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Musically, the 1980s is known for many different things: the emergence of Hip Hop music as the new voice of young generations, the transformation of 1970s Punk Rock into New Wave in the new decade, Hair bands, and even the introduction of new pieces of music listening technology with both the Sony Walkman and the Compact Disc.
A lot has changed since the 1980s with music, and some of the biggest changes have been with how aspiring professionals can break into the industry and make actual careers. In the 1980s, it was almost absolutely necessary to live in or move to the major entertainment hubs of New York, Los Angeles or Nashville if you wanted building a career in the industry. Want to be a journalist, booking agent or artist manager back then? It probably required tons of gas money, cold calling on a rotary phone and an ungodly amount of U.S. Postal Service stamps. Thankfully, technology and the destruction of barriers to entry have made many of things remnants of the past. Here are just a few music business careers that weren’t even thought of just 30 short years ago.
MUSIC BLOGGER – Creates online content and articles for blogs and websites specializing in an area of the music industry. Blogs are a new form of the gatekeepers for the industry. Being able to write and maintain fresh content for blogs is a skill lots more music-based companies are looking for.
SOCIAL MEDIA ARCHITECT – Constructs social media content (text and video) for companies from small businesses to large corporations. Should have experience using many different social media formats: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Kick, Vine, Klout, Stumbleupon, Yelp and more. Indie labels need these folks a lot.
INTERNET MARKETING SPECIALIST – Assists individuals and companies in their Internet and email-based marketing efforts. Should have lots of experience with platforms such as Constant Contact. Independent artists needing help with lists for email blasts can use the help of these professionals.
WEB CONTENT DEVELOPER – A strong background in English as well as Search Engine Optimization is needed to take on this job. Writing what is known as “optimized content” is also a big part of the job.
NEW MEDIA MANAGER – Responsible for the creation and implementation of all things pertaining to digital marketing: mobile advertising, online advertising, social media campaigns, you name it. And with music being more about marketing than ever, it’s a great time to build these skills for that dream label or music entity you want to work for.
MOTION GRAPHICS DESIGNER/EDITOR – Puts together online and video content that features all kinds of visual effects and is seen everywhere from popular web series to TV shows to major motion pictures. Extremely valuable to companies with big budgets video budgets for their artists.
ONLINE NEWS WRITER – Think of this job in the same vein as a regular print journalist, just for online news sites. The same rules apply: attention to detail, impeccable grammar, editorial skills, ethical practices and having great sources. With the constant growth of the music industry and just about anyone being able to call themselves a writer these days, great online writers are hard to come by. You could be that great writer for a music company.
E-COMMERCE MANAGER – Artists and labels at all levels have their own websites, selling their wares and merchandise every day. They need the help of someone who will offer great online customer service, manage the flow of online sales, and basically keep the central hub of online sales together.
INTERNET PUBLIC RELATIONS SPECIALIST – Press release and media alert writing and building relationships with editors of blogs are just two of the duties entailed in this job/career. So much music is released exclusively online, and getting attention for it is an art and a skill that this professional has to master to be successful.
MOBILE DEVELOPER – This professional builds mobile applications that people use everyday for work and for leisure. Music apps are all the rage now, and being able to produce these apps can be very beneficial to companies of all sizes and artists at all levels.
As an independent artist, no matter what your style, genre or sound, there are a few things that you have at your disposal that many mainstream or major artists don’t or can’t always claim: extreme flexibility, genuine grassroots connections at a local level, and the ability to be more adventurous and creative with your music. But one of the most important things an independent artist must realize they have a great advantage in is something that may at times be taken for granted or even shunned: self education.
Any independent worth their weight should at least be in the process of building up their personal library filled with books that they can use as reference guides to their own success. There are tons of music business books any artist can find at their local bookstore or major chain. The key is to have a solid idea of the information that you want and a plan on how to use it. That said, here are a few great titles and authors to help you get started. No, they’re not all specifically music business books, but each one contains a truckload of great information that might just be useful to you in moving towards the career you want.
