The music industry today is more competitive than it ever was. It is the curse of being a millennial that industries that sprouted before us are in their hay day today or they have at least progressed to the stage that they are more mechanical. What I mean by mechanical is that music is no longer music, it is a product that is being marketed to selected group of people. It isn’t enough to make appealing music, you have to have a basic understanding of the business process behind what you are selling.
That might take the magic away from making music, but it is the sad truth that if you want to make it today, you better have a business plan. The Internet, instead of diversifying music with a lot of various acts, has been used to market mainstream artists. If your music isn’t marketable, or doesn’t hold mass appeal, it is going to be difficult to find anyone to sign you. Even niche acts are becoming more and more diluted to the point they are no longer niche.
So what does that business plan look like? It looks pretty boring if you have no interest in business related topics but if you are interesting in marketing research and enjoy reading financial plans, you should be all right. If not, I am very sorry for what I am about to put you through. The first thing you have in a business plan is the executive Summary.
- Executive Summary: This is probably going to determine if the person reading it will continue forward. You have a page or two to sell the product to the reader and show how it appeals to an audience. It is basically highlights from your business plan and strategy. Usually, I would write a really rough draft and leave it until I finish the rest of the business plan before I tweak it. I cannot stress this enough, if your Executive Summary is generic and boring, the person reading will just drop it and go for the next one. Hell, even if they find the Executive Summary interesting, you still have to prove what you claim with the rest of the report. This is the first hurdle and you should make sure it is catchy, even if you do feel like you are selling your soul, not your music.
- Company Summary: Don’t forget, as a band or a solo artist, you are seen as a business venture.You have to be able to explain what you, as an organization, have achieved up until this moment in time. You need to explain the history of your band or venture and maybe give a time-line to explain it. Like the Executive Summary, this is way more difficult than it looks, but it is essential to peacock your way past someone else.
- Product: You have to be able to describe what your product is. It should be clearly defined and you also have to describe how your product stands out in comparison to competitors, because that is what other musicians are in this business, competitors. Whatever your music/product is, it should be able to fit a genre and a market which is what is next.
- Market Analysis: This is actually one of the easiest parts of a business plan I find. Market Analysis today is a lot easier than what it once was because of the Internet. A lot analytical tools bring in very sound data that will give you everything from the demographics and geographical popularity of your product. When looking at the market you want to sell your product to, you have to first consider this: Market Size, number of competitors and the current landscape. This is a very summarized account of what the market analysis looks like and it will take a long time to put it together in a way that is coherent.
- SWOT analysis and Porter’s Five Forces: SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. You should look at the market and your product and decide what strengths do you have and weaknesses. This is easier said than done and it is even harder as a band or solo artist. The more important aspect of SWOT is the the opportunities and Weaknesses. The opportunities that exist out there could be anything from producing music in an rarely ventured territory to having foreign markets in the future. Threats may include other artist in the same genre and the difficulty when entering the market you are in. Porter’s Five forces is probably one of the most important tools you can use to analyze your market. Threat of new entrants and substitute products are a very real threat in the music industry and even if you have music that is breaking new grounds, chances are someone will eventually take the core element of your music and produce something similar. Although you can look at this as being something you created and opening the stage creatively to allow new blood into the process, a business would look at this as a loss of the market share.
- Strategy and Implementation: You have to be able to explain what is your strategy to sell to the market and how you are going to implement it. Your strategy could be anything from touring and building up your profile on social media. Either way, you have to have some milestones in a time-line outlined to show that whatever investment you receive, has a plan for it.
- Financial Planning: From a profit and loss account to a balance sheet, my experience with the area of financial planning was misery. I hate working with numbers and it is a good thing I never became an accountant. The financial planning will require you to decide, with conjunction to whatever your marketing strategies are, what your budget is going to be and what money you will make in return. A simple cash budget will do and that just takes a look at the cash inflows and outflows and if you have a profit or loss at the end of the financial period. This area is far more complex than it sounds and would require someone with a good know-how of financial planning. It is very difficult to put a money tag on what you are creating, but it is necessary if you are trying to sell the idea.
Ultimately you are selling an ‘idea’. Unless you have been somewhat successful before, making a business plan can be very difficult. Catching the eye of someone who would sign you comes down to being able to peacock well. A lot companies hire people because of their weird approaches to how they wrote their CV/Resumé. Standing out in a creative industry is way more important than looking like everyone else, even if the music industry looks more mechanical than it looks creative, it is still run by creative people, well, maybe not the accountants. The most important thing about a business plan is that it is clear and concise and follows the message you want the person on the other end to appreciate. Imagine the producer you are sending your music to and he wants a business plan. He has probably got a few dozen in front of himself/herself and they all read the same generic way. Standing out with something a bit innovative will help you a lot.
As much as I hate the idea that music is now a product, there is still a lot of hope for music today. There are a lot of people who would claim music in the past was far superior and they might even argue they were born into the wrong generation. These people obviously haven’t looked hard enough because there are many artist today who deserve more appreciation and fans. If you were to go by what the charts say, music today is grotesque and is a consumer’s wet dream. It is all about having a great time and letting go while appreciating a consumer society. The last time I kept up with what music was current was probably in 2009. Please don’t take that as an arrogant statement, it is just fact. I found a lot of music that I enjoy outside of the charts and I am eternally grateful.
People who moan that music today is crap and they were born into the wrong generation are actually a very large part of the problem. As the Dead Kennedy’s album is called ‘Give me convenience or give me death’, these people who are born into ‘the wrong generation’ want everything to be conveniently in front of them. They would rather die and belong to a wholly different generation than spend the time to find new artist that aren’t the mainstream.
We should appreciate artists who stick to what they do and find a voice in the endless screaming of artists who want to be known. Something like 95% of all artists never make it. Imagine trying to scream at the height of your lungs in a full large room of people with the same idea and trying to catch the attention of someone on a pedestal. If you are lucky they might hear you, but even then you still have to offer something they want. Being an artist today isn’t made easier with the introduction of social media. It is another platform to get your work out there, but it is also a new platform to compete on.
There are a lot of artist who make fantastic work and they are ignored. Daniel Johnston was nearly left in absolute obscurity and his story is one of sheer luck. There are a lot of artists who don’t have that luck and the ones who do should be appreciated. So, before you go ahead and state that today’s generation have it easy, we don’t. Especially in the area of creative arts. Before you lift a mic, guitar, paintbrush or type a key, you better know how to market whatever you make or you’ll be relying on luck. So, support artists out there that are trying to keep their souls and make music in a demanding industry. Alternatively you can keep listening to the same crap that is being pumped everywhere from half-assed DJ’s.