Want A Music Career? Or A Handout?

I had a revelation the other day. A lot of you don’t want a music career. You want a handout.

I think a lot of artists only want a music career if it comes in the form of a handout, i.e. “I want to get signed. I don’t want to put one nickel into promoting my music. I’m so amazing that someone should hear my music, sign me, and pour thousands (if not hundreds of thousands of dollars) into MY music.”

I get it. Every artist wants to believe he or she deserves this. But the reality is, very few do. Very few of you are so amazing that you will get signed to a label (or have anyone put their own money into promoting your music and art) if you don’t promote yourself first.

Heard of Fitz and the Tantrums? If not, you soon will. They are a hot, up-and-coming band. Lead singer Michael Fitzpatrick has said he invested $75,000 - $100,000 OF HIS OWN MONEY to get the band off the ground.

Ever hear the expression, “It takes money to make money?” Well, it’s true.

Let me tell you a little story. I love tennis. I’ve played since I was very young. My grandfather used to take me out every Saturday to the public courts and we’d hit balls.

Sad thing is, as much as I loved it, I was never very good. Now don’t get me wrong, I think I was good for a kid my age.

But when it came to trying out for the tennis team in high school, I didn’t even bother. Why? Because I’d go watch my fellow classmates hitting balls and quickly realized that I wasn’t even in the ballpark of being as good as they were. Maybe they had taken professional tennis lessons since they were a kid, instead of my “lessons” from my grandfather. Perhaps they simply had more natural ability at tennis than I did. Or, maybe they just loved it even more than I did and played every day after school instead of just once on the weekend, like I did. In any case, it didn’t matter. I realized I wasn’t good enough.

Now your music career is a lot like my tennis game. Maybe you make music just for fun or as a hobby. Maybe you love it. Maybe you play and practice every week. Or every day.

But everyone wants to be on the tennis team (or at least I did) and very few make it.

Everyone wants to get signed to a label (or have some independent investor come along and invest untold sums of money into their music career.) Right? Who wouldn’t? However, for every artist or band that gets signed, countless others don’t. And that’s okay.

Now, does that mean you should give up? Not play? Not write songs? Not invest your own money in your music career? Of course not!

Gary Lightbody of Scotland rockers Snow Patrol had to make his own sacrifices to become a household name. Lightbody sold a major part of his record collection to raise money to keep his band going after they were dropped from their first label. Lightbody called the time “miserable,” but was confident of getting signed to another label quickly.

You see, successful artists believe in themselves and make sacrifices to get ahead in the business, even investing their own money and selling precious things like their record collection to get to the next level. That belief, that drive in their music and their art, is what makes someone a success. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself and invest in your own career, why should someone else? THE ANSWER IS: THEY SHOULDN’T.

I still play tennis and I love it. However, if I’d really wanted to get on the tennis team, I would have needed to invest in myself. More time practicing. More tennis lessons from a pro. Taken it seriously.

Ultimately, tennis was just a hobby of mine, so I didn’t go any further. Maybe music to you is what tennis was to me. But wouldn’t you like to make a living from making music? Wouldn’t you like music to be your career instead of just a hobby? I knew I would never “turn pro” as a tennis player...but you? What about you? Are you doing this music thing just for fun or are you truly serious about it?

Just know that if someone hasn’t come along yet to fall in love with you and sign you, it may become necessary to invest your own money and resources. And not just into the recording––but into the marketing and promotion of your album and your tour.

The bottom line is that, without a marketing and promotion budget (and touring), even the best music will never get heard.


miniBIO: Jennifer Yeko is President and Manager of boutique talent management and music licensing company, True Talent Management. True Talent Management was formed in 1998 and is based in Beverly Hills, CA. Yeko has over 14 years in management and over 10 years in pitching indie artists to film and TV. She has licensed music to over 50 television shows, films and ads, including Sex and the City, The Hills, and The OC to name a few. Yeko is a frequent speaker at industry events and most recently taught a 12-week course, “Music Supervision for Film and Television” at UCLA Extension and will be teaching again this spring 2012. Her blog can be read at http://truetalentmgmt.wordpress.com and she can be reached at [email protected] and http://truetalentmgmt.com.