BY MARTIN F. FRASCOGNA
We all have a passion for music. Oddly enough, we all interpret music differently. Music is beautiful because it’s left up to the subjective process—and I’m not just talking about songs. Artists focus on chord progression, labels fixate on sales, managers drum up popularity, publishers focus on commercial appeal and lawyers care about contractual language.
One decade ago the music business was a marvellous yet predict- able three-ring circus; now it’s a chaotic free-for-all given the new outlets, fan interaction and do-it-yourself tactics within every professional avenue. One area has become immune to DIY, though, and regardless of time, it can never be duplicated by apps, seminars or blog postings: information about the “international music economy” is now a kind of holy grail, but unless you have practical experience navigating the global music market, it can’t be acquired. Just like the subjective process of music, depending on the geographical region, the global market can be interpreted as either a glorious opportunity for expansion or a scary fast track to unemployment. As a result, it’s essential to gather tools for expansion in all areas of music, and this book—envisioned through the eyes of practical experience and incor- porating up-to-date knowledge—delivers those tools.
I first had the pleasure of meeting Aaron Bethune as an interviewee on his podcast Above the Noise. During the interview, Aaron asked me several questions that forced a level of self-assessment. My legal practice revolves purely around international expansion for artists, labels and publishers, but I had never thought about how I ended up here. “International expansion” is an extremely niche area of the music industry—more so, within the legal aspects of the music business—so I was somewhat shocked when Aaron explored the depths of my answers on his blog. It wasn’t until months later that I realized Aaron possibly possessed more “global” music experience than anyone else I’ve been in contact with. This revelation came through the form of a modern-day version of Seven Degrees of Aaron Bethune. While I was speaking with a client in Nashville, the band referenced a producer who worked with Aaron in Canada. Later, during a conference call with a client in Dublin, they too referenced Aaron. Weeks later, during contract discussions with a manager in Stock- holm, the manager directed me to information found on Aaron’s blog. At that moment I realized Aaron not only understood every aspect of music, but he was globally respected for his view and, more importantly, understood that music works differently in different places, with different contexts. Promotional tactics being used in Sydney don’t work in the same way for an artist in Los Angeles. Booking agents don’t approach venues the same way in Finland and China, nor do labels and artists engage fans with the same social media strategies in Asia as those used in Europe. The music world is vast and filled with opportunity, but the music world is fragmented and different.
What is this book? This book is un-ordinary. Unlike most books, Musicpreneur can be read from middle to end, backwards to foreword, Chapter 3 to Chapter 5. Just like music, the book will work differently for different people, different professions, different regions with different objectives. However, one thing is consistent: the information is more practical and far superior to any other industry reads. Regardless of your music industry knowledge, Musicpreneur will educate and force you to re-evaluate your approach from both a social media and global perspective.
—December 2, 2013
International entertainment lawyer Martin F. Frascogna has Grammy Award-winning clients, is a published author on touring in Europe and is known for his blog (www.musicglobalization.com). In recent years, Billboard has ranked his lectures as a top attraction at the annual Midem music event in Cannes.
I have been struggling with the idea of the so-called middle-class musician and what success means in today’s music industry. Making music is still a long way from being a selectable option as a full-time career. I can’t say that I really believe the middle-class musician currently exists. You're on your way up or on your way down in this industry. Sensational success stories of independent artists like crowdfunding record-breaker Amanda Palmer and chart-top- ping rapper Macklemore are the anomaly, and certainly Palmer and Macklemore were not overnight successes. They are entrepreneurial, independent grassroots performers who have built their careers by connecting directly with fans and without needing labels. But the fact that they are not the norm is why we hear about them.
When something is “different” we pay attention and, if all the right ingredients are there, we may see a recipe for success. However, trying to replicate the recipe will always miss the key ingredient “difference,” because what originally made us pay attention will have already been done before. The more people imitate others the less engaging their work becomes, because a pattern starts to form. And to engage a potential audience’s mind you need to break the patterns and create novelty. The exciting thing is that now is the perfect time to be novel, to get creative. We have all the tools available and no one telling us what to do. The most talented, creative, committed, connected and daring individuals stand the best chance of success.
I have come to believe that Talent + Experience + Knowledge = Ability to see opportunity; how you react to the opportunities you are given is the true test of commitment and dedication. Major factors in how you will react include the moments that lead up to the opportunity that turns into the “overnight success”; the environment you have been in; and the support you have around you.
