to make contact with. In fact, most of the materials sent to music companies are not even opened! They are quickly glanced over and most of the time are thrown directly into the trash without a single hesitation. Musicians are left scratching their heads, wondering why their plans for breaking into the music industry seem to go nowhere despite their musical talent. You don't want to end up like this...

In contrast to the musicians who don't make it in music, there are thousands of musicians who DO succeed in the music business and build fulfilling (and highly profitable) music careers. In fact, it is 'not that hard' to make a good living in music. However, most people fail in their quest to become professional musicians and break into the music industry because they follow some 'easy to believe' conventional approaches when trying to start their careers. Here is the top 5 list of these 'common sense' tactics that will destroy your chances of building a career in the music industry:

1. Following The Advice Of People Who Are NOT Successful Professional Musicians

Throughout your efforts to break into the music industry, you likely have received lots of advice about building a music career from people in your life. Whether it is your friends, family, peers or any amateur musicians you know, almost all people will gladly give you their unsolicited advice about the music industry. In most cases, these people will have good intentions for you, however unless they have achieved great success in the music industry, their advice is highly likely to cause great harm to your music career, if followed.

Think of it like this: Attempting to build a music career from the advice of people who have never done anything in the music business is like training to become an Olympic athlete with a coach who knows nothing about the Olympics (but has seen them on T.V.) or asking your doctor for legal advice. Would you do either of these things? Of course not - it makes no sense. Furthermore, it is especially dangerous to listen to musicians who 'tried' to make it in music, but failed. These people really have no authority to talk to you about 'success' in the music business - they can only help you 'to fail' like they did.

Musicians who achieve great success in the music industry do not simply accept the 'amateur' advice of the people they know. Instead, they find a mentor who has already accomplished a very high level of success in the music industry and train with such a mentor to learn exactly how to accomplish their music career goals in as little time as possible.

2. Working At A 'Safe And Secure' Job While Doing Music On The Side

Most musicians are told (usually by 'well-meaning' friends and family) that they must work at a secure job while doing music 'on the side' before they can even think about building a successful career in the music industry. Only after they've spent years working some other non-music related job can they consider trying to put together a music career. As someone who has trained many musicians to build successful careers in the music industry, I have come across this line of thinking countless times. In nearly all cases, the musicians who followed this advice got stuck working at an unfulfilling job all the way until retirement. There was rarely enough time or energy left over to actually work on music. Few things cause more regret than watching your life go by but never pursuing your true passions. Fact is, the more time you spend working in a different field, the less time (and energy) you can invest into becoming a professional musician.


To break into the music industry and succeed for the long term, you must make 'music career' your number one priority and consistently plan everything you do around your highest goals. If you are unable to work on music each week because your current job does not leave you with much free time, then you have a problem. However, you CAN overcome this. The best solution is to create a safe and secure 'backup plan' that allows you to gradually 'phase out' your day job while 'phasing in' your music career. More importantly, your 'backup plan' needs to be secure in and of itself so that it can support you financially no matter what happens.

3. Hoping That A Music Degree Will Make You More Successful In The Music Industry

Contrary to popular belief, going to college to get a degree in music is NOT an effective plan for breaking into the music industry and building a successful career in music. Although going to school will expand your musical knowledge, getting a music degree with the expectation of using it to make it in the music industry is a guarantee to fail because:

  1. The courses you take will likely have little or nothing to do with actually building a 'career' in music. Even if you pursue a degree specifically for music business, you will only learn how the music business works 'in general' (instead of learning what YOU need to do to develop your own successful music career AND being trained on 'how to do it'). There are lots of people who graduate from prestigious music schools with advanced music degrees only to realize that they STILL have no clue about how to take all of their knowledge and earn a living with it. In the best case scenario, you will simply waste 4 years of your life to graduate not being any closer to 'making it' in the music industry than you were before. In the more likely (worst case) scenario you will also have huge piles of student loan debt to pay off.

  2. People and companies in the music industry do not really care if you have a music degree. They only want to work with someone who has the ability to help them achieve their own goals and grow their own careers (hint: this takes MUCH more than having good musical skills or writing good songs).

Fact is, the majority of successful professional musicians do not have a degree in music. They broke into the music industry and achieved long lasting success by learning from a proven music career mentor (someone who already made it on a big level in the music industry). You must do the same if you are serious about building a successful music career.

4. Uploading Music Online To Make Money And Get 'Discovered'

When many musicians think about building a successful and profitable career in the music industry, the first thought that enters their mind is “How can I get my music out there?” They upload their music on social media or video/audio distribution websites and hope that someone in the music business will randomly stumble across it. Unfortunately, 99.9% of musicians who do this never really get their music heard by more than a handful of people (and definitely not by the 'right' people who need to hear it) and never earn a lot of money in the music business. This is because:

  • They have no knowledge of how to promote themselves to others in the music industry
  • They don't have a database full of thousands of people who are eagerly waiting for a chance to buy their new record
  • They do not have an effective strategy in place for consistently finding new fans while transforming their current fans into FANATICS
  • They have no strategy in place for earning money from many different sources at once

The above approach is what I call 'spray and pray' - another virtual guarantee to fail in your music career.

Highly successful musicians do not sit around hoping that someone might randomly go online and listen to their music while passively waiting to be discovered by a major music company. They build a strategic plan for achieving their music career goals and work hard to increase the value they can offer to music companies by creating their own database full of dedicated and enthusiastic fans (in addition to MANY other things required for success in the music business). Then, they directly approach the music companies they want to work with and offer their value to them in order to establish a mutually beneficial partnership.

5. Attempting To Break Into The Music Industry By Yourself

One of the worst ways to hold yourself back in your music career is trying to figure everything out on your own. The reason why is simple: When trying to build a career in music alone, you will have to either 'guess' your way through every step of the process or copy what other musicians are doing. If you do not have the guidance of a successful mentor in the music business, it will be next to impossible to 'correctly' guess what actions to take and know how to implement them successfully. Copying the things that other musicians do will also not work because what 'works' for them will not necessarily work for you in your specific music career. As a result, you will either:

  1. Quit pursuing a career in the music industry and continue working a non-musical job for 40 hours each week.
    OR
  2. Waste years trying to make it in music using a bunch of trial and error methods that never really help you move forward, leaving you frustrated and disappointed.

If you are 'truly' serious and committed to building a highly successful, stable and long-lasting career in the music industry, you owe it to yourself to find someone who can train, coach and mentor you to achieve your music career goals using effective strategies that have been proven to get results. Take action to find the bestmusic career mentor and build the music career you always wanted.

 


 

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