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Artists, Don't Let Your Ego Limit Your Opportunities
By Sahpreem King

The music industry is a tough dog-eat-dog business fueled by talent, money, and marketability. It is a business where fame is fleeting, financial sustainability is slim, and the time spent earning your stripes on the road is harsh. Therefore, it puzzles me how some artists would limit their already slim chances for success by not having a music business plan. I get it, they're creative types and they shouldn't be expected to have a head for business-bullshit. Flying by the seat of your pants, more often than not lands you on your ass; so what do you think happens when no real business strategy exists? You fail!

Fear of Facing the Harsh Reality of Failure

If as an artist, you never set goals for yourself then you never have to concern yourself with reaching those goals. Failure is a dream killer, especially for the faint at heart, but avoiding things doesn't make them go away, it only delays the event. While pursuing a music career, you cannot avoid dealing with the 800-pound gorilla in the room--you just can't! The 800-pound gorilla I'm referring to is the business side of the music industry. Music is a business that creative types desire being a part of, but they often are not willing to invest in their own music business education, so many end up disenfranchised, broke, and sullen.

Worse still, I have found that many of the indie, DIY, and unsigned artists I consult are self-managed, which is both good and bad for their music careers. Let me explain. If you are an artist who has a minor track-record in the music business and it just so happens you're in-between record deals, then its okay to self-manage. On the contrary, if you are a newbie who has never read a music industry book, taken a course, or attended a music conference, you're wasting your time trying to self-manage because you don't know the process or what to expect.

In the age where you are a mouse click away from infinite information, you'd think that artists desirous of self-management would invest the time to take advantage of the free music business resources available on the Internet, but laziness is a hard disease to cure. Any artist (all levels) who believes he or she is above learning is arrogant, and arrogance destroys music careers. If you've never made a bookshelf, how can you be certain that it will turn out correct? Even with a blueprint, building a bookshelf is difficult and how many people still manage to fuck up an IKEA project despite all the pieces and instructions being in the box, numerous!

The bottom line, is even with an expert to manage your music career, the journey is arduous. Therefore, going it alone with an arrogant attitude is both dangerous and counterintuitive. What's more, arrogant artists who self-manage their music careers don't realize their career limitations are due to their lack of experience, ability, and unwillingness to plan. Before they go into the deep end of the pool without a lifeguard on duty, they must consider that many artists have come and gone in the music industry and therefore, have a story to tell that may help them along their journeys. Artists must also have an honest self-dialogue and ask themselves, "am I open to learning and ready to receive new opportunity?"

Likewise, artists should also ask themselves, "is music my vocation or is it my hobby?" Here's the rub, if you are not making a living from your music, then music is not your vocation, it's an avocation-a hobby! There is nothing wrong with pursuing music in your spare time, but when you wish for a professional music career, you can no longer afford to leave success up to blind luck. Like many artists who fumble their way through a self-managed music career, you will eventually end up at a crossroads.

At The Self-Management Crossroads, One or Two Things Are Going To Happen

One, you have gone as far as self-management (limited knowledge, time, industry contacts, and money) can take you and you need someone more experienced to take the wheel. Two, you have created so much opportunity for yourself that a bona fide professional manager is a necessity. In either scenario, having a manager can help you move up the next rung of the ladder, provided you have developed yourself enough as an artist and you are ready for new opportunities. Giving up power is hard, sometimes, the process is as simple as getting out of your own way, but at other times it is difficult and requires a careful and honest analysis of the circumstances that have led you to the point in your music career where you feel help is needed. You must make a career altering decision and waiting to see what happens, is not a real strategy. You can no longer afford to fly by the seat of your pants, you will risk landing on your ass.

There it is, I've laid it out for you in black and white. You can either heed my advice or continue to act as your own advisor and for some, own worst enemy. I don't write these articles to help myself (been there done that), I write them to help artists like you, nonetheless, some artists continue to act arrogantly.

