How To Make It In The Music Business, 4 Important Factors

Important Note: This is not one of those guides with no substance that says “Work hard and you’ll achieve it”. Have a read to see what I feel you need to give yourself the best chance of success in the music industry. If you find it helpful, please share with other musicians and band members.

Making it in the music industry isn’t an easy task at all. If anyone’s ever told you it would be, they were lying!

That said, it’s not impossible to get where you want to be either. Want to make an additional part time income from your talent? Or want to play sell out tours by yourself or with your band? There are acts out there that are doing this as we speak, so it definitely is achievable.

But what factors are needed in order to succeed in the music industry? What should you be doing to ensure you hit your aims and objectives? This is exactly what we’ll be looking at today.

Below I’ve shared 4 key things which I feel are all important for hitting your goals.

4 steps to succeeding in the music business

I hope you find these incites useful, and get involved with any additional things you thing are important at the end of this guide. But first:

Early Disclaimer 1: I’m not saying these are the only factors needed to become a success in the music business. That said, these are what I feel are the most important, and will give you the best chance if you put them all into practice. All of the below 4 factors are broad overviews, as going into any level of real detail would require bring the length of this guide up to book level at least. Thankfully, a lot of the needed finer details can be found scattered around my site and Music Industry How To.

Early Disclaimer 2: Everyone’s has a different idea of what ‘making it’ is. Some would be happy with an additional part time income from the music business, for others making it means being both commercially and financially successful. Whatever your idea of making it is, these tips will still be relevant. All are good practices, and traits which generally encourage success.

Now I’m not saying it’ll be easy or happen within the next few months, but get these things in place and you’ll be on the right path. With that out of the way, let’s get into it. Here are the four factors your should be striving towards:

1: You Need To Have Undeniable Talent

Musician with undeniable talentThe first thing you need in place, is a good level of talent. Without this, your music career most likely won’t be very long lived. Sure if you have a strong marketing team in place and they spin a good angle on why people should like you, you don’t have to be the most talented musician in the world to see some level of success. That said, do you really want to be that person who has more people disliking them then supporting them? My guess is you don’t, even if you are financially successful.

Talent comes before all else. Until you’ve got a good level of talent, you shouldn’t do anything to promote your music. You want people’s first impression of you to be a good one, as it’s not a easy job relaunching yourself to a group of people who have heard you but weren’t very impressed. Chances are they won’t try and listen to you the second time around, even if you tell them that you’ve improved.

As you may notice, I didn’t just put “you should be talented”. I mentioned you need undeniable talent. There are lots of levels of talent, and while you can be quite successful with a ‘good’ level of talent, if you’ve undeniable talent (combined with the other factors in this list), it’ll be hard for you not to have some sort of financial success in the music industry. In all honesty, there are a ton of talented musicians out there who make really good music that will make their target audience very happy. That said, there are a lot fewer musicians whose talent is generally undeniable. If you can get your talent to this level, you’re going to be a lot closer to your music career goals.

2: Drive And Motivation Should Be Flowing Through Your Veins

Stay motivated to succeed in musicNext up, you need drive and motivation to push your music career forward. This is just as important as the above step, as without drive, your talent isn’t going to count for much.

You could be the world’s best singer, rapper, or bass player. If however you haven’t got the motivation to get your music recorded, to promote it in any way, or to generally do the things needed for a successful music career, then you might as well be talentless. Because you won’t make a success of yourself in the public eye. If you’re only interest in making good music for yourself, that’s fair enough. But I’m guessing as you read my site, you want more then just that.

Making it in the music business takes a lot of hard work and effort on your behalf, so if you aren’t willing to invest the time needed, don’t expect to get very far at all.

Now I know someone in the comments is going to say that not everyone has a lot of time to dedicate to their music career, and I understand that. That said, do what you can. If you’ve the other factors in place and you dedicate as much time to your music as humanly possible, you can still have some level if success. It may take longer to achieve then it would for someone who has 7 hours a day to dedicate to their music and who has more disposable income. Furthermore, you might not even reach the same heights they achieve. But if you dedicate a few nights a week after you’ve finished work and put the kids to bed, as well as half a day on the weekend to what you need to do, there’s no reason you can’t make at least an additional income from your music. It is possible, but you need to put the work in. Now the question remains; Do you want it enough?

3: You Need Good Marketing Knowledge

Good music marketing knowledgeThe third factor you need in place is the ability to market your music in the correct manor. In the same way having talent won’t help you get out there if you don’t have the drive to push yourself, if you spend 35 hours a week doing the wrong kind of marketing, you’ll find it very difficult to make much progress; both in terms of building a fanbase and gaining recognition.

Marketing is what you need to do in order to raise awareness of you and your music. Without marketing, people won’t know you’re a musician, let alone hear any of your material. That said, not all marketing is made evenly. In fact, some types of marketing are pretty much a waste of time, as it’ll stop you doing the things that would really benefit your music career.

For example, let’s say you read somewhere that Twitter is a great way to promote your music. So you go on to build up 23 fans (You’re following 106), and you spend all your time sending Tweets to these fans thinking it’ll increase your exposure. In reality, it won’t.

Now I’m not saying you’re personally going to do this, but I’m using this example to illustrate my point:

If you don’t promote your music in the RIGHT way, you won’t go very far at all!

