Music and the industry around it generates billions of monies every year. It is highly regulated in one or two areas, intellectual property rights and collection/dispersion of monies generated by exploiting those rights, mostly. Beyond that is generally like the front of the stage during the headline set at a music festival (remember those?) people are getting hurt and a bunch are losing their wallets.
The industry in South Africa is wilder than the norm and out here you can go from hits to homeless in a snap. Sadly it’s pretty much always been like this so, despite the millions of articles on the “secrets” to surviving the game, these things have been used to frighten and groom new creative workers over and over again. Clearly, nobody’s listening, so each generation will repeat these cliches to the following one in the hope that the new jacks will “get it” and be prepared.
These 5 cliches are as old as recorded music, it’s not about what’s good or bad, it’s about what IS.
- You’re going to get screwed at some point, so build resilience early – It could be someone close or someone you just met, but if you have value and you are ignorant, you look like lunch to a lot of people.
- Trouble always comes from the direction you aren’t looking in – It’s dangerous to ignore any aspect of your career, just handing responsibility for any key area like your contracts/deals, your brand, or your community to someone else when you have no idea what they’re doing, means they can do anything. Do everything yourself a few times first.
- Read and understand the fucking contract – whether you’re indie and want to go label (it’s still a thing) or are doing brand extensions, or are licensing your work or image, know what you want and what they want, know what you’re getting and what they’re getting and know what the law says about the checks and balances of enforcing that.
- Industry rule number four thousand and eighty – Not everybody is shady, but not everyone is going to care about you as a person. Despite the passion, creativity and emotion that drives the music, in a professional, commercial setting, the product/project is more important than the creator cos the product is what the community pays for.
- If at all possible, DO NOT SIGN AWAY YOUR PUBLISHING RIGHTS.
None of this will scare you off in you’re a true believer and you need to be to excel in the music game. The good and bad are self-evident and not really any different from the realities of trying to be at the top of the game in banking or manufacturing or any other industry. There are obviously more than 5 cliches about surviving and thriving in the music industry but they all can be boiled down to:
Be in the know, stay low and keep firing. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.
Article by Eeshaam September