How to Get Into the Music Industry
Just because you’re making music doesn’t mean you’re in the music industry.
The music industry is defined as “the individuals and organizations that earn money” by making music their primary income source.
That can mean writing and performing. It can also mean presenting concerts, creating and selling sheet music, and representing other musicians’ legal interests. If you’ve ever thought, “I want to get into the music industry,” we will teach you all the myriad ways you can do that.
Let’s discuss how to get into the music industry.
Understanding the Music Business
How hard is it to get into the music industry? That’s a common question, and the answer is simple but complicated: it depends on your entry point.
Have you uploaded a song to social media with a company like TuneCore and earned revenue? Congrats, you’re in the music industry!
If you’re trying to get into the music business industry as a music journalist, there might be a longer road ahead of you.
So, let’s start with the basics: here are three lists of music industry jobs.
- Singer / songwriter
- Gigging musician
- Album cover / merch artist
- Studio engineers
- Artists’ manager
- Publishing rep
- Concert booker
- Merch producer
- Music supervisor
- Music teacher
- Touring sound mixer
- Touring lighting director
- Merch booth monitor
- Music journalist
- Concert photographer
As you can see, the music industry isn’t hard to get into if you’re already making music.
If you want to pursue a career such as a merchandise producer or touring sound mixer, it will be harder...but there are actions you can take and skills you can develop to begin your journey to gainful employment.
Getting into the Music Industry as an Artist
Whether you are a songwriter, country musician, gospel singer, rapper, or hip-hop beatmaker, getting into the music industry begins with the same first step: creating.
You're creating if you’re recording melodies on a voice notes app. When you beatbox a drum riff, you’re creating. Getting into the music industry with no experience is a two-step process
- Putting music into the world
- Making that music available for purchase or streaming
If you’re not ready to begin step “2),” it’s okay to focus on action “1)” for a while. You won’t technically be getting into the music industry as a singer or generating a profit, but you will be getting comfortable with your creative instrument.
That skill is priceless – and you can develop it with TuneCore.
Develop Your Musical Skills
The next step to getting into the music industry is gaining the confidence to join. That starts with developing your creative skills.
You might write a hit song you're thrilled with immediately. That happened to Len. It even happened to Migos.
Many musical artists make time to improve their songwriting, performance, and production abilities. John Mayer attended Berklee School of Music. Ray LaMontagne spent two years "deep practicing" singing, using albums by Etta James and Ray Charles as his guide.
Don't sweat it if you can't attend trade school or spend years refining your vocal stylings. The throughline of both examples is to refine your craft alongside resources you trust.
Once you've developed your musical skills to your satisfaction, it's time to join the music industry by releasing music. We have a guide on how to do that here.
And once you've released music, you want to make sure your industry peers have a chance to hear it.
That's where networking and building connections come in.
Networking and Building Connections
Networking is how to enter the music industry and hit the ground running.
Building connections with industry professionals and peers is a bedrock of making money from music as a primary income source.
If you make heavy music or are a rapper, niche publications like Metal Insider or Hot New Hip-Hop can put you over or cover your release.
If you need help figuring out where to start, build connections with peers over social media.
Networking over TikTok is a sure-fire way to encourage collaboration and get noticed by labels and music supervisors. And if "IRL" is your speed, investing time in your local scene is one of the fastest ways to make music industry gains.
- Find the venue booking artists who look and sound most like you
- Attend shows there
- Connect with other fans in attendance and the venue staff, including whoever's in charge of booking
Networking and building connections are the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Still, they build promotional and branding muscle, which will take your music industry journey to the next level.
Branding and Promotion
You're not alone if you need clarification about how to promote and brand yourself. Many artists struggle with both.
So here's a simple way to think about it: branding deliberately highlights your most distinct elements and promotes them out there.
What do listeners respond to most in your music? Which of your Instagram or TikTok posts gets the most likes or views? If you can answer these questions, you can start branding yourself effectively.
DEVO wears elaborate costumes on stage that reflect the angular hooks of their music. The polished pop band The 1975 embraced geometric designs for their album covers and merchandise – fans responded by getting tattoos of them. Those are peak examples of branding.
If you need help branding effectively, you can hire a graphic designer to make a logo for you. You can also seek representation that helps you hone in on what makes you unique. More often than not, it is optional. Let fans and your instincts be your kind.
Promoting your work, on the other hand, can be done primarily through online tools and social media.
You can use a service like TuneCore to accelerate your growth on Spotify. That’s promotion. Consistently posting on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok – and using well-established hashtags – will help you build a following centered around your work and artistic values. (Learn more about both by clicking here.)
The key to any promotional effort is having a product worth promoting.
Recording and Distribution
High-quality recording and distribution aren't how you get into the music industry, but they're keys to making a great first impression.
No matter what genre of music you're making, your recordings must meet the audio fidelity standards of the platforms you're uploading to. The most commonly accepted formats are:
- Stereo wav files in 24-bit (sample size) with 192 kHz (sample rate)
- 16-bit (sample size) with 44.1 kHz (sample rate)
TuneCore double-checks the audio fidelity of your songs before distributing them to every social media and streaming platform of your choosing. And you must distribute it to every single streaming platform you can! Each represents a potential revenue source to expand your exposure, foster collaboration, and more.
Legal and Business Aspects
Learning the ins and outs of music licensing and copyright isn’t just an excellent way to ensure you get paid – it’s a method of getting a foothold in the music industry.
Setting up a system to split residuals with other musicians bolsters your professional reputation. If you find a passion for collecting mechanical royalties, pursuing a career in music publishing is possible. Legal and business aspects of the music industry aren’t the ones artists think of first, but they’re arguably its most vital cog.
Make sure both are a part of your journey.
There’s a difference between getting into the music industry and making it in the music industry.
We’ve covered the former thoroughly: once you’ve honed your skills, released music for public consumption, and begun the networking process, you’re in the music industry.
What “making” it feels like is up to you.
Do you want to make it big in the music industry through viral word of mouth? It’s time to grow your audience through algorithmic placements aggressively. Is “making it” a headlining gig at your favorite small club? Forge the connections to make that happen.
At TuneCore, we don’t believe there’s one version of making it in the music industry – and we invite you to join us on the journey to figure out what yours is.
It could be a reality.
Let’s make it happen.