There may be some sad people reading this, eager to pursue music but feeling disempowered.
Years ago I went to an interview for a corporate position, but I was unhappy. The recruiter asked, “What’s wrong? Is it the music?”
I lied and said no, but of course it was.
Such is the dilemma of one who stands at the crossroads and has to decide to be brave or sensible. In my time at the Music Business Academy, many a DJ, producer or artist has told me how their parents are opposed to their career choice. But I also see students who waste the opportunity.
The thing to remember is that it’s a business, not a hobby. Entrepreneurs flourish in the music industry. The power of the industry rests with the record labels who know how to run a business, or the newly-empowered artists and DJs who run their own labels like a business.
There are some important things to remember, like music law and basic management principles. When is it permissible for a DJ to use a sample from somebody else’s song?
What makes a song a cover version or an adaptation? Even some major artists have ended up in hot water over copyright.
A reality check in terms of finance is often needed.
I tell my students nobody is coming to rescue you in the industry, which has no pension fund and medical aid benefits, so you must provide those things yourself or end up in trouble.
Finally, there is the all-important ingredient of music marketing, creating awareness and getting music into the hands of fans, through digital and physical distribution.
While on their journey, I encourage students to watch what I call “music movies”, which teach them the industry. Students must submit a movie assignment, writing a synopsis and applying it to their careers.
I would encourage anyone interested in the music industry to watch them. Good examples include Cadillac Records, Notorious, 8 Mile, The Social Network, Ray, Walk the Line, Coal Miner’s Daughter, La Bamba, and Music & Lyrics.
I also suggest researching careers, from Richard Branson, who made his first million in music, to Michael Jackson, who holds the record for the biggest album release, Thriller, with around 115 million copies sold.
Danny K’s book In My Opinion is great, showing how tough the music industry can be, while inspiring musicians to keep fighting.
Despite the difficulty of convincing parents, the financial insecurity, the uncertainty of creating a hit, and the other obstacles, including self-doubt, it is possible to flourish in music, if you want it badly enough.
l The Music Business Academy runs music business courses for those who are interested in learning about the business of the music industry. Rob Rodell can be contacted on [email protected] or www.samusicbiz.com.