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Having a career in the music industry is tough ― can you make it on your own?

the music industry

Each industry has its hardships, but the musical one is full of controversies. You might’ve noticed someone performing and ask yourself, “How did they get so famous? They don’t have talent!”. But you should know that talent is only a tiny part of the whole process of being recognized as an artist. If you’re wondering how one becomes an artist, here’s a short overview of how tough it is to get into the music industry.

Consider your opportunities

No matter how much you like music, it’s difficult to make a living out of producing and creating songs. Especially when you’re on your own, you’ll face some challenges reaching out to people and getting their attention. More people are doing the same thing, and the market is oversaturated with music. Even if your creations are exceptional and you know your music is great, the frustration of not getting the recognition deserved might burden you.

At the same time, switching from your current life to becoming an artist is quite tiring. Music takes time, and you still need to sustain yourself, meaning that you’d need at least another part-time job to survive and have time for music too. You could take inspiration from your favorite artists, because most of them started just like you, and still made it into the entertainment industry. 

However, having an educational background in music would help you reach your goals easier. If you have no experience and want someone to guide you, you’ll have a long way to go. Entering the musical industry requires more than passion and talent. You need to have a few focus points, such as:

  1. Skills and experience. It would be best if you have musical skills, but it’s not necessary if you don’t really want to write music, but just have a job in this industry. If you like graphic design, you could be an album cover design artist, logo and branding design artist, music visualizer, or video editor.
  2. Field and music genre. There are plenty of genres that have specific characteristics. Some of them can be merged, but some require definite knowledge and skills. Luckily, nowadays, uncommon mixes of different genres are received very well by the public (wizard rock, acid folk).

Having a career in the music industry offers more options, like:

  • Songwriter. You could write your own lyrics and music. In the beginning, you could sell completed songs to other artists, or you could perform, but it might be difficult at first. Depending on what you’re good at, you may choose between lyric composition, musical composition, or musical performance.
  • Music producer. If you’re more into working from backstage, you should consider being a music producer. Here, all you have to do is assist an artist with the recording project. It requires creative and technical skills at the same time. For example, you’d program a beat, mix, edit or master the overall sound of the recording.
  • Composer. This option is also backstage, but you’ll instead write and arrange music for media (movies, stage productions, video games, and advertisements). You’ll need to create specific products for your clients.
  • Mixing engineer. Similar to the previous positions, a mixing engineer has to assemble various parts of a multitrack recording into a standard stereo track.
  • Orchestrator. This job requires you to work with arrangers and composers because you’ll develop and enhance an existing piece of music as close as possible to the composer’s vision.

You need content to promote

Now that you’ve decided it’s worth trying, you should start by making content. This step might take a while because creating something isn’t that easy, but if you’re passionate enough, you’ll find inspiration everywhere. Don’t forget that in order to get to valuable compositions, you will need hard words and a lot of patience ― and you’ll get through many failures from which you’ll learn valuable lessons. So, don’t get discouraged if your songs are not getting famous overnight.

But how to combine inspiration with work so that you create something? You need to get the right mindset. Yes, you like being creative, and you like art, but you also need to get technical at times because music can have patterns, and you’ll need to operate programs and do the whole job alone.

The content you’ll put out in the world should fit your target audience’s characteristics. Of course, whatever you do, don’t do what the people say and follow your vision, but promote it in a more calculated way. For example, it’s not enough to release a song and hope it’ll capture attention because most people would want to know the meaning behind it. So, you should use social media channels to share your backstory, how you created it, and present yourself as humanly as possible to make people get close to you.

Collaborate with a publicist

Let’s say you got to the point where you’ve already made some songs, and you’re out there on the market, but you’re not seeing any progress. If you think your work has a bigger potential, consider working with a publicist who is responsible for promoting your work.

You’ll notice that when starting to gain a little recognition, you’ll have little to no time on your hands for promotion strategies, social media, and much more, so a person who will have to deal with this can help you make more content and connect you with the right media sources. So, what does a publicist do for you?

