HOW TO BECOME SUCCESSFUL
IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS

 THIS DOCUMENT IS OWNED & COPYRIGHTED BY DICK MCVEY. 

UNAUTHORIZED USE OR DUPLICATION IS PROHIBITED! © 1988-2009

THE DREAM, THE GOAL, THE PLAN, THE TEAM

The music business is probably one of the most interesting yet difficult businesses in the world.  Music is one of those vocations that gets in your blood and keeps you dreaming throughout most of your life, unless you do something about it.  A person with great dreams can achieve great things.

If you have that dream of becoming a star, let me help you with some truths about the music business that may make the journey a little smoother and save you a lot of heartache and money along the way.

There are three elements that make anything successful Ė a goal, a plan and a team.  The music business is no different.  It is usually the dream that leads to the goal, but then the plan and the team seem to be a problem for most singers.  Most singers, songwriters and musicians possess a very creative mind, but they want someone else to handle the business side of things.  The artist who can develop both their creative and business minds are more likely to have great success because they understand what needs to be done and why it is being done in their careers.

Psychology plays an important part in the music business as well.  Understanding the mental side of the music business is very important, beginning with mentally visualizing your dreams coming true to understanding that the color blue is the most appealing color to the adult male.  A large part of this business is out-thinking your competition and coming up with unique ways of doing things that will get attention.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE

Every person, no matter what their occupation has to have the proper tools to get a job done.  In the case of the music business, the raw tools are talent, appearance, and a very positive mental attitude.  Other factors that come into play include educational courses such as drama, public speaking, salesmanship, journalism, typing, accounting, law and even geography.  The final factor on a personal level includes luck, some of which can be controlled.  It was once said the luckiest people are the ones who worked the hardest.

The music business is really no different than any other business.  You have a product (the singer / band), a salesman (the manager), advertising (publicity person), a manufacturer (record label and producer), shipping (booking agent), promotion / marketing (record and concert promoters) and legal department (entertainment attorney).  The key to success in any business is to coordinate all the above ingredients into a package that sells the product to the public through ticket, recording and concession sales.

Before you can begin putting a team together, you must take a critical look at yourself, the product.

ASK YOURSELF THESE CRITICAL QUESTIONS:

1- Do I have the talent or can I develop the talent to pursue a career in music?

2- Is my talent unique enough to draw attention to it, or am I just another singer?

3- Is my physical appearance going to be acceptable? (The music business is very visual these days)

4- Do I relate well to other people?

5- Do I work well as a part of a team?

6- Am I capable of giving orders without making people mad?

7- Is my talent commercially acceptable to the buying public? (Can you sell tickets and records?)

8- Can I maintain a positive attitude through extremely depressing times in my career?

9- Can I take criticism and rejection without getting mad or giving up?

10- Am I patient?

11- Am I mentally capable of handling the stress involved in the music business?

12- Am I willing to devote the time it takes to become successful in the music business? (Paying your dues)

13- Am I financially stable or have financial backing to help me?

If you answered yes to the above questions, you are then ready to lay out a plan for your career and hire a team to develop and market you as a product.

DEVELOPING A PLAN FOR YOUR CAREER

              From the moment the ďmusic bugĒ enters your bloodstream, you must develop a plan to use as a roadmap to attain your long-term dream of stardom.  The plan should be written down and followed as closely as possible setting short-term goals, but keeping the ultimate goal in mind.  The way to make these goals attainable in as short a period of time as possible is to work hard.  Due to the differences and opportunities in the various locations in this country, it is impossible for me to give you a time-table for the plan, but it should not take longer than six years.  Most successful musicians and singers will tell you their ďovernight successĒ took years.  A typical plan for someone wanting to become a recording artist is as follows:

1- Start reading music fan and trade magazines such as Billboard, Radio and Records, Musician, Music Row, Country Weekly, etc.  Learn to recognize names and companies in the music business.  You will have to go to a book store to purchase some of these publications and some are only available through subscription.

2- Watch country music videos, movies and TV shows and think about a concept or something unique about you that will help sell you.

3- Put together a working band, keeping your unique idea or concept in mind (get band members or knowledgeable persons to help develop a unique commercial concept). Start thinking about a professional sound system and transportation for the group.

4- Start looking for a good manager - Someone with a knowledge of music, accounting and salesmanship - Someone who believes in you - Someone with an energetic attitude about getting the job done for you.  (Manage the group yourself until you find the right person).

5- Put together a good promotional package which includes a professionally done current 8 X 10 color or black and white photo of the act; biographical information about the act; song list of the act; current professionally done business card; and any other promotional selling tool you can place in the folder (tape, letters of reference, etc.)  You can often find a local college journalism student who will write biographies and articles on the act for the experience.

