This article has been requested for two years. It’s a difficult topic! I have started this article at least twenty times. Every time I have emphasized some other thing over the other. Now I am about to finish this. I decided to be more merciful to myself and just write things down – without any filters. I hope you find the end result useful.
Uncertainty is something we all are familiar with. You come across it in every area of life. You also often hear people say that you just have to live with it. Well, that’s how it is. Basically, it is how we deal with it, use the past experience and advice along the way.
I am talking about economic uncertainty that every music business aspirant have to react to. Instead of speaking it from a general perspective, I speak from my own experience. It seems to interest you the most. Secondly, a personal story is best known to you. It gives you the freedom to tell things without any restrictions.
The beginning of a career
It was 1995 when everything started. I was a first-year student in law school. At that time, resources were insufficient and life was like that. Moreover, time spent tasks was not regarded as sacrifice, but approached with curious, I am learning something new in mind. If I would give to 23-old myself an advice, it would be that always leave something in your pocket when receiving rewards. We’ll return to this below.
People often told me to focus on law and forget about music. As a lawyer, livelihood would be secured. Fortunately not everyone agreed with this. At a young age, you are more exposed. As a result, you could have made a different choices. I am lucky. I was able to attend a lectures of great teachers. One professor reminded us of copyright and how it could become more important in the future. Oh boy, he was right.
In my case, law school was the plan b – if everything had gone wrong. That knowledge in itself creates a sense of security. On the other hand, as you get older, you become more prone to worry. Every now and then I find myself wondering what if I had chosen otherwise. This is what I mean when I recommend starting everything at a young age. Later you will find it easier to place restrictions and excuses for yourself.
Uncertainty is largely due to a lack of knowledge of the correct state of affairs, or how this business in general works. Lack of information usually manifests itself as hesitation. The hesitant mind, in turn, sees no opportunities. It is completely blind to them with its limiting elements. Let’s move on.
You can fill this gap by reading music business books and articles, but also being in touch with music business professionals if that’s possible. Nothing however, beats the experience. It is always the best teacher. So let it be our guide. Entering the industry requires preparation. Without it, your journey becomes difficult.
For the sake of clarity – this article does not per se apply music professionals who are employed by companies in the industry. No, this article applies to those who operate independently in the industry.
In order to find your path, you need to know what you are after. That is why it is worth investing in those most uncertain years at the beginning of your career. At that very time, all kinds of experiments and changes in plans are easier to settle. If you’ve already become famous in some particular role, it’s harder to change it. It is not worth limiting yourself when you start this journey. I personally attended every meeting which came along the way when I was younger. It didn’t matter if the meeting made sense or not. Each meeting developed communication skills for different situations. For a manager, those skills are worth gold. The time when you start to think about economic value of your actions comes later. On a large scale, therefore. Trust me, you want to fill your data bank first. With that information you can easier to estimate what your path is – if it has remained unclear.
The better this footwork is done, the easier it will be live with prevailing uncertainty. You are bound to learn how this business works and what you should do there. Since the music business poorly suitable for part-time job, many end up as trainees in the industry. For those, who start from the beginning as self-employed, or as entrepreneurs, the situation is different. They have to start from somewhere, that is, to create their working facilities. It usually requires resources. Happy are those who have savings or other usable resources when they start out.
For my part, I proceeded as my knowledge from the field grew. This means I started as an agent – a task where success is realized immediately or at least with a really short delay. At this stage, we were not dealing with copyright – generating revenue as a source of passive income. The type of reward of the agent is commission for appearances.
However, this was a valuable time for collecting information. You get a reason to connect with the promoters and other operatives in the field. The commissions I received from these gigs also funded my studies. While I still worked as a substitute teacher, I got the necessary funds to gain early career knowledge and experience. I did teacher’s substitute in music and that only slightly interfered with my real goal – to become a professional manager. Afterwards, I am happy with the choice I made – if it is considered in terms of knowledge acquisition.
Easy come and easy go. At that time, money came in surprisingly easy ways. I always had job that were paid. One thing I ignored. Jumping from agent and surrogate teacher doesn’t happen overnight – at least if approached financially. If I were in the same situation now, I’d save most of my rewards for the future purposes.
As a manager, money begins to come into play when the artist’s actions make it possible. I started my career as a manager for new artists. It means that it takes time to produce and commercialize the production in an economically sound way. In addition, the beginning of every artist’s career requires time-consuming resources, which is difficult on a sideline basis. It is also the time when you make a name as a manager. Trust me – you want to do it well!
