It’s not often that business is at the forefront of the mind of someone making music. But the reality is that musicians have to be able to make good business decisions if they want to make it in the music industry. Music NT gets down to business with a few industry folk, including a band manager with over 15 years experience, a platinum-selling hip hop MC, and the Executive Producer of triple j Unearthed.
There are a lot of stakeholders in music biz. There are people with money invested in the fact that a big brand wants to use a particular song in their latest advertisement. There are people with money invested in the fact that several thousand people want to watch a certain band play live in their city. There are a whole lot of middlemen essentially earning a wage out of people’s desire to listen to music. If you find that you’re on the up and up, you can be sure there’ll come a point in your growing popularity where, either directly or indirectly, someone will be making money from your music – even if you aren’t. Golden Era Records co-founder Matt Lambert, more commonly known as MC Suffa from hip hop giants Hilltop Hoods, discusses some good business practices for musicians to adopt asap.
Having a good handle on the music business not only helps make sure that you get the profits you’re entitled to, but can push your career further than it would if you were to turn your back on the whole circus. Rae Harvey is a manager at Crucial Music, a company that represents such well-known artists as The Living End and 360. She explains how DIY managing is important in order to learn the ropes of the music business, and when it may be time to hire a manager.
Good business sense basically boils down to one simple recipe: know your rights, and have good relationships with those middlemen. There are a lot of horror stories about musicians getting exploited because they signed a bad deal, but as long as you keep your wits about you there’s nothing to worry about. Stakeholders such as record labels and publishing companies can work magic in the complicated music industry in terms of landing you a lucrative deal or a golden gig opportunity – so it pays to have them onside. Nick O'Byrne, General Manager of AIR (Australian Independent Record Labels Association), explains why it's important that musicians have some understanding how the music industry works, and advises weighing each and every proposed deal or contract on its own merit.
If you actively seek out opportunities to get ahead in the game, you will find them. There are many organisations and initiatives that recognise the huge importance of music, and exist to support struggling musicians so they can keep making it. This support may be through giving grants, such as Arts NT does. Support may also come through career-boosting opportunities. triple j Unearthed's Executive Producer, Stephanie Carrick, shares some pointers on how to make the most of the triple j Unearthed website and its competitions.
The whole point of many of these organisations and initiatives is to help those musicians fighting the odds to fulfil their potential – so if you come under this description and you haven’t already contacted them… What are you waiting for? Look them up and get in touch!
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is that you begin building your business on strong local foundations, in your home scene. No matter where you are, most local music scenes are brimming with friendly, open types and a significant slosh of undiscovered talent. You can’t go wrong getting involved with your home scene – it’s a free source of learning, collaboration and general good times. Support your home scene and it will support you. Jae Laffer, celebrated songwriter and frontman for The Panics, speaks on the success of his crowdfunding campaign through the power of his community of industry contacts, family, friends and fans.