No matter what you are dreaming about in the music business, getting started, taking that first step, is the most difficult part. Dreaming is easy. Doing is tough. Trying to do something big is inherently uncomfortable. You’ll have to commit full stop to your mission. So how will you know if it’s time to stop dreaming and start doing?
- I think most people dream about doing something big in their lives. If you bought this course you're telling me that you are dreaming of doing something big in the music business. Maybe you're an artist dreaming of making an album, winning a Grammy, playing big concerts around the world, maybe you're a songwriter, an aspiring producer dreaming of doing something big, or perhaps you're an aspiring music professional who's looking to work behind the scenes to help those artists build a career. Perhaps you're an aspiring manager, concert promoter, recording engineer or a booking agent.
No matter what you're dreaming about in the music business, getting started, taking that first step is the most difficult part. Dreaming is easy, when you dream the endings are always perfect, dreaming never put anyone at risk. When you dream you never worry about failure, dreaming does not require a plan or tons of work to make it happen but once you decide to take that first step, when you move from dreamer to doer, things get a lot more complicated, this doing is tough.
If you're looking to do something big in the music business this is not going to happen on its own, you'll need a plan, you'll need to put in a ton of work to make that plan happen and of course there's no guarantee that the plan will work or that you won't change it a million times. When you do decide to do something big, success is never guaranteed either. Failure is always a possibility and all the feelings and emotions that come with it. Fear of failure and embarrassment, insecurity, am I good enough, do I have what it takes, am I doing the right thing, what if it doesn't work out? Paranoia, why aren't people seeing my obvious talent, why won't they answer my phone calls, why won't they help me? Trying to do something big in life is inherently uncomfortable, it invites all kinds of judgment and editorial into the mix, most often from some of the people closest to you, your parents, your family members, your friends and your coworkers.
Those Christmas parties and high school reunions will be a test when you see your friends who have chosen a more traditional, safer career path and they ask you what you're doing and you tell them I'm a musician, or I'm a manager. I know that look and so will you but if you are looking to do something big in this music business you'll have to work through all of that and more, you'll have to commit full stop to this mission, you'll need to remind yourself that everybody who ever did anything great in this life, who reached for something bigger in life has faced all those obstacles as well, and overcame them.
Dreaming is easy folks, we're all dreamers but the people that dared to dream and then do are the ones that make the biggest difference in this world. So how will you know if it's time for you to stop dreaming and start doing? Let me tell you a little story. When I started in this music business 36 years ago I was very fortunate to have a couple of great mentors who took the time to teach me some valuable lessons, one of which I'm going to share with you right now. Back in those days I seemed to have some great idea every day, or so I thought, so one day I walked into my mentor's office to tell him about my latest genius idea and why I thought we just had to do it.
He listened without saying much at all and then I asked what he thought. After a long, dramatic pause he looked at me and said, "This one ain't screaming at me." In my own brand of youthful arrogance I suggested that perhaps he just didn't get it, which did not go down well at all. I'll never forget the look on his face, it was the iciest, Clint Eastwood, Dirty Harry-era stare I've ever seen and he said, "Let me tell you something Steve, "in life a million things whisper at you, "I only listen for the screams "and this one ain't screaming at me." The point of the story is this, if doing something big in the music business is just whispering at you today but it seems to be getting louder, then keep listening, keep going through this course and learning more about what you're getting into, and perhaps it will turn into a scream and if it turns out that it's not screaming at you that's okay, enjoy music, read about it, keep up to speed on it because you enjoy it, not because you need to make a living at it.
But, if like me, this music business is something you have to do, if it's something that keeps you up at night and thinking about it all day, if this music business dream you have is a scream, then my advice is to do it and if that's the case then make this day the day you go from dreamer to doer. Lesson one - dream it; do it.
This course kicks off An Insider's Guide to Today's Music Biz, a series of 9 courses designed to teach the ins and outs of the music business to bands, managers, and songwriters. Here, Steve provides tips on assessing your talent, committing to a plan, picking partners, figuring out financials, finding ideas, and surviving in what can be a tough business. Steve's experience, and his honest take on the ups and downs of the industry, will help anyone interested in breaking through be better prepared for the realities of getting by in the music biz.