Music Industry Monthly – Inside the Music Industry: Part 2

ThinkSpace Education Interview, Music Industry

Welcome to Music Industry Monthly. In this series we are having conversations with leading experts in the contemporary music industry. This is for those of you who are interested in developing careers in music management, marketing, promotion, and many other related careers in music business.

This is Part 2 of our first episode, where we are looking at a mish mash of different topics within the contemporary music industry. This episode features Guy Michelmore, Phil Larsen, and Steve Cusack. You can click on their images for their bios if you want to learn more about them!

If you missed Part 1, you can check it out here. We highly recommend taking a look there first if you haven't already!
Video - Interview with Phil Larsen and Steve Cusack

Phil Larsen

Music Production

Steve Cusack

Head of Label, Marketing & Promotions

As a musician, do you need great gear?

In short, no... but it helps. Most DAWs come with some fantastic software instruments and synths and, whilst they won't perfectly recreate some of those iconic pieces of kit from days gone by, they will get pretty close to the real thing.

As Phil put it, you need your one signature piece of equipment that can define your sound and the rest can be filler. Cheap software synths, mid-tier instruments, and some decent 'old reliables' will get you a long way. So stop wasting your time and money on lots of incredibly high-end equipment and get writing!

FINNEAS and Billie Eilish created the entirety of her debut album "When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?" almost entirely from Logic Pro X stock sounds and external samples they recorded themselves. If that isn't a testament to the power of stock samples, I don't know what is.

Do people overlook that the music industry has careers that are stable yet creative?

There are a wide variety of jobs within the music industry. If you're an artist, or any kind of creative in this industry, there will often be people looking for your skillset. That's not to say you don't need to work hard and get good at what you do but, if you build a professional skillset, there are far fewer avenues of work that result in totally dead-ends than most people think.

What has changed in recent years is the pathway to that stability. The 'rock and roll' approach of walking down to radio stations and dropping off your vinyl or CD is far less relevant now. To make people regularly engage with your work, it's more about social media algorithms and understanding the digital marketing world. Social media will promote certain types of posts over others, favour those with consistent content, and latch on to certain types of meta data and keywords. Without understanding this, you are walking blind into a world dominated by technology.

However, and we reiterate, it all comes down to the track. If the track isn't good, your engagement isn't good. GET THE MUSIC RIGHT FIRST.

How do I get my foot in the door as a recent graduate?

Figure out where you want to get in the industry. Make that decision fairly early on. If you want to be an artist then research the social media platforms and figure out how to build your online presence. If you want to get into marketing and promotions, learn how to run digital ads and run Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns. There are plenty of tutorials for these things online that will at least cover the basic information.

You don't need to be 100% set on a career right at the start of your journey, as undoubtedly that will change, but having a rough idea as to the avenue of work you want to go down will help give you direction and focus your learning after your degree to a more specialised skillset. This may involve a postgraduate degree which are far more direct and tailored compared to nearly all undergraduate degree programs. You will find many postgraduate degrees are more focused on a particular career path opposed to a more general topic and field of study.

Regardless of whether you have a degree or not, the key thing is just getting your work out there. This is especially true for creatives. Unless you are right at the top of the industry already (and if you are, stop reading this blog... we have nothing to teach you!), everyone is going to feel like they're reaching for the next step. The answer to all these people is simply get your music in front of people. Whether you post on Soundcloud, YouTube, or distribute using services CD Baby and Distrokid, the best remedy for not having an audience is getting your music into the public space.

As an older creative, have I missed my chance?

No. In fact, at ThinkSpace Education we have a surprising number of older students. Quite frankly, the thing that holds a lot of people back who come into this game late is that they have become set on how things are in the past. They haven't updated their creative workflow to fit the modern industry. As a younger musician, you are typically more in touch with changes in pop culture and what current music is being released. If you were in your teens or 20s in the early nineties or earlier, chances are you are still listening to a lot of the same music now as you were then.

The key thing is chasing what's fres, and being aware of what the current market needs. If you are only interested in writing music that you like, then be aware that there may no longer be an audience for that today. If you are willing to take a look at the industry with fresh eyes, you may be able to reinvent yourself, get some newer music together, and use your decades of experience into a new era of music composition.

Conclusion

As stated earlier, this episode was more of a general overview. We have touched on a whole range of topics, some of it focused purely at musicians and the creative work, and others at the business and industry skills.

Here are some key points to remember:

1. If you are a musician, there is no substitute for good music. Hone your craft and write industry-standard music (in some form) or you are doomed from the start.
2. Think of yourself as a business, and do not shy away from the business side of things. You may be a creative first, but the industry will look at you as a brand/product.
3. It is not too late to start. If you are interested in starting a career in the music industry, whether it be creatively or in the business, seek out professional help or some kind of structured learning to make sure your skills are fresh and relevant.
4. The music industry can be chaotic and unpredictable, but those who work hard, plan ahead, and set realistic goals will always triumph over those who don't. Stay focused, and there will be a path to a sustainable career.

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