Music Business For Dummies book cover

Music Business For Dummies

By: Loren Weisman Published: 06-29-2015

Start your music career off right with this fun guide to the music industry

Music Business For Dummies explains the ins and outs of the music industry for artists and business people just starting out. You'll learn how file-sharing, streaming, and iTunes have transformed the industry, and how to navigate your way through the new distribution models to capitalize on your work. It all begins with the right team, and this practical guide explains who you need to have on your side as you begin to grow and get more exposure. Coverage includes rehearsing, performing, recording, publishing, copyrights, royalties, and much more, giving you the information you need to start your career off smart.

Music industry success has never been easy to achieve, and recent transformations and disruptions to the business side have made the whole idea even more daunting than before. This guide gives you a roadmap around the landmines, and provides expert advice for starting out on the right foot.

  • Find the right players, agents, and business managers
  • Make more money from your work with smart distribution
  • Build your brand and get people talking about you
  • Get gigs, go on tour, and keep on growing

If music is your calling, you need to plan your career in a way that sets you up for success from the very beginning. Put the right people in place, get the most out of your investments, and learn how to work the crowd both virtually and in person. Music Business For Dummies is your companion on your journey to the music career you want.

Articles From Music Business For Dummies

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54 results
54 results
Music Business For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 03-02-2022

It seems like there are so many different aspects to the music business, and so little time to learn it all and hone your skills. From keeping yourself healthy and keeping your musical edge, to knowing how to confidently sell your act and when to post on social media sites, life in the music business offers a wide variety of daily tasks. And then there’s the part where you get to play your songs!

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Testing a Tagline in the Music Business

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

You’ll need a tagline if you want to succeed in the music business. Before you lock in the tagline with your logo and font, plan to take it for a spin — a test drive of sorts — on a whole bunch of different roads. The better idea you have of how others perceive it, the better you can get a pulse on what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes, you can be so close to something that it makes perfect sense to you but is completely confusing to someone else. Ask people of different ages, tastes, and backgrounds what they think of the logo and font as well as the tagline. Ask them the following questions: What do the logo and font make you think they’re about, and why? Is it clear from a distance as well as up close? Does that tagline make you think it’s describing a musician or band? If not, what does the tagline mean to you? What kind of music you think of when you read the tagline? Does that tagline remind you of anyone or anything you’ve seen or heard before? This kind of feedback is better coming from people who don’t know you or your music. Whereas some people you know may be able to help, try asking the opinions of strangers, marketing pros, or branding pros. Again, you’re not looking for uniformity in the answer. Everyone will have different answers, views, ideas, or opinions. The idea isn’t to get everyone on the same page; the idea is to get a page of ideas and reactions from which you can make an informed decision. As you are working to craft and try out that tagline, don’t throw out the ones that don’t work. Some of those short phrases and ideas that might not fit in to a tagline can work very well as keywords and later on in your bio. Save those not-so-good taglines for potential use later down the line. And . . . one last way to test the tagline? Test that tagline online! Go into Yahoo!, Google, Bing, YouTube, and other search engine, and search the tagline as a whole. Make sure your potential tagline isn’t close to (or the same as) someone else’s. Even if the person or entity isn’t a musician, if the tagline is too similar, stay away from it. Similarities like this make searching for you that much harder if others use the same words, even if for a different business or product. At that point, if you feel good about it and you’re ready to solidify it, lock it in and move along. With the logo, the font, and the tagline locked up, set, and dialed in, you’ve created a better branding base than half the bands out there. You now have the fundamental base for that many more people to find you, engage you, remember you, and become fans.

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Everyone’s a Critic in the Music Business, but More Seem to be Experts

