The music industry is such a strange and unique industry to try and catch your break. It’s equal parts isolating and social. One moment you’re alone in your room, or on a tour bus, writing your heart out and trying to figure out your direction- the next moment you get thrust out in front of a crowd of dozens to thousands.
Although breaking into music feels unique to each artist, there are some universal things every new artist should know. I wish someone gave me these tips while I was still green and trying to break into the business.
You Can’t Trust Everyone
I don’t want to think that I’m jaded or ruin anyone’s perception of the world, but you really shouldn’t trust people in the industry unless they’ve proven to you that they can be trusted. You may want to jump on that first record deal or the first agent that sees that value in you that you see in yourself- but not everyone has your best interest at heart.
If you’re breaking into the business, and you’re not sure if a contract, or deal, is fair to you- run it by someone you already trust to get an unbiased eye on it. People will try to take advantage of your skills. Don’t sign away your abilities just because someone seems okay at the time.
You Have To Advocate For Yourself
Ask for what you need. Don’t let managers take a considerable percent, or allow labels to try and lowball you. You put time and effort into the music you create, and their jobs are to get you in front of an audience to make people want to buy your music or merchandise. You’re the real talent, the actual base of the business. Don’t let people take advantage of the fact that you’re new to the business side of things.
You’re A Brand
This simple idea can take some getting used to, I know it did for me, but as a musician, you are your brand. This idea means that you need to make sure you’re being advertised and shown in a way that reflects how you want to get viewed.
Being your brand also means that you need to think about how you’re advertising. Do you have social media? Twitter and Instagram are a must, but lately, TikTok has been rising as an excellent platform for musicians to connect with their audiences. You can gain more traction by connecting with possible listeners out there.
Give your brand an online presence, and make sure people notice you for the things you want to have seen.
You Have Your Own Value
This ties into advocating for yourself. One of the biggest mistakes I let myself make starting out was taking gigs ‘for exposure,’ I even actually paid a couple of bars just to let me play for tips in them. Although exposure can be helpful, you can build it up yourself online. Don’t undervalue the time and work you put into honing your skill. You deserve to get paid a livable amount to create music. Look for ads searching for local entertainment for hire, instead of people coming to you begging for free musical acts.
Here’s to lofty dreams, and hard work. Stick to your guns and make sure that you know your worth as you navigate this industry that consistently undervalues us.