Form The L2P Archive: The music business is changing. To paraphrase a line from Pete Townsend, it’s not at all like yesterday, when you could just “Pick up your guitar and play.”

Selling your music and making a living in the music business has always been a daunting task. Just a few short years ago, the only way to make a serious living playing music was with a major label record deal. Forget that. Today those deals are fewer and farther between than ever. The good news is, we now have tools that let you control your own musical destiny. New technologies, especially those that are Web-based, have made marketing and managing one’s music career more viable than ever in recorded history.

oh my god
A New York label with major label distribution and an MTV mini-documentary—these Chicago art-punks are making a living on the road (200 dates a year for six years) and through sales of their self-released CD.

Think Business
Today, the key to success is to think like mini-corporation. Think packaging, merchandising, and define yourself in terms of what products you can sell. The difference between a major label deal, and an independent release by an artist, is a matter of dollars and cents. When you do it yourself, and do it right, you can make dollars from live performing and sales of CDs, t-shirts and other items. Pennies are made if you are among the chosen few of the BIG FIVE major labels. It is our business at The L2P Network to help you stay on top of this—and we will!

The place to start is with rehearsals—lots of them—and record your rehearsals. This is now easily doable. It’s very inexpensive, the benefits are amazing and the experience of interacting with the digital recording technologies will help you stay on the cutting edge. At the end of each rehearsal, load it to your iPod(s) so you can review and critique what you rehearsed. Then rehearse some more. (A list of some of our favorite affordable digital recording devices and systems can be found at www.livetoplay.net, The Live To Play website is crawling with advice and links to other sites on the Internet.)?

Before you produce your first CD, we recommend you put out a good quality demo and post some of your best songs on your web site or at My Space (and similar sites) and check the response. Then, have a professional studio do the final CD and mastering. The production quality has to be top notch. This could be a determining factor on airplay, CD sales and live gigs.

Cole Citrenbaum
At only 12 years old, this California kid has had a million people see him play online. It was enough to send a major cable network to knock on his door and to nab a spot playing alongside Jonny Lang at the Filmore in San Francisco.

Make It Pretty
Several companies, including Adobe, offer packages that cover everything from designing the cover graphics to audio mastering. There’s something for every budget—from $49 to $4000—so that you can grow with the flow of technology. There are a lot of other companies that will manufacture your CD—from the pressing to the artwork, barcode and packaging. It’s always a good idea to talk with other artists to get personal recommendations.

Free Is Good, Usually.
Ever wonder how sites like MySpace.com and YouTube can give you free space? Here’s the deal. They provide you a place to showcase your art, and then they get to keep any dough from the banner ads. My personal favorite is Sonic Bids. An EPK (Electronic Press Kit) is essential and Sonic Bids is the best as far as I’m concerned. Sonic Bids also has a lot of tools to offer and contests that are creditable. Some include free gear and high profile gigs opening for bigger artists.

Joe Cameron
What starts online can go pretty much anywhere. Joe Cameron turned Web-savvy and plain ol’ audacity into a slot on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Who Do You Trust?
This is where most aspiring artists make big mistakes. Unless you have become a millionaire making music, you are not a star—you MUST learn this business. Don’t trust anyone to handle your career unless they have a lot more experience than you. This is a business of relationships. A good manager or agent will have a good track record of experience building credible relationships. Think about it. Are venues going to take your call—or a call from the guy they have bought other successful bands from in the past? Your best friend, the successful, wealthy entrepreneur, may be a big fan, but don’t go that route. They don’t know the business and they don’t have the contacts. You know your goals better than anyone else. I did not consider myself an artist manager until I had years and years of relationship building and negotiating behind me. There are a lot of wannbees out there posing as pros. They are usually nothing more than Internet capitalists with no real world music experience!

Catch 22
There are several aspects of business to look at when approaching a career in music. Performing live (“gigging”) is one of the hardest ways for unknown artists with original compositions to score some dough. On the other hand, if you are a cover artist or are in a tribute band, this could be a quick trot to the bank if you have a good show to present. (Check out our special feature on “Tributes” in SAM issue # 48) To succeed, you gotta put “meat in the seats” and that takes fans.

Building a fan base is a tough, full time job. Getting publicity and promoting gigs on your own can be stifling because people in the music business want numbers first. How many web site hits? How many My Space plays? How many YouTube views, etc. Then when it comes to live shows, you better have facts and numbers ready. But here’s the Catch 22: To get these numbers, you need gigs. Be prepared for a lot of rejection, no matter how good you think you are.

Don Hoffman, another fledging writer and musician adds, “The hardest thing is simply finding an audience. You can make any argument you want about someone’s talent. No matter who you are, in the beginning, the only people listening to your music are the people around you. What it boils down to is you need a publicist, and if you can’t afford one, you need to be your own publicist. As much as the Internet and technology has changed the world, it’s made no impact on how hard it is to break through and get your name out there.

Originally posted 2009-09-05 03:59:13.