For the average musician, the music business is somewhat of an unknown monster. It is a complex beast with many names, different forms, and filled with legalities that musicians encounter while navigating the complex industry from which they hope to make a living. There is also the lingering fear that by treating music as a business, the creative light will dim, and the spark that ignited the musical dream might just go away. So, it doesn’t surprise me that many musicians don’t fully comprehend all that has to happen for their music to be heard, appreciated, and most importantly, monetized.
Fortunately, there are musicians that manage their music as a business. You will find them in all musical genres, strolling through all walks of life: thriving musicians. These musicians understand that to succeed in any commercial endeavor they need to have discipline, a good administrative structure, and different sources of revenue. They acknowledge that there is a myriad of different tasks required to manage a musical career. Negotiating agreements, staying on track with bookkeeping and filing taxes, registering compositions, and managing song splits, performance rights, distribution rights, and master recording rights are some of the time-consuming tasks all musicians face. These deviate entirely from the “let’s get the creative juices flowing” or the “let’s see what comes out of this session” creative process musicians love. Nonetheless, successful musicians stand out for their ability to identify their strengths, weaknesses, and market shares, and having an efficient administrative structure.
If you are struggling with getting organized, there are some of the key areas to consider when building an efficient administrative structure:
Assess, organize, and protect your intellectual property: compositions, sound recordings, copyrights, and trademarks (who owns them, and are they properly documented?)
Identify your revenue streams: distribution of recordings, licensing of compositions, merchandising, endorsements, and live performances (are you collecting everything you have a right to?)
Use good contracts: band agreements, side artists agreements, producer agreements, and split sheets (are you putting everything in writing?)
Assemble a reliable, professional team: management, public relations, legal, publishing, accounting (can you trust them, or do you need to be looking over your shoulder all the time?)
As with any other business, investing in your music career is necessary for success. Consider everything you do to help your music business as an investment. Draw out a career plan, set goals, and work towards them. Educate yourself. You probably invested years of your life to your instrument or voice; understanding the industry’s basics will save you time, money, and resources. Most importantly, remember that there are always people that have gone through the same process willing to help you.