If you want to make a living from your music:
● You need to make money from your music. To use that really ugly buzzword of the moment, you need to ‘‘monetize’’ your music-making activities.
● Even if your primary focus is not on the money, you still need to have a clear understanding of who is doing what, how those things are being achieved, and how the costs are being met. Perhaps most importantly in the highly litigious society in which we all live, you need to know that you are doing things legally and understand who will take the responsibility if something goes wrong.
● Once there is money involved, you need to pay attention. Even if you don’t care how much you earn, you still need to ensure that you don’t get ripped off.
● Once you start paying attention, you need to focus on the business aspects—not just the money and not just the liabilities, but everything.
You cannot not do business—you can only do it badly or not attend to the matters that need your attention. The alternative—if you do not want to pay attention to the business aspects— is to get a proper job so that music is just a hobby. And once you get a proper job, you’ll be working in someone else’s business, so it won’t have gotten you away from that whole business thing anyway.
The tough thing about doing business is that there are several (usually many) elements to doing the business—each element needs to be addressed and completed before you can be successful. Once you start working on your own business, you don’t get marks for trying hard—you only get paid when you succeed.
Take a simple example—creating your own CD. Look at some of the interactions you may have:
● You will need to book studio time—at a time that is convenient for you and the studio—and at the end of the process, the studio will need to be paid.
● You will probably hire an engineer, and you may also hire a producer and/or someone to help mix the tracks. You will need to schedule these people at a time that is convenient for you and the studio. These people will also want to be paid, and if you are hiring a producer, then he or she may want a share of the income.
● Once you have your tracks mixed, then you will need to get them mastered. Again, the mastering engineer will want to be paid.
● You can then take your mastered tracks to a CD-pressing plant. Suddenly, you will have a whole bunch of new issues to contend with:
● Artwork for the booklet (and the CD itself). You will need to pay for this.
● You may need to credit the engineer, the producer, and the mastering engineer.
● You will need to include copyright assertions, noting who wrote the tracks, who owns those copyrights, and who owns the sound recording.
● Once you have your finished CD in your hand (and you’ve paid the pressing plant), you will need to look at distribution. Sure, you can sell the CD at your gigs, but this raises a whole range of other questions, such as how the stock gets there, whether it is insured, how you deal with thefts, and so on.
● Alternatively, you can sell the CD through stores. If you’re going to sell through stores, then what terms will you be offering (normal practice is sale or return), and what price will you be charging?
I think you get the idea. Even for something as apparently simple as a CD, there are lots of different elements, and if you fail at any one stage—for instance, at the CD-pressing stage— then the whole project fails.
This series introduces you to business and shows you how to apply business methodology to your music activities. It looks at certain fundamental elements that are common to all businesses:
●The infrastructure—in other words, the tools, such as computers and software, you need to do business.
● The systems and processes you need in place—the things you need to do to make money (and usually you will need to use your infrastructure to help you execute the processes).
● The contracts you may need—the documents that define your relationship with the people with whom you work.
The way that we all do business is changing, and the dividing lines between business and personal, corporate, and consumer are blurring more every day. There are new tools that help us live our lives. These new tools bring huge benefits, especially in terms of linking with other people, but they also bring new challenges.
For most people, the notion of ‘‘business’’ is inextricably linked with an office. You are going need an office; however, this does not need to be the sort of office that your parents or grandparents might have worked in. We’re in the 21st century, and we all have many more choices about how we work. Some of those new opportunities fit perfectly with the way that you will probably want to run your music business.
You probably think of an office as being a place that people go every day, and where they are required to wear a suit. For many that is true, but for the musician on the move, the notion of having a business attached to a specific building is an anathema—you want to be out on the road playing to people. As you will go through my whole series there are new tools available—often using the latest cloud computing technologies—and these allow you to set up a business infrastructure that is independent of:
● Geography. You are not tied to an office or a room. Your office is wherever you are, which is a perfect situation if you are a musician on the road.
● Software platform. Your office will work the same whether you are a Mac, a PC, or a Linux person.
● Hardware. While you have to use some hardware, you are not tied to any one specific piece of hardware, so if your laptop dies or you lose your cell phone, business carries on. More than that, you can access your office from a whole range of different pieces of hardware, including:
● Desktop computer
● Laptop computer
● Ultra-portable computer
● Cell phone/Smartphone/PDA
The changes this new technology offers are significant. You can now easily share data with anyone, anywhere. If you are running your music business, this means that you can work with people who are not sitting next to you, so you can get your manager to look at some f igures even if he or she is on the other side of the world. Equally, these new options mean that:
● Your data is more secure. If you lose your computer, it doesn’t matter—your data will still be safely stored in the ‘‘cloud.’’
● Disaster recovery is much quicker. If you lose your computer, you just need to find another computer (for instance, you could go to an internet cafe´), and you will be up and running again.
There is another huge advantage to these new ways of working: The costs are lower, and everything fits with how we live our lives. For instance, if you’ve got an iPhone or a Smartphone, you can use that to run your office—you don’t need to go and buy a new phone. Equally, the cost of using cloud services is often free or very cheap, especially when compared to the cost of conventional desktop office applications.
Your business is important: If you pay attention to it, it will look after you for years to come.
Keep visiting my blog for MUSIC BUSINESS 101 classes.