1. Figure out what you want to do
First and foremost, it’s important to know exactly which area of the music industry you want to enter. It’s no good simply entertaining a pipe dream of “being in the industry”; there are many different facets to it, and entering them will require different types or levels of skill. For example, if you want to be a distributor, you’re going to need good business sense, but if you want to be a professional musician, then your skill with your instrument is much more important. Make sure you know where your ambitions lie before you begin to chase them.
2. Gather some funding
Chasing a music industry dream isn’t cheap. Depending on whether or not you keep your day job, you’re going to struggle for sources of funding at first, so it’s important to know exactly where your money is going to come from. Once you’re established and you’ve got a handle on your income, that’s when you can start thinking about settling down, taking out mortgage loans, and building a life for yourself. At first, though, you should simply think about getting as much funding as possible. If you’re a musician, it’s worth applying for whatever grants you can, too.
3. Build a network
The music industry can unfortunately be somewhat prone to cliqueiness, so you should think about building a network for yourself. Latch onto whatever contacts you already have and build your network around them. If you don’t have contacts, then use gigs and other events as opportunities to network; approach other musicians or other industry professionals, talk to them, and tell them a little bit about who you are and what you do (or what you want to do). Networking takes time and personal skills, but it’s an invaluable skill in the music industry.
4. Gain volunteer experience
We all know the old “paid in exposure” fallacy, right? If promoters offer to pay you in exposure, that’s usually something you should avoid, because they’re basically asking you to work for free, especially if their event isn’t particularly well-attended. However, there may be occasions on which it is actually worth thinking about getting paid in exposure. For example, if you’re playing a charity event as a musician, you may not get paid, but many people may see your band in action, and the show is for a good cause as well, so this would be an opportunity worth thinking about.
5. Work as much as possible
Obviously, we’re not advocating that you burn yourself out here. It’s a good idea to know where your boundaries are and respect them as fully as possible. However, while you’re not taking downtime, it’s important to get as much work as possible and to engage fully in that work. For example, if you’re a producer, advertise your services everywhere and try to build a portfolio. If you’re a publisher, then distribute as much of your friends’ music or your family’s music as possible so as to show people what you can do. Work can come from some surprising places!
6. Utilise social media
Social media is an incredible tool for budding music industry professionals. It can help you to advertise your services and gain work, and it can also help people who you’ve worked with to recommend your services to others. Apps like Facebook, Twitter, and even TikTok can help you to publicise yourself as a musician and show off what you can do. You can also build dedicated pages for your work so that people can check out a sample of your portfolio. There’s really no reason not to be on social media if you’re looking to break into the music industry.
7. Create a website for yourself
A personal website is arguably more important than a social media presence. It shows people that you’re serious about what you do because it gives them a way to engage with you professionally rather than simply via the medium of Twitter or Instagram. Your website should be clean, attractive, and easy to navigate so that people can find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. It should contain all of the pertinent information to help you find work, and it should also show off what you can do (if possible, of course). Take care over designing your website, because it’s important.
A music industry dream is not an easy one to chase or fulfil. People are probably going to tell you to give up, that your dream is impossible, or that you should find something more “realistic”. We’re also going to be realistic here; any amount of hard work likely won’t pay off if you don’t also have a little bit of luck. However, that doesn’t mean you should stop trying. Without the work itself, you definitely won’t gain those opportunities, and you never know when your big break is going to come along, so if you really do want a career in the music industry, don’t stop believing!