The Music Industry as everyone knew it slightly over a decade ago has undergone a revolution. The core middleman in the music industry that we came to know from the 50s to the mid-90s was always the record company aka the record label. During that time period, the label had access to the platforms of sales and distribution, and perhaps more importantly the label had virtual monopolistic access to marketing and the means for discovering new talent. Amazingly, this was hardly the limit of the record company’s control.
From the perspective of the many who dreamed of landing music industry jobs, the road leads through the many areas of influence or outright ownership of the big record company. The acts themselves relied on the label to take their talent and turn it into money. The record deal was the coveted result for securing monetary return for the artist’s work. It seemed to all, that labels were the only ones who knew the path.
Fast forward to the music industry of today and with it the emergence of the internet as a platform for sharing and distributing musical content digitally. Now the artists can go directly to the people in minutes without the help of middlemen. This has lessened the value of the record deal and records in general. The value now is more centered in the personage and original unique content of the musician. This is because the content of the records themselves are shared widely on a free platform (the internet).
This has served to decrease the value of the traditional record, tape or cd. While this technology trend has actually empowered musicians who choose to capitalize on it, it has greatly muddied the waters for people who are searching for a traditional music industry job. With labels generally contracting trying to figure out their most profitable place in the post-internet world, vertical integration and traditional jobs have become scarcer.
With all that said, the formula for making it in the music industry still comes down to the basics of attacking passionately and following through with dogged determination. The same fundamentals apply for either more conventional employment or in the form of someone paying you for your artistic work. When asked once what the secret to life was, legendary rock musician Bruce Springsteen was said to have commented: “find what really makes you happy and stick with it.” This concept is actually the basis for success in the music industry. Remember that the music industry itself is based on the difficult to quantify tastes of individuals. These tastes are ever-shifting. Even in the glory days of stability, the record-label dominated industry was constantly in flux. Today it is much more chaotic.
So knowing that, when looking for a music industry position, you first want to clearly understand what you are really passionate about. Then when you choose that aspect of the music industry, use the internet to understand the trends and future outlook. The most important question you will want to answer about your passion is: where is the greatest area of need and where can I focus my efforts to give the greatest value within my area of interest? Then you must be very willing to do whatever it takes, including working for no compensation to prove your worth to break in with music industry jobs. The rewards of being able to spend your days doing something you love will be well worth the sacrifices at the beginning. A cool secret about initial sacrifice is that it doesn’t feel like sacrifice because you are knee deep pursuing what you love.
Now if you are a musician and you want to get a record deal, the idea of pursuing your dream is probably already deeply ingrained. You are hopefully very experienced in having people critique your work positively and negatively. Even with the new technologies emerging, getting a record deal is still a very relevant goal. The relationship that you should want to create with a label within the music industry is collaborative. Don’t fall into the trap of being the servant or begging for the existence of the relationship thinking it will answer all your financial problems.
Today’s musician must be knowledgeable about how to control his entire production and distribution as if the record labels don’t even exist. This knowledge building process will invariably create a deep understanding of the business side of the industry. The use of digital technology and online distribution will also allow the musician to create his own buzz and identity. This is power for you as an artist in the process of growing a brand and eventually partnering (not serving) with a record label in a business relationship.