I DON’T NEED A RECORD DEAL by Dayelle Deanna Schwartz
One of the coolest things about this books is that it starts off with a laundry list of successful independent artists and professionals, and taps them throughout the duration of the book with great advice on marketing, promotion, merchandising, touring and more.
THE PIRATE’S DILEMMA by Matt Mason
Focusing on the history of how youth and counter cultures have effected corporate America, this book is perfect for any indie artist looking to tap into their inner rebel and also features the real story around how a nun at a foster care home for troubled children inadvertently started the disco and electronic music revolution.
THE BIG PAYBACK by Dan Charnas
Rarely have books on Hip Hop history focused on the business aspects of the genre. Journalist and historian Dan Charnas changed that with a stunning, lengthy account of how Hip Hop rose from the block to change corporate America’s view on youth culture forever.
MUSIC MARKETING by Mike King
A truly definitive guide to all things music marketing. The subtitle reads “Press, Promotion, Distribution and Retail”, and King, an instructor at the prestigious Berklee School of Music, goes to great length to provide readers with substantial, worthwhile information on something that still seems to stump many an indie artist these days.
CONTENT RULES by Ann Handley & C.C. Chapman
Every independent artist needs a formidable web and social media presence. But sometimes they may not know what content to create, how to create it and how to successfully maintain it. Handley and Chapman have written the bible on exactly that: how to create the greatest social media pages, blogs, podcasts, websites and more to help any artist build the presence they need on the net.
Not everyone is going to be an artist, ripping and spitting the brashest, most life-altering bars. Not everyone is going to be that go-to producer banging out genre-defining beats for Hip Hop mix tapes and albums. And not everyone will have the capacity to be that all-powerful, omnipresent music mogul who’s smartphone is ringing off the hook with associates claiming to have found “the next big thing” 85 times a day.
With regard to making a career in Hip Hop and in the music industry alone, times and circumstances are constantly changing, and it’s up to anyone that claims they want a career in the industry to think and be flexible, be open, be honest and, arguably most importantly, be creative. Just like there’s more than one way to skin a cat or kill a roach, there’s more than one way to build a career in the world of Hip Hop music. Take it from someone who’s just like many of you out there and still trying to that same thing everyday. Here are a few ways that you can move differently and build that career in the Hip Hop industry that you’re pining after.
Artists like Tech N9ne, Immortal Technique, Killer Mike, El-P, Action Bronson, Chance The Rapper and many more you may have never heard of are masters at knowing themselves, their fans and honing their respective niches in Hip Hop. That same mentality can be used when building a career as something other than an artist, producer, label owner or promo person. Use what’s special about you and those around you to your advantage in creating he Hip Hop music career that you want.
KNOW THE HISTORY
Hip Hop is growing up before our very eyes, what with Jay Z constantly dropping bars about fine art, Nas fronting large orchestras and fans celebrating the 20th anniversaries of albums like Illmatic, Ready To Die and Southernplayalisticcadillacmuzik. A great way to break into Hip Hop these days is to know what circumstances it grew out of and how it has evolved, instead of constantly focusing on the hot, the new and the now. Many books, articles, essays and educational videos are yet to be done on Hip Hop. Possible careers? Journalist, educator, historian, activist…the possibilities are a mile wide.
It’s a genre that was created by an American underclass, but Hip Hop is a global phenomenon that’s just now starting to gain a stronger grip in countries throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and beyond. Some of the most talented Hip Hop artists exist far outside the borders of the U.S., from Tinie Tempah in the U.K. to MC Melodee of Amsterdam. If you’re able to become a fan of or connect with a globally recognized artist, it could work wonders for your career in music.
BE A RABID RESEARCHER
By no means is it the most glamorous part of the music industry, but it is without a doubt one of the most essential. We have access to tons of information in this day and age, but who really wants to comb through all of it, especially all the research that comes along with Hip Hop? You can be that person: constantly digging, reading, writing, contemplating, deciphering and decoding to help the creative person you are in the service of take their career to the next level.