6- Find a good local booking agent or book the group yourself at first until you gain recognition from some reputable agents.  Check local clubs to see what agencies handle getting talent for them.

7- Start working local jobs, such as high school dances, civic clubs, fraternal clubs (Moose, Elks, VFWs, American Legions, etc.)  and charity functions

8- Start keeping names and addresses of people who come to see you for future mailings of a newsletter about where you will be appearing, concession sales (T Shirts, CDs, etc.), and other activities about the act.

9- Gain as much local attention as possible, through sending press releases to local newspapers, radio and TV regarding appearances or happenings with the group.

10- Gradually broaden the region of working jobs.

11- Start looking to publishing companies for good songs to record, or try writing songs yourself.  Major record labels like artists who can write good songs. Have your manager and/or producer help you select the proper material.

12- Look for a local sponsor such as a car dealer, insurance company, retail store, restaurant, etc.  You can always trade off working live at these businesses in return for help with recording and travel expenses.

13- Record a CD and start going after local radio airplay. This also a way to generate some income if the expense of making the CD does not exceed the sale price.

14- Move into the area of concessions for sale (T Shirts, caps, buttons, etc.)  Again, let your sponsor have some space on the concessions for helping with their expense.

15- Hire a good publicity person who can help get articles in local papers and magazines, and can secure local radio or TV guest appearances.

16-  Start developing relationships with regional media people, especially radio people.  Take them to lunch occasionally.

17- Secure local or national sponsors and develop your own local radio or TV shows (the greatest exposure on any level).

18- Begin contacting the major record labels about listening to your product and discussing a possible contract.  Try and enlist the friends you have made at local radio stations to let the labels know that you are worth their time.

19. Last, but certainly not least, get a Website presence on the Internet or start your page on myspace.com.  Try and come up with unique ways and ideas to drive Internet traffic to your site.

 

HOW TO CHOOSE A TEAM AND WHAT THEY SHOULD DO

BAND

On the professional level, the first tool you will need is a good band.  The band must consist of good, well equipped musicians with the same basic ideas on their future as yours. A good attitude is a must and possibly the most important factor to consider when choosing musicians.  The group should be well groomed, willing to rehearse, possess no bad habits, and generally be willing to work as a team.  The goal of the band as a part of the team is to become the best at what they do on a local level at first and to grow together musically into seasoned professionals capable of walking onto any stage at any time with confidence.

MANAGER

The most important professional tool you must have is a good manager.  A manager is worth his weight in gold, and should be someone who is honest, dependable, knowledgeable in the fields of music and business, and most of all sold on the act he or she is managing.  The manager is the person who handles all business aspects of the actís career.  The manager is the person who consults with the act on business decisions and deals with the other members of the team on behalf of the act.  The manager is in charge of the day to day running of the business for the act, including hiring and firing, general accounting, and making key career decisions for the act.  The general purpose of the manager is to handle all aspects of an actís business so the act is free to concentrate solely on performing.

BOOKING AGENT

The booking agent from the local level to the national level is also an important tool in an actís career development.  His job is to coordinate booking dates and to set the worth of an act in different situations to get the most for an actís talent.  The agent also works closely with management, publicity, record label, record promotion teams, and others in a timely fashion to get the most out of an appearance.

PUBLICIST

Publicity is another important professional tool in assuring an actís success.  The publicist, or PR (public relations) person is responsible for getting every tidbit of publicity about your act to the media whether it be TV, radio, magazine or newspaper.  He will work closely with your manager and agent to obtain exposure for your act through live interviews, press releases, and personal appearances for promotional considerations.  Every time an actís name is seen or heard it plants a seed in the mind of the reader, listener or viewer.  Good advertising has sold products for years, and as an artist, good publicity is your method of advertising.

RECORD LABEL

The primary job of the record label is to work closely with the act and the other members of the team in coordinating the release of albums on the act.  Once the record label has signed the act, they may express a desire for the act to re-evaluate the team the act has together.  For example, the label may feel there is a weakness in the band and ask that a musician be removed.  There have been instances where a label has replaced the entire team around an act, sometimes because they feel the team is weak, other times in the belief the act needs a fresh start.  The record label has its own promotions team (people who call radio stations and ask them to play your record), publicity staff (who work in conjunction with your publicist), and an A & R Department (who look out for songs and handle artist / label day to day relations.)  The A & R Department is usually the first department to see the act and recommend the label sign them.

