How to make it in the music industry
Patrick Donovan | 20 March 2017

Making it in the music industry isn’t an easy task at all. If anyone’s ever told you it would be, they were lying! But, it’s certainly not impossible because otherwise we wouldn’t have the international stars we see on TV or hear on the radio. Being a small time DJ myself, I’ve often sought to the internet and books to try and discover the magic formula to propel my music career forward. So what sort of factors give you the success you need in order to hit the big time? Artists are always asked what they did to make themselves get noticed, so here are the top 5 things artists say you need in order to make it to the top of the music ladder and beyond!


Firstly, you do need some sort of talent in whatever genre of music you wish to enter. The artists who have become successful have always had something about them that makes them stand out. For example, David Bowies unique trance-like voice and obscure music video style was seen as very iconic through the late 60’s and early 70’s. This first point is considered to be the most important aspect of your career because you need to be able to differentiate yourself from the competition around you, especially in the same genre. You can’t even produce music without some form of talent either and therefore without it, your career is likely to be very short-lived. That being said, talent alone won’t make you a superstar. When you watch TV programs such as The X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent, you always see people fall by the wayside because they are relying on their talent alone and not considering all aspects of the performance. Artists who produce EDM (electronic dance music) often have no singing in their music and if they do, it’s not likely to be them. Therefore they focus on other aspects to make them stand out such as their energy on stage – you could class that as talent, but this is often practised so is therefore up for debate.


The second key aspect is your motivation and drive with regarding to producing your own personal brand and act. Early on you need to be building your fan base in order to establish yourself in the genre, even if that fan base is only a handful of people. You need to get people excited for your music and this is only possible if your excited for it as well and therefore putting all your passion into your music is vital. From my personal experience, I get excited preparing my set and performing in front of an audience (even if it is just a few hundred friends from my school), or to produce a new mix and share it online with the wider community. However, people often say that they simply don’t have enough time to produce enough music to grow their brand enough and show their commitment to the industry and I can agree with them, school is a major time-consumer in my life, restricting my time with music. But you need to be doing as much as you can and producing regular content for your fan base to enjoy and get excited about. But the question always remains, how much do you really want to grab the bull by the horns and get to the top?


The third key requirement is knowing your current and potential fan base, as well being able to market yourself in way where you will get noticed. As I said earlier, you can have all the talent in the world and still not have any recognition from the wider community. Therefore you need to use an appropriate platform in order to promote your act, whether that’s by positing actual music or even just discussing music with others online. Every little bit helps. I use a program called Soundcloud, which was set up in 2008 in order for people to post music online for free and this therefore gives me a great place to share with others. It also allows people to re-share your content, meaning more and more people can get in touch with your music and become potential fans! I always love coming home and reading the comments from people telling me they like what I’ve produced, or listening to others comments on how I can improve. And that’s why choosing an appropriate platform is so important because it gives you that gateway to accessing people who love music and without this your act just won’t grow enough to boast success.


Fourthly, when you ask all stars they say that had to have that tiny bit of luck to really improve their chances of success. Whether it be getting a shout out on a local radio or a record label stumbling upon your music by chance. Iggy Azalea is a great and current example of how that one chance can be the true difference. While she was still cleaning houses in Miami, she uploaded videos of herself singing to YouTube and they began to viral over the internet during 2011. Soon producers from around the USA began to take notice of Iggy’s unique style, voice and rap ability, leading to her signing her first professional recording contract and releasing her first album in 2014. This is a very current example of a woman, who has not only had the ability to be successful, but the chance to prove herself on the wider world stage. So therefore I have to agree with successful artists when they say that luck can be one of the main make or break factors for your music career.


Finally, you can’t be afraid to remain true to your own style when you make your own music. Artists often come under a lot of criticism when they don’t keep up with current trends or what music is perceived to be as “cool” by the majority of the music world. An example of this might be the twerk craze sparked by Miley Cyrus back in 2013 with her song “Wrecking Ball”, causing, many other acts to follow suit and to begin adding this to their own music videos. If you as an artist don’t agree with a trend in the industry, you shouldn’t have to follow it. There is always going to be people who enjoy your music, regardless of whether you decide to follow trends or not and this is what makes the music industry diverse. If we all wanted to twerk like Miley Cyrus the whole time, who would want to listen to music at all? The number of genres we have now is staggering and new ones are being created all the time, generating a whole new set of musical fans. Therefore staying to who are will give you just as a good of a chance to succeed, compared to if you decided to follow all current musical trends.


So it’s fair to say that the music industry can be a pretty daunting place which tends to be ruthless by nature. Everyone around you wants the same goal, to get famous and produce music for a living and this makes the industry a bit of a free fall.. And while it’s true that everyone won’t make it, the task isn’t an impossible. These tips aren’t the sure fire guide to success, but they certainly give you budding artists a focal point with which to improve and produce their music, giving anyone the best chance they can. This quote sums it all up:


“To be in the music industry, to be in any kind of entertainment industry, you really, really have to be passionate about it and love it and persevere, because if that passion isn't there, it's easy to give up. If you really want it, the ambition is there, it'll come. It's definitely harder work than some people think.” - Alexandra Chando

James Routledge 2016