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The music business can be difficult to navigate, at tines. Art is opinion, and no one is right or wrong when it comes to what they think of a song, a piece of art, an exotic food, or anything else that’s subject to personal taste and opinion. However, the amount of people out there claiming to be experts on the music business is staggering and scary. It comes down to the following ten categories with people ranging from running businesses to writing books to speaking at seminars. The all-out scammer/fake, plagiarist, and fool This is the person who puts on the best presentation but has nothing to back it up; who also steals the right information from others, but delivers all the methods in the wrong ways. There’s the biggest abundance of these types. Watch out! Part-time musician who tells you how to be full-time Be leery of the musician who’s still working to build his own career, but makes supplemental money off other musicians with tactics that may not relate or work. For example, take advice with a grain of salt from an aspiring artist who claims to have all the answers for success as well as all the tricks and tools, but hasn’t applied them to his own career. Had a little success but knows the industry This kind of scammer might have been with a big band or had a small flurry of achievement. Now unable to copy it, they use their name to make money off others who want the same type of success. Had success years back but isn’t up to date These folks found success — and a lot of it — long ago, but they haven’t been able to find it or sustain it. Now they prey on other musicians using their name from the past, but are unable to help in the way that musicians need from them. “I work in another field but I have all the answers for music” person Raise an eyebrow at the business planner who doesn’t understand music business plans or the marketing person who’s successful with a $500,000 marketing campaign but has no clue on how to market when there is only $500 available. Best advice — run the other way. Worked in one part of music but has the answers for all of the biz This includes the website designer, for example, who builds a great website and sets up the fundamentals of SEO, but has no clue about branding, marketing, business plans, and the booking aspects. Despite that, she preaches like she’s the gospel. The employee who worked for a big name but doesn’t know the real work involved You probably know the type. They have some basic knowledge, but sell themselves more off of a name than any viable knowledge and the ability to apply it to your career for a positive outcome. The successful musician who isn’t aware of what was done for them There are successful musicians who don’t know what was happening for them behind the scenes. This lack of understanding leaves a lot of holes in the information they share, and can leave even bigger holes in your career. The life coach or cheerleader These are some of the most dangerous scammers because they’re so amazingly believable. The term life coach is often defined by someone who hasn’t been able to do anything for their own lives, but somehow has all the magic answers for what you need to be doing in yours. While elements of confidence-building and self-esteem growth are good, many charge people way too much to give very vague directions and leave people spinning their wheels and getting nowhere. The money person with lots of cash but little knowledge This category includes record labels or management companies that are run by overly excited rich kids. They spend frivolously and usually from a more “look at me, I’m a manager, record label, agent” ego-type approach. These people offer more money but don’t know how to budget and allocate it for success. They also use larger-scale contracts that lock in the artist and their music for years while they really don’t do much to promote the artist and her career.

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Becoming a Musician Today

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Wouldn’t it be amazing if all you had to do was learn your instrument, practice your craft, write, record, and perform music? Many successful musicians tell of how they were “found” playing at this or that show, or how this or that record was played for this guy, or they signed this deal or that contract. Tens of millions more, however, had to take a different path, to find some level of success in music. Although many in the past were found, today it’s crucial to be out there searching for opportunities. Expecting to just be discovered, found, or invested in from the start can lead to serious problems or letdowns from overambitious expectations. For every success story like this, there are millions — not kidding . . . millions — of others that were taken advantage of, ruined, destroyed, or never even got out of the gate. Take the route of educating and empowering yourself by looking before you leap and keeping a close eye and a red flag nearby when someone is claiming they are laying out the yellow brick road to success for you. Learn about the business side of music, as well as about business itself, by taking courses helps give you a jump start on exactly what you’re jumping into. It’s also imperative to hire an attorney when looking over contracts as well as when creating contracts to protect you and your music. That empowering attention to detail and due diligence enables you to create the best and most successful path. Musicians have to practice, and although practice doesn’t actually make perfect, it brings your abilities to a much higher level. Along with practicing your instrument, here are five other things to practice on a daily basis. Practice humility. Being humble in an industry of insane egos, arrogance and foolish people that think they have all the answers, will set you apart from many. Don’t assume that everyone will like your music, your shows, or you. Practice honor. Follow through with your commitments and when you are not able to do what you promised, communicate the changes that have happened and what you are going to do to fix the issue. Again, it might seem simple and obvious, but so many do not practice honor in an industry that is severely lacking in it. Practice patience. Working on not jumping the gun and having the patience to wait until you have the budget for a release or wait until that song is ready before going in to the studio, as well as practicing the patience to choose the best paths instead of the fastest ones is a key factor in this business. Practice listening. Listen to everything you can. Even for a few minutes a day. Stretch out your ears to the array of different styles, sounds, textures and genres, to give yourself that much better of a palette to work and create from. Practice your business craft. Apply the aspects of basic business you already know from other businesses, and work to learn and educate yourself in the business of music. In many ways, becoming a musician today is easier than it was years back. Yes, you need to include a lot of the business aspects, social media aspects, marketing, and promotion that many didn’t have to years back. Still, with the new opportunities, the technology and the advances of the past few decades, a truly dedicated person who wants to become a musician today has so many more tools and options than ever before. From access to online databases, more affordable options for promotion and publicity, as well as the option to have a studio in your bedroom — these are just a few of the tools and options that are available today. You can also create digital merchandise for next to nothing and sell it online on sites like iTunes and Bandcamp. Small runs of T-shirts, hats, and other promotional items have allowed artists to create a stronger presence as they create more revenue options.

