“Thriving artists don't make art to make money, they make money to make more art.”
You might hear the words "music business" and shudder. I can certainly relate, but I prefer to make music my business in order to fund personal creative projects on my terms.
The music industry is moving away from gatekeepers (booking agents, public relations, radio, blogs, record labels, etc.) and more towards the DIY (do-it-yourself) approach. This means no one will swoop you up and take care of the business anymore. If you approach a gatekeeper they will most likely want proof you're self-sustaining before they consider lending their resources.
In the digital and DIY age, taking care of business is more accessible and manageable than ever before. Below are a few tools you might consider when building your music business/career:
Make sure it's simple and appropriate (time to delete firstname.lastname@example.org...) Check your inbox regularly and respond ASAP. Also consider adding a signature with your contact info, titles, and website to the footer.
There are many DIY sites like Squarespace, Bandzoogle, Wix, Wordpress... or you can make the one-time investment and hire a professional web developer. This is your virtual business card that houses all of your materials.
I wrote my own bio for the first few years, then hired a professional to write a short and long bio as I use them in different ways.
I recommend using a professional. Having high quality photos will go a long way, especially when developing your website and establishing your brand.
This includes composed, arranged, and recorded music, videos, photos, collaborations, or anything contributing to your body of work.
- Build a Team
This might include a few gatekeepers, but some to consider are a manager, marketing coordinator, personal coach, consultant, photographer, booking agent, radio publicist, record label, etc.
- Business Cards
I don't use business cards anymore because I would hand them out and never hear back. Instead, I ask for their business card and take the initiative to contact them. Still an easy way to give people your contact information.
Copyrighting your music is essential to protecting your compositions and recordings. You can do so at Copyright.gov.
Licensing is when a film, television show, etc. pays for the right to use your music alongside their work. There are music supervisors who help connect companies with artists. This is a form of "mailbox money" for artists which I will talk about in a future blog post.
Always use a contract if possible, even for smaller gigs and events. A contract is simply a binding agreement between two parties whether it is written or verbal. You can write a simple contract yourself, just make sure to have a copy with you in case you need to refer to it. I will go deeper into contracts on a future blog post.
- Multiple Streams of Income
As a freelance contractor you might find work seasonally or a gig falls through last minute and you were expecting that income. This is where multiple streams of income is handy and can provide more stability than a typical job. This topic will get it's own blog post, but some sources of income to consider are recording, performing, clinics, merchandise, teaching, producing, contracting, etc...
My business has been a slow process (I wish I could show my first website...) so take everything one at a time and soon you'll be on your way to running a successful music business, the business of you!
DISCLAIMER: Please keep in mind I am not a certified business advisor. This is simply my experience with music business in America as a freelance musician.
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Let me know what topics are important to you and I will address them. Please ask questions in the comments or send an e-mail and I'll do my best to help you thrive as a musician!