Don’t feed the sharks. Be a majority stakeholder in your own career!
In the “olden days,” musicians only had to worry about 10% of their careers. It was a simpler formula for success– get good, get discovered, get signed; that was about all you COULD do. A few gatekeepers controlled ALL the outlets for production, distribution, and promotion. You had to impress one of these gatekeepers and sign your life away in order to present your music to the world. Even then, you were a carefully managed product, from your style to your sound to your artwork. Sure, someone else was worrying about this stuff FOR YOU, but they held the reins tight and kept most or all of the profit.
Over the last decade, the music industry has done a complete 180. Now 90% of your career is in your hands, and you have all the tools you need to make it happen (from affordable recording and video production technology, to simple physical and digital distribution solutions, to easy social media/blog/marketing solutions).
Major labels play the safe bets.
Record labels are no longer in the business of guessing or taking chances. They only sign artists who’ve already proven they can be successful on their own. As Alan Elliott says, “A record label used to be able to look at a tree and say, ‘That would make a great table.’ Now all they can do is take a finished table and sell it at Wal-Mart.”
You have to make a great recording– play a great show– cultivate a great image. You have to come up with a plan and make it happen, too. You have to make thousands of people want your music so much they’ll pay good money for it. You have to make things happen on your own. Even if a record label puts it in the stores for you, they still rely on YOUR hard work to make people want to buy it.
The only thing stopping you from success is yourself. This is both scary and exciting, but at least you’re in control. And while you’re proving yourself and building your career, you actually get to create, produce, and distribute your own music along the way. 30 years ago, you’d have to go swimming in a pool of sharks before you were allowed to record the first note of your best song. Today’s path to musical success requires your sweat, NOT your blood.