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Keeping an Eye on the Big Picture in the Music Business

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

A gig is more than a gig in the music business. A song is more than the final mix. The marketing is going to take up more time than the recording and performing put together. So how do you focus on the individual tasks while continue to see and work for the bigger picture? It’s not as much about the idea of multitasking; it’s more about making every task have multiple results. It’s okay to get caught up in the moment and enjoy it for what it is. Whether tracking day in the studio, mixing down a song, performing a great show, seeing a great sales, or even having a fabulous interview, it’s important to have fun. That’s part of what it’s about — the fun of it, the moments, and the individual experiences. Still, without taking away from the pleasure of those individual moments, look at the bigger picture, apply the elements of your writing, productions, recording, and performing in the right way. This will make certain work feel easier and reduce the workload down the line, because of the early planning and advanced organization. By keeping an eye on the big picture, which includes success with sustainability and strong marketing that creates opportunity, you can make those small things translate into bigger results down the line. Creating and producing your music Creating and producing your music involves more than just downloading that final take of the song you want to release. As you record the song, think about the different mixes and versions that you can make. Look at the bigger picture and mix down a couple short samples of the song, and maybe mix a no-vocals version that could be used as a karaoke track. It’s all about creating future opportunities off of a single goal. Have your production plan in the studio with all the different ways you can make those sessions benefit you today and in the future, even with a single track. It’s more than just a show Enjoy those shows and let that energy make you happy. For many musicians, performing is the root of the dream. From booking through post-show follow-up, your actions at one performance can showcase your dedication and professionalism. By showcasing your professional side, you can bet that booking agents, talent buyer, and venue managers will want to work with you and enable you to do what you do best — play on stage.

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Securing Your Wellness and Health in the Music Business

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

In the protection of your music, your brand, and yourself, wellness and health also need to be taken into consideration when you address security. From checkups to getting to a doctor or clinic when you are sick, to the maintenance when you are sick or hurt, your wellbeing is what allows your music to keep keeping on. Plan everything from exercise to preventative maintenance, to being just a little more healthy on the road, in the studio, and at home. This helps you continue to write, perform, and conduct the music business side of things and have that much more fun while not getting as easily worn down, burned out or sick as often. Practicing basic health Getting sleep, not drinking too much alcohol, and eating right are the same kind of activities that everyone should do. But in the music business, it can be that much more important. The hours can be exhausting and overwhelming, the sweating onstage turns to a chill while loading out in the cold. Dirty stages, smoky venues, lots of germs, and lions and tigers and bears, oh my! A hypochondriac could have a field day with what a musician goes through on any given day. Still, adding into your music business plan, as well as your daily life the extra measures for exercise, vitamins, getting that laundry done, and taking the steps to be that much more on top of your health keeps you more on top of all you have to do, which in turn, secures your ability to get it all done. Your overall health is a factor and can even show up as questions from investors and labels. Gone are the days of Keith Moon, the late drummer for the Who, passing out on his drums and shows being cancelled or delayed because of health problems. Overuse of alcohol is now looked at as a liability, a lack of security, and an issue that gets your band passed over for another whose members take care of themselves. Extra steps and preventative maintenance People laugh when they see the cost of chiropractic medicine, massage, acupuncture, and other non-traditional health treatments presented as considerations for a music business plan or touring budget. Those costs, however, help keep you playing at your best. You’re spending to that secure your ability to keep on doing the work from which everyone profits. Your body is like an instrument. When it’s not resonating, it’s not producing the sounds to sustain. Whether the alignment of chiropractic, the loosening of a massage, or the release of acupuncture, these medicines and others, while costing something on the front side, can save a great deal of money and time on the back side. Nontraditional medicines work wonders for some; for others, the more mainstream visits with a physician or nurse practitioner is what the patient ordered. Whether you go the traditional route or seek something different, there’s no excuse for letting your health slip. Find a doctor or treatment that works for you, and stay healthy.

