How Do I Start My Career In The Music Industry?
Let's not beat around the bush. It's a big question. A really big question. How do you kick start your career in the music industry? We've often thought about this question and yes there are a huge amount of variables but we've put together a few ideas on how someone who has just finished school (or is even still in school/college/university) can get straight down to it and start their way to building a career for themselves in the industry.
It's Just An Idea... For Now
The first step is to figure out if this is really what you want to do. Experiment with ideas and roles, build up your confidence and see if it's something you really want to get involved with on a serious level.
1) What Do You Do?
Sounds simple right? But often we hear about creatives who "just want to get involved". Maybe you played in a school band, or you helped set up a show for your friend, it all counts for something. In the early stages of your career it's okay to do different roles, maybe you're the singer or the guitarist or the manager or all of them at once. When you have the time and it's not ultra-pressing to start making money it can be a good idea to find out what exactly you want to do. Trying numerous different things can often give you an appreciation for how hard a specific task can be. For example, setting up gigs for yourself or a friend can show what it's like to be a manager, it also develops your skills and adds to your experience. In the early stages don't stress too much and enjoy finding out what exactly it is that you want to do.
2) Know What You're Getting Into
So you've decided you want to be the lead performer or you want to be the show promoter - great! Now it's time to learn as much as you can about that industry as you can. What tools do you have to help you? CDs? Mp3s? Live events? Twitter? Social media? All of these things are a great resource in teaching you more about your field of interest. This doesn't mean it should be all you live and breathe, but having it as something you genuinely care about makes it a lot easier to immerse yourself in the culture of that 'role'. For example, you're a singer singing R&B. Who else is doing something like that out of your peers? What events are they playing at? Who do you look up to? This might not be as mechanical as it sounds, for example think about one of your interests in life - I bet you could tell me a whole bunch of information; where I can learn more or specific facts on that interest. Maybe it's football or basketball, maybe it's playing an instrument. For the majority of the time when it's something you love the research will come naturally.
3) Passion vs Hobby
Here's an important one. Do you really want to get into the music industry? Whether that's as a manager or a performer or an agent or in PR is this something you're 100% set on? There's a big difference in doing something for fun, helping your friends and saying "this is what I want to make a career out of". There's a big difference in strumming your guitar on the weekends and playing and writing every day. Ask yourself if you want to give it your all, ask yourself if you're willing to make sacrifices and invest your own money into this - because let's face it you will need investment. Even a £100 guitar (which is on the cheap side) will cost you. How you get that investment however is a different story.
Having music as a hobby is awesome, but you need to be very honest with yourself and if you don't have the passion, determination and willingness to continually learn new skills maybe taking this on as a full-time career isn't for you. Don't worry though, going through a trial period isn't a bad thing, especially if you're young. Try it out and see if it's for you.
I'm Ready To Give It A Go
Steps 1, 2 & 3 all planned and thought out? Great. Let's up the ante a bit and talk about stage 2. Things get a bit more serious from here. It's still a lot of fun, but you've decided to commit and the stakes are now higher. The following tips can help you change gear and start to develop who you are in the industry.
4) Be Brave
Imagine when YouTube was first a 'thing', imagine the very first musician who uploaded on there. That's being creative, doing something that no one else has thought about. You can still be creative, and take steps outside your comfort zone by not doing something as groundbreaking as being the first musician on YouTube. Perform in a new bar you've never been to. Email someone you've been too scared to get in touch with. Share your Soundcloud profile with a new audience. Plan appearances at three consecutive events. In the beginning of your career you can experiment with all these things. Work on finding a way to connect with people that suits your style best. In these early stages everything is a lesson, don't be afraid to try something new. We have a friend who lives entirely off online donations, if he hadn't tried it he would never have known!
5) Surround Yourself With The Right People
If it's something that you're really committed to doing, sooner or later you'll realise that having good people in your life is important. People you can rely on, you can depend on and people who will help you learn new things to develop your career. These people can range from friends in the industry to people you bump into at shows; peers performing on stages or show promoters who send show appearances your way. Think about your network and who is in there that can benefit your growth. If it's just a few close friends and family then it could be a good time to think about growing your network. Try connecting with people at shows, events or even online. When you're just breaking through, you have time to try new way of doing things, seek advice from people and learn from those who have been there before. In the early stages growing is fundamental and anyone who can assist with that should be important to you. Some will argue that everyone who listens to your music or looks at your work can give a critique - giving them value, others will seek out opinions from mostly their peers. Either way learn new things, get people to push you and personal and professional growth will happen in no time.
6) Treat It Like A Business
You want to earn a living from this right? Not just 'getting by' but make a career out of it. So with that in mind it's important you treat it as such. Be professional when you need to be, in meetings or on emails. Be prompt and on time, keep an eye on your money and expenses. If you can manage this now as a freelance/self-employed/individual creative then you'll have a far better understanding once you have someone managing meetings or your funds for you. It's a really great start to getting ahead and you'll likely have noticed these are all points that aren't taught in school. If you can understand this point from a young age you'll almost immediately be treated with more respect by your peers.
Don't forget this is just the start. The above advice is aimed at people who are keen, enthusiastic and passionate but still lacking a bit of experience - ideally those just leaving or still in full-time education. These pieces of advice are mostly suited for those who want to be more serious with their music or their work in the music industry but not too sure how to progress. It's really important to understand that there are lots of ways to do break into the industry. You'll hear about artists who work very hard and network like crazy and you'll hear about artists who lock themselves in a room and never use social media and both types will go on to have success, there is no blueprint, but there are definitely positive things that can benefit your breakthrough.
Being confident in what you do is a great start and the steps above should hopefully build confidence which will turn into momentum.
If you'd like to talk to us in person about breaking into the industry we'll be talking at an event set up by our friends at Livity and RawMaterial who work with young people giving them opportunities to develop their skills and network with like-minded creative individuals. We'll be talking a bit more about the points in this article. This talk will be aimed at 16-24 year olds so feel free to pop down and have a chat. For more info on the event click here.