Article : The Music industry ; Art VS Business : What is it really ?
Updated: Jan 23
We would like to quickly share some really insightful perspective on the age old debate of being a "musician" vs being active in the "music industry". The two may cross lines in many places but for the sake of clarity we want to provide you with some clearer perspective on what "the debate" is and where it comes from.
Part of the reason we thought this would be a useful topic to cover is because the internet is filled with huge amounts of misinformation on how people actually access the music industry.
From "selling out creatively" to "weird illuminati cults" we have heard it all, yet interesting enough, nobody we have ever met who actually gets paid from their crafts and has built themselves an audience is willing to agree with them. Where does this come from ?
The goal here is not to fault find but instead gain some understanding into where the whole "selling out" concept came from in the music industry because "selling out" (being successful) was not always a thing. In fact prior to the Americanisation of the music and entertainment industry (media) the mindset and expectations of being a musician were somewhat different. So what changed ?
Firstly, it is a byproduct of what the "Hollywood culture" or "Celebrity culture" in America has engrained into the minds of much of the world over what it means to have a "successful career" as if being a celebrity and being successful in your trade are completely interchangable.
This is where we make our first partition on where things went wrong; the expectation that a "successful" music career begins with glitz, glammer and fame. When in 95% of cases it is the absolute opposite, healthy careers in these industry's usually begin behind the scenes and it is the byproduct of years of relationships building with other professionals.
Believe it or not, this fact sits true of practically every successful musician who has had a lasting career in their field, be it rappers, producers, aandr's and label executives. The issue with many creatives is that in the process of becoming ideological about matters such as being a "pure" artist Vs being an "industry" artist, they completely miss the point.
We have repeatedly seen artists who love the idea of creating art, but when professional jargon like "Marketing, Strategy, Networking, Sales, Projects and Advertising" is introduced to them, they reject the idea that these are things they will be required to start self-education if they intend to stay on top of their game.
We understand, to many, formal learning is simply out of their comfort zone and for that reason anything that sounds like systematic learning (school) is rejected.
Well here's the thing to consider as a final conclusion, if your goal is to simply sing in private and you enjoy the art, more power to you, you are a musician; do as many songs/cover songs and sing your heart out.
But understand you are essentially no different to a Karaoke artist. In order to have a music CAREER, it is no different than seeking a career in any other profession.
You will need a demonstrable education and demonstrable results to go with it if you expect people/events/festivals/labels/brands to reach out to you as an equal. This isn't a matter of selling out, it's a matter of presentation and understanding your industry, in the famous words of Jay-Z, "Men lie, Women lie, numbers don't".
You are not going to build a music 'career' with a losing mindset, or with an anti-business mindset that doesn't factor in how your going to make a return from all your investment in time, visuals, productions, studio time and actual energy and money.
We at A-Grade want all our people to win, so we share this knowledge in the hope that it will inspire some/all of you to take the aspect of building a career seriously, don't be the "starving artist with a pipe dream" when you could be the "eating artist with a business model". It's completely up to you.
Best of luck and much love