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Tips for Posting on Social Media Sites for Your Music Business

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Social media is a great asset for promoting your music. Every social media page has its own best practices, and there are complete books on every one of the following sites, but here are some simplified tips and practices to apply to each site. Give each post a primary home base from where it’s shared. Change the headline; keep the content Make slight headline adjustments for each page as you share the main content from a single page. This trick makes all the search engines happy and helps to build up your optimization. When to post on social media sites There’s no proof as to the best time to post on social media. Every study that’s been conducted is working off different variables. Take a look at your conversions to find when the best posting time is for you. If you spend a week posting at 3:00 p.m. Eastern standard time and then the next week, much earlier, then the next later and the last week of that month another time, you can look back at your own conversions and see when you received the most engagement, likes, comments, or clicks to your stores. Be leery of experts Social media is still new — although it seems like it’s been around forever, it’s barely ten years old. A lot of these so-called experts are working off assumptions with limited studies, and less proof. So track yourself. See what time you’re connecting and engaging with or growing your audience the most. That’s the best time for you to post. Don’t limit yourself Don’t limit your posts to social media and your website. Have a presence or at least a profile on pages like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Four Square, too. Your website and social media presence can also come from your interaction, reviews, and engagement on other sites and pages that aren’t yours.

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Keeping Your Edge in the Music Business

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Just as it’s good to act as your own teacher in the music business, it’s also good at times to get a teacher or take lessons while you’re on the road with different instructors. While having one teacher who knows you and in a way can track for you, visiting different instructors and sharing some of your analysis and tracking of your playing can help them bring a different approach to and for you. This can up the inspiration and learning a great deal and enable you to get more excited about practicing if you’ve lost the desire. Keep an eye on how you practice and what might need more work. For example, if you find yourself playing certain basic measures a little slower than in the past, you know you have an issue you need to address. In a way, be your own teacher. Keep an eye on your practicing process by taking a few simple notes about what you’re working on, how it’s coming, where you’re are getting better and where you’re abilities are stagnating, plateauing, or getting sloppy. Track the practice to keep yourself improving. Give each practice a little review after you are done. From feeling confident to feeling sloppy and everywhere in between, leave yourself a private short review. Rate it by five stars, if you like, and give it an overall review. As you track this practice list and read over it, the themes become more apparent for what’s working and what isn’t. Finally, list the time of day you practice as well as what you did that day or have to accomplish outside of practicing. Tracking this kind of information can help you know when you’re at your best and worst, as well as the right times to practice or the right time to cut yourself a little extra slack.

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The Yin and Yang of Effective Solicitation in the Music Business

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

When researching a record deal, investor, gig, manager, music publisher, booking agent, or anything/anyone else that can help your music career, it’s important to look at the other side of the coin. Looking at how you can help or allow the other party to profit as well shows you are looking at the complete and bigger picture. Whether you’re leaning toward a record label or desiring to work from an independent standpoint, many of the same elements of the solicitation show up for both. When asking for a record deal, you may thing you’re asking someone to sign you. In reality, however, it’s you who’s signing an agreement for a very large loan of money and services to help all the different aspects of your music career. Someone who pays for the services that include recording to distribution, branding to promotion and marketing to advertising becomes a key part of your potential success. The money for touring as well as to pay the band hasn’t been taken into consideration. Soliciting for funding is the same whether you want a record deal or you want to remain independent. Record labels don’t sign the best artist or the best song; they sign the people who demonstrate the least risk, have the most money-making potential, as well as enable the most profits possible. This means that the more you showcase a reduced risk with a higher professionalism all held together with the music, you have a much better chance over those who want to be signed or solicit based only on a song. The more you can create on your own, before soliciting to a record label or going to investors to handle the elements of what a record label does, the better your solicitations will be received across the board.

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Tracking Your Diet and Fitness in the Music Business

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Diet and fitness are important factors in the music business. You may remember those public service announcements in elementary school, but there’s a bit of science behind the idea of ‘you are what you eat.’ Maybe there’s something to Lolly! Lolly! Lolly! Get your adverbs here too, but let’s not tangent too far. Still, your eating and fitness habits on the road and as well as at home can become a major factor in how you handle the hours, stress, stage, and your basic well-being. The last part of tracking comes down to tracking yourself, what you eat, how you feel, and how you exercise. To the gentle and much more passive, “you are what you eat,” the aspects of food, exercise, and health are key factors. Certain investors look into the overall health of an artist or band members. Some bands even require a physical in order to land a position for a show. Your health is a key factor. From the standpoint of those who invest time in you to those who invest money in you. Forget the drugs, the drinking, and all the other wild elements; although those are concerns, the overall health can determine certain investments and support.

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