LOOK OUTSIDE OF MUSIC
The excuses of “I’m doing it for the love of the music” or “the music is what drives me” are fine. But the reality is that the Hip Hop industry has less to do with music now than it once did. For that reason, diversify! You don’t have to be a sleazy salesman about it, but take steps to look at ways you can do things that have to do with Hip Hop outside of just the music aspect. Are you good at writing? Photography? Public Speaking? Event Planning? Teaching? Accounting? Community Organizing? Use Hip Hop as your foundation, but think critically about how you can go beyond the borders that everyone else is trying to hop over.
Sharing has become a major part of the new music economy. From social networking to mobile music websites, vlogging and blogging tools, music has become more open, social and sharable than ever before.
So truthfully, it should come as no surprise that the longtime manager of successful rock group Incubus, Steve Rennie, has recently started the online industry mentoring and sharing platform Renman Music and Business. Rennie was a record executive, artist manager and Vice President at Epic Records for over a decade when he met the band Incubus and took them on as a client. Rennie and the group have had massive success together over the years.
But today’s music industry has created an environment where even the smallest unknown and unsigned band has been place on an almost level playing field with major music bands and acts such as Incubus. Because of this, Rennie was inspired to create his own online platform where he can share industry knowledge, expertise, and contacts with those artists and bands that are looking to get their break in the music business.
Having over 30 years worth of all these things and some major stake in the game, as well as maybe some more time on his hands these days (Incubus is still Rennie’s only client), the music industry veteran has put together a site that is chock full of exclusive content and video, features a community forum, and has footage of Rennie giving sage advice on becoming a player in music. And the best part is that this is all at no cost (so far, anyway).
Though it should come as no surprise, it’s still very refreshing to see a music industry insider at the level that Rennie is on sharing and giving so freely of his knowledge and his abilities to those that need it the most when trying to break into music. So many times, music executives are portrayed as greedy, backstabbing sharks that would sell their own mother for a hint of success.
But the current set of circumstances that we’re all facing make for unorthodox projects, and are especially good for those that are willing to not only think outside of the box, but to destroy the box, so kudos to Rennie.
For more on this new venture, visit renmanmusicandbusiness.com.
Even though LinkedIn provides great networking opportunities for traditional professionals, its usage for musicians are still a bit unclear. I can see why managers, executives and others working on the business side of music should be actively using the popular social network, but what about artists?
As LinkedIn continues to grow and expand, I am starting to get more requests from musicians and a lot of them are opting to use their stage name instead of their government name.
This wouldn’t be an issue if their stage name was Jennifer Lopez or Beyonce Knowles, but when it contains graphic and derogatory terms it could be an issue.
I have gotten several requests from a few rap acquaintances of mines, with one named “Young Thuggin” and another named ‘Dat Niggo Swaggo.’ Yeah, I know right? I’ve been pondering for a few days whether I should add them to my valuable network at all – lol.
Even though these are extreme cases, what about other entertainers like Dj’s?
If I were a Dj what name should I create my LinkedIn profile under – DJ Kelland, Kelland Drumgoole or Kelland “DJ Kelland” Drumgoole. A bit confusing huh?
Which brings us to the question: Should musicians use their stage names or their government name on LinkedIn? Please weigh in on the topic…
With the launching of Google Music, the purchase of the Android Inc. and YouTube, Google may be the most powerful player in the music business. If someone would have told me five years that a search engine would be on the verge of dominating the future of the music business I would have thought “possible but unlikely.” We’re nearing the end of 2011 and it looks like Google is on point to be the most powerful company in music very soon, especially if they can pull of the deal with Universal Records which would make its catalog available for sale on YouTube.
While, I am not quite sold on Google Music yet I can say that with its stronghold on the Android OS and ownership of YouTube alone makes it a serious commodity in the new music business. With the mobile music business set to explode within the next five years and Android being the go to platform for “regular people, “ Google is seriously in position to reap the benefits. YouTube is already the second most used search engine behind Google and if Google Music does what Google hopes we may very soon be “Watching the Throne.”