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How To Survive In The Music Industry (Definitive Guide)

It’s no secret that the music industry is changing. We’ve been hearing about it for years now, but as time goes on and we watch more artists fall by the wayside, it becomes even clearer just how much this business can change in a short period of time.

To survive, you need to adapt…quickly.

And so with that in mind, I present to you:

The Definitive Guide – How To Survive In The Music Industry.

My Top 20 Pieces Of Advice (In No Particular Order)

1. Know That You Can’t Please Everyone

As the old saying goes, “you can’t please everybody, all of the time,” which is especially pertinent in the music industry.

The thing about music is that it’s subjective.

What I may like, you might not like, and what the masses enjoy today will be old news tomorrow.

Know That You Can't Please Everyone

It doesn’t matter how much of a zillion-time Grammy Award winner you are; there will always be someone who hates your music or thinks your work sucks (and vice versa).

So don’t try to please everyone – focus on pleasing yourself first and foremost.

2. Be Confident In Your Own Abilities

It is important to know what you are good at and play to those strengths.

A person who knows themselves well will be confident in their abilities, regardless of if they’re making music for a living or not – this self-awareness breeds competence.

Confidence can work wonders for survival because others start viewing you as someone who has got it together; that’s how people get jobs done!

Be Confident In Your Own Abilities - It is important to know what you are good at and play to those strengths.

It also helps with the haters because having confidence means believing in yourself enough so that even if some naysayer tells you something bad about your work (or anything else), you won’t let it phase you one bit.

And all of us could use more “I don’t give a f*ck” attitude these days.

3. Keep A Positive Attitude

The music industry is tough. It can be a very ego-boosting environment, but it’s also one where you’re constantly being judged by everyone around you (and potentially the entire world).

Many people get into this line of work because they want to have fun and create music for themselves or their fans.

But if your goal is something more than just having fun, keep in mind that there will always be someone who has an opinion about what you do – even when it doesn’t really matter to them personally.

Keep A Positive Attitude - A big part of surviving in the music industry is maintaining a positive attitude.

A big part of surviving in the music industry is maintaining a positive attitude. This applies throughout your career, but it’s vital when you’re just starting out and still trying to get people interested in what you do.

You may not always enjoy everything about this job, but try to find something enjoyable or inspiring every day – even if it’s as simple as seeing other artists who are doing well and getting recognition for their work.

If someone says they don’t like your new song because of X reason, that has nothing to do with how good the song actually is?

Smile and say thank you for listening! Even if they had constructive criticism, chances are there will be at least one person who disagrees with them.

And hey, if they’re not your target audience, that’s great news!

4. Be Willing To Do What You Need To, To Get The Job Done

This is where I tell you to be willing to do whatever it takes, even if that means changing how you normally do things.

The music industry is a volatile and competitive space. You have to be willing to do what it takes to survive among the competition.

Be Willing To Do What You Need To, To Get The Job Done

You may not always like your gig or what it does for your artistic self-expression, and that’s okay! – sometimes, you need to suck it up and look at the bigger picture.

5. Invest In Yourself – Take Classes, Buy Equipment, And Go To Events

If you’re serious about becoming a music producer, then invest in yourself. Take music lessons and buy equipment if necessary – this is your music career!

Take advantage of opportunities to attend events or workshops, including online seminars, to educate yourself on new techniques.

Invest In Yourself - If you're serious about becoming a music producer, then invest in yourself. Take music lessons and buy equipment if necessary

Network with other producers at these events by offering free feedback and asking questions about their production process. It never hurts to have more friends out there trying to do the same thing as you.

Nowadays, it seems like everyone can make something passable on GarageBand, but how many people truly excel? The answer: not enough.

There’s so much competition that it’s hard to stand out without making some effort towards self-improvement.

6. Create An Online Presence For Yourself And Your Music (Website & Social Media)

Create a website and social media accounts so you can control your own content.

Each day of the week, post something, Get on Twitter and share your YouTube music videos, blog posts, etc.

It’s important that each time somebody visits the site, there is something new waiting for them.

