Musicians :: Understanding Music Business And How Record Labels Work!

Most of the Record labels are publishers. Others offer 360 deals while some 270 maximum. But lets first dissect and understand what they do.

Record labels hire and employ the best musical writers. When an artist signs a record deal they are forced to give up their Master Recording copyright to the publisher. The publisher then sets them to work with THEIR writers to write songs that the artist sings. The money that comes in from licensing (putting songs on the radio, in films, in tv, etc.) goes to the publisher who gets half and the other half goes to the writers that the publisher employs and If the artist wrote something in the song they get their percentage of the half that the writers get. The publisher also makes the artist sign a mechanical licensing deal. That allows the publisher to put out CD’s, records, and sell downloads. Typically, the artist gets one dime from every unit sold. The artist, since they receive very little EARNED money, is then forced to go out and tour in order to make a living off the take from ticket sales and merchandise AND payback the generous ADVANCES given to them by the publisher. The artist, the performer, is the lowest of the low on the business totem pole. Meanwhile, the publisher is raking in money hand over first from licensing deals using the Master Recording copyright. The artist is indebted to the publisher, usually with advances in the millions. That money has to be paid back from the sale of CD’s, records, and downloads. The artist is usually on the hook also for many more albums promised to the publisher. If an artist rebels the publisher stops promoting their works and sales dwindle, putting the screws onto the artist. When they are under enough pressure, the artist is allowed to be dropped, in exchange for giving up any and all rights to their own music. When that happens the publisher then begins promoting the artist to the hilt – because the publisher their writers get all the money. None for the artist. This is the sad truth about how the music industry really works in the real world.

As an Artist always :-

  1. Keep your publishing rights to the Master Recording,
  2. Always write your own songs.
  3. Register your copyright with the government copyright office ( find registered bodies that collect royalties in your country) and then join a PRO (Ascap or BMI in America ) and register your songs yourself.

As an Artist, are you signed? How has your record label helped you? What are some of the challenges you face as an indie or Signed artist?

Studying Song Structure Can Help You Learn New Material Quickly!

Strategies that involve focused listening and practice are key to learning new material quickly, and looking closely at song structure can lessen the amount of time it takes you to get from first listen to a strong, quality performance.

Prioritize structure

Wrapping your head around a sonic roadmap is often the best way to demystify a new song you’re trying to learn. Does the tune follow a standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus progression? Or is it something a little more unconventional — verse-verse-verse-bridge-verse, for example? Are all of the verses the same length, or do some jump to the pre-chorus more quickly? If you can break a song structure down so you always know what’s coming next, you’ll be in a great position to deliver a strong performance, even with minimal prep time.

Prioritize key elements

When you have a lot of music to learn and not enough to time to do it, think about it practically and ruthlessly.

When it comes to the performance itself, will it make a huge difference if you don’t play the specific chord voicings indicated on the song’s bridge, as long as you stay in time and stick to the basic harmonic structure? Perhaps not.

On the other hand, will it screw up the flow of the song if you miss the big break at the end of the second verse, leading into the anthemic chorus? Yeah, probably.

If you have extremely limited time, try to identify the points in the song that are the most critical for you to get absolutely right and make sure that those are locked in. The parts you can hack your way through? Leave those for whatever time you have left, once you have the absolutely vital key elements solidified.

Identify trouble spots

Is there a certain chord progression that seems to throw you whenever you play the song? If, after two or three times through, you still find yourself repeatedly tripping over the same musical element, it’s time to stop, drop, and focus. Run the measure or measures in question repeatedly, and slowed down, until you feel like the section is pretty well burned into your brain. Then, slowly pick up the tempo and start to play that trouble spot in context. You may still minorly trip over it when you reach it in context of the larger song, but the more time you can spend focusing on those individual difficult spots, the easier it will be for you integrate them seamlessly into your overall performance — and pick yourself up without losing a beat if you do stumble in performance.

Look for patterns

I recently was asked to sight read what appeared to be a very challenging song for a new singer I was working with. Luckily, there was sheet music — but unluckily, there were no chord symbols to follow and the music was dense and highly chromatic.

As we went through it, though, I began to notice there was a lot of repetition within the song, at least in what I was being asked to play. One rhythmic and melodic figure, for example, seemed to occur over and over, just transposed to different keys and played in the context of different chords.

