Introduction

Whether you are just venturing into the music industry or you have been there for a while and have at least gained some degree of success, there is no secrete that being successful or maintaining a constant level of success is very challenging. Pursuing a music carrier is not easy. Becoming successful is as simple as it is challenging. Not only are you responsible for creating and delivering the final product, but you also need to run the business side, at least if you are not signed to a major deal. It is no secrete that the music industry is constantly changing and that many artists choose the independent route. This is largely due to technology and the internet. Also, there are more opportunities than ever for making money once you have the final product (music). In this article, we shall try to digest some key points to having a successful music carrier.

Setting goals and strategies

Do you have an idea of where you would like to be in the future? Do you have a road-map to achieving success? You may want to create music for sync licensing in commercials and movies. You may want to be a performing artist who tours the world. Or you may want to create music for other artists, start a label or get signed to a major label in the future. We can’t stress too much on the importance of having goals and strategies. To be better placed for success, set short-term (1-2 yrs), medium-term (2-5 yrs) and long-term (5+ yrs) goals. Immerse yourself fully in achieving these goals by creating good music business strategies. Not everyone would have the same goals and strategies. Setting up good strategies will depend on so many factors including your branding, your market, available finance. You will need to carefully attack each of these variables before setting up a good strategy.

My music is my business

Treat your music as any other business would do. Immerse yourself fully in the business side of music. With this kind of mindset, you should understand and practice business in music. Networking, team building, marketing and distribution are just some of the key things that should be taken into consideration. Start by identifying your market, registering your name and brand in your area of jurisdiction and registering all your works. This will later help in publishing and copyrighting. Then develop your business; have a proper business plan and build a solid team around you. Your team will depend on several factors like finance, access to music production and market etc, but it should be composed of people who love and have passion for your music. With enough finance however, try as much as possible to get industry professionals. In no order, your team should consist of at least an artist manager, a PR, a booking agent and a legal personnel. When it comes to networking, get involved fully in industry related services and activities. Start compiling a list of publications and blogs that might review your music. Attend industry seminars, forums, concerts etc. Reach out to people that matter in the industry and always get their attention towards your product. Get active on websites with social networks and opportunities for exposure now. Become aware of stores that might sell your music. Read trades to learn what’s going on in the industry. The more knowledge you gather, the more prepared you’ll be. The goal with networking is to build industry relationships, collaborations and find/work with people who might be a good fit for your team.

Creating your product

Always remember you have more competition out there. Your success depends on the quality and quantity of music you create. Be creative and dynamic with your art. Make as much music as you possibly can; but your release strategy should be they key factor. Also invest a lot in the quality of your music. Remember that you face a lot of competition not just at the level of releases but quality as well. More quality music is being released so you stand a chance of loosing if your product isn’t of standard. Get the right and best composers, songwriters and engineers for your music. With little budget, try to check music resources like free instrumentals and low budget mixing and mastering services. (Ultra Dominon also offers these services in the form of music production, mixing and mastering. Please visit our Music Production service page).

Branding

As an artist, you are your own brand. Make it easier for people to identify and distinguish you from other artists. Branding requires that your image and style (your logo(s), who you are and what you represent) are clear and aligned with similar products that aggrandize your musical mission. Your brand or artist identity can change or evolve but it’s important you start with something authentically you early in your carrier. This could be any or a combination of several factor such as a perfect artist name, style of dressing, language and communication, style of music or even your manner of interaction. Find out what you’re good at within and out of music and build your brand around it. Remember that you might be doing music for everyone but you will certainly not reach out to or entertain everyone. So identify your audience and build on what aspect of your music or personality they like and engage the most. For example, some artists have a good online/social media presence; others are good at touring, others at interviews etc. Your audience might be attached to you due to your live sessions, or your style of music. It could be anything. Identify it and build a communication strategy around it that that can reflect on your fan’s identity.

Financing

The music business hugely depends on financing. There are no easy answers on where to get financing. Many of you will finance your carrier from your own pocket. You could have a solid job, come from a rich background, or have the perfect connections to sponsors/investors. Depending on your circumstances, background, and the strength of your business plan, financial backing is tough. If you develop a great business plan and implement an impressive marketing plan, you may have an edge. If you don’t have enough financial backing, exploit each and every source of income. Start by getting a day or part-time job; something that will enable you pay your bills. Reach out to friends and family members who are either rich or willing to support your carrier. Contact wealthy individuals and businesses for sponsorship. Attend industry events which could expose you to potential investors. Create music platform projects with solid business proposals and reach out to large businesses, corporations and institutions for sponsorship. In all, be creative in your quest for financing.

