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5 more things you need to know to start a music career

A successful career in music doesn’t happen overnight. It takes patience, tenacity, openness to critique, and even some failure to clarify your goals and make it happen.

We outlined in a previous article some essential things to consider as you build a foundation for long-term success in the music industry. Here are five additional steps to assist you.

1. Know yourself well to establish your artist/brand identity

You need to establish who you are as a brand to make it easier for people to identify and distinguish you from other artists. A good way to understand who you are is to establish who you are NOT. Try to sum up what you’re all about in a short line or sentence. Identifying yourself as a ‘dancehall artist’ or ‘ Dennery Segment artist’ is too vague.

What can people expect to hear from you? What kind of scenes, subculture, hobbies, lifestyles, or interests are you into aside from music? You need to know this to market your music to the right audience. Identify and communicate that one ‘thing’ that someone can latch on to and reflects a part of your fan’s identity.

2. Build leverage through value to get what you need

Sometimes it can take that one popular influencer or writer to get you the publicity and exposure you need to get your career going. Assuming, of course, that you have really good music that is worthy of attention.

For most artists, a random request to these individuals asking for promotion will often get ignored. So, you need to think about how talking about you or promoting your music will benefit them. No matter how good you think you are, don’t ever feel like you are entitled, especially if you haven’t proven yourself yet.

It’s important to understand what value you possess as an artist and how you can leverage it to get others to talk about you and promote your music. If you’re just starting, you won’t have leverage so you will need to provide value first. It’s important to think about this perspective and not just about what you want. The music itself and the audience you’re able to build from it is your leverage, and not solely your talent. Your story can also be leveraged.

3. Know the basics of copyright laws

One aspect that can get easily overlooked is protecting your music. To avoid this, you want to make sure you properly copyright your work. Technically, your music is copyrighted when it is created and made into a tangible form (written or recorded). Copyrighting your music prevents you from becoming a victim of copyright infringement (intellectual property theft). For producers, if you make beats and use samples to create a derivative work, be sure to know what you can or can’t do to avoid potential legal action.

4. Know how to distribute your music online

You can begin gaining traction for your music career by posting your music on social media, Soundcloud, and YouTube, but you’ll eventually need better distribution, especially if you want to be taken seriously. To get your music into major outlets like Apple Music, Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Music, and many others, you need a music aggregator (music distributor). A popular online music distributor is Distrokid.

5. Understand the various ways you earn royalties from your music

As a recording artist, music producer, songwriter, and/or music composer, you may have various income streams you can collect from your music (assuming you own the copyright to the songs) when it’s played or used in different situations. For example, if you put your music on places like Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube, you are owed money or royalties from those platforms when someone streams your music. It may not seem important early on when you’re just starting out, but you will need to look into joining a performing rights organization such as ECCO which collects publishing royalties generated from your music, which can be an important income stream to help sustain artists.

Hopefully, this additional info helps build a foundation for your music career. With all this in mind, take things one step at a time and start setting the foundation of your career and just create as much music as you can, release it and have fun with it.

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