Business advice for musicians
By Damien Jones
This is a launch of an advice column at KnowMoreMusic that focuses on business skills for musicians and artists in general. The goal is to answer your questions on sales, marketing, leadership, and product development as it pertains to the arts. I thought the best place to start would be to introduce myself, give you a bit of my take on the music business, and ultimately how this column can be beneficial to you, the reader.
First off, I am from Racine, WI and have been a resident of Greater Milwaukee since 2001.
Damien the Musician
I have been involved in music since I was 8 years old.
- I marched in Drum and Bugle Corps off and on from 1988-2001
- I studied classical composition
- I started playing in local bands in 1995
- I majored in Trumpet and Percussion in college as a music education major
- I play a lot of instruments.
- Currently sing and play guitar in Astral/Subastral
- Been in a lot of bands, a few grew a decent fan base. Most didn’t.
- I have produced a lot of shows including 2 festivals.
- I was the director of operations for Mix Minus Media an artist management, recording services, and event production company.
Damien the Businessman
(me with a 3D Printed Lombardi Trophy)
As a businessman I have:
- Helped developed multiple arts organizations both for and non profit.
- Started Future Lotus in 2013 which is a multi-disciplinary platform for artists to create and distribute their work. Currently producing 5 podcasts with more on the way.
- Worked as a business and tech consultant for over a decade
- Had success in sales for over a decade
- Been successful as a coach, trainer, and leader for sales reps since 2009 in various tech industries.
My Take of the Music Business
The music business is…
For the old industry execs, the music industry is a scary place where time is almost up for the status quo. What the music industry will be by 2020 is anybody’s guess which creates a high level of uncertainty that adds to the fear. If you are reading this, you most likely are aware of the things that threaten or aid people in the music business depending on their place within.
I do want you to think about this:
- The modern music industry is between 60 and 80 years old so change was imminent. The handful of companies left are extremely risk averse.
- According to Census data, an estimated 33,000 people are currently making a living in music.
- The definition of what is “work” is evolving and the arts are not immune to it.
What does it all mean? In some ways it’s still hard to make money in music. If you relied on CD sales, it’s actually gotten harder. At the same time, there has been a democratization of the music industry where more and more people can take part and earn money without being beholden to the gatekeepers of the modern music industry. Understanding business in general and how it pertains to the arts will position you to take advantage of these uncertain times.
You want a record deal? You basically have to be at a point to where the risk for the label is next to nothing and their investment in you can be small compared to what they plan to take. Keep in mind, most investors are looking for low risk, high return investments. By that time, with the right team and business skills you can reach most of the same audiences and make more money. That’s where an investment in a tech startup definitely differs from getting a record deal. The mechanisms that a record label would put in place may not be as crucial today as they were in even 10 years ago. This doesn’t mean that no deal is good, it means that you should know all of the alternatives and be sure that the label has done some market research before approaching you. You have to be just as good if not better at assessing risks.
What will you get out of reading this column?
In addition to answering your questions, I will be introducing you to concepts and tools that will help you:
- Earn significant income in music without:
- Being in a cover band
- Playing weddings and birthday parties (nothing wrong with it though)
- Maximize the opportunities you have currently and gain more
- Effectively optimize the limited resources you have as a musician (do more with less)
- Elevate your skills in business, sales, marketing, and decision making.
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