Are you looking for ways to make it in the music industry? To break into the music business and build a long-lasting, successful career, it’s important to (first) eliminate all the misinformation you’ve heard about becoming a pro musician. The truth is that believing in music industry “myths” will make you waste time, energy and money, never getting any closer to your music career goals.
People in the music industry get tons of mail every day with recordings and other material from talented musicians. Most of these musicians have spent their entire lives working on their musical skills to get a record deal. Unfortunately, 99% of these musicians won’t get a contract and won’t even hear from the companies they send their music to. In many cases, music companies throw away much of the material they receive from random musicians. This leads to a lot of frustration for most musicians and makes them wonder why they work hard on their musical skills but don’t seem to break through into the music industry.
On the other hand, there are plenty of musicians who DO become successful in the music industry. Building a fulfilling and profitable music career is actually not as difficult as it seems. However, the majority of musicians fail because they believe in false “conventional wisdom” about the music industry that ruins their chances of achieving their musical dreams. To break into the music industry and become successful, avoid the following approaches to building a music career that most people consider “common sense”:
1. Obtain a music degree to become successful in the music business
One of the most common myths about music careers is to think that a music degree is the key to becoming a successful professional musician. It is true that you can learn a lot about “music” by going to college to get a music degree. However, if you go to college to get a music degree with the sole purpose of making it in the music industry, you will almost certainly fail because:
- Most music courses do not cover the specific topic of ‘how to build a music career’. Even if you take classes about music business, they will only present you a general model of how the music business works. They will NOT show you exactly how to build a successful career for yourself (by keeping your personal goals in mind). In fact, there are tons of musicians who graduate from major music universities only to realize that they still have no clue when it comes to actually making a living from music. If you go to college with the intention of getting into the music business with a degree, you’ll “at most” learn a lot about music — but you’ll come back to number one when it comes to building a music career. In the worst case scenario, you will also have to pay back huge amounts of fees and debts.
- People who work in the music industry don’t worry about whether you have a music degree or not. For them it is MUCH more important that you know how to help them build their music career, make more money and become more successful (this takes a lot more than just musical talent).
In reality, very few professional musicians have a music degree because they simply never needed it. They made it into the music business by partnering with a mentor who taught them all the skills they need to build value for others and earn a good living in music.
2. Taking music career advice from others who have never been successful in the music industry
Chances are you’ve already gotten a lot of advice from the people in your life about what you need to do to be successful in your music career. Most people will be happy to give “expert” tips or conventional wisdom, even if they really have no authority to do so. In general, these people genuinely want to help you, but since they’ve never achieved anything significant in the music industry, their advice is more likely to lead you astray than to lead you to success.
Think about this: Asking people for advice about their music careers (while never really getting into the music business) is like training for a marathon with a trainer who hasn’t run a mile in their life or asking your dentist for legal advice. Moreover, it is equally dangerous to your music career to seek advice from musicians who tried to succeed in music (and failed). While these folks are perfectly willing to tell you how to build your music career, they don’t really have the authority to do so – they’ll just lead you down the same path they took (which ended in failure).
Truly successful musicians don’t build their careers on the “conventional wisdom” of people they know or amateur musicians who never made it. They work with a mentor who has already achieved great success and can use his experience to help them effectively achieve their music career goals.
3. ‘Play it safe’ by working a full-time job and also making music
Most musicians think that the only way to break through in the music industry is to have a secure job while also pursuing music. In many cases, they are led to believe that they can only try to get into the music industry if they have saved up enough money (many years later). Unfortunately, when people use this approach, they get stuck working 40 hours a week and never find the time to work on music. Having trained many musicians around the world to succeed in the music industry, I have seen this happen countless times. The reality is that you only have a finite amount of energy to spend during your day. If you spend it mainly on a job that has nothing to do with music, you have nothing left to progress towards becoming a successful professional musician. The worst part is, musicians who take this approach fail to become successful in music and feel a lot of regret and resentment later in life. There’s nothing worse than this.
To build a successful long-term career in the music industry, make your music career your main focus and plan accordingly. If you work long hours at work and have little time to pursue your musical goals, there is a problem. In fact, many musicians have been in the same situation and have become professional musicians. You too can overcome this. The best way to break into the music industry while in a full-time job is to create a backup plan centered around your key music career goals. This plan should gradually help you get out of your job safely, while giving you more time to work on music AND keep you financially stable along the way.
4. Trying to make it into music on your own
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when trying to make it in the music industry is trying to build your own music career. This is the approach that leads countless musicians to failure. Why? Because if you’re trying to build your music career on your own, you’re forced to either “guess” what actions to take next or copy what someone else is doing (and “hope” it works). Without the expert guidance of a mentor who has many years of experience as a highly successful musician, it is almost impossible to ‘guess’ what to do to advance your music career. Plus, it doesn’t help you copy what “appears to work” for others because their situation is different from yours – what works for them may not necessarily work for you.
- Stop trying to break into the music industry and work full time for the rest of your life. OR…
- Spend many years trying to succeed in the music business while growing increasingly frustrated at not making any progress.
5. Hoping to be ‘discovered’ by uploading your music online
When it comes to breaking into the music industry, most musicians immediately wonder how to market themselves to new fans, record labels, and music companies. In an effort to do this, they upload their music to as many websites as possible, thinking this is what you should do to get noticed. The truth is that with this approach, you’ll only get a handful of listeners, you won’t make a lot of money as a musician, and you’ll ‘never’ be heard by the right people in the music industry (who can help you advance your career). Here are the reasons why most people who take this approach will fail:
- They don’t understand how to effectively promote themselves and their music.
- They don’t have thousands of enthusiastic fans waiting for the release of their new album.
- They have no strategy to attract new fans and at the same time turn their current fans into real FANATICS.
- They have no strategy to help them earn a living through multiple sources of income at once.
Musicians who achieve the greatest success in their music career DO NOT just upload their music online and wait to be discovered. They create a strategy to work towards their musical goals while increasing their personal value in the eyes of others in the music industry (by expanding their fan base and building other important skills in the music business). After doing this, they simply approach the companies they want to do business with and negotiate a partnership that is most beneficial to both parties.
If you want to seriously break into the music industry and become a successful professional musician, it is imperative that you work with a mentor as soon as possible. By doing this, you will achieve your musical goals in much less time and you can finally earn a good living as a musician.
Tom Hess is a music career mentor, traveling musician and guitarist. He gives online guitar lessons to musicians all over the world and guides musicians in building a successful music career . Visit his music instruction website to get lots of free musician resources to help you start a career in music and learn about the music industry.