After exactly a year has passed since I graduated – and since we have more time on our hands than ever – I’d thought I would share with you all on why the industry may be hardest to ‘make it’ into. Especially for up and comers like we all are.
COVID – aside, of course, as we all know the devastating impact that has had on the industry.
1. The Industry Advice
Now, whether or not you are an avid musician, a wanna-be producer, or simply a DJ who likes pressing buttons, we’ve all received our fair share of advice and how-tos on ‘making it’ into the music industry either personally or online. What seems like an industry that actually doesn’t want you to make it with it’s continuous closed doors remaining shut, it all seems like the advice you receive is all make-believe, right?
Whether that is advice to purchase that equipment that you must buy – but can’t afford – or just to ‘remain patient and hold out,’ it seems that most of it is all smoke and mirrors.
Now, I’ve certainly got to be honest with you lot. For the majority of the time, I’ve been terrified. Ever since walking down this musical path with trepidation back in 2016, I’ve felt such a tremendous weight on my shoulders. Now, don’t get me wrong, family and friends are excited for you – but albeit hesitant that it will even resemble a career further down the line. Now, being in such a lucrative but creative space, I am aware that it will take just a bit longer than other more accessible career interests.
It’s certainly not as concrete if you venture down the path of business, say. That way, you get your concrete degree – maybe a masters too – you bag yourself a post-uni job, and there you are, you’re in the races.
But, with the music industry, with it’s horrendous use of its ‘volunteering’ tarnishing any reputation of having these post-uni opportunities, it seems to not offer any.
And so, from myself, I’ve loosely strung together what might the industry is probably not divided up into.
2. The Five Industry Sections (according to no-one but myself)
RECORDED MUSIC – this is where you’ve got your producers, sound engineers, session musicians and so on. Quite possibly the section where it is the most common for solo musicians to become session musicians, I’d say, right? Since anyone can hire out a studio for a day or two, you can always get the ball rolling with your name and away you go.
LIVE MUSIC – this is where you’ve got pretty much the whole shebang – the musicians, the roadies, the sound engineers, the technicians, the stage hands, the security, the planners, and of course the agents, or whatever they call themselves these days. Sad as it sounds, I’ve always wanted to be a roadie. Enjoying to be part of the live experience, but not feeling any of the goosebumps that go with it.
‘WRITING’ MUSIC – this is where I’ve used the term ‘written’ in its most loose sense. Here, you’ve got your music bloggers, journalists, photographers, the press, editors and publishers, all writing music rather than listening to it. I’ve got to be honest, this is a section where I’ve been striving to get into, ever since I realised music and writing can be put together in the same sentence.
MARKETING MUSIC – this is where you’ve got the whizz heads, the marketing strategists, the PR, the advertisers who are thinking of some outlandish scheme to get that artist on that billboard or that artist in your feed on Facebook. Another section that is quite fascinating but of course, like mentioned earlier, you’ve got the music part, what about the marketing part? Of course, I did some voluntary part-time work during my degree involving social media and marketing, but what about the academic skill of marketing? The tricks and tips that only graduates would know, surely?
‘ANYTHING GOES’ MUSIC – like most uni graduates, this is where I (and you, maybe) come in. The keen graduates hoping for anything that goes by our way. Whether that’s picking up the slack at a bar in live music venue, working on the phones in a music licensing company, or simply just sharing stuff in the hope that you out of the one other thousand followers are pushed into the spotlight.
. This section is basically where you think you have a foot in the door, but in actuality, it’s more like your stubby little toe, barely hanging in there before it’s closed again. Let’s be honest, you’re there simply because it has music involved in the job description, right? It’s the jobs where they are relying on the keen and avid musicians to pick them up, simply because it makes them look better as a business. Sad, but upon reflection – true.
3. Music Degree: The Passion Problem
But of course, I don’t want to sit here and rant like an old bitter man, simply because I am envious of those who have made it. No, no, no.
I’m simply ranting on how it’s impacted me personally. If anything, I’m enthralled and engrossed to the musicians that make it that bit closer to the end.
Taking a rather ‘loose‘ degree like Music, has made me realise that it doesn’t necessarily cover you for any section for what you wish to go in. You always have to have that bit extra. Music is the underlying foundation, basically informing you of your employees that you are passionate for it enough to take it as a degree.
Then, there is the other notion. You can perform live, produce sounds in the studio, develop managing events without the need for a certificate at the end of it. Of course, the only anomaly I can think of is if you wish to teach music.
While I am enviously trying to lift this blog idea off the ground, it seems all a moot point if I don’t have any academic accolades to my name surrounding writing, you know?
You would hope that the employee loves all that passionate ploy, and just disregards the fact that you’ve got no ‘professional‘ writing to your name either through journalistic routes or otherwise.
4. The ‘It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know‘ Saying
Of course, we have to mention this phrase when we talk bout the music industry and I think this industry is the most guilty – it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
With this tandem in place, one does not need to be an expert to simply become an expert. With this being said, that position can be simply filled by the recommended rather than the right.
Of course, the music industry relies on good relationships for good results and the producer on the track will more likely opt for the session musician who is far less egotistical than the musician who is not, right?
If they go for the safe and familiar, how do the newbies stand a chance?
5. The Problem With Volunteering
Then there is the good old advice of ‘don’t do free shows.’ But, with that thinking, how do we expect to get ourselves out there if we don’t do the odd volunteering role here or there? For me, I don’t mean to sound like a bitter old man, but the volunteering roles I did – odd festival and single casual event help – did not really benefit.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not expecting a participation award of some kind, but rather you know, a saving of your contact perhaps for any future events that may happen? This will perhaps get your name out there a bit and really hone in on the “who you know’ etiquette.
6. Industry Remains A Closed Door?
It is no wonder that the music industry has such a reputation for keeping those doors for opportunity shut. For some out there, volunteering in the industry is merely for them to make up the numbers, rather than actually providing worthy experience. For most, it would seem that an academic route is more viable for most musicians planning to make into the industry – whether that is a masters going down a tighter path of interest or taking advanced courses to boost the skillset, rather than turning up at a studio or a live gig hoping for them to return the favour. When it comes down to it though, it is just down to the luck of the draw, right?
Above all else though, what I’ve seen, been advised and informed to do is simply hold out, keep doing what you are doing, til something lucky comes your way. That may not be the best solution right now, granted, but certainly seems the best option without giving yourself false hope that you will be playing at Glastonbury during next summer.
But, whatever the advice given to us – be patient, be yourself, be confident, be assured. God’s honest truth, I think it’s best if we stick to just that, right?
7. Musician’s Attitude
Maybe it’s this attitude that is tarnishing the reason why the music industry is hard to get into. Amongst the usual things like lack of prospects and opportunities, lack of volunteering roles providing that opportunity, maybe it is just a case of getting your name out there more, staying in touch with local musicians and your local scene. Take every day as it comes for yourself, and enjoy the fact that music is music and you love it.
Creativity is not a competition after all, right? Then, it maybe, just maybe creep up on you and you land a role which you’ve always wanted to land. Maybe. Worth a shot, at least right?
The world is full of musicians who can play great, and you wouldn’t cross the road to see them. It’s the people who have this indefinable attitude that are the good ones.Nick Lowe, musician, producer
I should stop ranting on this thing, pick up the sticks and get back on the drum kit and get working.