Music Advice: 9 New Rules For Making Music In Today's Online World

Music40_cover medAn excerpt from the book Music 4.0: A Survival Guide For Making Music In The Internet Age written by Bobby Owsinski.

The music world we live in today is decidedly different from that of only five years ago, let alone a few decades. Where once the entire business was based around physical sales, today its more about aggregating multiple revenue streams for both the artist and the record label. Here’s a set of 9 rules that have been excerpted from my book Music 4.0: A Survival Guide For Making Music In The Internet Age that all artists need to at least be aware of if they want to succeed in our current music environment.

1. It’s all about scale. It’s not the sales, it’s the number of YouTube views you have. A hit that sells only 50,000 combined units (physical and digital) may have 50 million YouTube views. Once upon a time, this would’ve been deemed a failure, today, it’s a success. Views don’t equal sales, and vice-versa.

2. There will be fewer digital distributors in the future. It’s an expensive business to enter and maintain, so in the near future there will be a shakeout that will leave far fewer digital competitors, and fewer places to distribute your music. Don’t be shocked when you wake up one day to find the landscape of online music to be very much consolidated in a way similar to what happened with the major record labels.

3. It’s all about what you can do for other people. Promoters, agents, and club owners are dying to book you if they know you’ll make them money. Record labels (especially the majors) are dying to sign you if you have have an audience they can sell to. Managers will want to sign you if you have a line around the block waiting to see you. If you can’t do any of the above, your chances of success decrease substantially.

4. Money often comes late. It may not seem like it, but real success is slow. You still grow your audience one fan at a time. The longer it takes, the more likely you’ll have a longer career. An overnight sensation usually means you’ll also be forgotten overnight. This is one thing that hasn’t changed much through the years.

5. Major labels want radio hits. They want an easy sell, so unless you create music that can get on the radio immediately, a major label most likely won’t be interested. This is what they do and they do it well, so if that’s your goal, you must give them what they want. Once again, this hasn’t changed much through the years.

6. You must create on a regular basis. Fans have a very short attention span and need to be fed new material constantly in order to stay at the forefront of their minds. What should you create? Anything and everything, from new original tunes to cover tunes, to electric versions to acoustic versions, to remixes to outtakes, to behind the scenes videos to lyric videos, and more. You may create it all at once, but release it on a consistent basis so you always have some fresh content available.

7. YouTube is the new radio. Nurture your following there and release on a consistent basis (see above). It’s where the people you want to reach are discovering new music, at least for now.

8. Growing your audience organically is best. Don’t expect your friends and family to spread the word, as they don’t count. If you can’t find an audience on your own merits, there’s something wrong with your music or your presentation. Find the problem, fix it, and try it again. The trick is finding that audience.

9. First and foremost, it all starts with the song. If you can’t write a great song that appeals to even a small audience, none of the other things matter much.As you can probably see, there are truisms that never go out of style, regardless of how the business morphs and evolves, but our online music world demands we pay attention to it in ways never dreamed of before. Digital distribution and social media are huge parts of an artist’s tool set and continue to grow in importance daily. Unfortunately, if artists don’t adhere to these guidelines, they more than likely will never even get in the game today, which means we all could be missing out on some great music – and that would be a shame.

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