  • They work with you to create narratives for your albums
  • They develop your public image and brand by maintaining a good relationship with the media
  • They help you create a portfolio so more industry professionals get to know you and your music
  • They get to do the tour and event promotion by contacting local outlets so you can play in more cities

If you’re wondering how much a publicist costs, the amount can vary depending on the company size and reach opportunities. Consider investing in a publicist if you’re aiming to go international or if your music sends a message that needs to reach as many people as possible. It would be best to hire someone who can get along well with you because you’ll collaborate daily on promoting your work, and you need to cooperate with them to get the expected results.

Music as business

As you’ve probably noticed, music has become more of a business recently. That’s because it got pretty difficult for artists to make their work seen and appreciated. Therefore they had to deal with the whole marketing strategy thing to get attention. Even if music streaming platforms allow artists to be discovered, it’s pointless if you’re not present on most social media networks.

When promoting your work, you should consider more forms of media, such as video, photos and audio. Most social media platforms provide these options freely. For example, if you choose Instagram as your main platform, you should know that you need to create visually pleasing posts. Look at the current trend and see how you can add something personal and unique to it.

What’s great about these platforms is that people can interact with you, so they can get to know you better and value your work more. Don’t hesitate to respond to your followers’ questions and encourage them to reach out to you. Similarly, Instagram provides some cool features that let you communicate and interact with your followers. For example, when sharing a story, you can:

  • Create a poll or ask questions for them to answer
  • Insert music, so followers can see what is your inspiration when writing music
  • Use hashtags, so your story can get to more people
  • Insert cute stickers to make your story more visually pleasing

Luckily, most of the features of social media platforms are free, so you only have to research how to promote your art better. If you invest some time in graphic design skills, you’ll know which colors to mix and patterns to insert so that you’ll slowly increase engagement.

The power of networking

When it comes to the music industry, everybody knows everybody. You’ve seen artists collaborate or get out in public together, and that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good friends, but as in most industries like this, you have to know people. Why? Because it’s one of the most efficient ways to become known. If someone who’s already famous recommends you or has a featured song with you, you are one step closer to being acknowledged.

How to start networking? Well, there are many ways in which you can get to know people, as there are two types of networking:

  • Social. Connecting with people and making new friends has never been more beneficial for you. If you get to be in a group of people who share the same passions as you, you could ask for their help and recommend you to work with a professional.
  • Professional. A more straightforward approach, professional networking, is based on looking for mutual benefits. Therefore, you should expect people to come to you only because they want a collaboration or a song written for them.

Luckily, you’re not supposed to meet people only in real life because social media is a great help for connecting with people with the same interests. That’s another reason why your social accounts need to be made in a way that’s appealing to your public. You never know who might be interested in your approach to music, so why not take advantage of the online world?

You should learn how to market yourself to attract more people. Your task should be not only to gain as many followers as possible but to create a community, and for that, you need to show that you have value. With so many platforms, you can adapt your content accordingly and get people’s interest when they see how hard-working you are.

For example, the content you publish on Instagram is different from YouTube. The first one is made for photos and short videos, but on YouTube, you can upload daily vlogs, which are very popular among people. You can go live and talk to people in real-time, or you can record your music-making process.

Collaborations are necessary

As we previously stated, networking is important as it gets you closer to more influential people. But sometimes, it’s not enough to get recognized; you need to collaborate with another artist, and here’s why:

  • You’ll gain experience. You’ll notice that people have different approaches when it comes to creating something. So, collaborating will help you learn new things and maybe try new methods of making music or promoting yourself.
  • You’ll easily be categorized. Even if it sounds sketchy, labeling yourself isn’t that bad. People need to find you easily, so if they can find you when looking for “rock music” or “indie songs”, it’s more likely to try out your music than if you’ve put your songs somewhere on the internet without describing them your work.

Collaborations are not only for music; you could collaborate with other artists to create your album’s design, for merch (which will generate most of your revenue), or just create art inspired by your music. Getting to know people from different areas is crucial because art is everywhere, and if you can see this, you can get any connection you want. Take inspiration from the real world, where fashion is influenced by paintings and photography, for example.

Final thoughts

Entering the music industry is not easy at all (only if you’re already famous), but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try doing it. You can get famous if you’re lucky and use all the methods available to make yourself known. It’s important not to skip any steps and take it easy because you have a lot to learn, and if you’re only striving for money and fame, you’ll notice that it’s not as fulfilling as being appreciated for your work. So, get out there and make yourself seen!


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