Editorial: Musicians Investing in Their Own Futures

Many artist feel that if they put out a single they will magically become famous and make tons of money. What the artist fail to realize is that they MUST invest in their craft before anyone else will. It takes money to make money. Please read the article below by life time musician John Dover written in 2009  and published on BizNik.com
Why is it that while music is recognized as a one of the greatest creative forces in the world, musicians themselves are not generally known for their business sense?
As a musician for over 20 years, I have had my ups and downs, my successes and failures. I am constantly striving to bring my craft to the next level. That question, however, has presented itself again and again, and it deserves some study.
The presiding myth in the music world is that all a talented artist has to do is be heard by the “right person,” and their dreams will come true. While this scenario has happened on occasion, this “right person” should actually be the musicians themselves.
Depending on a major label to have the business savvy that artists themselves should possess is often what leads to practices that seem successful on the surface (your album is selling like hot cakes!) but are wholly unfair at the core (you make just pennies per album sold). When it comes down to it, the artist is the one who has the most vested interest in their own professional and financial outcomes. It makes sense that they do what all business owners must when they start out: write a sustainable business plan, implement a well-thought-out marketing campaign, and build their business from the ground up to ensure that they will be the people who will gain the most from their success.
As I see it, there are three detriments to this line of thinking: society’s view of the creative personality, the music industry’s model of suppressing musicians for their own gain, and the musician’s own lack of business knowledge and how it pertains to their craft. In spite of these detriments, there are ways for individual artists to empower themselves and take control of their careers.
Though it has been proven time again that music is an integral part of development, communication, and culture, society teaches us that artists should do what they love because they love it and not necessarily to sustain their lifestyles and pay their bills. Yet music is everywhere, from the radio to movies to video games. It saturates our environment so much that we take for granted the time and effort that goes into producing our collective soundtrack to life. A musician’s knowledge and talent are lifelong pursuits that require constant study and practice. Artists must continually improve and adapt just to keep up and surpass the competition. It takes no less dedication to be a musician than it does to be a lawyer or an engineer.
While a major view like this is not something that can be changed overnight, I believe that society’s opinion of the creative mind can be influenced by the introduction of a new model of musician. A small business owner works every day to put out quality products on par with the highest industry standards. Their output may be smaller, but they are no more less focused on the steady growth of their product name. Musicians need to adopt this attitude about their music. They need to see it as a product that they are selling, and make it as attractive to consumers as a competing product from a major record label. If musicians act flighty, they will be treated as such. If they act like businesspeople, the public will follow suit.
The Music Industry
The music industry touts the archetype of the rock star with the million-dollar contract. What they don’t promote is the fine print that goes along with it. These deals are constructed more as a highly complex loan than an actual paycheck. What looks like $1M on paper can actually end up as a net of $30,000 or less for the artist. The numbers are based on expected record sales. While the record label will put up the cash for recording sessions, mixing, production, and promotion, the musician is responsible for those costs out of their sales. It adds up, and this doesn’t even take into account the tendency of musicians to sign the contract and then go out and spend like there’s no tomorrow, something they might not have done had they had the business sense to truly understand the contract. We need to pick apart the business model that record conglomerates use to build these “success stories.” One of the things the record industry relies on is an inflated recording budget.
In constructing my business plan and budgeting my own independent recording project, I was able to take what would be a $250,000 expense with a major label and cut out the excess costs, bringing it down to a lean $40,000 budget. This was done with careful planning, scaling back or cutting out unnecessary expenses and focusing on what I really needed for a high-quality end product as opposed to what kind of limo picked me up from the airport or how fancy a hotel suite I could get when I go in to record.
A common concern is how an independent artist can compete with major record labels when the latter is so fully entrenched in the industry. In the 90’s we started to see more and more “Indy” record labels popping up and more musicians venturing out on their own. But even those labels and musicians were still working with only a fraction of the potential business and marketing that is needed to carry on a long-term career. The uptick in internet popularity the late 90’s helped with online distribution and marketing campaigns, but the core problem remained, forcing many musicians to continue to play local bars and work their “day job” even though they already recorded their CD. Now, however, with the advent of businesses that focus on artist empowerment, such as CD Baby and Brain Grenade Entertainment, musicians can have both a fair contract and large-scale distribution and promotion. In the end, however, musicians must take a proactive role in their business and their career.

The Musician’s Lack of Business Knowledge
While spending hours every day in the practice room will make you a better musician, it will not make you a better businessperson. Many artists spend little to no time learning about business and marketing, and it can really prevent them from achieving their full potential. A musician’s talent is nothing more than a business 101’s “Widget.” Understanding that can help artists to come up with a business plan and construct multiple streams of income based on their product in the form of books, videos, speaking engagements, CDs and other multimedia products over time. Smart businesspeople plan fastidiously and follow through with their plan. Musicians would do well to mirror these attributes. This will not only prepare them to combat the challenges they face from society and the music industry, but also will help to ensure that their art sustains them not only mentally and emotionally, but financially as well.
Musicians must be willing to take responsibility for their own business education. If they expect others to buy in their careers as a viable investment, they must first become stakeholders in their own futures.

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