How To Get Started In The Music Business

Step-by-step Instructions

Here is what you need to do...
Step 1

The music industry is yours for the taking. File-sharing and social media spelled the death knell for the old, crusty business model of the music industry, full of schmoozing A&R guys and contracts designed to screw over actual musicians. You don't need them, anyways. Now, more than ever, the click of an "upload" button can quickly propel you to stardom, based on the power of people who actually count: your fans.

Step 2

The success stories these days of so-called "Internet sensations" are countless. A couple years ago, a kid from the suburbs of Minnesota recorded some laptop tunes in his parents' basement and posted them to the web, slowly building a fanbase through two self-released albums. You may have heard of him by now. His recording artist name is "Owl City," he boasts a deal with Universal Republic, and his song "Fireflies" recently enjoyed an extended run at number-one on the Billboard Hot 100.

Step 3

Also not too long ago, Miami duo "I Set My Friends on Fire" recorded and shared a joking screamo cover of Soulja Boy, took a nap, and literally woke up to thousands of new fans. It helped them score a deal with punk giant Epitaph records and a slot last year on the entire Warped Tour. A little further back, aspiring model and "musician" Tila Tequila posted some photos and - okay, she's not an artistic example you necessarily want to duplicate. But damned if we don't all know who she is, right?

Step 4

And those are just a few examples! There is little reason why, with enough talent and diligent online promotion of yourself and your band, why you can't star in the next new-millennium, rags-to-(relative) riches tale. It's okay if you are starting from scratch. Here's a guide to the basic steps towards, and essential reference products for, music industry success.

Step 5

Step #1 for Getting Started in the Music Industry: Write some songs. Read the basics and get started. Create and manage your web presence: You know you need a web presence somewhere. Duh. So, you could pretend it's still 2005 and make a MySpace page. Potential fans might stream your tracks, but nobody will really interact with you there (except, probably, other self-promoting would-be artist). College students - and a large chunk of the rest of the world - long ago went to Facebook.

Step 6

So, you could start a Facebook fan page. But, again, be honest with youself - right now, you are just up-and-coming. Is anyone, beyond your close friends, going to become your fan if they've never heard of your musical project?

Step 7

This is why CampusMen is one of the best choices when you are just starting out. Your profile on the site starts by being all about you, the person, as a "brand." What is a personal brand? After you've built up your fanbase through word-of-mouth, parties, fliers, and even Facebook, you've got a captive audience. CampusMen allows you to create and manage multiple advice pages, so devote one of these to your new project, and invite your fans to follow that.

Step 8

Now, not only have you built up your general popularity, you've got a targeted list of people who are specifically interested in your music. Seriously, apply now. It's free, And did we mention it gives you a reason to approach girls? In any event, some people are going to hear about you, and type in your artist name plus a dot-com. So, go ahead and buy that URL, and redirect it to your CampusMen profile for now.

Step 9

In the meantime, think about what your brand is, as a musician. Look, we know you like to think of yourself as a unique snowflake. But there's got to be somebody whom has influenced you, or after whose career you can emulate. That will help you build the public identity that will attract fans. David Cutler, author of The Savvy Musician, is one of the few writers who's really explored this idea at length. This book is 368 pages of pure wisdom. Cutler shows you how to take the things that make you a good musician - creativity, willingness to take risks - and use them to effectively sell yourself to new people. Once you've used Cutler's help in figuring out your brand image, you can get to expressing that through your communications on CampusMen.

Step 10

Play some shows - and promote them, of course! The best way to get your earliest gigs is by playing house and frat parties. Shoot a note to your fans on CampusMen letting them know you are available to do this. In these early stages, gladly accept free beer and attention as your form of payment. Once the word gets out and your popularity as a musician grows, you'll get more invitations, and maybe even a few paid gigs. Of course, you can use your fan page to spread the word about all of them in advance.

Step 11

Once you've gotten a bunch of exposure around campus, you can think about approaching local bars and clubs. You'll already have a following as a live act developed (and, proof of it through fans on your social media pages), so you won't be such a risk for a venue.

Step 12

Don't be cocky, though, and focus on approaching bookers and managers like a pro. You'll need a press kit with music samples, photos, and maybe even performance video clips, that you can present either digitally or physically. Bob Baker's regularly updated Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook has among the most thorough instructions around on how to get this together. Did you even realize there were 29 different important aspects to consider in a publicity kit? No? Well, Baker's outlined all of them here. Once you've got the show booked, Baker's absolutely essential guide lays out even more strategies for promoting it.

Step 13

Record some songs, and distribute them. Hopefully, people who have been to your shows will want to hear their favorite songs again. You've probably already uploaded some rough tracks to the web, but now is time to start taking them a little more seriously. If you have a decent computer, you are halfway there. If you are technically inclined, though, and want to get into selling and distributing your own music - a smart move -- it's wise to invest a little time and money into setting up a proper home studio.

Step 14

Watching someone else walk you through the process is key here. The Basics of Home Recording DVD series is probably the most comprehensive out there. The first installment is an easy-to-follow overview, explaining the absolute basics, like how to properly mic different instruments, and how to operate a mixing board. With that all digested, you can then move on to later volumes, like the fourth, which goes into more detail about aspects like mixing.

Step 15

With your recordings done, you've got to distribute and possibly sell them somehow. Giving away a few tracks for free isn't a bad idea at first. Contrary to the hand-wringing of many music industry old-timers, most fans actually want to financially support the artists they like. Offer some samplers or individual MP3s on your web pages, and if people like enjoy what they hear, they'll probably want to pay you for more.

Step 16

There are all kinds of competing new options for monetizing those downloads, though. Nobody can instantly get on iTunes, and all the different baby steps to getting there can be confusing. Mike King's Music Marketing: Press, Promotion, and Retail is an essential, up-to-date guide on the music business in general. But where it's super useful is in its clear discussion of actually selling the music, breaking down the pros and cons of different digital services. It's also got tips on selling physical CDs in brick-and-mortar stores, if you decide to do that as well. If all that's going well, book and promote your first band tour.

Step 17

Once you've gleaned basic (and advanced) strategies from Tour: Smart and Break the Band, you'll have to get to the nitty-gritty of contacting promoters, venue owners, and other musicians who might possibly share touring and promoting duties. You could spend all day Googling to find these people or save a ton of time by ordering one, absolutely authoritative source. That source is the latest edition of the trusty Musicians' Atlas. Somewhere between book and magazine, it's updated yearly and includes names, phone numbers, and addresses for everybody from venue bookers, to college radio DJs, to local journalists who might give you some publicity. Know the Atlas, love the Atlas.

Step 18

And remember: You've got a built-in network of supporters on your CampusMen profile. Ask them for help - the best introductions come from friends of friends, not randomly contacting strangers on the Internet. Surely, someone in your fanbase knows someone (else) who can help you get a show, or a friend in another town who might like to hear your music live.

Step 19

If you are ready, approach potential managers and record labels. Read How to Get a Record Deal on how to do this. Be aware of music industry scams and how to avoid them. If you do not want to sign with a record label, you can also Start Record Label and avoid the middle-man.

Special Attention

Difficulties people often experience or parts that need special attention to do it right.

Stay in touch with your fans! Never take Fans for granted - they are who made you what you are. Keep them interested by continuing to (regularly) add new content they can see. Spread your material out over time. Don't post everything at once. Music fans, these days, want to feel as close to their favorite artists as possible - and they come to expect communication back! Use your web site, Twitter, and of course, your CampusMen profile, to post updates about your life and work, and respond to comments and feedback. Now that you are a star, don't forget your roots, buddy.

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