What’s Love Got To Do With It? Commentary On The State Of The Music Industry

Everywhere I go there seems to be some sophisticated discussion or debate about what’s wrong with the music industry and what needs to be done to fix it. The conversation takes place in offices among professionals who have been around long enough to know that things are indeed different, and at industry conferences among music artists who revel in new found optimism that infrastructure changes and the arrival of the new digital/mobile entertainment era will “level” the playing field and create more income opportunities.

As tempting as it may be, I am not enamored with or preoccupied by the current problems that face the music industry. Issues such as declining record sales; the consolidation of radio stations; the constant merging of record labels; the lack of longevity in the “careers” of music artists; declining CD sales; or any myriad of issues regarding the illegal downloading of music on the Internet. Why? Because while so many in the music industry (professionals and artists alike) spend countless hours lamenting over things that they can’t control, I only focus on the things that are within my control such as my professional pursuits, income generating activities, and investing in profitable relationships.

Most importantly, my business model is based on my passions because while I know that the economy will always fluctuate up or down, and industry trends will turn hot and cold in the blink of an eye, my love for what I do is a constant and remains unaffected.

In 1999 I had the pleasure of meeting and briefly talking to Barry White at a party for the release of “Love Unlimited,” his semi-autobiographical book on his adventures in life, love and the music
industry. When he asked me what I did for a living, I told him I was a music industry consultant. Barry, who was much darker in person than he is on television and in his videos, flashed some of the whitest teeth you could ever imagine and said, “I don’t know what that is, but as long as you believe in what you do, that’s all that counts.”

I went on to enthusiastically explain to him what I did as a music business consultant, asking him for advice and hogging up his limited time in the process. He stopped me before I could really dive deep into it and interjected in his sincere, rich baritone voice, the advice that I still follow to this very day, “Constantly re-commit yourself to what you do and the money will follow…”

We all need to re-commit from time to time. We all lose sight of what we actually do for a living and the reasons why we do it, but the long roots of true passion run deep…and even when the tree is cut down by unfair business practices, a gluttony of superficial encounters, busted deals, a never ending parade of fakes and flakes, unpredictable and unforseen circumstances, technological changes, and rampant un-professionalism that plagues the industry, you endure because you know that at the end of the day you are truly passionate about what you do and it all becomes a mere occupational hazard that you learn how to deal with.

While many aspiring industry professionals have fashionably set their sights on the greener pastures of the music business, prostituting their values for the sake and pursuit of money, the vast majority will not obtain the riches they so desperately seek, nor will they be in it for the long haul. Why? Because they lack vision, focus, commitment, and above all else, true passion for what they do – which brings us to the question: what’s love got to do with it? When it comes to art, you would think everything, but the sad truth is that there are many in the music industry that are more passionate about self-serving interests, than they are about music as an art form (unless, of course, the music we are speaking of is their own).

And what about all the “changes” that people are talking about so adamantly? History shows that this industry is always changing. The industry never stops changing; technologically; structurally; logistically; and creatively. Adaptability is a requirement of success in every industry because change. The music industry was predicated on change and entrepreneurship.

Can we deny the entrepreneurial spirit of Apple and their convictive belief in iTunes? Or the unyielding belief that the creators of American Idol have in their little “talent” show? I can’t, nor can you, because
that’s what happens when you are passionate about your business ideas: they become business opportunities.

So for those who are distracted by the changes that are taking place in the industry, my free, but valuable advice to all of you is to focus on what you love to do. Your passion is the intangible that will increase the value of your product or service. Your business needs and opportunities will announce themselves at the appropriate time. Until then, rekindle your love affair with your business or art, because in the end, love has everything to do with the reason you do it in the
first place.

Five Music Industry Myths That Damage Your Music Career

Music Career Myth #1: You can’t make it if you’re older than a certain age.

Reality: Companies and bands who are successful don’t focus on age. There are tons of professional musicians 30 and older in all aspects of the business. Your age only matters if you make it matter.

The music industry functions just the same as any other business. You can become successful at any age as long as you have a strong work ethic, dedication and a lot of value to offer.

Learn what the music industry seeks in musicians and begin strengthening these skills (more mentioned on this in a moment). This is what attracts people in the industry to you.

Music Career Myth #2: Fans don’t purchase music any more.

Reality: Fans do buy music these days, but old business models for selling it do not work. To sell music to your fans (and make good money), you must:

1. Know how the industry works right now (rather than how it worked decades ago).

2. Think creatively and outside the box. This will help you find new ways to sell your music to fans.

Music Career Myth #3: Before you can build a career, you must become an excellent musician.

Reality: There’s a lot more to becoming a great pro musician than simply having “great musical skills”. A lot of musicians in the music industry are not high level guitarists, singers, etc… and many highly talented musicians never build successful music careers.

What you need to learn here: work on both your musical skills and other aspects of your music career at the same time.

Note: Becoming a pro musician does not require going to university. Going to college for music only helps you build your musical skills. Doing this will not help you grow a career in music. There are tons of people who get music degrees and never make good money in music.

You can also find many other effective ways to become a better musician other than going to university. Taking lessons with a virtuoso guitar teacher will help you master the instrument much faster.

Question: “But Tom Hess, what if I get a degree in music business?”

Answer: Professors who teach music business usually are not successful in the music industry. They are simply educators. They teach you about the music industry, but not how to grow a career in the music industry. For instance, in classes for music business you might learn how contracts are made, how tours get promoted and how royalties work. This information is good to know, but it won’t help you:

*Actually get a record deal of your own.

*Go on a tour that makes money.

*Get deals for publishing your music.

*Join the band you want to be in.

*Earn a huge income through music.

*Sustain success in your music career for a long time.

You accomplish these kinds of results by working together with a music career mentor who has already achieved massive success.

Music Career Myth #4. You need to live in a “music city” to be successful.

Reality: This is a very dated myth that is not true. It’s not the city that matters, it’s YOU.

You can work together with music companies who live very far away from you. Learn the principles that grow successful music careers and live by them in your own career. This leads you to success regardless of your location.

Music Career Myth #5. You need good connections to achieve success.

Reality: Connections often do not lead down the path of music career success. If I introduced you to the lead singer of your favorite band, would this do a lot for you? Not likely… unless:

1. You have tons of value to offer above most other musicians.

2. You’ve developed a reputation in the music business for being someone who is loyal, hard-working, and trustworthy while also having a strong mindset for business. People in the music industry WILL inspect your reputation before they begin working with you in any capacity.