So your child has decided not just to stick with the music lessons, but maybe even to pursue a career in music. Like any other journey, that’ll take some realistic planning.
Mapping Your Musical Career Path
By Keith Hatschek
How realistic is your pursuit of success in the music industry? It depends on your passion and expectations.
When I speak with people aspiring to develop a successful career in the music and recording industry, most share a common trait-passion. They talk about their love of music and also how much music or singing means to them. However, no matter how great your passion, an accurate understanding of the job realities is necessary before you plunge into developing a career in this field.
Reality #1: Job Supply and Demand
The music and recording industry adheres to the law of job supply and demand, a basic rule of all economic systems. When it comes to jobs and opportunities, the supply of music gigs falls well below the demand of those wishing to enter the industry. This causes a situation that makes every job precious, even those that pay nada. It also means that in order to increase your chances for success, you have to take advantage of every single ethical opportunity to better your skills and status in the industry.
When I managed a large San Francisco recording studio, we would receive an average of four to five resumes a week from job seekers. Many would boldly state, “I’ll do anything to get started, from scrubbing the bathroom to running for lunches, and I’ll work for free!” This example clearly shows that when others are willing to work for no pay, it makes it harder for you to land a paying gig. That’s the first reality you’ll discover about getting started as a professional in the business.
Reality #2: Record Sales Revenues
The second reality is that when it comes to succeeding as a recording artist, the vast majority of major label recordings fail to break even for their record label. A well-known manager and label president shared a staggering statistic quoted in Billboard: of the approximately 32,000 records released commercially each year, only 189 sell at least 250,000 copies, which is considered the “break-even” point for major labels.
Don’t be discouraged by this statistic. Instead, understand that although it can be done, it’s a long shot to hit it big as a major label recording artist. Take heart in the fact that there are thousands of artists like you who successfully record, press and promote their own CD. Selling enough CDs to cover your recording and production cost is within the reach of any savvy artist who builds a fan base. And with the current revolution in technology, it’s now practical for an artist to spend $4-5,000 producing a high-quality “home-grown” album that can make back the investment and help build his or her career.
Hobby or Career?
Are you pursuing a hobby or a career as a musician or singer? Why is it important to know the difference? This is an issue that sometimes trips people up as they look to build a career in the music and recording industry. Many come to the industry because of their love of music. But the reality is, you’ve got to develop bankable skills to deliver, or you’re not going to be gainfully employed or grow your career.
A hobby is the pursuit of a field for personal enjoyment. A career is your vocation, the daily occupation in which you must excel. Either a hobby or a career can be rewarding. However, you have to decide which one of these roads you’re on.
If you plan to make a career in the music business, you’ve got to be serious about developing your job search strategies, building your skill set, and researching what competition you’ll face in specific jobs or performance gigs. Discover what your earning prospects are.
It’s okay to switch from hobby to career. Just make sure you have the required commitment, as the road will be challenging and you will need to stay focused on achieving your goals.
A “Performance Plus” Career
It’s a fact that many people cannot earn enough as a full-time performer to pay the bills and maintain a comfortable standard of living. That’s why today you might want to consider what I call “Performance Plus” careers in music. Just the other day, I met a woman who works four days a week in a real estate office and performs and practices regularly with a local band. She told me that there was no way she could make it financially right now just singing, but that she loved staying active as a singer. Her “day gig” gives her the security she needs to supplement her performance income.
In today’s music world, as you work to build your career, you may choose to maintain one job to help support yourself while you pursue your passion in music on a part-time basis. Doing so makes good sense. If and when the day comes that you do get a break that may catapult you to a full-time career in music, you will likely be ready since you have kept your music career development moving ahead at a steady pace.
Keith Hatschek is the founder of Keith Hatschek & Associates, a public relations and marketing firm, and teaches music business at the University of the Pacific. He is the author of How to Get a Job in the Music and Recording Industry, available online at www.berkleepress.com.