Real Talk: The Music Industry is a Business like no other but a business just like every other. By J. Akly

I’m J. Akly, creator of Real Industry Talk  ( Real Industry is dedicated to educating the unsigned artist, help mold and develop the musical careers of artists looking to take their music careers to the next level.

It’s been a while since I kicked some knowledge so I’m taking the opportunity to talk about the Music Business and Music Industry as a whole. As the title suggests the Music Industry is a business but not exactly structured like a conventional business. Today the technological advances have made it easier for aspiring artists to gain exposure by Do-It-Yourself (DIY) methods. In order to navigate through your music career successfully and in a smart business savvy manor there are some things you need to know and keep in mind.

First of all, the whole “I’m waiting for my music to land on the right ears and/or person” days are over and that way of thinking needs to be diminished and forgotten. In the past, the record labels would scout artists through A&R’s (artist and repertoire personnel), which their sole responsibilities were to locate talent, try to get them signed to the record label and assist in their music career development. Today that business model is close to forgotten, but with some exceptions.

As an artist you need to have your business affairs in order. What do I mean about your “business affairs”? Good question, the answer is you need to have quality music that appeals to specific demographics and is marketable. What exactly does this mean, well it essentially means you need to make good music, know who your audience is, have a fan base that can be quantified, have a personal artist “wow” factor (identity) and understand that the music business is a business. Overwhelming isn’t it? It’s OK, just keep visiting the Get It Done Blog at and enjoy the material we take the time to find and centralize for you, the serious artist.

Now here are a few things you need to do for yourself to protect yourself and align yourself up with becoming a serious artist.

1. Join a PRO (performing rights organization) because these good people pay you royalties based on performances. – ASCAP, BMI, SESAC (if you’re lucky enough to get an invitation).

2. Join the Harry Fox Agency. They pay you royalties based on mechanical & synchronization licensing (reproduction of your music and placement to audio/video products).

3. Copyright your original music (no samples unless you cleared the sample – more about clearing samples later). This solidifies your ownership of the intellectual property, the magic you created.

4. Trademark your name (stage name). Now that you own your name, people technically can’t use your name without your permission.

5. Establish a legal entity – i.e. Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, LLC and etc. – Check with your state and find out the details through them to determine which form of a company is right for you.

6. Get a tax ID

I know this all sounds like a big deal, which it is but it isn’t if you know where to find help – healthy plug for Real Industry Talk ( Now that you have those business related items in place you’re ready to go on to the next phase in your musical career. Some of this is going to be fun but it will take time, so if you haven’t already I suggest you get started on these next items.

1. Build a website – http://www.your web site (preferably a .com but a .net can suffice).

2. Build up your social media sites – Facebook, Myspace, Reverbnation, Twitter and Youtube.

3. Have quality (professional) pictures taken – i.e. head shots, performance shots and etc.

4. Build a press kit, preferably an EPK.

5. Give away music.

6. Consider merchandise.

How are we doing so far? OK, you’re probably wondering “why the hell do I need to do all of these things?”, since you just want to be signed. Well, it goes back to my main point, record labels aren’t just handing out record deals, they aren’t handing out huge advances (which are recoupable from your royalties if you ever make any – I’ll talk more about this at a later time) and most importantly record labels aren’t investing much (if any) time, energy or money in developing a raw talented artist unless they are 1000% believe its going to be a money maker.

All of the above proves to the record label you mean business. You need to think of yourself not just as “a businessman” but as “a ‘business’ man” – thanks Jay-Z you hit it right on the head. You are a business. You are the product. You are what is going to be marketed, not just your music. So if you bring in 5 people to your show versus if you bring in 50 it will make a difference for many reasons, today we only focus on the record label and getting (hoping and wishing on a star) to get signed.

Record labels want to know that you have a high potential to return profit on investment. Consider yourself a stock purchase and the owner of the stock want to know as much as possible about their stock and the odds of it returning revenue to cover invested costs. If you can’t return profits on investment then you end up owing money and this is just a head ache you want to avoid and the record label certainly does too. So in essence the more you can prove you are ready the higher the percentage chance in getting signed.

So for now I leave you with what has been discussed. Go do some homework and invest in yourself, because keep in mind if you don’t believe in yourself to invest in yourself what makes you think a record label is going to invest in you?

Stay tuned for the next REAL TALK by J. Akly, creator of Real Industry Talk (

© 2012 J. Akly



About Real*Industry*Talk

Professional Page: Experience: ASCAP Real Industry Talk Independent Music Company Get It Done Blog Artist Manager Education: Full Sail University, B.S., Music Business View all posts by Real*Industry*Talk

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