So I am by no means an expert! I have been in this world for 4 years now and I have a lot to learn and a long way to go! But I wanted to write this post for a long time now, so here it is!
Okay, before I go into the 10 things I learnt, I want you to stop what you are doing.
If you are a musician, sign up to IMRO register your songs, submit your set lists and then come back to me. THAT IS STEP 0! ! !
Okay, you're back? Good let's dig into it!
1. Work Hard
The music game is not one for the faint of heart or the soft of skin! It requires a thick skin and a strong work ethic and support team. Maybe more so than any job, you are being told 'no' a lot more than you are being told 'yes' and you're lucky if you even get a response at all!
Be prepared for this and be ready for it do some damage to your self confidence! Be ready to work on, not only your craft, but on caring for your mental health too! For every over night success there is thousands of up-and-coming musicians putting their blood, sweat and tears into their work, so don't be fooled by the those who tell you it will "just happen" for you !
2. They call it the music business for a reason.
I pride myself on being a good judge of character but I started off this process so naive! You have to learn that not everyone you meet has good intentions, like all other forms of adulthood.
So, get that boss hat on and handle it!
I also learnt that you have to say 'no' to people without having to explain yourself. (Full disclosure this is definitely not a lesson I have mastered yet)
Everyone is a contact, every gig is an opportunity!
Of course, you are not expected to be great at this aspect of the music world - you came in as a songwriter or musician, not a CEO! The best way to handle this business world is education! Go and learn about job titles, their roles and, most importantly, what they can do for you and what percentage they get. I remember, once watching the Nicki Minaj documentary and there was a scene where she was in the studio. She knew absolutely everything that was going on in the studio in terms of engineering and producing and then she left the studio to head to a meeting. She was able to just swap head spaces. And it was in that moment I thought to myself "I need to be that". Don't you dare go into a room or a meeting as the one who doesn't know what's going on - be the boss!
Always remember that as long as its your songs, your voice and your name on the ticket, you get the final say!
3. Push yourself
To be in a music career is to be in a constant state of what I like to call "duck and pitch". You have to be ready to pitch yourself to ANYONE. The DJ radio you may meet along the way, the booker who is looking for musicians to fill a venue or even to potential fans and supporters. No confidence? Fake it 'til you make it!
You are the best person to push yourself and promote yourself!
4. Say 'Thank You'
God I'm such a teacher *insert eye roll here*
5. Know Yourself and Be Yourself
Age definitely plays a part in this but before you go signing things and joining labels etc.
know who you are, what you stand for and what you like.
If down the line the original plan changes that's totally okay! I'm 22 (yeah, so old - yet so young) but when I was given my first contract at 18 I didn't have a clue ... about anything. That was my first mistake! If you go into a contact agreement not knowing who you are you are giving your full permission to a label to mold you so be cautious of that.
Once, I was told that people would come to my gigs for the music but would leave the minute I started speaking in my Longford accent
(totally flat accent if you're wondering).
This really damaged my opinion of myself and my pride of where I'm from. I actually turned into a mute at the gigs for a while and wouldn't speak at all in between songs. No... I'm not lying, there are actually times where I don't speak, rare times but they occur all the same.
So often, young musicians have this defeatist attitude about where they are from. If you are from a small town or a town with a below average reputation, it seems to be a road block for musicians and their music creation. So many times, myself, I come up against sly comments and underestimation because I am "your own from Longford". But I'm proud of where I'm from and just try to use it to my own advantage.
Fly the flag for your own area and your area will, hopefully, fly the flag for you!
6. Support each other!
You're going to meet a lot of musicians along the way in the exact same boat as you. They understand all the time, money and effort it takes to create and release music, so support each other! Share their posts, download their songs (and I would stress to download not stream because their is no money in the Spotify realm), buy the merch and most importantly, GO TO THE GIGS! The Irish Music Scene is small but it is mighty! Make your friends and help each other out!
7. It's going to be an expensive venture!
Always plan, budget and ask for fair prices - don't be afraid to haggle! Most importantly, have a back up plan! When I decided I wanted to take the music seriously, the two rules were to finish the teaching degree and don't complain when everything gets hectic because you chose this lifestyle!
