8 Common Music Industry Myths
If you ask a detective if their day-to-day life is just like Law and Order or ask a doctor if Grey's Anatomy properly depicts their work life, chances are they will shake their head and laugh. The entertainment business massively dramatizes these walks of life, so why would the music industry be any different?
Whether you get your music industry perspective from from television shows, MTV, or the local indie band, there are probably a number of misconceptions you have begun to accept as truth.
In this article, we will shed some light on what the music industry is really like to clear up many common myths.
If you're interested in becoming a musician or working in the music industry, you need to know what you're getting yourself into so you can have level expectations, be prepared, and make the best choices for you to succeed.
Table of Contents
- If You Perform Enough Gigs You Will Be Discovered
- Likes=Ticket Sales
- The Industry Always Pays Well
- I Just Need One Hit
- Record Sales Are King
- The Music Industry Is Dead
- Overnight Sensations
- You Have To Be Naturally Talented
1. If You Perform Enough Gigs You Will Be Discovered
Some musicians do get discovered, sure. Artists like Rihanna and Taylor Swift were lucky enough to be discovered, but they were even more fortunate to actually succeed.
Many artists that get "discovered" in multiple industries never actually make it. Tons of musicians will still play as many gigs as possible or spend hours trying to be the next viral hit on YouTube.
The problem with this is that it is usually aimless and it hardly ever works. It's like trying to win the lottery.
Now, don't get us wrong. Playing gigs, getting experience, and diving into your local music scene is super important.
But, if you're playing gigs and sharing music, you need to have a plan.
For example, if you're gigging, you could offer a free live recording EP or your newest album in exchange for emails. This could get you thousands of new subscribers.
The sad truth is that record labels don't look for raw talent anymore. They want artists who already have a following.
Growing an email list and having a large, engaged following on social media makes you much more attractive to a record label than having 200 shows under your belt.
2. Likes = Ticket Sales
The easiest way to develop a following and market your music from the comfort of your couch is social media. And that is exactly why so many musicians, artists, and bands use it.
Standing out and gaining followers is one challenge, but that doesn't always translate to profit and ticket sales. Especially if you used non-music techniques to attain your followers, like sharing memes or buying followers (which we strongly do NOT recommend).
So the next time you get jealous of an artist's following, dig a little deeper.
Take a look at where their likes come from. Study their fan interaction. Then listen to their music.
Don't let numbers intimidate you. Building a strong base of genuine fans of your music slowly is more important than having useless followers.
3. The Industry Always Pays Well
Some artists are paid very well. However, there are many artists that are not.
At one point in time, the cash was flowing in the music industry. It's not really like that anymore. We could talk regional tour numbers and record labels, but let's discuss something a little more relevant to the average musician.
Artists want to get their music on Spotify as soon as possible, right? The ultimate goal is to have your music land on a Spotify playlist, be heard by millions of listeners, and make boatloads of money.
While having your music heard by millions of listeners is never a bad thing, the amount of money you make per stream may surprise you. Musicians today earn about $0.00437 per stream on Spotify.
If you do the math, that means you need about 2,500 people to listen to your songs to make the same amount of money you could make off of selling one album.
Imagine playing to an arena of 2,500 people and getting $10 for your trouble.
Of course, putting your music on Spotify is passive, compared to performing during a live show. But at the same time, it's kind of a bummer.
4. I Just Need One Hit
We all know about the one-hit wonders. But what about the stars with two and three hit songs?
Many of them are still barely scraping by.
Whether you have a hit song or not, if a record label doesn't sign you, all of the booking, marketing, recording, and business tasks are your responsibility.
Getting signed to a record label may feel like last decade's goal, but it is a good point when you truly think about it.
If you get a hit single, what is your next step?
Knowing how to capitalize on that hit is a priceless skill. For a little while, you will be able to charge a little more for gigs and features, but eventually, you will fall out of sight and out of mind. Not to mention the added pressure to follow up your hit single with another hit.
One hit is most often not enough to retire on. Knowing what to do after the hit is what makes or breaks a musician.
5. Record Sales Are King
Some consider record sales as relevant today as the Sony Walkman.
Streaming is king now, and it is more profitable than physical or download sales at Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group.
And if you're an indie artist, record sales have been irrelevant for a while now.
Instead of dreaming about record sales, new artists should focus on subscriptions on BandCamp or Patreon, as well as crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo.
The important thing, like social media, is to stay active on these platforms. If you create a Patreon or Kickstarter, make sure that you're consistently providing the content and music that you promised you would.
Nothing could tarnish your reputation more than taking listener's money and offering false promises.
Another way to diversify your revenue stream is by selling merchandise. If you don't want to dish out a lump sum for overhead costs, try platforms like Teespring.
There are more ways to make money with music than just album sales. Get creative.
6. The Music Industry Is Dead
Sure, album sales have plummeted, but the demand for good music is at an all-time high.
Let's be very clear about this; the point of this article is to highlight misconceptions, not deter you from creating music you're passionate about.
People listen to more music now than they ever have before. Studies have shown that streaming services have increased the interest of music consumption.
That means streaming music increases people's listening palettes and increases their chances of buying full CDs and physical albums.
Even music made hundreds of years ago is having a comeback in this new age of music.
Mozart had one of the highest album sales of the year in 2016. Yes, we are talking about Mozart.
While record sales may not be king anymore, they certainly help when it comes to filling people's ears with your music and filling your pocket with some spending money.
How people consume music has completely changed, but the industry is alive and kicking. Artists just need to be creative about how to reach fans and how we sell to them.
But thanks to the digital landscape that makes up the music industry today, there are countless opportunities to connect with fans and find success in the music industry.
7. Overnight Sensations
Most of the misconceptions we have discussed have at least a tiny asterisk or a "well, but..." for extenuating or past circumstances. But not this one. Let's eliminate this misconception once and for all.
Overnight sensations are a myth in every industry.
Sometimes it might seem like someone emerged overnight, but when you dig a little deeper, you'll find that every artist works for years before they "blew up overnight."
Even though you may not have heard of them until now, that doesn't mean they haven't been working for years to finally make it.
8. You Have To Be Naturally Talented
Ah, the old "innate talent vs. hard work" argument. There's a huge misconception that everyone who makes it as a musician was born naturally talented.
People often think that they can't become a good singer or guitar player because it doesn't come "naturally." That couldn't be further from the truth.
Every artist you have ever listened to has spent a bulk of their life perfecting their craft. No one just rolls out of bed and sells millions of albums.
Ironically, having ridiculous natural talent can actually hurt you in the long run. You may have a voice from the heavens, but if you don't develop the work ethic of a singer that has progressed over time, they will likely out-succeed you.
It takes time, effort, and the guidance of experienced musicians.
That's what makes a place like the Atlanta Institute of Music and Media so unique.
One music industry fact that is not a misconception is that having a music certificate or degree on your resumé will greatly help you succeed and advance.
AIMM gives you the opportunity to master an instrument of your choice (Guitar, Vocals, Drums, Keyboard, or Bass) and learn the best insider music production techniques. As an AVID Pro Tools Training partner, you'll learn how record, mix, and master like your favorite professionals.
If you're still reading this, clearly you have an interest in making a splash in the music in the music industry. AIMM can help you every step of the way.
Click below to learn more about AIMM and how our music college can help you achieve your music goals personally and professionally.