Top 5 Music Business Mistakes of 2010

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The following article was originally posted on Music Consultant Rick Goetz’s website – MusicianCoaching.com.

I’ve never been one for top 5 or top 10 lists, but I have seen these mistakes so many times in the past year, I figured they needed to be documented.

#1 Waiting

Sounds innocuous enough, right? We should be good at waiting given all of the waiting that goes on with the craft of music.

Waiting on our fellow notoriously late collaborators, waiting on getting things tracked right in the studio, waiting to load in, waiting on sound check. There are a million things that we have to hurry up and wait for before we even get to the business side of things. This, of course, is not the waiting I am talking about.

The biggest mistake I have seen in the past year (admittedly, it is NOT unique to 2010) is that people wait on outside help to starting their businesses. Anyone who has tried to raise money can tell you that it is much easier to raise when you have momentum with a project than when you only have a blueprint and some high hopes. This is in no way saying I think people should do everything themselves. DIY, in my opinion, is a condition of last resort – but a condition that almost all of us are stuck with at some point or another.

Keep this in mind – when you are someone looking for outside help from someone like a potential manager or an agent, you are asking someone for their time. Given that time equals money, you are, in fact, asking someone to invest in you and your company. When you are preparing to approach someone for help of this kind, ask yourself “What would make me invest in an artist’s career?”

When I ask myself this question, I almost always come up with “wanting to see that my time and money would be going into a business is already showing signs of life.” I would want to see that, in spite of or in addition to what my eyes and ears tell me, that real consumers are responding to this musician’s material. Generally speaking, those artists who have a spark and have a fledgling business are people who didn’t wait on outside help to get those businesses going.

I’ll let you in on a little insider secret – since the un-bundling of the album, EVERYONE is making things up as they go along. There is no hard science to the initial stages of breaking new artists – it is a series of best guesses. Since no one is ever going to care about your career more than you do (at least I hope not), you may as well give it a try for yourself. Even if you fail you will know more about the job and be better qualified to find the right person who complements your strengths and weaknesses.

There will be times when you are forced to wait for circumstances to change. It happens to all of us no matter what business we are in, but I urge you to find ways of making these periods productive. No matter what major event in your career is looming large – get out and play, meet people, and record as much as possible, and remember: there is never going to be a perfect time to start that next phase of your career. Something will always be in your way if you let it.

Ready for more? Check out Mistake #2 on Rick’s website – MusicianCoaching.com.

Rick Goetz is a music consultant and musician coach by way of a fifteen year career at major record labels and various online and television projects. For more articles like this you can visit his site, musiciancoaching.com.

28 thoughts on “Top 5 Music Business Mistakes of 2010

  1. Thank you for your post and blog Rick! I truly hope anyone and everyone who begins reading here finishes through to 5c on your site. The lessons of the realities you share are invaluable and the perspective most grounding. Once one’s awareness is broad and accurate enough to be aligned with those realities, it is then and only then that he/she may start to make true progress. Delusions and “warped” perspectives only serve the ego and as the old saying goes ‘pride comes before the fall’, but with that fall much can be learned. It does seem as if the Universe gives us what we can handle and tests us from time to time to show us where we are.

    Music is a such wonderful gift, so why stress about it? Enjoy it! If involvement with music becomes stressful, it’s the wrong path, wrong attitude, or a break is in order followed by a restructuring phase/new plan.

    Regarding competition, the way I see it is, no one can be better at being you than you! There truly is no competition, only making your mind focus and appropriate actions follow. In closing, I’d like to share a video titled, “How to be Successful”, of a master class with Steve Vai who says, paraphrased, “The most important thing is how you think.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fle4QNtSiRs

    Best wishes to all,
    Pete

  2. Many of us in the US love Doctor Who and love your site. I know we have BBC America but the sites are not the same and have significantly different content. It’s a shame we can’t enjoy the best of both sites.

  3. Thank you so much for your advice…we have to be proactive 100% to make things happen and create events in our careers to keep moving forward…

    Thanks again!

  4. I would like to think that I understand the business side of music but the more I read about licensing music the less I understand.I have purchased some of donald passmans books and they are not clear and contradictary .It seems the more details I find on this subject the more confusing it gets.I have over 100 songs copyrighted and have received offers to record I don`t want to jump in the fire without the proper understanding ref publishing and licensing.can anyone help to make it simple for the Indie?

  5. the keys to success are great songs & great performances. a great song tunes your being up, wires all or most of the pleasure centers inside your music being.

    great performances make great things happen. mojo nixon played a big empty water bottle like nothing i ever saw. the delfonics had people jump out of their seats & dance in the aisles. johnny cash turned a prison concert hall into a heartfelt reunion of smiling laughing full of good life dancing people who came back from being zombies full of hate, murder & rape.

    one thing not to do is keep on recording.
    do not record until you have wonderful music.
    the internet is flooded with mediocrity, don’t add to it.

    when people come to you, instead of you knocking on endless doors, then you will know that you are on the way of being a successful music being.

