Presented by Music Entrepreneur Club, an online music education and networking platform. MEC meets live every week, helping aspiring music entrepreneurs pursuing a career in the music industry by covering important topics and connecting them with knowledgeable experts. The next live meeting is tonight (March 22) at 7 PM PST. Text MEC to 40691 to get the link sent directly to your phone.
Artists and producers love to blame “the industry” whenever something doesn’t go their way, but rather than point fingers at the entire system, it’s time many in the creative community accept responsibility for their failure to learn about the field they decided to pursue a career in. There is no other industry under the sun where it is an acceptable practice to not educate yourself—or fail to surround yourself with educated people, and then blame it on “the industry” when you find yourself in a less than desirable situation.
If you sign up for a credit card and don’t realize the interest rate is too high, is that the credit card company’s fault? If you take out a variable rate mortgage, and you don’t realize that the interest rate could increase over time, do you blame the bank that loaned you the money? If you lease a car and didn’t know there is a penalty if you return it early, do you blame the dealership?
In music, anytime anything goes wrong, it’s seemingly “the industry” who is at fault. Which is crazy, because we now have more access to information than ever before. We can Google or YouTube just about anything and find a reliable source. There are trusted individuals who drop free knowledge daily, such as TJ Chapman, Curtiss King, Wendy Day, DJ Pain 1, Kato, Abe Batshon (CEO of BeatStars), and Ogden Payne (Forbes), as well as platforms like ASCAP, Distrokid, DJBooth, Music Think Tank, and Hype Bot, among many others, who regularly publish educational articles or deliver information directly to your inbox. You have a number of podcasts, like the “DIY Musician Podcast” and “The Music Biz Weekly,” that you can listen to. There are also books that can be checked out at the library, for those who still enjoy reading.
So why do artists, producers, and select media love to blame "the industry,” “record labels,” or “businesspeople” when something doesn’t work out? Why do artists always get away with playing the victim?
Well, for starters, it’s easy to pass the buck. Now that artists and producers have platforms on social media, in turn giving them on-demand direct access to their fans, the “evil,” “soul-sucking” faceless corporate entity cannot drown out or wash away their voices.
As for the media, it's the better and more entertaining story. Shady behavior equals more clicks. An artist not knowing anything about the field they're working in doesn't make for a great story, but who isn't sharing an op-ed on the soul-stealing Illuminati?
Creatives need to understand that from a business perspective, investing in music, especially the music of an unproven talent, is extremely risky. An artist or producer might think that a deal is “bad” or “shady,” but the reality could be that the investor is just trying to get an adequate return on their investment.
Most artists aren’t going to generate any revenue in music. That is just the flat-out truth. Unfortunately, most of the stories being amplified by the media and on social networks are about those who are doing well, which leads many to believe that's the norm. The norm is that a shitload of music on Apple Music and Spotify never gets played; Digital Music News recently reported that 99% of all streams comes from just 10% of available songs. That means that 90% of the music available on Spotify and Apple Music is, for all intents and purposes, never played.
I know, I know. You aren’t going to be one of those artists. Your music is better than all those artists'. You are going to blow up. Well, business people need to protect themselves from the possibility that you are one of those artists. That your explosion is less like a bomb and more like a bag of popcorn is the far more probable outcome.
I encourage all creatives to watch ABC’s Shark Tank and listen to the dialogue that takes place when Mark Cuban, Daymond John, and the rest of the investors ask questions to the entrepreneurs. You’ll learn a lot. You might even gain a different perspective for when you are negotiating with potential “investors” (labels) to get involved in your business (music). Sharks give better deals to entrepreneurs who have a strong track record of sales. There is less risk. Likewise, if you have an established fanbase and you are already generating revenue, then you can seek a better deal.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of shady people in the music industry, and artists and producers do get taken advantage of on a daily basis. But there are shady people in every industry. Do you know how to protect yourself from shady people? You don’t do business with them. Do you know how to identify shady people? Educate yourself. If you are educated, you can navigate the industry with the utmost confidence because you’ll know what you’re doing. Every other industry operates this way. Education is mandatory. You can’t become a plumber, police officer, stockbroker, doctor, or lawyer without some form of formal education or professional training.
I know, you want success, preferably overnight, preferably right this second, but you’re going to have to learn. You need to be patient. If music is really your passion, then the process will be equal parts exhilarating and exhausting. If you better understand the roles of people you will need to help support and grow your career, you will be better set up for success. Learn so you can respect and value those people.
Learn so you can stop blaming the damn industry.