15 Rules for the Music Business

Everyone has rules eh?  Or are there no rules?  What say you?  Anyways, these are 15 things I've learned from my 25 years as a full-time music professional.  I'm keen to hear your take:

15. Never talk to an A&R person before the gig. 

They will never stay for a whole show if you do. 

14. If you hear the same specific criticism about your music from a variety of sources you might want to take a look at that part of your craft and re-evaluate it. 

13. Surround yourself with musicians who are better than you and people who are smarter.  You should be the weakest link in the chain. 

12. If someone tells you, “We’re really not trying to mess with this part of your music….” Then that’s exactly what they are doing.   (This is the same things as when someone is saying “it’s not about the money” when it really is.) 

11. Never trust the judgment of someone who gets their music for free or doesn’t buy a lot of records.  They are out of touch (this applies most to “suits” or “mooks”). 

10. Show up on time, play in time and in tune. 

Anything else is less than professional.   Early is on time. 

On time is late.   Late is unacceptable. 

9. Do your freakin' homework! If someone gives you a CD to study for a session make sure you know if like YOU wrote it. Learn how to make charts.  There's nothing that slows a session down than someone who didn't do their homework and is "looking for parts" to play on a song. 

8. Be a good hang.  Be courteous, polite and helpful.  Be personable and clean.  No-one wants to be around a scruffy, smelly person and they sure won't want to work with you again.  Get along with people and be open to collaboration.  It makes better music. 

7. Anything more than an 8-10 hour session is usually wasting time, effort and killing your team.  The law of diminishing returns.  Get some sleep and start anew. 

6. THERE ARE NO SHORTS IN ROCK N' ROLL.  I'm not kidding.  Only Jimmy Buffett can wear shorts on stage and I'm not even really sure he should.  Maybe only Angus Young (because it's a costume).  They are lackadaisical, too casual, look goofy and you won’t be taken seriously.  I don’t care how hot it is. 

5. It's all about relationships.  Be careful about burning bridges in the music biz 'cause you'll find you see the same people around year after year just with different jobs.  A great entertainment giant once told me as I was complaining about an unruly agent, "Ed, if I only did business with the people I like I'd lose 75% of my business".  They need you and you need them.  It's strictly business Sonny.  It's not personal.  Be polite, fair and professional and people will notice and want to help you. 

4. Know how to work with a budget and within a corporate structure.  If you come in on time, under budget and produce good results you'll instill confidence and get more work with bigger clients.  Learn how to work within the layers of a large organization such as a record label.  Make them look good. 

3. If you wanna' get involved and make something happen in the industry when you're just starting out hang around the creative folks, ie: other musicians, writers, fledgling producers, promoters.  They're the ones who will likely make things happen later on and you’ll see them down the road.  It all starts with a song and/or a concept. 

2. Diversify.  If you're a guitar player learn another instrument.  If you're a writer learn how to engineer.  Learn about producing.  If you're a drummer learn how to score for horns and strings.  Learn the business end too (ie: finance, promotion, PR, etc.).  There are so many facets to the music business.  Branch out and learn a little outside your natural skills.  This will help you later to stay alive despite trends and cycles in the industry. 

1. Be stubborn as hell.  Don't take no for an answer (You'll hear it a lot).  Work harder than everyone else but be wise enough to know when someone else is more talented and work with them.  Find your niche and try to always stay fresh. 

Now, go kick ass!


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