There’s a lot that goes into building a music career if you’re going to make money with music. Fortunately, “do-it-yourself” doesn’t mean “do-it-alone.” In fact, there’s no longer a singular music industry, instead, there are industries around music. These industries offer solutions and expertise that, not long ago, only a music label could handle. Today, you can leverage these services and resources to offload work to a team of experts that you normally would have to do yourself. In this multi-article series, we’re going to explain all the major music business roles, the work each role performs, why what they do is helpful for your career, and give you options to outsource the work or empower you to do-it-yourself.
DIY is a team sport
If there’s one thing we hear from musicians once they find out what it takes to sustain a career in music, it’s, “There’s too much to do! How can you handle it all?” Musicians need to handle distribution, engage in social media, manage merch sales, book shows, perform live, produce and promote videos, pursue music licensing, and so much more. And that doesn’t even take into account making the music in the first place.
But instead of trying to get it all done alone, your success will come from prioritizing what you work on, focusing on one thing at a time, and delegating. In fact, the most successful musicians we’ve interviewed do the following:
Make good decisions about what NOT to do. Successful musicians choose to focus on critical tasks that are most likely to help them succeed at the moment and skip the rest for the time being. For instance, you become much more effective at prioritization when you base your decisions on a release plan, which structures what activities you need to do at what time. (For more about release plans, see our book, Making Money With Music.)
Offload work to external services. Successful musicians use external services, sites, and other digital tools to handle key aspects of their music business or speed up the work so they can do it faster themselves. Some services cost money or take a percentage of what you make while others are free. We’ll list useful tools, services, and resources throughout this article series.
Build a team of experts to help with the work. Not all tasks can or should be outsourced. You’ll want to create a team to take on this type of work. Some can be people you hire — other tasks can be outsourced to trusted and capable friends, family members, band members, and fans.
Music business roles
In this article series, we’re going to use the most common music and music business roles as a way to organize the tasks, activities, and work required to build and sustain your music career. By using roles as a framework, you will be able to decide what to do yourself and what to outsource so you can focus on other critical priorities, such as creating music.
The 34 roles are broken up into seven categories:
Music business roles
Live show business roles
Live show production roles
Product, merchandise, and distribution roles
Media exposure and publicity roles
Music creation, recording, and production roles
Video creation, recording, and production roles
Music business roles are the typical ones required to build, manage, and run your music business. They’re there to help you make as much money as possible so you can continue to create music, play out, and do what you love.
Understanding the tasks that need to get done is an effective way to assess your options and assess who you might already know as you build your own team of experts to manage your music career. Keep in mind, to the extent you take on these roles yourself, you are building up skills that are marketable and can earn you money if you perform them for someone else. In other words, the skills you acquire to promote your music and build your business is good for your non-music resume as well.