Uncertainty is also created by industry derivative. As a manager, you are dependent on your artists and how their interest groups are doing their job. It is not uncommon for an artist, after all the preparation, not wanting to continue in the same way. At the beginning of a career, before any plan is realized, everything is more and less uncertain. This fact is good to consider when setting your bets. It is rarely worth putting all the eggs in the same basket – especially if your future income is dependent on the others.
I was already so advanced in my studies that I could offer legal services to others. I was pleased to see that most of the assignments came from within the industry. I was not as dependent as managers can be. It also made my relationship with my artists easier – the work was done voluntarily from both sides.
Reward is something you want to tackle as early as possible. The more obscure your financial figures are, the more uncertain will be your position. You need contracts for this. Basically, artists are in a better position. They have rights over their production from the moment it gets completed. It is up to them to decide how they are going to benefit from their output. When, in pursuit of their financial endeavors, they then sign away some these rights, the recipients obtain financial rights over the artist, in a way the agreement determines. WARNING! This paragraph is just an example and does not mean that you have to automatically give up your rights or some them to succeed!
I myself had a reservation about derivatives. At first I didn’t take anything from the artist, not because I didn’t deserve, but because my own motives were halfway elsewhere. By taking care of my artists, I got a reason to deal with the industry. I was also able to do it on a larger scale than just as an artist manager. It seemed unfair to charge artists the artist for getting that opportunity. If I hadn’t been in that role, I wouldn’t have got the information I have.
Secondly, I wanted to write the books I have written! Hardly any of my books would have been completed without this. Personally I started to include commission in my contracts from the moment I considered being ready for it, but also being as committed to the task as I should. In many respects, it is about believing yourself!
I’ve noticed routines to help with any kind of uncertainty. I myself start every Monday in the same way – answering to every contact I have received over the weekend. You would be surprised to know how many contacts an author can have and how it is that most of the new contacts actually take place when it’s weekend. These contacts form my weekly agenda for new assignments. When we add ongoing operations and agreed individual tasks, we are dealing with the agenda I am running through every day.
Now, let us return to what was the beginning of this article. I always save some of the money I receive. This allows me to evaluate the amount of play that I have for my life and my mission. Part of the reward goes to the chosen funds with variable returns. By the way, it is interesting to see how they succeed.
The golden advice for entrepreneurs is to take good care of their cash flow and its sufficiency. Without it, all such spontaneous promotional steps will be missed. Here we come to the end game, the moment when the breakthrough is supposed to happen. We are also dealing with sacrifices that must be made before that very moment. You do not want to spoil today what is possible tomorrow. Sacrifices are also always about patience.
This is about mindset. Pretty much all of us have some idea or plan – in what kind of economic circumstances you’d like to do your life work. For my part, I was hoping to get one clear source of passive income – in terms of an economic goal I mean. The distance to that point has been a long one. It will take time before you can write books that really matter to people. Quite often, readers also require some level of experience from the author – especially when it comes to non-fiction books.
I have lived all my adult life in terms of this calling, if I can put it this way. It is surprising what kind of stretching ability you have when you want something hard enough. It is also about wanting and hunting the desired state of affairs – not at any cost though. When I was younger, I didn’t buy a house or car like most of my friends did. I thought all that would have restricted me. It would have driven the resources elsewhere. I needed them to accomplish the task. It is always about choices and they are unique to everyone. This article is not designed to prompt you to do the same. This is just about what I actually did.
When your work reaches a certain state of awareness among the industry, it makes it easier with derivatives and uncertainty. If an operation ends or it no longer seems to be meaningful, a new one comes into play. Still, it is important to keep risk ratio reasonable. Against investing in productions and projects that accumulate incomes in the long run and with delay should always be tasks that capitalize as they are done. If the funds are sufficient, you do not need to pay same attention on this.
After all, the breakthrough may not necessarily present itself as an economic one. Of course such is desirable, but it is also something else. It is the moment when your action takes its toll without active efforts. Although this is a mere hypothesis, it reflects the purposefulness of your actions. Accordingly, you have to condition each of your actions and choices before this condition is reached. Now the important question is, do you really want this. Or whatever you want from this industry. The answer to this gives you an idea of how much life you want to spend on this.
This is of course not so black and white. Like I said, it’s a mindset. The younger you start with footwork, the sooner you probably find what you really want from life. Youth is the best time for experimentation. It is worth taking advantage of and enjoying it. This concluding note because most of the requests to write this article came from younger people – so there is no intention in any way to discriminate against us older ones :).
I promised myself not to exceed 2000 words. Couldn’t follow the plan, it went 300 over. Anyway, thank you for reading this. I will return with articles when another subject comes in mind.
If you are interested in the subject, The Essence of the Music Business trilogy provides a great deal of information. Books are conveniently available on Amazon as in paperbacks or e-books. They deliver them in your home in a few days!