Record some of your music on a CD. Most people in the music business are too busy to hear you play live, unless they have already heard your music and have decided they want to hear more. Your first CD, called a demo, does not have to be a good thing. It doesn’t even have to be done in a recording studio. It just needs to be clear enough (and contain enough material) to give a first-time listener a good idea of what you can do. With that said, the better the quality of your demo, the better your chances of standing out to someone who is important. Ideally, your demo should include three or four songs. Put your best songs first so that your demo is more likely to engage a listener right away.
Start gathering a team of advisors. Musicians can enjoy a pen and pillows in hand or on stage behind a microphone, but they need more than being able to make a career out of making music. Once you have made the decision that you want to make money on your music, you need to treat yourself (or your band) as a business. This means that in order to run your business, you need to hire the right business team.
Hire a personal manager. A personal manager is the manager of your business team and is the single most important person to your young music career. When you are new to the company and looking for a name for yourself, a good manager is an invaluable asset. Managers help you make big business decisions, give advice on your creative decisions and promote you to all the people who need to know who you are. Managers will also introduce you to the other people you eventually want to hire to be part of your business team. Managers are usually paid on commission; that is, they take a percentage of what you do. This means that you should never pay money to a manager in advance. This is true no matter what. When choosing a personal manager, you must also ask for references and follow them up. This will help you sharpen the sharks that will try to rob you and the losers who will not give you results.
4. Create Internet hype for yourself and your music. Record companies, whether large or independent, are more likely to give you the ear if you already have a significant organic following or have created a ‘buzz’ for yourself. This can be very important for your career as most established record companies do not listen to unwanted demos from new artists. This is because they come from anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred demos each week. If you’ve created enough buzz for a record exec, you might be able to get your music to them without ever having to send a letter. Note that while record companies probably do not take a demo directly from an artist, they are more likely to deal with a manager, especially if they have heard of or dealt with that manager before. They are even more likely to work with your boss, but if he has any internet brake, he can point to as proof of your popularity. MySpace, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are all great media for putting your music out there to get noticed and create buzz.
Hire a music lawyer. An established lawyer with complaints and contacts in the industry can get through people that most others do not. If you are trying to get signed by a major record label, this is a necessity. If you instead try to start smaller, either with a small independent label or with a production company, a music lawyer can still be important to your success. Your music is a form of property called intellectual property. To prevent people from stealing your property through illegal online downloads, unauthorized mixtapes or bootleg CDs, you need someone who understands all the relevant laws and legal jargon to protect you. Once signed, this can all be taken care of by your record label, management company or publisher, but you do not want to wait until you are signed to protect your music. Music lawyers can be paid on commission or in hourly rates, so in this case there may be advance costs. As with personal managers, ask for references and follow them up.
Hire a booking agent. Agents are the ones who will get you gigs. At the beginning of your professional career, they will work with bars and other small music venues to get you gigs. As your career progresses, they will work with people called promoters to get you to larger exhibitions, either as a headliner or as an opening act for a larger and more established action. An agent is an important member of your team once you’ve made it big, but agents are still very important because people are just breaking into the business. Many artists get signed due to the large fan base they have built up through tournaments. And to get the chance to play the best music venues on tour, you need to have an agent who has built a reputation in the industry. Like the other members of your team, agents are paid on commission, but they are usually paid only on your tournaments and not on your recording, songwriting or merchandising money. As with the other team members, ask a potential agent for references and follow them up.
Distribute your music online. In today’s music market, you do not have to sell pressed CDs in your local record store to be successful. Thousands of independent artists distribute their music online and nowhere else. The main service for selling your music online is CD Baby (http://www.cdbaby.com/). CD Baby and companies like it, distribute music from independent artists to several online digital music retailers such as the iTunes Music Store, Rhapsody and Napster. The big online music stores did not accept tracks from independent artists, but if these tracks first go through a company like CD Baby, they are happy to add them to their online catalog. The fee structure for each company varies, so be sure to research each of them individually before choosing a service. If you want to make it big in the music business, you must finally log in with a record company, but in the meantime, selling your music online you get money, get your music to consumers and increase your reputation as a legitimate musician.
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