Also, don't expect to get your investment back! In reality, CDs are dying out and Spotify is taking over and although having your music up there opens a whole new audince to your sound, the money is notoriously bad! Sign up to IMRO!!! You get a small payment every quarter for every gig you do, singing your original music and every time your music is played on the radio! RAPP is where you get paid for doing cover gigs!
A really important thing to learn is deciding prices for gigs. Don't sell yourself short but also don't charge through the roof if its only you and a guitar! If you have to travel a long distance and if you have to bring your own sound system add that into the price! A top tip I will share is; give the first gig in a venue at half price and if the venue like it and take you back, then charge the full price! This works 90% of the time but be ready to be taken advantage of with some venue owners!
For studio - DO YOUR RESEARCH!!!!!!! You are going to be paying thousands on creating an album that is top quality and true to you! Meet the studio producers, listen to previous artists who worked here, compare the prices and when you decide, get the prices and all these conditions in writing!! I was blessed with Beardfire Studios in Dublin! Rohan, Al and David were really professional and sent a playlist of previous artists and the prices up front! If a label is not giving you good vibes in the initial conversation then don't waste your money! Be patient and find the right fit for you, your budget and your music! (I would highly recommend looking into Beardfire! No better place!)
These next two are probably the hardest lessons I had to learn, out of this whole experience.
8.Don't sign ANYTHING without time and research!
I can NOT express how important this is!!! I could be here all day talking about this point alone and maybe I will in the future but moral of the story is if a contract is put in front of you remember the following ....
Get a music law expert to read it - music law and normal law are two different ball games! A regular solicitor could read through a contract and not see an issue where a music law solicitor could read a contract and find a million things that are going to rip the musician off!
Research the people who handed that contract to you! Look into their 'success stories', their experience, how long they are in business etc! Don't take one person's words as Gospel - DO THE RESEARCH YOURSELF
Take your time! They handed you the contract and they want you to join them so make them wait!
9. Not everyone is going to stay with you throughout this process.
A sad fact that a sensitive old sod like me finds really hard to grasp. It is the same as in any walk of life. If you are strong and driven in your chosen field, some people, who may not be as confident in their own abilities will be uncomfortable around you.
You have to be prepared and remember that the guy that keeps asking you to come grab a coffee will get fed up of constantly being told "I can't today, I'm working / gigging / walking into a meeting". And being known as the boyfriend of the singer probably isn't the nicest thing in the world. To be in a relationship with any hard working person requires both parties to be sure in themselves and a huge degree of support for each other.
Friends will start to think you are being anti-social or distant or in some cases, call you a 'shit friend'. Stop right there in that moment and realize that that is not the case. You have to learn that your priorities are simply different but that doesn't mean you can't be friends anymore.
AND THIS DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE NOTIONS OF YOURSELF!!!!
(Typical Irish mentality that I've had to deal with from the minute I started my Facebook page - I'm scared to think what will happen when I actually get probably start working with this album release!)
Dear friends, here is the learning part; the real ones won't go. The real, ride or die friends, will support you, without having to be asked! The real ones understand you're working and will encourage and support you.
PSA - This needs to be a two way street! You have to take time out to be sure that you support your friends too!
I have to admit that this is the hardest thing about being a musician. So many times I'd be sitting in my car crying because of these relationships, not breaking down but, essentially, cracking, so much so I would just want to give up. "If I just stay under the radar they'll all like me again." If you take anything from this long long long blog post take this ....
Don't become weak just because someone can't handle your strength.
10. This is a bloody amazing job!
If you had told me four years ago I would be able to do all these amazing things, meet all these amazing people, and sing my own songs for a living - I would have told you to g'out! The opportunities you get to have in this job out weight any and all negatives! If you want to get into this business do it! You won't regret it!
So there it is, I planned to give a fountain of knowledge but I get the feeling its more of a runny tap! If you like what you read, drop a comment below, subscribe to the website to never miss a blog or share it on the socials!
Stay Stunning Little Magpies!