Create An Online Presence For Yourself And Your Music (Website & Social Media)

Keep visitors coming back with regular content updates such as different types of songs (acoustic versions) or behind-the-scenes footage. This will help build up hype around your releases which always helps sales levels when it comes time for the release.

This is also a good opportunity to build up a mailing list, giving you direct access to your fanbase.

7. Know When To Move To A New Project

When you find yourself struggling with your music or are not making any progress – it’s time to take a break from that song.

You may come back later once you have had the chance to recharge your creativity levels, but for now, make sure you’re putting all of your efforts into something else.

Know When To Give Up, And Move To A New Project

There’s no shame in saying “No” either (you do get to choose!).

Don’t waste time on things that just aren’t working out for you; focus on things that do instead.

If after some time away from this project has passed, and still nothing is working out – maybe it’s best just abandoning ship at this point to focus on another one.

8. Be Honest With Yourself And Others

Don’t be afraid to tell people you’re not feeling the direction of a project anymore. You will only disappoint them if they think that your music is something that it isn’t.

Being honest with yourself also means being honest about what type of music or artist you are trying to embody.

There’s no need for a country singer who has never been to Nashville before to pretend like they know everything about moonshine culture!

Be Honest With Yourself And Others - Don't be afraid to tell people you're not feeling the direction of a project anymore.

Don’t start a project to trick people into thinking you know what you are doing. You’ll end up getting caught and wasting your own time in doing so.

Instead, be upfront about what your skill set is and what you can realistically achieve.

You may not want feedback from others if you are too sensitive, but there’s no way to improve without any input.

Be honest with yourself as well, and go with your gut instinct.

9. Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice, Practice, Practice! No matter what you do in the music industry, from touring, performing live music on the radio, recording an album, or DJing at a club, it is necessary to practice your craft before doing any of these things for real.

It may not be as glamorous as having people clapping at your performance after live shows because you nailed it, but practicing gives you confidence while honing skills simultaneously.

Practice, Practice, Practice! No matter what you do in the music industry, from touring, performing live music on the radio, recording an album, or DJing at a club, it is necessary to practice your craft before doing any of these things for real.

Your performances will only get better if you can master everything from playing new instruments to singing solos to beatmatching.

The effort you put in beforehand will have direct consequences on the finished performance.

And when someone is impressed by how easy it looks, thank them, and give yourself credit for all the hard work you have put in.

10. Keep Your Ego In Check

Whether you are headlining live concerts or playing a warm-up set in a tiny backstreet venue, no one likes an artist with an ego.

Eagerness to show off can be seen as desperation, and it is not going to impress anyone.

Keep Your Ego In Check - Whether you are headlining live concerts or playing a warm-up set in a tiny backstreet venue, no one likes an artist with an ego

The art of music production should always stay the focus rather than the artist themselves.

Don’t let your love for yourself temporarily blind you from what’s really important: making people happy through music.

11. Be Humble But Confident

Like Kendrick Lamar says, “be humble,” but never forget that you are the one making music. You have to love yourself as a musician and push your ego aside when it’s time for some humility, but don’t be afraid to show off your skills either!

Be Humble But Confident

Don’t let the fame get to your head, or it will go away just as quickly as it arrived.

12. Network, Network, Network

Have you ever heard the phrase “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? This is, in large part, true! You need to know the right people if you want anyone to pay attention.

The music industry thrives on networking, so talk with everyone and get their contact information so that you can stay in touch.

The music industry thrives on networking, so talk with everyone and get their contact information so that you can stay in touch.

If you are humble and kept that ego in check, you’ll find people will be more than happy to talk to you and help you out.

Most genres have their own music scene, and I’m sure you are probably already part of some if you are reading this.

If you are starting, join relevant Facebook groups and forums, go to gigs in your local area, and start getting your name and face known in the right circles.

13. Know Your Worth

Many people will be happy to help you if they think it will benefit them, Especially if that benefit is money.

Don’t give all your music away for free; if receiving money isn’t an option, ask for favors in return, like an introduction to someone who could really help you move forward.