I truly believe that knowledge is a powerful tool. The more know- ledge you have, the more ability you will have to see opportunities clearly and make better choices. My hope is that the contents of this book can help to build your knowledge and that you can take action on some of the ideas to build your own experiences. The best thing you could possibly do is take the information and turn it on its head to find new ways of using it.
Albert Einstein said: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” In order to solve a problem you cannot do it from within the problem; you have to be outside it. For this reason I believe that the music industry is not necessarily the place to look for answers to help you build your career, but rather that those outside the industry may provide more insight into creative ideas that you can apply back to your career. So read books about other industries, talk to people in car sales and in hospitality, find the light that will allow you to shine in completely new ways, because if you can interrupt the patterns people will pay attention.
We are living in an exciting time in the music industry. It is a time of great opportunity and creativity. We get to be confidently ourselves and to celebrate our difference, and for the first time we have all the tools at our fingertips to let the world know we exist! We can create and at the click of a button share it with the world. How cool is that? But, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, “With freedom comes responsibility”: with the middleman gone we need to know how to do it all ourselves.
I remember being told that before you can run a company you need to know how to do everyone’s job. When it comes to promoting yourself in the music industry you certainly need to know how to do it all, at least until you build a team. I will, however, emphasize that it is impossible to “do it all” and that nobody with a high level of success does, which is why it is imperative to build a team. People in this industry want to work with artists who are talented and who understand the bigger picture. You would be amazed at how many people will give you their time if they believe in you. Studios, man- agers, lawyers, agents—they all have stories to tell of artists they have helped pro bono because they believed in them. This book will give you the skills to do it all and attract a team along the way.
At first it might seem surprising that with all the free information, platforms and resources available at our fingertips, and with all the millions of talented musicians out there, there aren’t more making a full-time living from music. But is it really that surprising? The truth is that as musicians we love the music but not the business. Many musicians dream of making a living from performing and recording original music exclusively. We want the music to be enough. And the fact that the resources are available doesn’t mean that they are being taken advantage of. Chances are that 99 percent of the people who read this book will never put a significant portion of the con- tents to use. And if they do, their efforts will be short-lived and lack consistency in application. Probably 99 percent of all musicians in general will never approach a career in music as a business. Busi- ness simply does not interest them.
So who are the 1 percent? Who achieves success? Who makes money in music and builds a lasting career? Who makes music their business? My answer is the highly talented, creative, laser-focused and dedicated entrepreneurial musician. The musicpreneur.
Perspective is everything. You are already an entrepreneur:
“Entrepreneur ... a person who starts or organizes a commercial enterprise, esp. one involving financial risk.”
—The Canadian Oxford Dictionary
Just think of the work you have already put in, the risks you have already taken, the money you have already invested in gear, travel, lessons, recording, marketing and so on. Your business is your music, your band, your career. You were immersed in musicprenuership a long time ago.
What’s exciting is that your only real competition in the musical workplace is the 1 percent—people like you, I hope, who are willing to read this book and make the commitment to apply its contents.
Once you look at things from this new perspective, you’ll realize that getting heard above the noise is easier than you might have thought.
I began writing Musicpreneur while I was preparing to teach a course on the music industry. My focus was as much on mindset as it was on the hands-on tools that musicians can put to use immediately. Mindset takes a little more practice!
Since picking up my first instrument at the age of four and my second at the age of seven, I have had the opportunity to record albums, play studio sessions, perform live, study music at university, manage artists, book international tours, place music in film and TV, market projects and brand careers, as well as consult for labels, publishers and other businesses. I have had what feels like a unique opportunity to see many angles of the industry. Even so it took a while for me to feel I could write this book. But, of all the things I have done so far, this labour of love has felt most authentically me. I simply had to write it.
I’ve called it Musicpreneur: The Creative Approach to Making Money in Music because it is meant as a resource, a source of inspiration and a practical guide not only to help develop your artistic career but also to make you more money. It can be read from beginning to end or by jumping from chapter to chapter.
After condensing my experiences in both the music business and music performance for a series of workshops and a full-length course, I had a ton of notes that really needed to be in the hands of musicians while the information was still relevant. I was especially happy when two people I really respect, graphic designer Josh Nychuk and editor Cheryl Cohen, agreed to join forces with me to present this in the form of a book.
Keep asking questions, keep sight of your goals, keep going and always enjoy the ride. Music should first and foremost be fun. When you have fun, so does everybody else and it becomes contagious.
I want you to be successful because I know you can be.