RECORD PRODUCER

The record producer is the person who helps you choose the songs you record; works with you personally in the studio to get the most out of your vocal ability; offers ideas on phrasing of words, inconsistency in pitch; and generally helps you ďsell the songĒ vocally.  In addition, the producer usually hires the recording studio musicians that fit your style, books the recording studio time, coordinates everything in the recording studio, and is generally responsible for seeing that an actís record is as close to perfection as possible.  Many times the producer is a part of the record label staff.  Again, avoid a producer that does not have a track record.

RECORD PROMOTER

One of the most critical members of your team is the record promoter.  The Record Promoter is the person who is in constant contact with the radio disc jockeys who play the records.  The amount of play your record receives determines itís spot on the charts.  Therefore a promoter with a good relationship with the DJís can get your record charted.  A successful record label producing a good record and using the most successful record promoters usually cannot miss.  In addition to the promoters on staff at a record label there are a number of independent promoters who can add to the success of a record.

MUSIC OR ENTERTAINMENT ATTORNEY

The job of the entertainment attorney is to protect the act from legal problems and to insure that contracts with other parties are legitimate and fair.  These contracts would include those with the manager, agent, publicist, record label, sponsors, and any other situation that required a contract with the act.

 

THINGS YOU DON'T WANT TO DO !


1- Donít let anyone tell you they are giving you anything free in the music business.

2- Donít let anyone tell you they can make you a star.  Be realistic, donít let anyone sell you a dream, itís not that easy.

3- Donít put out a second rate product.  If you put out 10 good products then one bad one, the bad one will be the one everyone remembers.  Be careful with every aspect of product from records to T Shirts.  Everything must be first class.  Remember, in most cases you get what you pay for.

4- Donít sign any contract or document without letting a music attorney check it out first.

5- Donít contact anyone about doing business until you have checked them out with people you know and trust in the business, or through seeing their successes in trade magazines, talking with other acts who have been successful with them, Better Business Bureau, etc.

6- Donít do business with anyone that cannot back up what they are telling you.  Ask questions.  Ask for charts, publicity, or other proof that will back up their claims.

7- Donít fall for scams, such as you put up $10,000 and weíll put up $10,000.  The truth is they are not putting up one dime in most cases.

8- Donít let anyone know how much money you have to work with.  Make them quote you a price for their services.

9- Donít deal with a set figure for a number of services. Make them give you a breakdown of their prices.

10- Donít sign long term contracts.

11- Donít tolerate a weak team member.  Remember a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

12- Donít kick anyone on your way to the top.  The guy you had a problem with three years ago may be running the record label when you need a break.

EXTRAS

There are certain things you may need to do to give yourself a bit of an edge on the competition.  These ďextrasĒ will not apply to everyone, but if the shoe fits, wear it.

VIDEO

In the day and age of video, there is no better way to be seen than in a music video.  If you wanted to buy one minute of advertising time on Country Music Television (CMT), it would cost quite a bit of money.  For around $20,000 + you can have a well produced video that will receive airplay on video outlets worldwide, and best of all, the publicity is free, after you have paid the cost of the video.

ADVERTISEMENTS

If your budget can stand it, advertise in the trade magazines where your name can be seen by the major labels. Sometimes a simple ďThank youĒ ad to the DJís for playing your song will attract attention.  Always use your photo and business address.  Many artists are getting ahead of the competition by having a website that is accessible to the world.

POLITICS

Use every opportunity to meet and mingle with music industry people.  Donít be afraid to ask questions and pick their brain.  They are successful for what they know about the business and may give you that tip that puts you over the top.

WEAKNESSES

If you have a weakness that you cannot correct yourself, hire someone to correct that weakness.  For example, if your stage appearance is weak, hire a choreographer to help you.  A good choreographer can show you some tricks that will make you look great even if you arenít a great dancer.  If you are overweight, get on a diet and workout regimen that will bring the pounds off slowly and with no detriment to your health.

 

WHAT MAKES AN ACT SUCCESSFUL?

 

If you want to know what makes an act successful........

1.      Watch the act to see how they move on stage and relate to the audience.

2.      Read biographical information on the act to see how they accomplished their goal of stardom Ė it will inspire you and you just may learn a trick or two.

3.      Listen to the types of songs the act records, how they fit the style of the act and how the act delivers the song with feeling.

4.      Talk with the act personally if possible or anyone associated with the act on any level and ask for advice and guidance.

 

IN CONCLUSION

Stardom is the one thing that no one can guarantee.  It takes a lot of talent, money, political contacts, and luck. Being in the right place at the right time has meant the difference for many stars, but they all had to be prepared when the break finally came.  I hope this pamphlet will prepare you for this business we call music.

 

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