Industry Overview

"It's not what you know, it's who you know." Or is it?

The music business is pretty much like other business - its not only what you know, but who you know aswell. Clearly some musical ability is necessary, but it is contacts and knowledge of the industry which enable a musician to earn a living. You see examples in the charts and elsewhere of people who probably haven't come through the ranks by gigging extensively and studiously learning how to play or sing. The acts which acheive this success have been lucky enough to get to know the right people. This doesn't matter particularly, it doesn't mean they cheated, and it doesn't necessarily mean they are rubbish. What it means is they got noticed by, and got to know, someone who knew how to make them successful.

As well as getting to know the right people, it's necessary to know as much as you can about how the business works and how the mindsets of certains roles function in order to get on. For instance; how do managers relate to bands in terms of getting them a gig or record deal; if you make a track on a sequencer and some guy says he wants to release it, where do you stand in terms of royalties, who will own the recording; exactly how good do you have to be to succeed? Etc, etc.

The Music Industry is not just what the music press says it is. It is much more.

Although good art and success are not always guaranteed partners there are still ways in which musicians can make a decent living both by playing to their strengths and learning new skills. It is important to realise that the music industry exists on a more everyday level than the stardom we can read about, and we can earn a good living out of it.

It is easy to assume that the material found in the press and on TV in some way represents the sum total of what happens out there. It doesn't. They generally only represent a tiny minority of music activity. There are a hundred and one roles out there worth considering, POP STAR is only one.

The view from a distance.


Click on the thumbnail above to see a typical graphic picture of the industry.

If you click on the link to the diagram (above) you will see a fairly typical picture of how the music industry appears to relate to itself. Its a decent enough representation (I nicked it from a book called 'How to Make it in the Music Business' by Sian Pattenden - a pretty good book - even if does concentrate on how to get famous to the detriment of more basic stuff!).

However, it is useful to try to see the industry as a whole when trying to make decisions about what you should do next. It helps to have a grasp of how the different parts can relate to each other, even if parts of it don't concern you right now - your overall game plan should be much better if you have something to aim at from what you know.

For example: you might not waste months of trying to impress unimpressable record labels if you knew how much it cost to put a record out yourself - how to do the cover, get distribution, etc. And knowing some of the ins and outs of copyright laws in relation radio airplay makes you realise it might be worth doing small releases and sending copies to sympathetic DJs because of the performance royalties you will earn.

To conclude - as far as this site is concerned - you need to decide what you want to do after checking out all the possibilities. Don't think that being a massive pop star is the only thing worth pursuing - you will be very disappointed, probably over and over again. What seems to be the best approach is to collect skills while enjoying yourself: they will come in handy when pop stardom reveals itself as both unlikely and possibly undesireable............I know a few people who've had huge record deals, even number 1s in the charts - it doesn't last all that long for most of 'em, AND they have to put up with some seriously annoying people while it lasts!!!

The Career Development page tries to explain some of the methods of getting on once you've decided.

The Next Page shows a simple 3 way model of the industry in an attempt to show which skills are relevant in each area. It is very suited to newcomers studying the industry for the first time, but may also be useful to people of greater experience for taking stock of their skills and position in the industry.