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Music career planning the smart way - Part 1

Where do you start when planning for your music career?

So, you know you are up to it, you are putting a lot of work, and you know you want it bad. What’s next?

Like with everything else, you need to sit down, think about having a strategy, and come up with a plan. First, you need to look around and see how things are happening. Assess the state of music industry. Think of successful musicians that are doing overall the same kind of music you’re doing. Then start research as much as you can about them – choose at least 5 of them. Do it by writing down every detail and try to look at the following: 

  • Check their biography. 
  • Go to the music store, look at their CD’s, take a piece of paper, read and write down who is the producer, the [email protected] people, the label, the publishing company, agents, etc. Make a list with all these details. Then research for all of them online.
  • Find out how these artists promoted their music with gigs, live concerts, where did they start, how often did they played live, how were their tours organized, timing and geographically, who helped them, what was involved. Dismiss the bull about luck, and fancy stories, they are there just for the legend part of it, reality has nothing to do with these stories.
  • Check their website, look at how they’re done, make a summary of the content, look for common things between the websites of these artists you are doing the research about.
  • Make note of all the announcements, how they are made, pay attention to timing.
  • Make a note about the quality of the videos and pictures from the websites, and how they support the artist’s music. Try to understand how they relate to the image of the artist.
  • Do a research through all the social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, also Youtube and Vimeo. Pay attention how the interaction with fans is maintained and controlled. 
  • Check the internet for all the reviews you can find, pay attention when it comes to the people that helped the artists to get a certain sound: producers, mixing and mastering engineers.

This exercise has to give you a good idea of what is involved when you are where you want to get (provided of course you have the whole package), and think what the music business industry does to maintain these artists so they bring in the money. You have to start by understanding the target, when you proceed to travel this difficult road.

The second step is to try to be as objective as possible and see where you are at this point (again, if you really believe your music is outstanding and you keep working at it steady). Be cold and think of your actual image, how many fans you have, how often do you play gigs, how many people show up at gigs, and, more important, is the followers number growing at these gigs, do you have any sales, what are your connections, who is helping you, who is believing in you… basically take everything you observed and assess yourself in the light of those criteria. Don’t cheat yourself; you want the reality, so you can plan for the best scenario to further your music career.

The most essential thing is to understand that this is a journey that requires patience, commitment, work, and good attitude; definitely it’s not something that happens overnight. You have years to go in front of you, and you have to go the healthy way, to grow up steady during this journey. We saw too many young talents that were crashed because they could not handle the pressure exerted by the music industry; they were not prepared, all they wanted was to be on the top.

One of the smartest things you can do is to gradually build a team around you with honest and talented people, who believe in you. And if you wonder if there’s a “first thing” to do, I can tell you: yes, there is. Some may argue that there isn’t a “first thing” you have to do. Don’t listen to them, listen to me, or later you’ll be sorry. The first thing to do is to get an attorney specialized in music business period.

Try hard to find one that handles and deals with established artists playing your type of music. Ask around for referrals, check Music Business Directories like Recording Industry Sourcebook or National Association of Recording Industry Professionals, check for Music Business Conferences or showcases in your area, usually you can find lawyers in the panels, do online research. Make a short list, write down what your legal needs are – more about this further below – and contact them see which ones are willing to have an introductory meeting with you. Email or call, ask for a 15 min meeting, explain briefly who you are without hyping yourself. 

At the meeting, do not expect them to go into details. You should ask a couple of things, like what percentage of his practice is music law, who else they represent, how many years they were in the business, what is their fee structure, how do they charge, on an hourly basis or percentage. An experienced lawyer will charge more, usually between 250 to 500 dollars per hour, however, this may be the cheaper avenue, as he dealt already with the issues many times, and you actually pay him to do the job instead of learning how to do it. 

Be prepared to tell him that you will need his assistance in the following matters: before signing an agreement like your band agreement, before signing with a music publisher, before signing with a manager, before signing a record deal, before signing a licensing deal for your music or any royalties agreement.
The word
before is extremely important for your career, and, at the same time, the lawyer will understand that you’re serious about your career, that you understand how things are working and what are your expectations. That will definitely make him understand that you are thinking like a winner, not like a looser, and you know that you’re going into a tough game doing the best you can to have your homework done right.

The right lawyer has a lot of connections, and can help you in your career. If you’re serious and talented and have a professional attitude, the right lawyer will be of great help. His communication skills are very important, as he will represent you, and you want him to do a good impression on people.

This first meeting is very important; like in any interview meeting you will or not like him, you will notice if he treats you like equal or talk you down, and ultimately, like in anything else, this is extremely important, to start on the right foot. It is of utmost importance to find out if the lawyer has what it takes to further your career: sometimes deals were sabotaged due to the lack of lawyer’s understanding that they have to move their client’s career ahead. An inexperienced lawyer in the music business may not know all the standard practices of the business, and that will cost you.

Pay attention to smaller law firms versus large ones. They both have pros and cons. Usually the musicians prefer the smaller firms, they feel more comfortable with the atmosphere there. At the beginning of you career, a smaller firm is a better option; later, that may change, as larger law firms have a broad range of expertise (think about touring abroad, in countries where there are different visa requirements, or complicated financial issues, generated by licensing, royalties, taxes, and so on).

Choosing a good lawyer is essential, as establishing a good working relation with him is. Take your time to do so, and be very careful; getting the right lawyer is a tremendous advantage, making your professional life - career and business ones - much easier. In the next blog I will touch on what you have to do next, until then,

Stay tuned,
Flo Fandango