A music career

Music is a business that needs to be promoted

17 September 2015

If you make music and you want to make a living out of it, it is important that you look at it as a business. Not everybody makes music to pay the rent, airtime or transport and it is completely fine to make music for a hobby and remain an amateur for the rest of your life. However, if you want to make money with your music, it is good to treat it as a business.

It all depends on your objectives; what do you want to get out of it? Basically that is what I have been saying and writing about everything: you need to have SMART objectives. What exactly are you goals, be specific; don't be vague but make your goals measurable; it should be achievable; realistic; and time bound. Do you want to release an album in 2016? How many tracks - is it going to be an EP or a full-length album? Will you release it yourself or do you want to get signed to a label, online only or hardcopy on CD as well, and when do you want it to be out?

Nice thing is that when you have plans for a release, you can use social media to take your fans on the journey towards the release. You try to stimulate dialogue through asking questions, starting a competition, letting them choose tracks or ask them to upload videos of them dancing to your music. Give people a reason to come to your Facebook page, whether it is a storyline they get into and don't want to miss, regular posts that they can win stuff or do things exclusively for fans. Try to interact with your fans: that is what makes social media so great, that fans can communicate directly with you. Remember that your fans make you who you are. No career if you have no fans: you do need the people to listen to your music, buy tickets to your concerts, wanting to wear the shirts and cap with your name on (merchandise) and if you are lucky, they buy your album.

If you want to sell your music in Malawi, know your target group. Tourists might be willing to buy your music after they see you perform. A CD or t-shirt makes a great souvenir, something they can take home and relive their holiday. Burning a CD doesn’t cost much and you can sell it for 3000-5000 kwacha, depending on the quality of the recording and the amount of songs. When they are back, you can stay in touch with them via Facebook and they can follow you on Twitter. They might want to buy your next release as well!

It is a challenge to make a living out of music. What I have seen is that most artists I work with make more money with giving workshops than with their music. It is good to diversify and find other ways to create an income. More people download music and the young generation doesn't want to pay for albums anymore. You have to find other ways to earn money, and selling special merchandise (you can work with a promising young designer form you neighbourhood), giving workshops and doing live performance might help you earning a little bit. Not many people get rich through music, and the people who do have a big team behind them. It is all about marketing and not always about good music.

You need to invest time and if you are good, you might find somebody who wants to invest his or her time and if you are very talented, know the right people and have good networking skills, you might find someone who is willing to invest some money in you. But again, it won’t be easy because there are many people out there with similar dreams. This doesn’t mean you should give up: you should start small and think big. First impress the people around you like friends and family, your neighbours and other people you know. You can grow if you have people behind you. People who want to support you, help you build your career and invest in you, whether that is investing in time or with money. Share your dream with people in your vicinity; ask the young clothes designer, the guy or girl who makes beautiful artwork, your cousin who knows everything about computers and internet or your friend who is good in organising. Ask them to work together. They design the clothes you wear on stage: you look sharp and they get lots of people seeing their designs. Tweet about it with hash tags and mentioned of each other. Do the same with this person who makes nice artwork: he or she can create artwork for your Facebook page, your album covers or a business card. Thank them on your Facebook page and mention them in your tweets, post pictures of their artwork on your Instagram. Help each other, grow together and create a team of people you trust and who believe in you.

With all these people, work on setting goals. Short-term and long-term goals, and make a plan how you want to reach these goals. Then if you use social media, work towards these goals. Whatever you do, keep your objectives in mind. When you play at an international like Lake of Stars, think what you want to get out of it. How can you use the opportunity of playing in front of an international audience and meeting agents, promoters and A&R managers from all over the world? How can these people help you to be successful in meeting your objectives? You can read more about this in my former blogs and you can contact me with questions.