Don't Believe Me, Here Is Proof

Recently, while at a music industry networking event, I asked an artist about his music career and he immediately took a defensive posture. I was taken aback by his standoffish attitude, because the purpose of the event was for artists to interface with music business professionals such as myself. In my head, I was thinking wow, this guy must have already earned multi-platinum awards or made millions from his craft-I have, but for him, not so much. Later that evening, I got a chance to corner him and speak at length. During our conversation, I discovered that he had not accomplished either of the achievements I mentioned earlier; therefore, I couldn't figure out for the life of me why he had such a false sense of swagger.

After scratching the surface, I discovered that he had recorded and self-released two album projects, which were distributed through online digital music aggregators and he had a few radio spins to boot. When I asked him if he was affiliated with a performing rights organization such as--ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC, he looked back at me in a state of confusion. "Do I need to be", he said. Usually when people are confused, I tell them to drink water, but a refreshing glass of H2O was not going to make everything okay for him.

With a bit more exploration, the artist divulged to me that he hadn't joined any performing rights society as a writer or publisher, nor was he familiar with SoundExchange-collects digital performance royalties from online streaming, web performances, gaming, etc. I couldn't believe that he didn't understand such a basic thing and his ego was so big for guy who hasn't done much. However, it was a joy to witness the fireworks in his eyes when the light bulb in his head finally became illuminated. Wow, I said, "you mean to tell me, you've released two full-length albums and you weren't registered with a PRO?" C'mon, bro!

After sitting with him for about 45 minutes explaining to him what PRO's (Performing Rights Organizations) do and why it was important to not only register his copyrighted songs with the U.S. Library of Congress, but to also join a PRO as a writer and publisher, realized that he never sat down with an industry pro before.

Perhaps his false confidence stemmed from an expectation of immediate success. It seems that generation Y, has so aptly ingrained into their DNA an expectation of always getting their way without having to do much heavy lifting. You would think that this was an isolated incident, but sadly, this seems to be the standard with today's generation of music business up and comers. I believe this is the byproduct of raising children with an "everybody's a winner" mentality, but I'm not Dr. Phil and this isn't a talk show.

If The Previous Scenario Wasn't Enough Proof Of Music Career Arrogance,
Try This Next Story On For Size

An artist who friended me on Facebook, asked me to checkout her ReverbNation page and give her professional critique of her music-and for free no less. Feeling charitable, I listened to her music-not too impressive. She was certainly talented as a vocalist and songwriter, but her songs, out-and-out sucked. They weren't anything that my colleagues or me would be remotely interested in. Rather than blatantly telling her that her songs sucked, I sugar-coated it a bit and tried to break it to her softly. When I told her that she needed to find better production, I was immediately cursed out and my creditability was questioned. That's what I get for doing a freebie. As an artist, if you are not receptive to criticism, you will never be receptive to opportunity. Indie artists should be ready and willing for success, anything less than that is bad for business.

Before you shoot yourself in the foot by pissing off someone who can help your music career shatter the glass ceiling, it would be wise to put your ego in check. Own up to the fact that you really don't know everything. If you knew everything about the music business, then you wouldn't be seeking knowledge and help from others.

Still, today's artists need to realize that the music business has gone strong for over 80 years, and there is nothing, they can say or do that someone who came before them hasn't already said or done. My philosophy; there is nothing you are going to do in this business that someone else hasn't already done or attempted and if they have done it successfully, then they more than likely left a blueprint. Why swim against the current of opportunity when you can swim with the ebb and flow?


Here's the moral of the story, if you are an artist, humility is the order of the day. Being hungry and humble will open more doors than a chauffeur will. Learn the music business, the rules, the players, and basic etiquette and professionalism. Finally, before you work on mastering your look, master your sound, live performance, and most of all your business!

The views, opinions, positions or strategies expressed by the authors and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, positions or strategies of Metro Music Mayhem. We make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information contained within and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its use.

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