Earn BIG Money In Your Music Career By Avoiding These Common Mistakes

If you think that making a good living in the music business by finding the most efficient ways of earning money is ‘unethical’…go ahead and exit this page right now.

However, if you have a strong desire for music and want to pursue it as a career…you’ve come to the right place. Fact is, most musicians do NOT know how to earn good money in the music business. As a result, they end up working outside of the music industry in a job that they aren’t satisfied with. In this article I will help you to avoid the pitfalls that prevent most musicians from making a living in their music career, so that you can realize your potential with music.

In reality, making A LOT of money in the music business is not as hard as it might seem (and is NOT something reserved for rock stars only), however, if you want to achieve this for yourself you will need to think with an alternate mindset than most musicians.

The reason why so many musicians do not make much money with music is because they are not aware that music is a business (and needs to be treated as such). These people fail because they are not mentally ready to achieve great things in the music industry.

Besides not approaching their music careers with an understanding of the business side of things, the majority of musicians do not earn a lot of money in the music industry due to making the following mistakes:

Thinking That Popularity = Making A Lot Of Money In The Music Industry

Fact is, the majority of musicians who are ‘making it’ in the music industry are NOT rock stars. Being part of a popular band does not mean that you will be earning a great living. The truth is that some musicians (who are very popular) still work side jobs just to get by. By understanding this, you will be able to push ‘fame’ aside in order to focus on the most effective ways to work toward your goal of making a good living in music. Of course it is possible to both be famous AND make a lot of money in the music industry, however it is most important at this point to focus your efforts on the appropriate aspects of your goal.

Not Working To Continually Add Value To Others In The Music Business

There is one very important concept to understand if you are going to pursue a career in music. Whether you are a touring musician, music teacher, producer, session player, songwriter, or are involved in any other occupation, the people who will pay you money to work with you will need to have a reason to pick you from the thousands of other musicians following the same path. At first, this may seem pretty hopeless, but in reality the amount of competition you face is not a major factor. Why is this? Fact is, most musicians are too busy focusing on their musical skills while not focusing on building as much “value” around themselves as possible. Your musical skills (no matter how great they may be) are only ONE element of “value”. The other elements (that most musicians do not focus on) include your work ethic, temperament, business savvy and reliability just to name a few. To make yourself the absolute best choice to work together with a music company, you must work to build up a massive amount of value so that any of the musicians competing against you will pale in comparison. This means that when a music company considers working with you, it must be OBVIOUS that there is no other choice.

Right now you may be thinking that this is a simple concept to understand (and you are right!). However, in spite of this, the overwhelming majority of musicians do not take action to do this in their music careers on a daily basis. As long as you have the ability to continually add high amounts of value for anyone in the music business, you will have great potential to make a lot of money. It is for this reason that I train all of the musicians in my music industry mentoring program to develop a mindset for adding value within everything they do.

Not Establishing Multiple Sources Of Music Related Income

Almost all musicians enter into the music business with the same mindset they have used while looking for a regular job. This means they only expect to make a single source of income from touring or releasing music albums.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with this approach to making money. However, relying “only” on these avenues is very limiting and makes it difficult to continually make a comfortable living as a musician. Fortunately, it is quite simple to create many different sources of income for yourself that add up to give you a very stable and sustainable career in the music business. No matter what your main goal is in the music industry, whether it be touring in a band, selling albums, producing records, etc…you will need to have various sources that are bringing in money for you in both passive and active ways. By having multiple sources of income, you will gain a lot of security and won’t need to rely on a single income stream to make a living.

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Technology in and For the Instrumental Music Classroom

Music education, in some form, goes back as far as education itself. While sometimes struggling for legitimacy, it nonetheless has had its champions. More recently, as technology has flourished within education, technological applications designed specifically for the teaching of music have been developed. While much of this technology is designed primarily for the classroom there are programs designed for the student to utilize in the home, albeit limited to those students with a home computer and internet access.