Publicity, Marketing and Distribution

For you to be successful, your music needs to reach out to your fans and the general public. Getting your music out there is as difficult as it is simple. Getting in touch with music blogs, magazines, TV and Radio channels as well as publicists should be a priority. When you start out, put more energy into smaller publications that offer a better chance of talking about your music. If you have the finance, hire a music publicist or a PR agency. A good publicist knows editors at publications and producers of TV and radio shows that might show interest in your music, gets your music to charts and knows which platforms are best for publicizing a client’s product. Publicists give you a professional introduction to the media. Only hire one that specializes in music/entertainment and has relationships with appropriate writers, media people, etc. Their job is to maximize your chances of getting covered by the media. Also put together an effective press kit. This should guide the media on knowing more about your projects before any media outing. A basic press kit contains a bio, photo, and cover letter, including links and references to your music online. (Below is a sample press kit for J. Prolific. You can download and use as a reference). Send regular press releases – an announcement of something newsworthy, such as the release of a record or an event. Include a catchy headline at the top. If it announces a specific event, include all pertinent details (date, time, place, cost, etc.) in the first paragraph. Work on your online presence. Social media is a huge publicity, marketing and distribution platform. Get active on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) but have an understanding of their niche and what you expect to be putting out on each and every platform. Also, having an artist website should be a priority.

Download sample press kit!

Study your market. Many artists survive in this supposedly tough industry by being creative in finding ways to market their music. Depending on the music, you should target traditional and nontraditional outlets to sell your music (such as streaming sites, copyright, clothing stores, colleges, bookstores, health stores, and gift shops, etc). Organize record release parties, create street teams, use word of mouth campaigns, offer free music, license music for use in media and come up with other creative marketing incentives that could be beneficial.

If you’re putting out music just to attract a deal, you may not care much about distribution. If however you are an indie who tours a lot and has a huge following, then music distribution should be a must. There are two types; physical and digital distribution. The level of distribution you need depends on your long-term goals. Many artists are choosing to skip physical distribution altogether and just market music digitally. Others are selling CDs and merchandises only at their artists’ shows and online websites. (We offer a merchandising solution for artists and celebrities alike. Please visit our Ultra Merch page for more information). But if you want to sell on a broader scale, stores and physical distributors are still considered a good direction. Do more research on local and international distributors that might be interested in your music. Digital distribution is by far the more significant. Placing your music on streaming platforms (e.g. Spotify, iTunes, Tidal, etc), digital stores (e.g Bandcamp, Apple Music, etc) and websites (using digital distributors like CD Baby, Distrokid, Routenote, etc) is a common way of digital distribution.

Copyright and Publishing

Copyright and publishing is usually an area that is easily misunderstood by so many. Registering your works for copyright claims and royalties not only acts as a means to protect your works from theft but also as a source of income generation. Generally, any original work that’s fixed on something tangible is automatically protected under the laws of copyright. There are two types of copyrights to a single musical work; performing arts (PA) which is most commonly used by songwriters to register the music and/or lyrics of a song and sound recording (SR) which is mostly used by record labels to protect the recorded version of the song. When music and lyrics are copyrighted, it’s indicated by the symbol ©. When a sound recording is copyrighted, it’s indicated by the symbol ® next to the title.

As an artist, it is important to get a publishing deal as soon as you launch your carrier. With traditional publishing deals, you are giving the publisher certain rights to your works (mostly songwriters rights) to exploit and generate income. In this deal there is usually the songwriter’s and publisher’s share. The songwriter, who created the product to be sold, and the publisher, whose responsibility is to market the product and make sure all songwriting royalties are paid, split the royalties 50/50. Publisher’s share refers to 50 percent of the total copyright revenues. The other half is referred to as the writer’s share, which goes to the writer of the song. Real publishers are knowledgeable about different sources of songwriting royalties and the best ways to license songs. Choose your publisher wisely. For example, our artist J. Prolific has a publishing deal with Sheer Publishing of South Africa. Since publishers take care of the business side, they get 50 percent of the total royalties. However, these agreements can be structured with different percentages, as long as everything is in writing.

What you must know

The music industry and music business in the present days is very complex and dynamic. There are so many factors to consider before even taking that bold step. First, you must note that music is a FORM OF ENTERTAINMENT. Whatever you do in music should reflect to an extend a degree of entertainment. It is safe to say in the past, this form of entertainment was hugely based on art and talent. Without possessing some artistic talent in you, it was difficult to have a breakthrough. Nowadays, success in music is hugely based on MONEY AND ENTERTAINMENT. With the presence of more actors and advancements in technology, there is even more competition, leading to many artists going the indie route. Start looking for a source of finance for your music projects. This could be a part-time job, sponsor or an investor. Also work on the entertainment aspect of your music (as discussed on the branding section). Whatever the case, you must note as an artist that success depends on you; your goals and how much hard work you put in.

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