Everything you've learned so far…
Let’s start with a short and condensed recap of everything you’ve learned so far, just to make sure you really understand what we’re up to. All of the points listed here have already been discussed in detail, but it will be important to remember as much as possible as you will need this knowledge as soon as you will start developing your sound, writing your songs, and producing your album in the next few chapters.
Our starting point has been the following:
- The music industry is a business, and it’s all about making money.
- The industry is in trouble, as people buy less records than they did in the past.
- Record companies and so-called “experts” claim that this is the fault of piracy and the internet.
By now you should have understood that the industry is blaming external factors to cover up their own incompetence and mistakes, and the real causes of the problems are quite different ones:
- The music industry is selling a bad product (quality has been decreasing for 5 decades in a row).
- The music industry stopped innovating 20 years ago (by slowly killing off real artists).
You’ve also learned that piracy existed long before the internet came up, piracy has always been part of the popular music culture since the late 1960s, and it even offers possitive side-effects.
In the 20th century, the music industry was very successful, and this was due to the fact that there was tons of great music everyone wanted to buy. Back then, at least some of the music was relevant, meaningful, rebellious, or even revolutionary:
- If we talk about the Golden Age Of Popular Music, then we mean the timespan from 1955 to 1995.
- 90% of the greatest music of all time had been released in the Golden Age, and sales were not a problem.
- Back then, the music industry produced music for everyone – there was mass-compatible music for the lemmings, while there were also innovative records for music lovers.
- The greatest artists of all time, the Masters Of The Past, were often those who were bending or even breaking the rules, thus inventing new sounds, new styles, and even new genres.
- There were about two songs a month that had a real impact and that became classics or even evergreens, and everyone still knows those today.
- There was at least one insanely great album a month that music lovers absolutely had to buy, and even nowadays some of those classic records still sell better than many of today’s pop, hip hop, R&B, or EDM albums.
But in the 21st century everything changed, after record companies fully understood that puppet / producer combos are easier to handle than real artists, and that they even allow to lower production costs and to reduce risks. Today’s music is the result of pure business calculation:
- Nowadays, record companies are only focusing on music produced for the masses.
- The focus has changed, from young people (15-24 year olds) to kids (10-14 year olds).
- Record companies mostly focus on easy to produce cheap pop, hip hop, R&B, and EDM.
The result of this trend has dramatic consequences however:
- Music has become short-lived, and songs don’t have any real impact anymore.
- There are almost no albums that’s worth buying anymore.
Record companies are responsible for the decline of music quality, as they have been slowly replacing artists by businessmen on all levels during the past few decades:
- Record companies themselves have never been innovative, but they once supported real artists, and those were the ones developing new sounds, styles, and genres.
- The A&R divisions are the ones who decide which artists will be signed, but their execs are pure businessmen nowadays, they know much about music and art, which means that in the end they don’t understand their own product.
But there are also a few serious problems on the artists’ and producers’ side, so you can’t blame the record companies alone:
- The way music is being produced has changed a lot – it’s no longer an art, songwriting has become a craft and a pure service, while production is factory-like.
- Most of today’s Top 40 music is being created by a quite small number of producers and DJs, which partly explains why everything sounds more or less the same.
- Studies show that both music and lyrics have become more and more simplistic over the past few decades.
- Today’s artists often lack talent, they’re pure entertainers and performers. This lack of talent is being covered up by Auto-Tune and by tons of “cool” effects (you’ll learn more about this in chapter 6).
- Today’s artists also lack courage, as they’re no longer challenging the current state – they follow trends, and they only try to please both their companies and the masses.
- The image of the rich but stupid and talentless musician is hurting the entire industry.
- The few remaining good artists don’t produce hit songs or killer albums anymore, which means that they’re mostly absent from the singles charts and their records don’t have any real impact anymore.
In the end, both record companies and artists are producing music that’s not desirable, as they’re only focusing on producing singles that shall bring in some quick money and that shall make it into the charts – producing music is no longer an art, it has become a pure popularity contest:
- Nobody likes today’s music, except for kids, and even the youth prefers pre-2000s music.
- In the end the vast majority of of people prefer music from the 1980s and from the 1990s, as well as “old music” (1950s-1970s).
- The tastes of the youth (18-24 year olds) and older generations (25-64 year olds) are not that different anymore.
- By purely focusing on mainstream music, the industry is ignoring music lovers and potential album buyers.
- Making music for the masses does not mean making music for everyone, as all people are different.
- In order to make music “mass-compatible”, you’ll have to get rid of everything that makes artists and songs special or unique, which means that everything will sound more or less the same.
- If everything sounds the same, then all artists will be in a situation of high competition, and in the end people will buy less.
And finally the marketing has also changed a lot:
- Radio and music television are relying on play lists nowadays, the same music gets played all over the time, which leads to over-saturation, thus people will not buy the records.
- There are no expert DJs discovering new interesting music anymore.