Once I made this connection, I was able to shift my attention from trying to read every single note as it came flying at me to figuring out where that particular pattern would go next — and how to play it in a way that would best support the singer in her performance. This was a much more fun, useful, and successful approach than simply trying to cut my way through a forest of notes, sharps, and flats.

When you’re learning new songs yourself, look for any sort of pattern, whether it’s a repetition of a chord structure, rhythm, melodic line, or other element. The more patterns you can identify, the more attention you’ll be able to pay to other elements of the song — including having fun and delivering a great performance.

Look for similarities with other songs

With genres like pop, rock, blues, and country, chord patterns and rhythms can often be similar from one song to the next. Does the bridge of this new tune you’re learning follow the same harmonic progression as your favorite Beatles song? Do the underlying rhythmic hits of the chorus remind you of Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive”? Use those similarities to your advantage — the more you can reference material that you already know as you’re shedding new tunes, the less you have to learn from scratch and the more energy you can invest in delivering a memorable and musical performance.

How do you approach learning lots of music quickly?


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8 Tips To Help You Learn New Music … Fast!

If you’re in a situation where you have to learn new music in a very short time, these tips can help you develop a strategy so you can tackle the task and perform with confidence.

Let’s say you’re playing drums in a band and your main songwriter comes in with fifteen new songs that he wants to perform at your next gig… tomorrow.

Or let’s say your bassist buddy calls to say she has a family emergency, and asks if you can fill in for her big two-set gig that starts in six hours?

The scenarios are endless but the story is the same — as a musician, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to learn lots of material in a very short time and make it sound like you’ve been playing that music for years.

You don’t need to be a master sight-reader or have an ear of gold to own such opportunities, but you do need guts, focus, and most importantly, a strategy. Here are tips to get you started when it comes to internalizing tons of music on an uber-tight deadline.

Know what’s expected of you

When you’re tackling a new song (or a dozen), it’s important to know what you need to do. Are you being asked to play every single note of a guitar solo exactly the same as the album version, or do you have freedom to improvise your own cadenza over the chord structure? Should your drum grooves be stylish and sparse, or dense and dangerous? Does the bandleader want slap bass, a picked bass sound, or something completely different? The more direction you can get up front, the more efficiently you’ll be able to focus your shedding time and get the piece where it needs to be.

Listen a lot

Whenever I’m given lots of new music to learn, I put the music on my phone, plug in headphones, and listen on repeat as much, and as often, as I can. Some of this is active listening, where I focus without distraction on specific elements of the song, analyzing as I go, and try to commit certain parts to memory. Other times, I listen passively while walking, cooking, working out, packing my gig bag, etc. It all helps. The more you can get new material into your brain prior to hitting the stage or studio, consciously and subconsciously, the better your chances of success will be.

Listen to different versions

If you’re learning a new piece of music that has been covered by multiple artists, listen to as many of those artists’ interpretations as you can before it’s your turn to play the tune for real. Similarly, if there are YouTube clips of the band or artist that you’re playing with performing the same song in three different shows, listen to them all. Each new version will give you a slightly different perspective on the song and help you hear new and different things. Plus, the more versions of a song you’re familiar with, the better you’ll be prepared if the artist or band wants to take things in an unexpected direction on the fly.

Play along with recordings

If you’re given a recording of a song that you need to learn quickly, whether it’s a rough demo or polished studio track, play along with it as many times as you can before you hit the stage, studio, or rehearsal room. The more you can groove along with the tune in a simulated performance and experiment to see what works best when you’re jamming on it, the better prepared you’ll be once it’s game time.

Get sheet music, if available — and take notes

Even if you’re playing original music from an unknown band, it never hurts to ask if sheet music exists. One drummer friend of mine did just that when asked to play a prog rock gig on short notice; he ended up receiving a handful of napkins with rhythms scrawled on them in black ink. Though this clearly wasn’t the ideal method of notating or delivering musical information, my friend did end up finding the notes quite helpful as he woodshedded the material. For him, even chicken scratch on a napkin was better than nothing.

