Whether behind the scenes or on the stage, knowing what it takes to ‘make it’ in the music industry is instructive for anyone looking to build a career in the performing arts.
Communications expert Emma Lancaster is an Arts and Entertainment Management instructor at Capilano University with more than 15 years of music industry experience. During her time, she has seen artists succeed and stumble, so she has some savvy advice for those looking to carve out a career in music.
While Emma acknowledges that the idea of ‘making it’ is very personal and can be defined differently for each person, there are a number of core values that she says can help anyone reach their goal.
1) Know yourself
“Everyone says ‘What should I do?’ and I say ‘I dunno, who are you?’” Being true to yourself, your strengths and your sound is absolutely essential to lasting success, says Emma. However, she hastens to add that every artist has their own path— imitating what someone else is doing will not automatically provide the same results.
2) Know your audience
This doesn’t mean catering your sound and aesthetic to fit a genre-specific stereotype, but instead understanding who is attracted to your music and what community you are trying to reach. This will help you connect better with fans.
3) Participate in your community
This means engaging with fans, the media and the wider music community both online and off. You cannot rely on one great show to do all the work for you—you have to get out there and meet people. Support fellow bands, hang out with fans, be present on social media and engage with your local community—play a charity gig at a street festival, for example.
4) Cultivate relationships
In business they say, ’It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’—the music industry is no different. While passion and knowledge are necessary for longevity, it is often the people you meet who will get you in the door.
To mingle with industry folks, consider volunteering at festivals like Squamish and the Vancouver International Jazz Festival. Attend industry events as well. Emma encourages students to keep an eye on Music BC for networking opportunities to rub shoulders with future employers. But, she advises, be genuine!
5) Recognize that promotion is ongoing
Promotion doesn’t end as soon as people are in the door, reminds Emma. Take advantage of the many marketing tools available—social media being an obvious choice. Use these media to keep fans up-to-date about new music and shows, correspond with fellow artists and support community events. Keep your website current and use these outlets to show your personality—people don’t just want to know what you’re doing, they also want to know who you are.
6) Don’t ignore the media
The media offer what is essentially free promotion. Take time to do interviews, send out new recordings and make sure you are easy to contact. If a reporter shows interest, there is no reason not to capitalize on that. Equally important, however, is following up with contacts by thanking them and sharing their work. This in turn directs attention back to your work—it’s a win-win.
7) Pay attention to your budget
The old adage says, ‘You need to spend money to make money,’ but the new amendment says, ‘Don’t spend what you don’t have.’ This piece of advice is a reality check. Money may not be the most exciting thing to keep in mind—especially if you’re not making any yet—but it is necessary. Spending frivolously on menial things can prevent you from being able to take advantage of bigger and better opportunities in the future—such as touring.
8) Put your friends to work
Perhaps you’re not the most web-savvy or maybe you simply can’t move all your gear by yourself—but chances are you’ve got some friends who can help. So let them! Your friends and family are your biggest fans and sources of support, especially in the beginning—lean on them and their expertise when available.
9) Perfect your technique
This should go without saying, but there is always room to grow and get better. “You can market things that are terrible, but it takes way more money and effort. Do your best to be excellent,” says Emma.
10) Give yourself time
Success doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient and make time to reflect on where you are and where you want to be in one, two or five years. Set goals that challenge you and push you forward, but that are realistic. “We want a gig now, and then we want to go on tour and by this date we want to be in studio recording,” says Emma. Reaching your first goal will motivate you to try for the second—and it will only grow from there.
“There is no magic thing that you can do to guarantee success—no one size fits all,” says Emma. The best approach? “Know yourself, know your product and to work as hard as you can to be excellent.”
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Capilano University has a number of programs that cater to student’s diverse musical interests. The Jazz Studies Degree and Music Diploma are each designed to better students’ mastery of their instrument, while the Arts and Entertainment Management Diploma and Advanced Certificate programs address the business side of the music industry.
These two management-based programs prepare students with the skills and industry contacts needed to break onto the music scene—from learning what it takes to manage a band and market an artist, to tackling ticket sales and promotion for a musical venue. Learn more here.
Submitted by Marketing & Communications, written by Natalie Walters
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