How to Start Up Your Own Business in Music
Creative people have been conditioned to view success as working in a hierarchical or corporate structure. It’s something easily recognizable by those in our lives. It’s a concrete example of demonstrable ability. Music, for example, is a career that can be long and winding, and take a while to show examples of success that people in your social orbit will recognize.
Creative fulfillment aside, it’s hard to devote endless hours to creative pursuits when it seems like nothing is coming back to you. You want your creative labor to be enabling you to survive. You want to make money off of your work. But that can be extremely difficult when you’re first starting out.
You’re going to be working on building your connections base, developing your skills, and finding cool people to partner up with. Most people outside the industry are going to tell you that the only real path to a successful career is if you get a job in a recording studio or work a desk job and make music in your free time.
That’s definitely not the case. The music industry is a very layered and textured business. There are many ways to make a career for yourself, which might not seem apparent at first glance. However, one of the most common, and potentially lucrative, ways to get started is to build your own business.
That’s right. It might sound counterintuitive, but it’s the truth. When you’re starting out, and no one believes in you… believe in yourself. You’re the one who’s going to chart your own course. So, buckle down and take this seriously. Make the right moves to build a sustainable future for yourself.
DECIDE ON YOUR AREA OF EXPERTISE
There are lots of different types of businesses in music, and it’s important to decide what you want to focus on. If you’re taking the music production or audio engineering course here at the Recording Connection, chances are good that you’ve already decided to be in business for yourself as a music producer or audio engineer.
Perhaps as an independent freelancer or by building your own studio. If you’re a band or solo recording artist, you should also set up a business entity for tax purposes. Other music business possibilities include record labels, music publishing/licensing, live music venues, rehearsal studios, post-production houses etc.
You can be self-employed as a film composer, post-production engineer, sound designer, music producer—the list goes on and on. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Decide on a niche. Build out that contact list, develop skills that are specific to that niche. And you’ll see, quicker than you think, how you’re going to build a sustainable business for yourself.
GET YOUR PAPERWORK AND FINANCES IN ORDER
When you start a business, do it correctly. Don’t just wing it. Really take the time to set it up right. This is the part of starting up a business in music that few people like to deal with, but it’s a critical step to ensure your business doesn’t fail. It might seem like a hassle at first but it’s actually so that you don’t get into trouble.
Register a company name with the county or state. Talk with an accountant about the best way to structure your business tax-wise. You might take an accounting or business class or two (sometimes these are free of charge at community centers) just to make sure you keep track of your money. Write a business plan and strategy.
And then execute that strategy. It’s going to feel like a waste of time in the beginning, but you’re going to be so much happier that you did it upfront when you’re further down the line. Plan for tomorrow, today. It will make your life a lot easier.
GET THE WORD OUT, and NETWORK
These days, a website and social networking form a huge part of spreading the word about your new company. Being active in the niche or sub-genre of music you want to be known in is vital. There are loads of people that want to make music and the best way to connect with them is by proving that you’re someone who really has their shit together.
You want to be out and about in the community, proving that you’re not some culture vulture. You’re someone who cares about the music. You’re someone who’s developed a skill set and you’re just trying to find people who want to partner up with you. Go to industry events, not just to meet your competitors, but to meet potential clients. You already know by now that EVERYTHING in this industry hinges on connections. So make them. Lots of them.
WORK HARD, AND DO GOOD WORK
The best advertising is still word-of-mouth. The better work you do for your clients, the more clients you’ll get. It’s a fact of life. It’s really that simple, whether you’re a publisher, an agent, a band manager, or a music producer. The more you hustle and put in the extra ten percent the better your odds are that you’ll be successful.
Be consistently good at what you do, and be consistently good to the people you work with. The word will spread about you. This is perhaps one of the most important principles to remember when starting your own music business. Treat everyone the same. Don’t show favoritism, don’t pull your effort if you’re working with a smaller client. Put in the work 110%… always.