The teaching of music in the American educational setting dates back 1838 when Lowell Mason introduced singing classes to Boston grammar schools. Instrumental music appeared in fits and starts over the next fifty years but was never included during the school day; rather, it was relegated to the ranks of extracurricular activities. Around the turn of the century, instrumental music began to see some acceptance into the classroom, though often was taught by those untrained in the area of music education. Moreover, little if any standardization of the instrumentation or music literature existed. (Rhodes, 2007)

Near the conclusion of World War I the quality of school music began to increase. This was due primarily to veterans who, after having been musically trained in the various service branches, began to fill music teaching positions in the schools. Band, however, was still regarded as an extracurricular activity. (Ibid)

In 1907, the Music Supervisors National Conference or MSNC, (now known as the Music Educators National Conference or MENC) was organized to support school music. In 1912 a proposal was made to include, as accredited subjects, a number of music activities including choruses and general music. Band was included – but at a much lower priority. Later, however, at the Cleveland MSNC conference in 1923, Edgar B. Gordon stated,

“The high school band is no longer an incidental school enterprise prompted largely by the volunteer services of a high school teacher who happens to have had some band experience, but rather an undertaking which is assigned to a definite place in the school schedule with a daily class period under a trained instructor and with credit allowed for satisfactory work done.” (Ibid)

In the same year, and likely due to the increase in both acceptance and importance, Carl Greenleaf (then head of C. G. Conn Ltd.) helped organize the first National Band Contest in Chicago. Later, in 1928, he directed the Conn company to contribute to the founding of the National Music Camp in Interlochen, Michigan and later supported publications designed to support band directors. While these endeavors may have appeared somewhat self-serving in light of his position with Conn, they nonetheless helped establish school band as a significant part of school curriculum. (Banks, 1997)

Despite a gradual, while still limited, acceptance of instrumental music within the school curriculum, budget cuts have often curtailed or even eliminated these programs. Further, with the recent increased emphasis upon “teaching to the test” due to the pressures of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and similar state requirements, support for the inclusion of music in schools has begun to wane. Michelle R. Davis, in “Education Week,” stated “The federal No Child Left Behind Act is prompting many schools to cut back on subjects such as social studies, music, and art to make more time for reading and mathematics…” (Davis, 2006) This is most unfortunate considering that the study of music, especially instrumental music, has proved to be beneficial for all students – even increasing their ability to reason and problem-solve.

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How to Listen to Ambient Music

Musical Vocabularies and Purposes

Many years ago, I had a college friend who was an evangelizing devotee of the abstract painter Marc Rothko. I remember her gushing over a catalog of Rothko’s work, while I was thinking that I must be aesthetically challenged; I just didn’t “get” it. After all, most of the paintings were nothing but large rectangles of color, with slight irregularities and a contrasting border or stripe. All of the familiar reference points of line and shape, perspective and shadow, were gone. I could appreciate them as “design,” but not as “art.” While they were pleasing enough, I couldn’t see why anyone would rhapsodize over these abstractions… until I first saw them for myself in person–a completely different experience! When I encountered them at the Museum of Modern Art, they literally stopped me in my tracks, subverting conscious thought and plunging me immediately into an altered state. They were not just flat canvases on a wall, but seemed more like living things, pulsing and throbbing in resonance to a wavelength that had a fundamental connection to the Source of things. I was stunned. They didn’t “express” a feeling–they were more like feelings themselves, and they seemed like nothing personal to me, or Rothko, or anyone. When I later looked at the reproductions Rothko’s works in books, they reverted to flat swatches of color. There was a recollection, but no recreation of my experience. This was an experience that depended on the presence of the original artifact (art: a fact).

A Tune is Not a Tone

I spent my early musical life working mostly with music that used-like representational art–some set of familiar musical conventions to create its effect. There are many vocabularies of melody, counterpoint, rhythm, harmony, and structure that place music in a context of form that makes it comprehensible to listeners. “Comprehensible” is not precisely what I mean–it suggests that music communicates only intellectual ideas, whereas in fact, it conveys and expresses a whole range of ideas, feelings, sensations and associations. But there is an element of “intelligibility” to conventional forms of music that depends on a shared formal vocabulary of expression. There are familiar elements that listeners use to anchor their real-time experience of a composition, formal or sonic elements that are borrowed from other pieces created and listened to in the past. When I find myself humming a tune from a Beethoven symphony, or invoking one of its characteristic rhythms (dit-dit-dit-DAH), I reduce a complex sonic tapestry to an abstraction, a shorthand that is easily recognizable to others familiar with the music. I may be able to share a musical idea with other musicians using the abstraction of notation. But a “tune” is not a “tone,” and a “note” is not a “sound.” It is an idea, even a powerful idea, but when I find myself humming the tune, I know that I have in some way “consumed” the music, reduced it to a subset of its conventions, deconstructed and reconstructed it for my own purposes.

