Promotion and Independence in the Music Business


There’s a lot of talk about promotion in the music business. Promotion is often perceived to as artist’s promotion, but it is more than that. It applies to all of us, whatever the role we play. If you want to start your career as an agent, manager, music publisher or something else, you too 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 some other person’s needs 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 the operation you are currently running.

Before you get properly started, you may lack the resources. 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).

You may need outside help. However, the more you have done yourself, the higher your self-sufficiency, both financially and socially. Social self-sufficiency, I mean the your network you personally have acquired, not collected through others (The Essence of the Music Business: Philosophy, pages 127-131).

It is to make the resources fit for the purpose – in the most sensible way, you use external resources only to the extent your 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 support mechanisms, provided by many professional groups and companies. The price of those arrangements come along with after-effects and transfers of rights (The Essence of the Music Business – Contracts, pages 131-135). It is typical to settle the decision-making power (The Essence of the Music Business, pages 56-59). It may require a partnership with someone, a longer or a shorter term. For example, with the 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 meaningful thing. If the artist has reaches the target sooner than expected and able to continue career without that support, the contract may no longer make sense.

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, has reached its meaning, or becomes just an unnecessary constraint. Of course, the label wants to make sure the return for their investment. If the artist could step away from the contract as soon as they have achieved their goal, the label could be left out of the profit they desired.

We are dealing with our own ethics. If the label’s role as a success contributor has been decisive, and their current attendance no longer limits the artistic freedom or financial independence, it may not necessarily need to end the cooperation even if the artist no longer needs it explicitly. It is up to you, and your artist.

The same is true with 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 the possible exit and how the support you have received should be taken care of. 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 reflects the 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.

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 the responsible music business.

Promotion is present in this book