Know Your Worth - If somebody offers you money upfront (and it's not too low), then take the money!

If somebody offers you money upfront (and it’s not too low), then take the money! When starting, this is invaluable because cash flow can often dry up before any success has been achieved.

If you are starting, it’s all about getting the right balance between getting opportunities and getting what you think you are worth. In some cases, you might have to be flexible and give a little to get a little.

14. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For What You Want

If you don’t ask, you won’t get, and in the music industry, you need to be assertive.

That might mean asking a friend or acquaintance for an introduction to someone who could really help you move forward in your career or asking a record label to listen to your demo.

Don't Be Afraid To Ask For What You Want - That might mean asking a friend or acquaintance for an introduction to someone who could really help you move forward in your career or asking a record label to listen to your demo.

Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to ask, as the worst that can happen is someone says no!

If it’s something you really want, then be persistent, and show whoever it is how much it means to you.

Maybe think about what you can do for them to get what you want.

15. Keep An Open Mind

When it comes to music, it is always best to keep an open mind. You may think that you don’t like a particular genre, but it might actually be quite enjoyable when someone plays it to you.

All things considered, if someone is passionate about something and puts in the time and effort to create it, then who are we to judge.

Keep An Open Mind - When it comes to music, it is always best to keep an open mind.

It’s also important not to shut yourself off from new opportunities because of old experiences or misconceptions. If an opportunity arises and has potential, take a look at what it entails before deciding whether or not you want anything to do with it.

The music industry can be a difficult place, so always remember: there isn’t just one way to make revenue as a musician; there are many ways. So keep exploring and be open to different ideas.

16. Be Flexible With The Way You Make Music And How It’s Distributed

When making and performing music, it’s easy to get stuck in your ways and be reluctant to experiment and try new methods. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to be flexible in how I do things, as this lends itself to more opportunities.

For example, a collaboration using a different DAW or performing a gig when different equipment is used.

Be Flexible With The Way You Make Music And How It's Distributed

Another key thing to remember is that you don’t have to stick with the same distribution model for your music. If you’re an avid fan of vinyl and want to release a physical product, but you are short on money, or the record company isn’t playing ball, then releasing it digitally for streaming might be your only option.

What’s more important is that you finish projects and get them out in the world.

17. Collaborate With Others, Learn From Them, And Improve

One of the best ways to improve your craft is by working with other people. This hasn’t just got to be in creating music, but with most aspects in life.

Collaborate With Others, Learn From Them, And Improve - I'm a big believer in surrounding myself with better people than me at something and learning from them. Nothing helps you up your game more than being around your peers.

I’m a big believer in surrounding myself with better people than me at something and learning from them. Nothing helps you up your game more than being around your peers.

Not only that, but the finished result is often great, after having more ideas than just your own.

18. Make Sure You’re Having Fun

I do have to say, the music industry is tough. It’s not always easy when you’re trying to make it in the world of music, but if you’re having fun while doing what you love, then that makes everything a whole lot easier.

Make Sure You're Having Fun - Making and performing music should be fun, and if you are enjoying yourself, that will transmit through your music and to your fans too!

Sometimes you need to step back and remember why you started it in the first place. Recall that first spark, that first song, that first time you picked up an instrument, or that feeling when your music first came to life.

Making and performing music should be fun, and if you are enjoying yourself, that will transmit through your music and to your fans too!

19. Don’t Give Up!

No matter how hard things get and the number of knockbacks you receive, never give up!

Never stop striving for what you want in life, and never give up on your dreams.

The music game can be hard, and sometimes you’ve got to be tough and have thick skin.

You’ll get knocked down, but it’s all about how fast you can get back up again.

Don't Give Up - No matter how hard things get and the number of knockbacks you receive, never give up!

Don’t let people knock your confidence or belief in yourself because they don’t know as much as you do about who you are.

So even when nothing seems like it’s working out and all hope might be lost, keep on going because something will happen at some point – it has too!

That is true resilience.

20. Make Sure You Have A Good Team Of People Around You

Having positive people around you who will support your decisions, and give you honest feedback, will help you succeed in life.