Glance over the shoulder of many gigging musicians and you’ll see music and chord charts full of penciled-in notes, rhythms, symbols, and reminders. Whether you’re telling yourself when to be loud and when to be soft, when to play staccato and when to drop out immediately, don’t hesitate to mark up your music in whatever way helps you the most so you remember what to play, when, and how.

Don’t always start at the beginning

For many of us, learning music begins with the first note of a song and ends with the last — but switching things up can be helpful. When you’re shedding a new song, try learning the final chorus first, or tackle the tricky bridge that comes in during the last minute. Often, working on things in reverse can help you quickly get a handle on an entire song and cause things to make more musical sense once you put the pieces together in order.

Write out your own music

There’s nothing like transcribing a bass line or drawing up your own chord chart to help you internalize a new song. Remember that anything you write down doesn’t need to look pretty — what you’re creating is purely functional and for your eyes only — so write your chart, transcription, or cheat sheet in whatever format is going to help you best get through the song in one piece.

Make every repetition better

If I’m tackling a tricky new song, whether in band rehearsal, studio setting, or performance, my primary goal during the first time through is getting from beginning to end and doing the best job I can. The second time I run it down? Same as the first, but now that I’ve got it under my fingers a bit, I can invest a little more attention to nailing those hits at the end of the second verse just right, for example. The third time? Again, all of the above, but perhaps, this time, I’ll have the mental bandwidth to focus on really locking in with the drums under the guitar solo and making my chord voicings on the outro as supportive of the vocals as they can be.

Specifics will vary depending on the context, of course, but the principle remains the same: Use every single repetition of a new song, in rehearsal or performance, as an opportunity to make even one tiny aspect of it better. Such surgical strikes can add up, quickly getting you closer to a polished performance from top to bottom.

How do you approach learning lots of music quickly?

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Writing A Business Plan For Your Music Career

For all the creativity needed to sustain a career in music, having a business plan is one way to stay grounded, define your goals, and keep you reaching for the stars.

Artists of all stripes grapple with the struggle of art versus commerce. We need time to make music and concoct our visions, but we also need to eat, pay the rent, and have clothes to wear. Musicians who become famous when they are young often have to learn business acumen and skills as they go along, usually learning the price of ignorance by being ripped off.

For those of us on ground level, having a plan can mean the difference between being able to make a living as a musician and being a weekend warrior with a day job for eternity. Here are a few suggestions on how to make a business plan as a musician. The most important suggestion: take it one step at a time! This kind of work can be overwhelming for creatives. I left my last day job by working on a business plan 15 minutes a day at lunch for a year. Slow and steady wins the race!


How to start

There’s a ton of resources online — including articles, courses, and software you can purchase — to help write a business plan. But where to begin? A good place to start is to define what a business plan is and why you might need one.

A business plan is an outline of your goals, the practical methods you will take to achieve them, and the resources that you have and will need. The plan will help you take your goals from disembodied ideas to concrete actions.

There’s a number of reasons to have a business plan, not the least of which is the basic idea that planning always helps. When you go to the grocery store, you go with a list. When you head on a cross-country drive from New York to California, you plan your route. Having a business plan will give you clarity, focus, and a sense of forward motion in your music career by identifying realistic, achievable, and action-based short-term goals.

It’s also worth noting that you will absolutely need a business plan if you seek to attract investors or loans. It can also help to show potential managers, booking agents, and record labels that you are serious about what you’re doing. There is value in making long-term (10 year), medium-term (five year), and short-term (one year) business plans. You might also want to make a business plan for a specific project/album to have structure for the process from recording to releasing to marketing.

Writing a business plan requires research. You’ll need to understand your audience, your market, and where/how you will find resources and people to join your professional team. If you’re writing the plan for yourself, this step is still important to provide guidance and clarity. If you are writing a business plan to attract investment, a thorough understanding of your field and your plan is crucial.

First, you need to clarify your vision and craft a mission statement. Who are you, what do you want to do, and why? These are weighty questions and worth pondering in depth: the clearer you are about who you are as an artist, the easier it will be to explain what you do to others and sell your project/products. The mission statement doesn’t have to be long, just a short paragraph describing who you are as an artist and what you are trying to achieve.

The meat of the plan

There is no set business model for a career in music, but there are some essential components to any business plan, and no matter what your objectives or what kind of outline you use, it’s a good idea have the following categories included.

