Music Business Guide: Starting Out, Deal Makers and What To Do

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This post is the first of many to come in a series that I hope will educated bands, managers, songwriters, producers, musicians and any other budding music professional about the large, and often confusing animal that is the music industry.  My belief is that by democratizing as much information as possible, the music business will thrive with a new wave of educated, independent-minded professionals. 

Let’s assume that you have exceptional talent. Awesome! As you may know, however, talent does not always lend itself to immediate success in the music biz.  There are the rare occasions but most of the “stars” you may aspire to became have achieved their heights through honing their craft, having a great plan, and assembling the right team to achieve their goals.  In a mercurial business like the music business, where tastes are constantly changing, having a clear idea of who you are as an artist or band and the right people around you is paramount to success.  Of course, nothing is ever guaranteed but the right mix of sound personalities makes all the difference in the pursuit of “making it” as an artist, producer, songwriter, musician or band.   Which brings me to my next point, what does “making it” look like to you?

From my perspective, this idea of “making it” should evolve through time as you achieve short term goals and reach toward long-term goals.   Ultimately, however, being self-aware of your current place and possessing the foresight to know what you want to achieve is crucial.  So set goals, they are the guiding light of where you are going.

When starting out, a great first goal, from a business standpoint, is to assemble the right team of “deal-makers” to administrate the commercial success of your creative talent. That team should consist of a personal/band manager, an attorney, a booking agent and an accountant.

In most cases, attorneys are hired for an hourly rate and they are mainly charged with structuring the relationships an artist will have with record labels, band managers, and booking agents.  The greatest benefit of working with an attorney is that they are regarded as “safe” by record labels, who want to make sure their arrangements with artists do not create problems for their business.  Attorneys can be helpful in calling upon their contacts in the business to shop a demo and ultimately  can be viewed as “gatekeepers”, working in your best interest, to reach a deal with a record label.  To find the right attorney, do research on the bands you see yourself similar to and contact their attorney.  Most times they will be open to new clients and may even offer a free consultation.

Unlike attorneys, band managers aim to enter into a long-term agreements with an artist or band, to develop that artist/band and guide their career. Though managers are not deemed as “safe” as attorneys, they will most likely be the person to close a deal for a band than anyone else – simply, because they have a vested interest in doing so. I will touch more on managers throughout these musings but, briefly,  they usually are closest in an artist/bands solar system of business people.

When starting up, you really need to define the direction you want to move and take action –  you will attract the right business people, if you do this well.  From what I’ve seen, the more successful you are in being self-reliant to build your career, the more that people will take notice.  The more they’ll want you.  So, Build a strong following, make great music, have a great live performance, buy a van, book your own tours, be professional, be courteous and stay informed about the “deal-makers” you’d like to work with.  With most everything, through continuous effort you’ll be able to unlock your full potential.  The rest will unfold organically.

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