  6. I’m glad to see this landed well with some of you folks. Anonymous – there is a link at the bottom of the article that will take you to parts 2-5 on musiciancoaching.com. I am very grateful to my friends at discmakers for publishing this – thanks guys!

    -Rick-

  7. The ability to wait properly is an art form onto itself.A product of maturity.If you run around jumping cues all the time you will end up spending a lot of time and money with no result.People talk all of the time about starting a business yet never talk about creating a business plan,which is the first thing you ought to be coming up with.What are you working,your impulses,your emotions, or are you working your plan so you can measure your results.this is the first thing any serious investor is going to want to see.This is the languge of business.

  8. I don’t think record companies are responding to “Corporate view of art” They are responding to whats going to make them money. Witch is why its called the music business. Thats what its always been about. Listeners are responding to what they are putting out. They put it out because its making money. If you took a shit on a record and it sold guess what the new biggest thing would be… All you can do is create your music and hope it lands at the right time. Or do you best to write that “Money song”. You can make and put out what ever kind of music you want… But if you want to make money from it in this NEW age of music biz, you’ve got to think of what the masses feed into. Give them a taste of what you do and a little of what they want. You never know, you might come across the next thing. Music will always change from good to bad, just look at the 80’s. But the people we remember are the ones that took it to the next level. If you don’t think money its no longer a business. You just an artist in your free time. Thats cool and amazing, but will not make your dreams come true. Unless thats all your looking for.

  9. Good points but I think it’s a tragedy that someone like Bob Dylan wouldn’t be able to get a major label deal in today’s climate. I recently watched a documentary about him, how he was signed in his first year living in NYC during a time when most people he played for literally got up and left the venue! It was really that bad. His biggest fans were other musicians who could hear his genius. One producer made Bob Dylan’s career happen when it did, despite the fact that his record company didn’t care for Bob Dylan’s music. People like to say “there will never be a band as big as the Beatles.” This may be true. But to me, what’s most disappointing is that the music industry couldn’t care less about old fashioned treasures like TALENT and SONGS anymore. Today, it’s all about numbers — sales numbers (as a prerequisite to getting signed!) the number of fans at shows voting for us, to crunching numbers in our digital studios. Even songwriting is now something to be studied by so-called experts in Nashville written more from the head than the heart (heard many love songs lately?!) With sites like myspace, everyone’s a superstar now in their own sphere. And likewise, we’re all losers now too. I think the vetting process was underrated back in the day. I think we need to get back to where the most talented people are valued the way we still value our athletes. The cream needs to rise to the top once again and all the others should be delighted to enjoy music as a hobby. After all, there’s so much more we can do from home now. Why not just enjoy it and let the real talent clutter the airwaves? Forget about “new music.” Music physics have always been there and are a constant. Just make the best music your heart can feel. It’s always been about quality. The newness factor is nothing more than a corporate, consumeristic view of art.

    1. I could not agree more with your comments. Its a brave new world of music. Many of the old formulas for success no longer apply. The Indie movement and the Internet has change the scene of the music business for ever. Once FM was the underground where you could hear cool music; now FM is the corporation.

      But this is the one thing I know. I’m not waiting anymore; waiting for an AR guy to show up at one of my gigs, waiting for the studio, waiting for the song to play that will be a hit. There’s no reason to wait. All the tools are there. Just pick’em up and use them Its just a matter of refinement at this point.

      One just needs to define sucess for one’s self as a musicain. There’s still super stars being made. But if your not a super star there are more ways now to make a living playing music than there ever were before.

  10. Great article. I have to agree with the last line in particular. – Something will always be in your way if you let it

    The clients I’ve worked with that have taken their music the furthest are the ones that always have their minds on the NEXT MOVE. This is no minor point cause many people get stuck over-thinking the “current stage” of their music project instead of fearlessly forging forward and building momentum.

    Damon Cisneros
    Music Producer | Songwriter

  11. I found your article interesting and accurate.There are a million catch phrases that all boil down to the same thing.It takes effort..I’ve survived 50+years,cancer,double by-pass,and umpteen malities etc. But for me the one that sticks is..”Are artists good because they are having fun..Or are they having fun because they are good?” You do not have to be great at anything just willing to have fun doing it..You’ll find the more fun you have the better you will get..I have yet to find a sole who dislikes FUN..
    P.S. Every time I play…I’m having fun…Even if I just play for me..

  12. you HIT the nail on the head. Hugh Macleod is career cartoonist. And he says in his book, “The best way to get approval is to not need it.” That is the simplest piece of rocket science out there. When you jump in and create something, that’s when you stop sitting around waitin for it to happen. Check out, IGNORE EVERYBODY AND JUST DO

  13. I love this ending paragraph…I had a baby 9 months ago and this really speaks to me. I’m doing what I can to be productive!

    “There will be times when you are forced to wait for circumstances to change. It happens to all of us no matter what business we are in, but I urge you to find ways of making these periods productive. No matter what major event in your career is looming large – get out and play, meet people, and record as much as possible, and remember: there is never going to be a perfect time to start that next phase of your career. Something will always be in your way if you let it.”

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