I got into this business to help. I want to help songwriters, including myself, use their art to influence society utilizing a powerful medium: the music industry. That sounds pretty simplified however, it is a concise description which will suit our needs to succeed as artists and, ultimately, businessmen. But what does it mean to “utilize” the industry? Doesn’t the industry utilize us? What about this stuff about being “businessmen”? Have we not shed the “oppressive” elements of “a career to fall back on” or becoming a “working stiff”? Herein are some of the greatest lies and fallacies on which artists operate to their own detriment or failure. So if it’s true that we HAVE shed business suits, we ARE artists and we HAVEN’T been “utilizing” the industry then, how can these be lies? A simple mis-definition as well as relative importance of each make these facts TRUE AND FALSE at the same time. And setting them straight can straighten out your career and drastically increase your chances at success.
Let me not over simplify. We are speaking here of the basics. There are things like business sense, manners, etiquette, promotional skills, etc. which are all required to really get things cooking. But, without these basic facts, well known and understood, these other factors virtually mean nothing at all. Therefore, let’s take up these “basics” one by one and see if we can move you in a more positive direction.
Let’s start with the most simple and basic fact: you’re an artist. An artist creates something aesthetically pleasing to himself AND others (very important) and gets it utilized by those “others” and, in turn, should make back his livelihood. Sounds idealistic but it’s a basic fact. If you’re not operating this way, that doesn’t make it less true. So, let’s set this as the ideal scenario, toward which we are trying to propel you. Somewhere along the line you may have gotten the idea that you were a “starving artist” or that you were a “freak” or “one of those creative people” or some other such degradation of the title. These are not true. Look around the skyline of the nearest city. It had been shaped by artists.
So, you’re not a businessman, huh? Ask yourself one question? Who made you the proposition that being an artist and a businessman are TWO SEPARATE THINGS between which you must choose, and further, that one will make you a fortune and the other has a one-in-a-million chance at fortune and will more likely starve you to death? Example: Doctor – artist or businessman? Architect – artist or businessman? Clothing designer – artist or businessman? All trick questions; the answer is BOTH. What you do is your art. You practice that art to influence others. Doctors practice medicine but, to stay alive and in practice, they need to be businessmen as well. They need patients to treat so they need to promote. They need to collect money, have staff to assist them, etc. Look at any industry or trade. So you are an artist AND a businessman.
Ok. You have a grip on two important basics. But come on! Utilize the music industry? Who’s using whom? Well if you don’t get this one, nobody will be using anybody.
Now that we have established your songwriting is both an art AND a business, so what? How do these principles put you anywhere ahead of where you were? The answer is the music industry itself. Don’t forget, selling music is an art, so to speak. It’s the art of getting music to the masses and sold for profit. That’s the business of record companies. That’s not much different than what you do. Realize you are doing business with another business, and you serve each other. When you go to the car wash, that’s a business. It’s a service you need that you’re willing to pay for. The music business is no different than that car wash. It provides a service. This said, all you have to do is understand what that service is and determine how you will make USE of it.
You’re a business too. What is your service? Your service is creating the songs that are the foundation of “hits” which will make profits for yourself, artists, record companies, etc. What service does the music industry provide? Aside from filling your iPod with your favorite tunes, it has another function you can use. It is a liaison, a go-between, between songwriters, artists and the masses who, in the end, will purchase the music. Where do you think all the royalties and profits come from anyway? Your royalty check is a direct result of a consumer. Bottom line? That’s a business.
How does the industry work? It’s as simple as getting a book. I spent the better part of 2003 in the local coffee house with the Songwriters Market 2003 publication, a dictionary, glossary and a huge sketch pad. I was determined to figure out the business in terms of what service it could provide for me. I made sketches and flow charts, looked up words I didn’t get and I figured out what I needed to know, along with some flaws in the industry which prompted new ideas for creating a market research company. Most of all, Material Worth Publishing was born and is now listed for 2 consecutive years in that very publication. I am working on an artist management company and an eventual record label as well.
There is one other factor which can and may be the subject of an entire future article. That is the fact that your music needs to be usable all unto itself. You can create songs but they may not be usable. What does usable mean? A seemingly “cold” word which can suggest invalidation of your work. No invalidation intended. In this business, you’re probably used to hearing things like “hit song”, “a good hook”, “catchy”, “chart toppers”, etc. All this means is that the song is desirable by many and will sell in the end. That’s all a hit song means in the industry. Usability equals value. Why do you think I called it Material Worth Publishing? So you will have to work this out as an artist. My only advice would be to test it out on others who are unbiased. I hit the NYC subway system with my guitar and performed to see the response I got. I got people to listen and I got feedback. I got some very interesting responses. Overall, I think we can all agree that we know when the song is complete whether or not it is a “hit”. It’s just the level of honesty with ourselves that may make it difficult to decide. Enough said.
How does this help you? Well, I’m not suggesting you go out and start a company. However, I do suggest that you know, find some agreement with and develop as an operating basis 10 things about the business you are in:
1. That you are an artist – songwriting is the art you practice
2. That you provide a service which should also be “usable”
3. That providing that service is a business venture
4. That the direct users of your service are performing artists
5. That trying to get to those artists directly can be cumbersome
6. That the music industry is a service for consumers AND artists
7. That publishers provide a service within the music industry
8. That publishers are a vehicle to get your songs utilized
9. That by knowing the above you can CONTROL this process
10. That you are an integral part of the music industry
So, be an artist. Practice your art form. I commend you for that and I love to hear your music. But, be a businessman too. It doesn’t make you less of an artist – it makes you MORE of one. Write material “worth publishing” and find a vehicle to get it used by following the 10 principles above. Collect your rewards and start the cycle over again with more songs and notoriety. It will build on itself. If you can change your view, the music industry is yours for the using. I hope this helps. I wrote it for your use. Use away! See you at the top of the charts!
Best,Frank Sardella, Owner & President
Material Worth Publishing
us your successes. We want to hear them.
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Labels: hit songs, Music Publishers, Music Publishing, Songwriters, Songwriters Market