Nevertheless most artists still ignore all of this, and they still think they’ll need the support of traditional record companies in order to make it:
- Most artists dream of getting “signed” by a record company, hoping this would help them to become successful or even rich.
- Record companies will only sign you if you follow trends, and they will try to make you even more mass-compatible then.
- About 80-90% of all artists who get signed fail, and they never recover.
- Even those few artists who manage to break even usually won’t get rich, as following trends will lead to a strategy focusing mostly on singles and chart success.
The claims and recommendations of A&R executives and so-called “music industry experts" will lead you into the wrong direction:
- “People don’t buy music anymore!” – This can’t be true, as there are still albums that sell millions or even break records.
- “The album is dead!” – Can’t be true either, as the entire industry is still making most of its money with album sales.
- “You can only make money with live performances!” – But how you will ever get booked if your records don’t sell?
- “You will have to follow trends!” – Really bad idea, as that would result in music that obviously nobody wants to buy.
- “You will have to make music for the youth!” – Also a bad idea, a kids don’t buy lots of records, and young adults don’t like that kind of music anyway.
The music industry is a broken system, and nobody working in this industry has a clear vision or a clever strategy that might reverse the trends and that would allow to return to the glory of the old days. If you become part of that system, then you will be a tiny wheel in a giant machine that has been standing still for 20 years.
Furthermore, both record companies and the media will give artists and fans a completely wrong impression on what music and what genres are really important, and on what markets you should focus on if you ever want to become successful by making good or even great music:
- Record companies and the media will make you believe that most people like chart pop, hip hop, R&B, and EDM, while rock has become irrelevant.
- Surveys however show us that rock is still the most popular genre in the entire western world, and that it’s even way more popular than pop, hip hop, R&B, or EDM.
- Industry reports show us that rock is still the best selling genre.
If you understand all of this, then it should be clear that the solutions recommended by record companies and so-called business experts will never lead to any music that will have a real impact or that might even save this entire industry.
Therefore I will recommend a very different approach in this manual:
- You will learn how to become successful by making the opposite of what record companies are doing, and of what all experts are recommending.
- You will become successfull by making good or even great music.
- Great music should be innovative or even revolutionary, and in most cases it won’t be mainstream.
- If you’re not mainstream or mass-compatible, then chances to get a record deal will be very low nowadays.
- Which means that you will have to make it on your own.
- This again means that we will have to greatly improve your songwriting, production, and marketing skills.
- Writing and producing successful music can be learned, you only have to know the rules that need to be followed.
- The most successful artists often were those who knew how to bend or even to break those rules.
If this will be our plan, then you will first need to understand who your potential fans and record buyers will be:
- You can only become successful by selling music to people outside your own community, to people all over the world, to people you don’t personally know.
- The masses will never buy a record by some unknown underdog – they’re lemmings and they only buy the music recommended by the media, or they don’t buy any music at all.
- The only ones who might buy your music will be open-minded leaders, and if they become fans, then the masses may follow.
- You will therefore need to go for the more intelligent and well-educated leaders who will be open to new experiences.
- Those leaders often prefer music that’s different, that’s more complex, that’s more challenging, and that’s more rebellious.
- But those leaders will only become fans if your records will be exceptionally good, and that’s what we will need to work on in the following chapters.
While the masses usually buy singles (or no music at all), such open-minded music lovers will usually be album buyers. There are two good reasons to record an album in fact:
- If you ever want to make some real money with records, then you will have to sell albums, not singles.
- The album allows you to create real art, while singles force you to follow pre-defined rules.
Most amateur albums don’t sell at all, as they are usually boring and irrelevant. You will have to deliver a real killer album that will be different, and it will need to feature at least one single that will make music lovers go crazy:
- The music industry is focusing on selling singles to kids, while you will be focusing on selling albums to music lovers.
- Music lovers buy albums, but only albums that are exceptionally good, so that’s what you’ll have to produce.
- If you want the entire world to know about your album, then you’ll need a hit single or a signature song, a song that will really have an impact, and this song will have to be promoted by a video that music lovers will share on social platforms.
Follwing such an album stragtegy also means that you should forget about the singles charts. Don’t look for short-lived fame, try to focus on starting a long-lasting career instead.
In the end you’ll only need 5 things in order to make it, as seen in subchapter 1.2:
- An own, unique but authentic sound and style,
- one really great song,
- a killer album,
- a unique video, and
- some innovative marketing.
So you will need to be much more than just a simple artist, you will need to be a visionary and a designer, a producer, and a business(wo)man. Take fate into your own hands, do your own thing, and don’t follow the path dictated by the music industry.
Today you will be able to make it all on your own, thanks to technology that will allow you to produce and to promote your music all by yourself.
And that’s it – if you understood all of this, then you will now already be on a completely new level.
But this is just the beginning in fact.
In the next chapters you will learn more about the Masters Of The Past and about the quality of music in the Golden Age, and then we will start working on the development of your own sound and style, and you will learn how to write and to record / produce music that will be way better than anything you created so far.