If you want to learn more about music marketing, check out the free music marketing ebook. It’ll get you on the right path with regards to raising awareness of your music, so give it a read.

4: And You Need… Luck (?)

Do you need luck to make it in the music industryOk, so I wasn’t sure if I should put this one in. I myself have mixed feelings about how big a factor luck plays. Sure you can get lucky and be in the ‘right place at the right time’, moving your music career forward faster then it would have gone otherwise. But if you’ve the above three things in place, it’s going to be pretty much impossible for people to ignore you for very long.

If you’ve an undeniable talent, you will make fans. If you’ve the motivation to get your sounds out there and the marketing knowledge to know how to effectively do that, you will get more people hearing you. That effect will snowball, and you will gain more opportunities and money if you market things right.

It’ll be silly for me to deny that luck doesn’t play any part in a lot of musicians careers. That said, I’m a firm believer that you make your own luck. By putting into place the previous three mentioned points, you will have made yourself more ‘lucky’ then a lot of musicians out there.

If you’re lacking in one of the above three areas, you’ll need luck to play a much bigger part in your music career. If you’ve the others in place to a good level however, you won’t have to rely on this factor quite as much.

How To Make It In The Music Industry Conclusion

So there you have it, four things that will greatly increase your chances of succeeding in the music industry. Regardless of what your definition of success is, if you put these things into place you’ll give yourself the best chance possible of getting where you want to be.

While all of the above are important, marketing your music is the only way you’ll get people to notice you enough to make a difference in your career. If you’re not 100% sure what music marketing involves or how to do it effectively, you may want to check out these 130+ guide from Music Industry How To. They cover everything you’ll need to know about making it in the music industry, from how to get people to listen to you, to how to get your music on TV (and everything in-between)! Ok that’s it from me, until next time.

Gimme a Pigfoot (And a Bottle of Beer)

Artist: Bessie Smith
Album: Essential Bessie Smith

“Any bootlegger sure is a pal of mine,” blues singer Bessie Smith declared in her 1928 recording “Me and My Gin,” and in the last several years of her life, she was intimately involved with one. Recorded a few months after Prohibition formally ended, “Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer” bustles into the party and immediately commands attention. It features an exuberant solo from lost-legend trumpeter Frankie Newton, and in its concluding lines a demand for “reefer” as well as gin. (Bessie Smith wanted a new drug 50 years before Huey Lewis.) Smith herself continued to exercise a preference for moonshine even after the constitutional ban on liquor was lifted, saying that “anything sealed” made her ill. Sadly, the recording session at which “Gimme a Pigfoot” was made would prove to be her last; she would die four years later from injuries sustained in a car accident. The song would later be recorded by Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and Abbey Lincoln.

Knockin’ a Jug

Artist: Louis Armstrong
Album: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

When Pops met Tea: This was Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden‘s first recorded encounter, and by some historical accounts one of the earliest meetings of black and white musicians documented in a studio. The session came about at the behest of the young banjoist and guitarist Eddie Condon, after an all-night party welcoming Armstrong back to New York City. Condon is credited as the tune’s co-composer, but he doesn’t appear on the recording itself; he had passed out, done in by the gallon jug of whiskey brought along for artistic camaraderie. Guitarist Eddie Lang offers laid-back single-note accompaniment, Teagarden sets the relaxed, morning-after jam-session mood with his blues-soaked, in-need-of-a-shave trombone solo, and Armstrong delivers the payoff with two exquisite choruses and a shimmering cadenza that punctuates the proceedings with a good-time-was-had-by-all proclamation. When the studio staff asked Armstrong for the title of the tune, he noted the now-empty gallon of whiskey and said, “Man, we sure knocked that jug… You can call it ‘Knockin’ a Jug’!”

Black and Tan Fantasy

Artist: Duke Ellington
Album: Early Ellington: The Complete Brunswick Recordings (1926-1931)

The black-and-tan drink existed when Duke Ellington recorded what would become one of the most frequently performed Ducal standards, but the connotation here is racial — a reference to speakeasies that permitted or even encouraged interracial mingling. Driven by trumpeter and co-composer Bubber Miley’s spellbinding performance, Ellington’s composition captures the strange, ominously dreamy atmosphere of 1920s decadence; in retrospect, its famous concluding Chopinfuneral-march quote seems to portend the end of the decade and the coming of hard times.

Just a Little Drink

Artist: Paul Whiteman
Album: Sweet and Low Down: Vol. 3, Original 1925-1928 Recordings

Bix Beiderbecke had not yet joined the massive orchestra of Paul Whiteman, a.k.a. the 1920s “King of Jazz,” when this tune was waxed in 1925. Whiteman’s musical legacy from this era remains underappreciated: He was hobbled by the hype of his nickname, though many excellent jazz musicians and arrangers passed through his ranks, his orchestra’s forays into “symphonic jazz” can be seen as forerunners of the Third Stream, and his society-dance-band distillations served to introduce the idea of jazz music to many Americans. Percolating with humorous, pie-eyed longing, “Just a Little Drink” offers something from the pop/novelty end of Whiteman’s musical spectrum and serves as a reminder that the term “jazz” encompassed a great deal of popular music in the 1920s that may not fit our modern definitions at all.