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Why The Music Industry Works The Way It Does
Why The Music Industry Works The Way It Does

The music industry has one great difference which sets it apart from most other industries. The difference is a lack of certification or licenses. Truck drivers, doctors, lawyers, welders, and even massage therapists can show you a piece of paper which says they are qualified to provide a given service. There is no such thing as a certified singer or musician.

So, how do music people find the qualified people they need? If a major star like Garth Brooks needs a new backup singer, guitarist, keyboard player, or whatever, he could run ads in newspapers. Hundreds of people would show up for the auditions. He would spend many days listening. After enough days, he might find the person he wanted. He could do that, but he values his time too much. He would rather have a few very well qualified people show up for the auditions. He would rather spend a few hours listening. He does this by holding private auditions only a few highly selected people know about.

He asks his friends to invite their friends to the private auditions. He knows his band members, lightmen, soundmen, and so forth will only invite qualified people to the auditions. In other words, he gets referrals from people he trusts. He uses people he knows are qualified to screen the people he spends time auditioning.

If someone wants to determine whether a person is qualified, they can learn through personal experience or they can get referrals from people they trust. You can pick one at random but you won't know if they are good at what they do until you pay them to do it. Or, you can get a referral from someone you trust.

This explains why the music industry operates the way it does. There is no other way it can operate! This is why networking is the single most important thing you can do. The amount and quality of your networking will determine the degree of success you have. You save time, money, and energy by getting referrals from music people and this is how you find opportunities. Most opportunities are unadvertised. Only a few people know about any given opportunity. If you know one of those few people you will know about the opportunity. If you don't know one of those few people, opportunity will not knock on your door.

Remember three facts: Fact number one is, there is nobody in the music industry so important you must know them. People change positions within the industry constantly. Today's star is tomorrow's has-been. Today's big shot is tomorrow's hard-luck case. Sony Music recently fired the top three people in it's Nashville office. There is absolutely no job security in this industry!

Fact number two is, there is nobody so unimportant you don't need to know them. Today's unknown singer is tomorrow's star. Today's unknown producer is tomorrow's new kid on the block. Several years ago, a person was fired by Mercury Records' Nashville. It appeared his career was over. He is the new President of Sony Music's Nashville office.

Fact number three is, you can't know everybody. There will always be some people you haven't met. There will always be some people you just don't like. Call it a personality clash, if you choose. If you feel it, chances are they feel it too.

Meet as many music people as you can. Be friendly with as many as you can. If you can't be friendly with a person, try to avoid being enemies. You never know when the next favor will come your way, or from whom it may come. There is an old saying in the music industry, "Success is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." It is an old saying because it was as true decades ago as it is now.

Opportunity is not achieved by meeting the right person. If you had known the executive when he was about to be fired, it would not have helped your career. If you had met him after he was fired, you might have thought he would never be able to help your career. He's now on top again. Do you think he will forget those friends who stayed with him during the bad years? Today, he is surrounded by favor-seekers. If you were in his position, who would you help?

Success is not created by meeting the right person. It is created by being friendly with the right person at the right time. None of us can see the future clearly. None of us can predict who the next big shot will be. If we could and started sucking up now, it would still be sucking up. Networking is not about sucking up to big shots. Networking is about sharing friendship, mutual interests, and information. Networking is about meeting a lot of people with shared interests, goals, dreams, and aspirations. It's about friends helping friends.

Networking is an important part of success, in any field. It is the single most important part of success in music and entertainment. There is absolutely no substitute for friends in this industry! If you are the most talented person on the planet and nobody else knows it, you will not be successful. If you are the most beautiful lady or most handsome man and nobody likes you, success will not come your way.

I can honestly say, every good thing that has occurred in my career was a direct result of a friendship. My greatest assets have always been my love of people and ability to build strong friendships. Without those, I would have had no success. Without those, I wouldn't even know what success can and should be.

by Charlie Ray

Manitoba Country Music Association