7 Music Industry Success Tips
1. DO THE RESEARCH
Watching BET every day (or American Idol) does not qualify you to work in this industry. Read all the books, and study the websites and blogs every day to learn who’s who and what’s going on behind the scenes in the music industry. Follow the behind the scenes folks on Twitter, not just the famous artists. See who they talk with frequently, what they say to each other, and what issues are important to them. Ask questions (specific ones like “how do 360 Deals adversely and positively affect artists in today’s economy?,” not general or selfish ones like “how do I get started in the music business?”, or “how come you never return my calls?” or my personal least favorite one: “Follow me back!”).
2. DO BUILD RELATIONSHIPS
This is a “who you know” business. You need to build real and lasting relationships with people. The bulk of paid work and opportunities that you get will be referred by someone else. I can’t even begin to tell you the number of paying jobs I’ve helped people get in this industry—not because they asked me to do so, but because someone mentioned they needed a road manager, or marketing person, or good publicist, or radio promoter, and I’ve plugged in folks I know and respect. I don’t hook up friends, I hook up people who are right for the job. They tend to go further in positions and make me look good for recommending them.
3. DO NOT BURN BRIDGES
I have burnt a lot of bridges in this industry, but they have all been well thought out, planned, and as a last resort. This is an ego driven business and there’s nothing worse than insulting someone and then finding yourself in a meeting with that person years later needing something from them.
4. DO NOT ALWAYS BE “ALL ABOUT THE MONEY”
Being fiscally smart is a good thing. Always attaching a price to everything you do will get you left behind. Even the top folks at the most successful companies have their pro-bono and spec projects that they work on strictly for the love. If you are seen as being all about the money, you will gain a reputation of being a “culture vulture,” and those who are willing to pitch in and work free on special projects or special events will surpass you in their careers.
5. DO SURROUND YOURSELF WITH LEGITIMATE PEOPLE
This industry is really just a minute big. We all know who the fuck boys (and fuck girls) are. If you are so desperate to get into this business by working for or coming up under a scumbag (artist or company), expect to always be seen as a scumbag. And if you end up working for a snake because you didn’t know any better, too bad! See #1 above.
6. DO BE LOYAL, BUT NOT LOYAL TO A FAULT
Loyalty is one of the most important traits in this industry (or in life). Misplaced loyalty is not. You can do the right thing, but if you do the right thing in loyalty but for the wrong person, you can really get burned. I’ve seen people take bullets and razor cuts for their team, but then watched the team not make a call, pay a hospital bill, pay for funerals, fund the bid, or even visit the family. Be loyal to those who will be loyal to you in return.
7. DO NOT BE BLINDED BY FAME
Fame is attractive and intoxicating. Do not trade your money or dignity for fame. It is fleeting, short lived, and those who have it will try to fight to keep it (but never succeed)—even at your expense. Just being “down” with an artist doesn’t make you famous or rich. It makes you just another groupie. And when you leave that camp, even though you’ve moved on, the stigma of you selling out to be a groupie stays forever. See any famous sidekick for proof of this fact.
These are just a few thoughts to help you move forward in your career in the music business, behind the scenes. Truth is, maybe ten people reading this out of all of the tens of thousands will still be in this industry next year, and maybe one or two will really succeed.