There's a myth floating around the music industry. Many people seem to think that the goal is to get discovered by a major label's executive who happened to be at a dive bar the night you're playing. You would get signed right away, given a golden ticket to success and within a few months be driving around in Lamborghinis.
It would be great if that's how it works, but it doesn't work that way. It wasn't true in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and it's even less true today.
Shift Your Mindset
If you want success in this industry, the first thing you need is the right mindset. The most important thing to remember: it is 100% up to you to work for success. Nobody is going to hand it to you for nothing.
When things go wrong, do you blame others? Or do you take ownership to make sure you push for the outcome that you want? Want to take a guess which kind of person has more success in life? The one who takes ownership of their problems!
Labels Are Not A Magic Solution To Your Problems
Even artists that got signed in the golden age of record labels had a good chance of never getting their album released. You would be locked into an exclusive contract and if the label didn't like how your songs, image, or performances were shaping up under their development, they would never shell out for an expensive album to be made or released/promoted. You would be sitting around like a lame duck!
Even if you end up getting signed (and it might be a good thing under the right circumstances), they're looking for artists that are showing promise as a business. They are businesses, and they are looking for good business moves. You need to demonstrate you are the right investment for them.
95% of Artists Don't Need a Label
It's the 21st century. We are living in a creative freelancer revolution. Technology has opened the door for anyone with a dream and talent to make things happen. No longer are creative pursuits like making an album, shooting a video, or publishing a book so expensive that you NEED a large corporation to bankroll it (although you still get what you pay for).
Pro cameras cost only a couple thousand dollars rather than tens of thousands of dollars. People are shooting content for massive YouTube channels on their iPhones. Talented producers have moved out of large commercial facilities and into home studios.
As an aspiring artist, this is great for you. You have better access to amazing creatives than ever before. Now it's up to you to treat your band like a business and build your team.
A Case Study In Independence and Taking Control of One's Future
Meet Bo Baskoro. He's an independent musician who is killing it. I talked with him on our podcast, Behind The Band. His main goal isn't to get signed so he can kick it for the rest of his life – he wants to build a music business so he can be creative for the rest of his life. He knows he is responsible for his success and has built a team of regular collaborators he trusts to make that happen.
Additionally, he's not afraid of treating his career as a business – and that means killing some sacred cows. He's not afraid to promote his music using Facebook ads, make appearances and partnerships with other businesses, or commission unique comic book-inspired art to build hype around his music.
Check out my interview with him on Music Business Mindset:
David Ryan Olson
Hey I'm David. I'm a mix engineer and I run Evergreen Records. Thanks for reading this article and feel free to contact us with any questions about persuing music that you have.