For instance, if you feel uncertain about something going on or some decision you’re considering, ask your friends for their opinion and advice.

Make Sure You Have A Good Team Of People Around You - Having positive people around you who will support your decisions, and give you honest feedback, will help you succeed in life.

You don’t want to surround yourself with negative people who complain all the time because this can really affect how much confidence and motivation you have. You’ll end up doubting yourself far too often, which is not what we need at all when trying to achieve our goals – trust me, I know from experience!

How To Survive In The Music Industry – FAQ

What does it take to make it in the music industry?

It takes a lot of hard work and perseverance. You will need to spend time in your studio working on the music, marketing yourself relentlessly, meeting other artists, networking at events – you name it!
The music industry is a tough one, and it’s not for the faint of heart, but if you are passionate and committed, there’s no reason why you can’t make it.

What difficulties are new artists facing in the music industry?

New artists are facing multiple challenges, with a music industry that is constantly changing and evolving.
The Internet has made music accessible to everyone, and there is an increasing number of artists trying to make it. This means that you are competing for listeners’ attention in a more crowded field than ever before, which can be difficult when marketing yourself.
It would help if you also spent time working on your craft without being discouraged by a lack of success or recognition.
Thankfully, all these challenges come second to one thing; making music!

What are some things I need to know when getting started as An Independent artist?

There are a few things you need to know before getting started.
First, make sure that music is your passion and not just something you think might be cool or fun.
Next, make sure you have the right tools for the job. Check out our budget studio build guide HERE.
Finally, try and stick to the advice given in this guide.

How do you grow as a music artist?

As a music artist, you need to grow and evolve. Your style will develop as well as your musical tastes. Sometimes all it takes is that one spark of an idea that turns into a beautiful creation. When this happens, don’t hold back.
It’s important never to stop learning and experimenting, whether through your own individual practice or collaborating with others. The more you grow musically, the better your chance of standing out from the crowd. New opportunities will arise as well – this is called growth.

Is a career in music realistic?

A music career is not always a reality. It’s important to have another string on your proverbial bow for when the music industry inevitably throws you off that stage and out of its spotlight.
The media tends to focus more on those at their peak fame, but plenty of other musicians work hard and make a living.
This is not to say that those who pursue music as a career are doomed – be realistic in your expectations. It’s important to remember that all careers can end at any point, even if you’re the world’s most famous musician of all time.

Can you trust anyone in the music biz?

A music industry career is hard on the soul, and many people won’t stick around to help you.
Many professionals in this field will take advantage of your naivety or insecurity, so it’s important not just to be resilient but also wary. After all, if someone has been in the game for long enough, they’ll know how to play you, whether they’re music companies or your own manager.
However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t trustworthy people in the industry. Just remember to treat people how you wish to be treated, and hopefully, you’ll have a few allies along the way.

Should I make my own music or jump on the current trend?

This is a question that many music business professionals get asked.
You need to be practical and think about what your goals are. Do you want to create something out of creativity or make money?
It’s also worth considering the current market, as it’ll change over time due to new trends and technology. However, if you’re not completely sure what your goals are, it could be a good idea to take some time out for yourself and figure that out first.

Why do musicians give up?

Musicians give up for a variety of reasons. There are plenty of people out there who can’t handle the pressure; as we’ve discussed earlier, this industry can be pretty cutthroat at times.
Music is highly competitive – not just in getting your music heard but also in making money from it.
Some musician’s circumstances change having a family, so they need to focus on more stability and guarantees to pay the bills.
Probably one of the saddest reasons someone might quit is when they lose their passion and fall out of love with music.

Final Words

In my opinion, this isn’t just a good survival guide for those working in the music industry, but a good take-away for life generally.

It’s up to you how much time and effort you’re willing to put in for your music career, but if it is something that really means a lot to you, then be prepared to fight tooth-and-nail for success.

Don’t give up on what you love because of one setback. Learn how to bounce back from rejection and keep going strong. Keep practicing, stay focused, work hard, and all those hours will pay off.