Executive summary. You should actually write this after you’ve finished the entire plan. This is a one page summary of your business plan that includes an introduction, a description of your project/goals, an account of the funding you have and/or are seeking, and a synopsis of your plans for implementation. This will be the first thing prospective investors read, so it’s important to make it thorough and compelling.

Analysis of your audience. It’s a bad idea to try to appeal to everyone. To define your demographic, start by understanding who comes to your shows. What is the gender breakdown, age, and geographical location of your fans generally? What other artists do they listen to? How do they purchase music? What other events do they attend? Where do they shop and could you work with those retail outlets on cross-promotion?

SWOT analysis. This is a standard part of any business plan in any field. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The first two categories, Strengths and Weaknesses, are internal to your music and music business: they are things you can control. For example, the people on your creative/business teams, musical skills and abilities, your location.

The second two categories, Opportunities and Threats, are external, based on what happens in the larger market. You can take advantage of opportunities and protect against threats, but you can’t change them. Examples would include recordings and success of your competitors, prices of gear and equipment, and technology shifts (streaming vs physical product). Most SWOT analysis templates would have you list at least three items per category. Once completed, this will provide new perspectives on ways you can leverage what you already possess to take advantage of opportunities and protect yourself from marketplace threats.

Marketing plan. Creating a comprehensive marketing plan is a separate exercise requiring as much research and detail as a full business plan itself! For the purposes of the business plan, though, you will at least need to demonstrate awareness of your market and have an idea of some solid steps you are going to take to generate revenue and get your products and services into the marketplace.

What kinds of promotion will you do? What will it cost? What kind of return do you expect to achieve on your marketing investment? How will you track your progress? All these questions should have answers within your business plan. The music business specifics you’ll want to address in this section are your web page, your social media plans, touring, radio promotion, press kit, what merchandise you’ll sell, what your logo will look like, etc. Get as detailed as possible; your plans may change once you begin to execute, but if you have a blueprint, your chances of success will be much higher.

Financials. There should be detailed financial breakdowns of your estimated income and expenses. It’s not important that you have a lot of money to start with; you need to show how judiciously you would use investment funds and what kind of return you would expect you and your investors to get. If you’re doing a recording project, you should have a clear breakdown of all the costs involved in the recording, mixing, mastering, and replication processes. This section will likely require significant research. Include a category for legal expenses, as it’s vital to copyright your songs and trademark your logo. The better your estimates are of income and expenses, the easier following your plan will be, so be thorough!

Metrics. You are going to need to demonstrate to investors (and yourself) how you will measure your progress. Will you have weekly or monthly check-ins with your business team for accountability? Social media accounts and websites have multiple analytical tools to measure page hits, likes, demographic info of your fans, and where your page/account can improve. If you choose to advertise on Facebook or Google, there are tools to track the progress of those as well. Use them. Set yourself a very specific timetable and make yourself accountable to someone else, even if you are not seeking investors and just doing this for yourself.

A word about income

In any creative business plan, you should have multiple revenue streams. Business coach Gary Ryan Blair suggests that anybody in business for themselves should have at least 10 revenue streams at all times. This ensures that if one stream dries up, another can cover the gap until you rebuild it. In writing your business plan, you’ll examine your skills and abilities (SWOT analysis) and figure out where those revenue streams could come from.

In looking for those 10 revenue streams, keep the definition of what you do broad. One of my heroes and good friends, the artist Rex Ray, was an artist, a teacher, a graphic designer, and designer of housewares (wallpaper, rugs, furniture). He straddled the line between art and commerce better than anyone I know. He designed album covers, book covers, rock posters, and also made high art that hangs in museums. He followed his interests and saw how he could contribute and also survive as an artist.

There are multiple options out there for a business plan framework. Find something that works within your budget. The format you use is irrelevant as long as it is comprehensive and detailed.

“Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.” says Casey Kasem, the great DJ who hosted American Top 40 for many years.

Dream big, but think practically and build a business plan. Break down your goals into smaller, more achievable goals. Become clear on what the costs will be. You’ll find that the very act of creating a business plan will set things in motion and center you in a place of clarity. This opens the door for synchronicity and fate to intervene. But it all starts with formulating and having a plan.