Running Away From The Music Business

This statement is for independent musicians, by an independent musician: Get away- far, far away -from the Music Business.

I’m not telling you to give up music or stop trying to earn your living in this space. Far from it, there is so much opportunity here that the biggest challenge is deciding which path you want to stick to. What I am saying- to any musician who will listen -is that the Music Business as a big, flashy industry is the most dangerous, distracting time-waster that will ruin your career. There are really only two things that ultimately kill a musician’s career: Time, and the musicians themselves.

Time is everything to an entrepreneur, and there are so many ways to piss away the time you’ve got. So many of us are doing this with stars in our eyes and dreams of sold-out arenas that we’ll do anything to get an edge on the competition.

Remember: Your only competitors as a musician are yourself and the clock.

Today I encountered yet another self-proclaimed Music Marketing Master who is very obviously earning his living selling eBooks to guys like me. Sure, maybe he’s a genius and a visionary, but the odds are pretty stiffly against him. Anyone who’s selling shovels to gold miners like us should immediately be suspect. We’re an industry of artists, not particularly known for our business sense. There are plenty of people who will happily take advantage of that and even leave you thanking them for wasting your time.

My advice: Always be suspicious of music industry experts you’ve never heard of. Hell, even if you’ve heard of them, the Business changes so fast that they may be peddling stale advice anyway.

Waste 10 Minutes With Me

Before I get too much further into it, I want you to watch this 10-minute piece I did on stage in NYC about musicians and time, this will give you some context for where I’m going with this:

Watch on UStream’s site if you can’t see it here.

Did you catch the bit about how “every ten minutes another indie music site is born”? That’s what I’m talking about. Social networking sites are wonderful things, but the second it’s a “music discovery site” or some tripe like that, be suspicious. You’re going to find so many more people on a general interest site like Facebook than you ever will on some music-centric site no one’s ever heard of. Marketing advice is great, but music marketing? Be suspicious. Good advice about selling cookies will usually be good advice about selling downloads, even if the data doesn’t smell nearly as amazing.

The Dirty Little Secret

Are all Music Business resources lame? Of course not. Not all guitar teachers are failed rock stars either… but you know a shitload of them are. You want to know the dirty little secret of the modern Music Business? Most “experts” don’t know shit, they’re just circulating innovation and case studies pioneered by actual musicians. Spend your time looking for ways to reach your fans using methods that work with your vibe. YOU are the expert.

Again, I’m not saying ignore advice from non-musicians. Just get an idea of what snake oil smells like before you go looking for career remedies. You can waste more time looking for the fast track than you it would actually take just building your own damn road to success.

Oh Yeah, That Other Thing

Remember 82 paragraphs ago when I said that your other big competitor is yourself? I meant it. If your music isn’t selling, it may just be that it isn’t good enough yet. Work on it. Nothing is impossible, some things just take more work than others.

Your voice isn’t good enough. Get a better front man to sing your songs or go take some voice lessons.

Your playing isn’t good enough. Go take some lessons or at least jam with people who are better than you.

Your website sucks. Hire a designer or learn some design basics on your own.

You don’t know anyone in the industry. Who gives a shit? Go meet people who aren’t in the industry but are into the kind of stuff you do- musical or otherwise. If you’re able to connect with non-musical people and keep them interested, I’ve got news for you: The Music Business experts will be looking for you.

Just don’t try to sell me any eBooks when that happens, okay? I’ve got songs to write for my Entourage.

Photo by Paul’s Best Shots, licensed under Creative Commons

  • Enjoyed the video. Lol.

  • Enjoyed the video. Lol.

  • Great stuff. Should be required reading for musicians.

  • Marc Gunn

    Great advice Matthew. Most music marketers are failed musicians. It’s easier to spout advice than follow it. I quit writing The Bards Crier because I wanted to focus on using my knowledge for my music. I get tired of reading about the latest useless tool or social network on hypebot.

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