Ambient music, and in particular, the type of ambient music I will refer to as “soundscape,” abandons, or at least loosens, many of these conventions. There is, in general, usually no hummable melody, often no recurrent rhythmic pattern, and if there is a larger “form,” it is more commonly nothing familiar or identifiable, even to astute musicologists-it might be completely idiosyncratic to the composer. Even the vocabulary of “instruments” is fluid and too vast to hold in mind. With the profusion of sounds that are electronically-generated or sourced and manipulated from field recordings, it is rare that separable and recognizable instruments or sounds can be identified-that is, “named.” Late nineteenth and early twentieth century classical composers worked hard to try to erase the familiar boundaries of individual instruments, using unusual instrumental combinations and extended instrumental techniques to blur sonic lines. Ambient music takes this even farther. The sound palette of ambient composers is more diverse and less subject to “naming” than that of composers who use ensembles of traditional instruments to present their compositions. While the savant may be able to identify a sound source as belonging to a particular method of generation (analog, FM, sample manipulation, etc.), diffuse mixing and morphing of sounds can confound even experts.

The Irrelevance of Virtuosity

To a great extent, the virtuosity of the musician-often an important element in other music genres–is replaced, in the ambient music world, by the skill of the composer in crafting and shaping the sound. Slow tempos are common, and arpeggiators and sequencers obviate, to a large degree, the need for ambient musicians to develop sophisticated keyboard skills. Complex and rapid sequences can be generated that defy the abilities of even great performers. While it is true that many ambient musicians do perform in real time, most do not. Even the notion of “performance” disappears to a large extent. Most soundscapes are recorded works; they are not commonly reproducible in real time by performers on stage. More technical knowledge of sound-producing hardware and software is necessary, but in the end, this becomes invisible to the listener, subsumed by the sound artifact of the music itself.

The mixing of sound in the studio enables ambient composers to manipulate and place sounds freely in the stereo field, unencumbered by any need to spatially represent a virtual performing ensemble. These elements become a part of the composition, whereas in other musical genres, the mix–where it can be controlled–is more of an enhancement or special effect than a compositional feature. Some ambient composers don’t even separate the mixing process from the composition. I, for one, tend to mix as I go, since the dynamics, effects, and placement in the stereo field are all integral features of my compositions.

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Learning Musical Instruments – How Do I Improve My Playing?

When asked a question like “how can I improve my playing?” It is my experience that most music teachers and musicians will answer “practice” or maybe “practice makes perfect”. And essentially I agree. There is no substitute for practice, especially practice where the musician is wholly focused on the task at hand, concentrating on the various aspects of the music they are learning and listening attentively to their playing. Even musical savants with uncanny musical powers such as seemingly photographic memory and true perfect pitch must complete years of intense practice before being performance ready(1). One of the greatest pianists and composers, Rachmaninoff could according to Harold Schonberg transcribe whole compositions after a single hearing.(2) Even so, when Rachmaninoff decided to earn his living as a concert pianist, he didn’t dare to go on stage until completing two years of further practice. Some musicians may brag that they don’t practice much but generally you will discover they are either lying or that as an adolescent they sat up all night practicing while others were out mucking around or asleep. But what about the many cases of musicians who do have the drive to practice long and hard but never make the grade? I’ve even had musicians tell me they can “get worse” after practicing.

Most musicians must be familiar with hitting “walls” where they find they simply don’t improve even with extra effort. This is a likely reason that many stop playing musical instruments altogether, becoming frustrated, overwhelmed and believing that music simply isn’t for them. It’s my belief that it’s sometimes not mental will or effort that is to blame, but the method of practice.

Over the years I have occasionally heard an objection to the “practice makes perfect” cliche. Some people like to say, “perfect practice makes perfect”. Implicit in this statement is the idea that the way you practice is important. Sure there is natural variation in all human being’s physical and mental abilities, but in my experience anyone can play a musical instrument well with a little perseverance as long as they go about it the right way. Interestingly, researchers have found marked differences between the way amateurs and professionals practice.(3)

Our human bodies have not evolved to play musical instruments. After all, most instruments are fairly recent inventions in their current forms and continue to evolve themselves. Unlike language and other mental functions, there is no “music center” in the brain. Many parts of the brain are required to both listen to and perform music. Playing a musical instrument well is a complex task. A level of physical strength is required, fine muscle coordination and muscle control are essential and of course extensive mental training and conditioning is necessary. It’s no good being able to produce the best tone in the world if you have no rhythm. It’s no use having a well developed musical appreciation and emotional sensitivity if you have no technical ability and vice versa. A good musician needs to master many skills and therefore, to know how to practice “perfectly” becomes a very complex and difficult question.

Like most musicians, throughout my childhood and adolescence I simply practiced instinctively. The problem here is that sometimes you’re instincts lead you astray. In my experience, most teachers do not give extensive thought to the finer details of how to practice. Most teachers simply tell students what to practice. However as an adult who is almost always pressed for time, I need to know that I am improving every time I sit behind the piano or get on the drums.

