So much has changed in the music industry over the last few years that affect an artist’s ability to be successful. Some of it is brand new and a result of the technology we use, while some of it is good common sense that’s been used over and over during the past decades of the business. Here are 10 business fundamentals taken from my Music 4.1 Internet Music Guidebook (in no particular order) that an artist, musician, producer or songwriter needs to grasp in order to get along in today’s music environment.
• It’s all about scale. It’s not the sales, it’s the number of YouTube or Facebook views or streams that you have. A hit that sells only 50,000 combined units (album and single) may have 500 million YouTube views. Once upon a time, a sales number like that would’ve been deemed a failure, today, it’s a success. Views don’t equal sales, and vice-versa.
• The scale is not the same. In the past, 1 million of anything was considered a large number and meant you were a success. Today anything with that number hardly gets a mention, as it takes at least 10 million streams or views to get a label or manager’s attention. 50 million is only a minor hit, while a major hit is in the hundreds of millions.
• There will be fewer digital distributors in the future. It’s an expensive business to get into and maintain, so in the near future there will be a shakeout that will leave far fewer digital competitors. Don’t be shocked when you wake up one day to find a few gone. (Ed. Note: We’re not going anywhere!)
• It’s all about what you can do for other people. Promoters, agents, and club owners are dying to book you if they know you’ll make them money. Record labels (especially the majors) are dying to sign you if you have have an audience they can sell to. Managers will want to sign you if you have a line around the block waiting to see you. If you can’t do any of the above, your chances of success decrease substantially.
• Money often comes late. It may not seem like it, but success is slow. You grow your audience one fan at a time. The longer it takes, the more likely you’ll have a long career. An overnight sensation usually means you’ll also be forgotten overnight. This is one thing that hasn’t changed much through the years.
• Major labels want radio hits. They want an easy sell, so unless you create music that can get on radio immediately, a major label won’t be interested. This is what they do and they do it well, so if that’s your goal, you must give them what they want.
• You must create on a regular basis. Fans have a very short attention span and need to be fed with new material constantly in order to stay at the forefront of their minds. What should you create? Anything and everything, from new original tunes to cover tunes, to electric versions to acoustic versions, to remixes to outtakes, to behind the scenes videos to lyric videos, and more. You may create it all at once, but release it on a consistent basis so you always have some fresh content available.
• YouTube and Facebook are the new radio. Nurture your following there and release on a consistent basis (see above). It’s where the people you want to reach are discovering new music.
• Growing your audience organically is best. Don’t expect your friends and family to spread the word, as they don’t count. If you can’t find an audience on your own merits, there’s something wrong with your music or your presentation. Find the problem, fix it, and try it again. The trick is finding that audience.
• First and foremost, it all starts with the song. If you can’t write a great song that appeals to even a small audience, none of the other things matter much.
I’m sure you’ll agree that the music business is both exciting and invigorating in it’s current form. It’s not dying and it’s not wilting, unlike what you’ll hear and read from the old school naysayers. It is constantly evolving and progressing, and those who don’t progress with it will fall behind. That said, these 10 fundamentals will help anyone navigate the road to success.