Promotion and Independence in the Music Business


There’s a lot of talk about promotion in the music business. Promotion is often perceived as just an artist’s promotion in their career, but it is more than that. It applies to all of us, in whatever role we play. If you want to start your career as an agent, manager, music publisher or something else, you need a promotion to start your career. It always depends on the context of what the promotion is about. When the word promotion is divided into two parts, the ultimate meaning of the word is obtained. Pro is Latin for ‘on behalf of’ and motion relates to movement. When these are combined, it becomes movement on behalf of someone or something. Practicing it for someone is most likely an artist promotion (The Essence of the Music Business: Philosophy, pages 85-88). While doing it for some other reason, it is probably advancing one’s own personal career, or an operation you are currently running.

Before you get properly started, you probably lack the resources you need. That’s the whole plot. Resources include at least money, time and knowledge. Personally I would read willpower in this equation, though it may not scientifically belong there. Willpower is firmly anchored in the driver and its use (The Essence of the Music Business, pages 47-52).

Perhaps the biggest endeavor in the music business is artistic freedom on the other hand and financial independence on the other. Pursuing this goal takes time and requires travel, footwork (The Essence of the Music Business, pages 18-25).

It also often requires outside help. The more you have done yourself, the higher your self-sufficiency, both financially and socially. By socially self-sufficiency I mean that your network is self-acquired, not collected through others (The Essence of the Music Business: Philosophy, pages 127-131).

It is all about making the resources fit for purpose – in the most sensible way only to the extent that own resources are not enough. The problem is that the need for resources varies from one career to another and from one business to another.

Outside help is and should not be free. The industry is full of different support mechanisms, provided by many professional groups and companies. Commitment to such arrangements often involves varying degrees of after-effects and transfers of rights (The Essence of the Music Business – Contracts, pages 131-135). It is typical that they also transfer decision-making power (The Essence of the Music Business, pages 56-59). It may require partnership with someone, a longer or a shorter term. For example, with a recording agreement, an artist signs away the rights originally belonging to him or her to the extent that is necessary to achieve the goal. In such a situation, the scope and duration of the contract is a very meaningful thing. If the artist has reached the target as a result of collaboration and able to continue career without that support, the contract may no longer make sense.

Of course, this is not so black and white or easy. Every step of promotion is tied to unwritten rules and prevailing business practices in the industry (The Essence of the Music Business: Philosophy, pages 36-43). It is also good to take account of reputation factors.

Recording agreement give us a great example. The artist’s side must conclude necessary exits keeping in mind the situation where the attachment no longer serves its purpose or has reached its meaning, or becomes just an unnecessary constraint on the artistic freedom and economic independence. Of course, the label wants to make sure of getting return on their investment. If the artist were to be freed from the contract as soon as they have achieved their goal, the label could be left out of the profit they desired. This is the case even when the label acquires ownership of master recordings. The artist might well get their biggest success with the next album, and the support of the company has made it all possible.

We are dealing with our own ethics. If the record label’s role as a success contributor has been decisive, and its contribution to such an intersection no longer limits the artistic freedom or financial independence, then it may not be worthwhile to end up collaborating even if the artist no longer needs it explicitly.

The same goes for any other kind of music management. Once the common goal has been achieved and the exits made possible by the agreement come into play, it is up to the parties to decide how to proceed, together or separately – under the same or with new terms.

One of the most difficult moments in the music industry is precisely the moment when the joint journey becomes to an end. So, at the moment you decide to receive outside help, you should plan ahead for a possible exit and how that assistance or financial support should be taken into a consideration without any adverse after-effects. This way you will be able to accept you potential success with good conscience and no-one feels left behind because of you. Such a state of affairs best reflects the sense of artistic freedom and financial independence you like to reach during your career. Let it be the foundation of your action. It also makes you a reliable partner – in a situation where it only makes sense to continue collaboration.

On a personal level, the key is how that support is taken into account. Sometimes support is selfless. In this situation, the beneficiary should be responsible that no-one is unnecessarily exploited. If the aid produces economic results, it should also benefit the supporter (The Essence of the Music Business: Philosophy pages 150-152, 166-168).  It is a question of responsible music business.

A book important to promotion and independence