There are many new opportunities emerging for musicians, recording professionals, singers and songwriters in today’s expanded market for music. There are opportunities to be directly involved with your own music and there are also opportunities to be indirectly involved with the music of others, for example. Either way, it can be a curse and a blessing for folks to have complete control over their own destiny. If you have talent, reasonable business acumen, and motivation, you might eventually create a specialized market for your music products and services. The opportunities are increasing but both the work and the knowledge necessary to succeed are compounded greatly in this new business model. Peter Spellman of MbSolutions.com provides some interesting projections for the new music market in his article entitled “Staying Ahead of the Curve: Music Marketing Trends You Can Count On”.
He lists 5 meta-trends that he envisions for the new paradigm in music. I will summarize his excellent article by saying the future looks bright for independents able to identify their particular strengths in areas of new demand. That is, finding niche markets for your talents will become the success stories of the future. Mr. Spellman compares the new music model to the emergence of cable television in which specialized segments were created with channels targeting a variety of interests among viewers. We are already seeing this model with XM radio.
This same model was successfully applied to retail stores as we are now able to find stores that sell nothing but candles, for example. Mr. Spellman also makes a case for musicians, singers, and songwriters to become entrepreneurs. With the availability of recording technology and marketing tools at our fingertips, it is possible to create, produce, market and sell a variety of services directly and indirectly related to music in the confines of the home. I would say the infrastructure is still in development, but there are already some examples of folks who are finding success. Music is becoming a cottage industry which allows for the success of an increasing number of independents in various roles.
As a music-entrepreneur, one might consider several key elements for increasing the chances for success in the new music business paradigm. Have a product or service that is appealing to a significant group of people. This is basic supply and demand stuff, right out of Economics 101. It is a fundamental that governs the free market environment that most of us love. When applied directly to music, this is the reason why universal themes and catchy melodies have been very successful over the past 50 years. However, in today’s specialized environment, music is now categorized and sub-categorized into genres that did not exist when I was a teenager. There are classifications for music that go well beyond the old genres of rock, country, folk, blues, jazz, and pop.
It is not necessary to understand all of the classifications, but I think it pays to understand those classifications in which you may have a particular interest or predisposition. So, it makes sense to find a niche and then capitalize on it. There is also an element of providing quality product. That is, it makes sense for those directly involved with music production to create music with a distinct appeal. It also makes sense for those indirectly involved to offer services that are needed. Participate in the new forms of music delivery to better understand where the industry is going. I would recommend this more for older musicians like me.
It is not a difficult transition, but it may involve adjusting your way of thinking a little bit. Actually, now is a good time to adjust to the idea of music as a service rather than a product. New music models will provide music as more of a service than a stand alone product. This is already evident with online music providers. You can subscribe to services that allow you to stream and/or download music. The model for distributing the income remains in development, but I believe it will be established.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to offer help to others. Actually, there are new opportunities for developing virtual relationships that will allow folks to collaborate long distance. I recently co-wrote and produced a song with a guy in Copenhagen, Denmark. How cool is that????!!!! With networking technologies, it is not surprising to see new online services offered for musicians, singers, and songwriters. There are now many services offering online collaborations, virtual studio work, cd replication, song-plugging, and merchandising just to name a few. This is not only good for those who need the services, but it is also good for those who may wish to offer the services. Of course, these services may be bought and sold, but these services may also be bartered in exchange for future recognition and/or compensation if there is an element of trust or a contractual arrangement. Learn about the various contracts and adjust to the idea of working with contracts. One difference between services that are bought and sold and services that are bartered may be ownership of rights, for example.
Ownership of rights can be established between bartering participants who wish to share in the anticipated success of a collaborative work. It is not always 100% necessary to create contracts as online communications helps to demonstrate and establish degree of ownership. However, having a contract actually simplifies the process. That is, a contractual arrangement allows for immediate disposition while not having a contractual arrangement requires that ownership be established by a court prior to disposition. Stated differently, having a contract allows the owner(s) to actively seek opportunities and receive rewards much sooner without first having to go back and establish ownership using forms of evidence such as e-mails. Contracts are a necessary part of the music business so it should not be regarded as an insult to ask for one up front in today’s legal environment.
Of course, this only becomes an issue following the success of a song which is a good reason to also obtain copyright protection through the United States Copyright Office and register songs with any one of the performing rights organizations such as ASCAP. Build your business relationship skills. Understanding the skills necessary to develop relationships in the music business cannot be overstated. Take the time to research the etiquette of dealing with music people. Understand the various roles. Don’t attempt to plunge in before having a good understanding and a plan. All of these messages I see over and over again, but it is for good reason. There is no substitute for carefully placed efforts. Having the attitude that sheer determination and drive will win out is a very bad assumption.
That is, going into this business with misdirected phone calls and e-mails can actually hurt you more than it can help you. Please take the time to understand the various elements of the business, and if you are in question on any issue as you begin making contacts, it might be a good idea to err on the side of caution and extreme sensitivity. Learn the necessary skills and technology. If becoming an independent is your goal, then it makes sense to understand those technologies which will have a direct impact on your work. I am still developing skills in newly identified areas of weakness, but I can say that I have seen the benefits from other skills obtained in previous areas of weakness. To me, it is an ongoing process of building skill sets that are specific to goals.
Try not to overwhelm yourself in your desire to succeed. I actually struggle with this one myself. It is very tempting to believe that we can launch ourselves from day one. In reality, it is much more enjoyable to take it one step at a time. Have a plan for success. Develop a plan with the necessary steps for reaching your intermediate goals. Try to focus on intermediate goals as it will provide a positive reward system along the way. Consider having individual plans for individual intermediate goals. Some of these may be developed simultaneously but I believe it is a good idea to be realistic about your time availability.
It is often very difficult for people to think in terms of years, but having a solid plan can provide a stepwise progression of events that can steadily improve the probability for success. Also, laying out the necessary steps can actually help identify the most logical sequence of events. Finally, take care of the basics. For example, if you have unrelated responsibilities, consider taking care of them first. Having work that is incomplete or unattended is a serious problem when the time comes to focus on your more passionate goals. It can be a form of baggage that keeps you from giving 100% to your desired outcome. Besides, you can actually come up with great ideas while doing ordinary things at your work or around the house. For example, it should be clear that forgetting to pay the bills will result in larger issues that require much more time to resolve. Similarly, most folks understand that we must take care of ourselves first and foremost so it just makes good sense to take care of our health so that we can truly enjoy the benefits of our work.