Your 6 Great Obstacles to Conquer in the Music Industry
Without sugar coating it, making it as a songwriter is hard. Very hard. In fact, it may present one of the most challenging career paths there is.
Knowing that you face intense obstacles in the course that leads from writing to selling your songs can help you mentally and practically as you plan your strategy on how to be successful. Just like an obstacle course, the music industry has several key hurdles, snags, and stumbling blocks that you’ll have to overcome if you plan on making money at your craft.
Think about these unique challenges and obstacles that you face and consider the best way for you to overcome them.
1. Unique Talent
Not everyone can write a hit song. Sure, anyone can write a song, but few people have what it takes to develop memorable melodies and alluring lyrics. There are thousands of ordinary or bad songs for every handful of hits.
As you pursue songwriting, eventually you’ll find out through introspection or through enough opinions of others whether or not you have the talent needed to make it. Accepting this honest truth will help you determine whether to keep songwriting a hobby or make it a career.
2. Non-Traditional Marketplace
The most defining, strange challenge you face is that the music industry doesn’t follow a traditional model of products reaching the market. For most products, a company or individual makes something that is valuable, they market it to the public, and customers purchase the product. Simple.
In the music industry, songwriters can’t go directly to the public with their product (songs) because they are intended for artists who then present them to the public. Instead, they have to go through a series of gatekeepers who decide whether or not artists (and eventually the public) will like their product. This non-traditional path to success can be maddeningly frustrating for songwriters whose songs have great market potential but lack the means to get it through the proper channels.
Since the music industry doesn’t show signs of changing this model anytime soon, it’s best to accept it and adapt to it instead of beat your head against a wall, wishing that the industry worked differently.
3. Limited Song Placement Opportunities
There aren’t as many song placement opportunities as you think. Only so many artists need songs at any given time. Since artists usually cut albums every 1-3 years, the opportunity to get a cut with a specific artist doesn’t come around frequently.
Even more challenging, to really make money as a songwriter, you not only need to get your song cut on an album, but get a single that gets radio play. And to make substantial income, it not only needs to get on the radio, but hit the top charts as well. In short, your songs are competing for very few seats at the party, but a party that is well worth the effort to get invited to.
Any aspiring songwriter joins the fray with not hundreds, but thousands of other songwriters throughout the world who are fighting and clawing their way to get their songs cut. Your competitors are constantly improving their writing, recording quality demos, networking, and pitching their songs regularly, which should light a fire under you to do the same.
While many songwriters don’t pose much of a threat due to their lack of talent or innovation, there are plenty of top-tier, extremely talented songwriters out there. So if you want to play with the big boys, you better bring big boy songs to the table.
5. Closed Network
Connections, or who you know and who they know, mean everything in the music business and lead to most, if not all, pitch opportunities. And since those within this relatively small, tightly knit network value and protect their relationships above all else, it can be very hard for newbies to wiggle their way in.
Understanding the networking mentality of the industry will help you strive to establish friendships and trust with everyone you meet, because you never know when you’ll need them, when they will need you, or which relationship will open doors to opportunity.
6. Powerful, Subjective Gatekeepers
There are no kings and queens in the music industry, but there are nobles and lords, mainly the record label executives, producers, publishers, and artists. They are the ones calling the shots.
After all is said and done with your grueling, passionate efforts to write and pitch your best songs, your destiny ultimately lies in the opinions of a few people! How vexing that a few people’s thoughts on your melodies and lyrics can direct your entire future!
While you can’t change others’ opinions, you can affect the quality of your writing and the amount of pitches you get. If your songs are truly great, eventually you’ll find a decision maker that recognizes the song’s potential and welcomes it in.
In this challenging career path, set your hopes and expectations high, because you’ll have to if you are to successfully conquer the difficult obstacles that lie on your path to success. Press forward through these industry hurdles and you’ll find the finish line well worth the fight.