As previously stated, this is a very broad and complex topic but I’d like to share some basics that I’ve learnt from my travels in the world of music. For clarity, I have broken up this topic into three main sections: Musicality, technical ability and performance.

Musicality:

I have deliberately listed musicality first because in order to develop technical prowess at your instrument of choice, you need to know what sound you are trying to achieve. When it comes to musicality the most important thing to develop is your listening abilities. This may seem obvious but it takes time and effort to be a good listener. A large amount of listening to music in our modern world is done with no conscious thought at all, however as a child all the skills of listening to music must be learnt. Ever heard a choir of kindergarten students? They inevitably sing out of tune. Because their young brains are still learning the pitch categorizations of our 12 note scale. How about asking a very young child to tap along in time to a song? This is something that can be mastered at a very young age but nonetheless, even simple rhythms found in many songs using 4/4 meter must be learnt. Note how difficult it can be to keep tapping perfectly in time once the music stops playing. For most, sensitivity and awareness of harmony is the hardest to learn but deeply rewarding in terms of a listener’s emotional response.

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How To Gain Music Fans And Build Promoting Skills

Would you like to know how to gain more music fans? Do you wish you knew the secret to building a huge following? Would you like to know the best way to promote yourself as a musician? If you want to achieve long lasting success in the music industry, it is absolutely essential that you have a lot of dedicated fans who are interested in what you do as a musician. In order to do this, you must learn the most effective methods for promoting both yourself and your music.

However, the answer to “How do I get more fans and promote my music career?” is not easily found by taking a highly generalized approach that ‘seems’ to work for other musicians. At any given moment, you (or the band you play in) may be struggling with various unique challenges that would require that you take specific actions in order to get more fans or strengthen your promotional efforts. That said, no matter where you are in your music career and what challenges you face, you have 3 goals to achieve if you want to both gain more music fans and promote your music:

You have to get more people to check out your music.
Once someone listens to your music, you need them to help support you in some manner (buying your albums, watching you live, purchasing any merchandise, etc.)
You need to transform your fans into totally fanatics who will use word of mouth to tell all their friends about you and your music.
No matter what it is that you are trying to achieve in the music business, the three goals mentioned above will apply to anything you do as long as you are trying to develop a strong relationship with your fans.

These goals may all seem to be separate from one another; however, they are in fact all connected. Once you are able to achieve success with any single one of them, you will greatly improve your chances for success with any of the others. As soon as you truly ‘get’ this basic truth, you will find it much easier to be productive in your efforts.

In order to achieve great success as you promote you music to your fans, you must learn how to think in a strategic manner rather than just taking inconsistent and isolated actions (a mistake that most musicians and bands make). Instead of trying to find a general formula that you can apply to help you get more fans for your music, you need to begin thinking in the same manner as most professional musicians. While training other musicians to succeed in their music careers, I help them understand how to find creative ideas that they can apply in their own music career in order to quickly gain more music fans. Once you gain the ability to think this way in your own music career, it will become much easier for you to overcome any obstacles that stand in the way of your promotional efforts.

To illustrate what I mean and give you various steps (that you can take right now to get more music fans), here are some quick and easy things you can do to accomplish all three of the music promotion goals mentioned above.

To get you on the path to gaining more music fans and expanding upon your current music promotion efforts, I will now show you various things that you can do yourself to accomplish the three goals mentioned above.

OK, now that you have finished the assessment above, continue reading to find several actionable steps below that you can use to promote your music. While you are reading through them, do not focus as much on the actions themselves; instead think creatively to see the ideas and thinking ‘behind’ the actions to understand why they are so effective. This will keep you from simply ‘copying’ them and will lead you to come up with ideas that you can benefit from in your specific music career situation.

Music Promotion Action Step: Get more people to listen to your music.

Solution #1: Join other musicians in participating in a compilation CD. After you have released a compilation album, you have achieved a couple of important things. First, you have successfully produced a record that contains your own music. Second, not only have you gained a tool to promote yourself to your fans, but you have gained a tool that potentially promotes you to every other musician’s fans on the album (with no additional effort on your part). Remember, the goal of this is not to make money directly, but rather to use the album as a very inexpensive tool to promote your music (and the music of the other musicians) to more people on a larger scale. You can also apply this idea as a way to leverage your own album releases and products to a bigger list of fans. The idea of “leverage” (using one action to gain multiple benefits) is absolutely critical if you want to achieve a high level of success in your music career. This is something I help members in my Music Careers Mentoring Program develop and refine.

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