Creating a Successful Career in Music


The first thing one must understand is a very basic truth. This truth is so basic, it applies to everybody. It doesn’t matter what business you are in. It doesn’t matter where you are located. It doesn’t matter when you are alive. This basic law applied to cavemen. It applies to astronauts. It will apply to the people who establish colonies around distant stars, in the future. It applies to singers, songwriters, Medical Doctors, lawyers, undertakers, welders, cooks, and prostitutes. It applies in every nation, city, and rural area. This basic universal truth applies to every human who ever has or ever will live. What is this marvelous truth? You have only two things to sell. They are your time and your talent.

The second thing one must understand is another basic truth. The value of your time will be determined by the scarcity, level, type, packaging, and presentation of your talent.

Let’s explore these five critical characteristics of talent.

Scarcity: There are many more talented dishwashers than there are talented brain surgeons. Whose time has the greatest value?

Level: Both President Obama and John Mc Cain have a high level talent for getting votes. Mr. Obama has a somewhat higher level of this talent than John Mc Cain does. One is the only sitting President of the richest most powerful nation, in the history of man. The other is one of two sitting Senators, from a western state.

Type: I know a few very talented guitar makers. Each makes a good living. I know a few very talented lawyers. Each makes a great living.

Packaging: A friend recently visited Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. Prostitution is legal there. They sit in windows where men walk down sidewalks and view what is being offered.

My friend discovered the most attractive prostitutes charged more for their services, than their less attractive rivals.

Presentation: I recently bought a set of tires, at Wal-Mart. Two brands were available that would fit my truck. They each had an 80,000 mile warranty. They were exactly the same height and width. They each had a solid black side and a black with white stripe side. The same federal quality and safety regulations applied to both companies. One was made by a company that advertises low price. One was made by a company that advertises how safe your baby will be, while riding on their tires. One set of four tires was just over $200 installed. The other set was just under $500 installed. Which had the best presentation?

We have established that the scarcity, level, type, packaging, and presentation of your talent determines the value society places on your time, how can we apply this universal truth? How can we use this basic truth to achieve success in the music/entertainment industry?

Scarcity: General musical talent is as common as dishwashing talent. Allow me to establish the accuracy of this almost unbelievable statement. Most songwriters never join a performance rights organization. Many songwriters don’t even know such organizations exist or what function they serve. Those poor souls are like lambs wandering in the wilderness. We can’t even begin to count them. So, let’s look at the songwriters we can count. We’ll look at two of the three performance rights organizations, in the U. S. We won’t bother counting all those songwriters in other countries. Broadcast Music, Inc. (also known as B. M. I.) has roughly 200,000 thousands members, in the U. S. The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (also known as ASCAP) has roughly 200,000 members, in the U. S.

This gives us about 400,000 American songwriters who are qualified to join one of these royalty collection agencies. Now, let’s take a look at copyright applications. Keep in mind that most songwriters will never take the time and spend the money to copyright a song. Most don’t even know how, why, and where. There are more than 1,000,000 song copyright applications filed with the Library of Congress, each year. About the only thing we have more of than lawyers is songwriters. And, overseas lawyers can’t work in the United States. Overseas songwriters can and do.So, is there really a scarcity of songwriters?

What about singers? There are an estimated 25,000,000 karaoke singers in the United States? Again, I repeat my statement. General music talent is as common as dishwashing talent!

Level: Hundreds of thousands of those karaoke singers think they are great. American Idol, Nashville Star, and similar television programs cause people to sleep in tents every time they hold auditions. The lines are so long, people sleep on the grass and sidewalks to get their shot at being on the show. Every talent show in every city and town across the United States draws crowds of singers. Most draw more singers than they do music fans. These are the karaoke singers whose family and friends have told how great they are. You will not favorably impress any professional music executive, by telling him that your grandma and the folks at the karaoke bar think you are great. You must prove the level of your talent.

Type: Are you a singer or a songwriter? Are you a singer/songwriter? Do you know how to entertain a crowd? Can you hold their attention? Are you country, pop, bluegrass, blues, gospel, R&B, hip-hop, rap, Americana, rock, or something else? In addition to singing, do you dance, tell jokes, talk to the crowd and hold them spellbound, all of the above or none of these? Do the ladies throw their undergarments, at you? Or; does every man in the house wish he had you on a desert island? Exactly what type of talent do you have?

Packaging: Does your packaging suit the type of talent you have? Are you wearing a miniskirt, while trying to be a gospel singer? Are you overweight enough to be an opera singer and trying to sing country? Are you wearing a tuxedo and trying to be a rapper? Are you dressed as a rapper and trying to sing George Strait songs? If any of these things are true, would you be better off working as a comedian?

Presentation: Do you present yourself in a professional fashion? When you put a package into the mail, does it appear professional? Is it in a proper envelope? Did you take time to label it neatly? Or; did you scribble on it with a green magic marker? Is your package easy to open? Or; does it have three rolls of tape wrapped around it? Can it be opened with a normal letter opener? Or; does one need a chainsaw and a machete? You’re asking someone to take time to review your package. Do you expect them to hire a demolition team to open it?

When your package is opened, is it neatly organized? Does a cover letter explain why you sent it? Or; should the dumb Son of a B – – – – figure that out all by himself? If you’re submitting a song, is a professionally recorded demo? Or; did you use a crayon to write it on a brown paper bag and hum the tune into the envelop? If you’re presenting yourself as a singer, is there a professional video on DVD? Does your DVD include you performing two or three songs and a biographical interview? Or; did you get your grandma to write a note telling how wonderful you? Do you even know what an Digital Press Kit is? Did you spend time and money putting one together? If you don’t take your presentation seriously, why should anybody else?

Is your excuse that you don’t know what is needed to properly present yourself? If not, find someone who does and will help you put it all together. There are companies that specialize in doing Digital Press Kits for aspiring singers. Most of them are not very good, but some are? How do you know the difference? Ask for an DPK they did for someone else. Watch it. Is the lighting, color contrast, and focus professional quality? Is the audio crisp and clean? If you were looking to hire a singer for your wedding or company party, would the DPK cause you to hire the singer?

Do you expect any other professional to give you their time, knowledge, and labor? Would you expect a painter to paint your house free? Do you have to pay your physician, lawyer, accountant, mechanic, and dentist? If you pay these other professional people for their services, why do you expect a music professional to work without pay?

Many companies advertise artistic talent development. The good ones can take your raw talent and help you increase the level of it. They will help you package it and help you create a professional presentation. They will be very talented at what they do. They will have numerous gold and platinum albums. And, many years of artist development and artist promotion experience. They’ll have more connections than a double jointed octopus.


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