Are You Waiting Around to Get “Discovered?”

February 10, 2012{ 25 Comments }

iStock 000016538783XSmall Are You Waiting Around to Get Discovered?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.

Sell your music on Facebook, iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, CD Baby, and more!

  • Brent "wildman&

    Well put and so true as I'm finding out myself, having just recorded a solo cd and created my own website artwork etc. Alot of work but I'd rather have my musical destiny in my hands instead of someone elses! http://www.brentenman.com

  • kat

    The main thing stopping some bands is funds. Funds to record. Funds to manufacture product. Funds to hire out what you can't do yourself (graphic design, or web design, or press copy.) And especially, funds to tour. Bands who can fund themselves will, can, and do, get ahead. A few stand out sure bets will still get attention and support from labels. But most bands need $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ to get anywhere at all.

    • http://members.cdbaby.com/ CD Baby

      That is true. But I've seen quite a few bands who were able to save their earnings from shows in order to record. Then save more to make the disc. Then save more for the release and PR and videos, etc. And these weren't privileged kids. They struggled for a bit and saved up. Once they'd built momentum, the budgeting got easier and they were able to do more.

    • Blackadonis1

      Kat is smart as hell!! No one could have said it better than yu!

      find me on facebook@adonisvowsen

  • Adonis

    Amazing. Thank you for the tip, This same info has been echoing in my ears for the past two years. I am finally convinced!

  • Zenidanussi

    Being in control of your own career is the way to go, this way we see true hard working musicians coming through, instead of the one hit wonders, real bands may come back onto the scene, like the new AC/DC's, the new BLACK SABBATH's the new LED ZEP's and so on. http://www.zenidanussi.co.uk

  • Young Teen

    I think its not very easy getting discovered but it is when you work twice as hard as the next music artist….Work Hard Play Hard is the a good model to go by……Follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/youngteen1984

  • G. Vangelista

    Great article! I liked the sweat/blood joke ;-)

    • http://members.cdbaby.com/ CD Baby

      Thanks, G!

  • http://members.cdbaby.com/ CD Baby

    True. But you can gain a lot of ground by bypassing the commercial radio stations and focusing on college, community, satellite, and internet radio, along with podcasts and such. For people who want info on how to launch your own DIY radio campaign– check out http://links.mkt1524.com/servlet/SignUpForm?f=717….

  • http://members.cdbaby.com/ CD Baby

    Every once in a while we like to do something more along the lines of "Word of Encouragement."

    • Sidneyvaught

      You do have to do some work to get the word out. I've been working on my album about two years now and have built up some buzz amongst people whom I have performed with and for in the past and keeping them updated through social networking. You can always find some good advertising options that don't cost very much. Plus I've been networking with other artists for years, and scoping out Internet radio options. I also have a vast business background. The thing is to not overreach your means and keep your day job, I've always joked that my work life merely funds my real life.

      I've been singing for a very, very long time and have good contacts. I know I'm not going to set the world on fire, but I believe I'll be able to at least break even and finance my next project. I just love making music and whatever little recognition I get is just going to be sauce for the goose.

      • http://members.cdbaby.com/ CD Baby

        Nice– "sauce for the goose." Sound like you're moving forward with a great attitude. Let us know how everything goes with your promotion!

  • http://members.cdbaby.com/ CD Baby

    That is a wide-open question. To narrow the focus a bit, have you sorted out distribution? Do you have plans in place for a DIY radio campaign and PR campaign? If so, what is the scope? Local? Regional? National? Are you booking a tour to coincide with the release? Making any videos?

  • DREW WOMACK

    There were 22 players on the field and 200,000 screaming fans… now there are 200,000 players and 22 screaming fans.

  • http://members.cdbaby.com/ CD Baby

    http://links.mkt1524.com/servlet/SignUpForm?f=717
    Check out this free guide. It's got good advice about how to get your music played by college/community/satellite/internet radio DJs, as well as placed on some podcasts.

  • http://members.cdbaby.com/ CD Baby

    If you have a distributor sending units to brick and mortar record stores that do NOT sell, the store will send those CDs back to the distributor as "returns." How the cost of those returns is distributed amongst you and your distributor is, of course, up to the contract you've negotiated. But unsold units should not be thrown out. Though that may be the case if you're merely consigning your albums for sale and go for a while without communicating with the store.

  • http://members.cdbaby.com/ CD Baby

    Absolutely legal to send a station your CD. However, I'd be strategic about it. For details on launching your own radio promotion campaign, check out this free guide: http://links.mkt1524.com/servlet/SignUpForm?f=717

  • http://members.cdbaby.com/ CD Baby

    Great advice. And nicely done!

  • Sidney Vaught

    I sure will. I had DiscMakers duplicate a test production for me in 2009. This little project was meant to put me through the paces of getting mechanical licenses, submitting materials to the manufacturer, etc. It was a mini-album consisting of five Christmas songs, and I only had 200 units produced which I gave away as Christmas presents to friends, fellow actors, musicians and loyal peeps who have supported the plays and performances I've been in and such over the years.

    The two Christmases since then, I still get emails from people saying how much they love my Christmas album, and I still get requests to sing some of the selections live each Christmas. I sang some last Christmas. I was really stunned at the impact those simple 200 units had on people.

    Quite a good little number of copies went out to people all over the country since many of the younger actors I've worked with went on to Los Angeles and New York to try their luck in the business. I ran into one of them working at Junior's on Time Square just last summer when I was in New York seeing Broadway plays.

    Yes, I will keep you posted as to what happens after I release my album. Thanks for your interest.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KFHWZXED55F4EK3DGA5VNQNPZ4 Richard Barber

    This kind of advice is great if you live in an area that supports music. Try running an original rock band in Honolulu – like I do. The rock music scene here is non-existent. Period. You're lucky to have 5 people in the room (if you can find a venue to play at) on a Saturday night and mostly you'll be playing to tables and chairs. Trying to get people interested in rock music here is like trying to sell the Koran in Utah – folks ain't interested.

  • recordingartist

    Record labels who do not try to help their artists are crooks. If they're all doing it, they're all crooks. Michael Jackson is the king of pop, but when he announced that he had left a certain record label, they stopped promoting his CD. As a result, sales were cut and his CD was not as popular. It's a shame how record labels treat individuals. I picture a day when artists won't need them anymore and they'll all go bankrupt. The honest artist will flourish. ha!

  • Anonymous

    I have found that buying and learning your software then using it to its full capability is probably the best investment an up and coming artist can do for him/herself. I am a one man funk band that plays original music, playing 4 instruments and doing live loops.

    Find me, like me, share me "please" at – facebook.com/henryinvisible.

  • Mademoiselle Marquee

    I am really enjoying your articles, I find them motivating! I have my CD High Tea on CDBaby.. I am considering doing a sale as a promotion…! All the best to everyone.

    • http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/author-chris-robley Christopher Robley

      Hey M,

      Thanks. Glad to hear it. Best of luck with the sale.

      @ChrisRobley