There’s been a fair amount of regret in my time in the industry, and I’ve come to accept that that’s just how it goes. Now while I definitely have tried to address these mistakes in other articles I think it might be helpful to explicitly call out some of my fuck ups over the years. There’s obviously been a lot more than the ones listed here, but this is definitely a start and should begin to give you some insight into things not to do in the music industry. Again, this is by no means a definitive list, and I was lucky enough to miss making a lot of mistakes, but here are some ways that I definitely screwed up.
5. Trusting People
Now I don’t want to sound overtly nihilistic, I really don’t. That being said – there have been many times in my career when I thought I could trust someone and ended up screwing myself over. I know that sounds bitter and dark, but that’s simply how the cookie crumbles. When you get hurt like this though it’s important to remember that oftentimes it’s not the fault of the person who hurt you, they simply could not deliver on the level that you had expected. You need to be aware that in this industry very few people live up to the hype that they build around themselves and you need to be careful before you let someone take an active role in your art.
4. Not Talking About Money Up Front
This is a hard one since it can also be very uncomfortable for a lot of people. Part of the issue that a lot of the time there isn’t a lot of money involved at all. I’ve also found that I am too quick to want to work for free, and that has screwed me and others out of a lot of money over the years. Instead I have had to come to terms with the fact that there are layers to this whole operation and that if you’re not blunt about goals and payoffs then somebody is going to get burned and everyone is going to be frustrated. Obviously there is some finesse required when talking about money with people, but don’t be afraid to bring it up at the end of a meeting – if you don’t, then it might never be broached.
3. Investing Too Much Money In The Wrong Things
This has been a longtime issue of mine, and again, this is one of those things you kind of need to learn for yourself. That being said – I have lost a lot of money investing in vinyl releases that went nowhere or tapes that never ended up getting delivered. Now this is all part of the trade and there are always going to be projects that become financial dead ends, but as you grow you learn to watch out for them. People who ask for your money saying ‘you need to spend money to make money’ inevitably end up screwing the pooch and leaving you losing cash. While this definitely ties up into the previous two points it’s important to consider the actuarial realities at hand and keep them in mind as you develop your portfolio.
2. Going Into Projects For The Money Not the Passion
This is perhaps the easiest mistake to make on this list. Look, we’re all starving musicians and we all have a very hard time with the music industry, it can be a challenge to make ends meet and also live your dream. There is a perpetual struggle here that is going to haunt you for your whole time in the industry. So if you dive off the deep end and get involved in music you don’t love, isn’t it okay? Not really. People can tell if you’re not fully sold on the music and that is inevitably going to hold you back. In a competitive market, the people in power can choose the best and most passionate people to work for them, if you hop onto a project you’re not crazy abut, you will feel the pain early on. The sooner you can come to terms with that and embrace what it means for you the sooner you will be able to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and come to music industry success working with art that you love.
1. Not Realizing Most People Are In It For Themselves
This has always been a hard thing for me to accept because I have made so much of my name as someone who is trying to help out the collective. At the end of the day though, there are a lot of people in music (Some might even argue most people in music) who make a profit without ever paying anyone else off or trying to grow the community. Unfortunately this is just a bleak reality of an industry of annihilation and is something that we all need to come to terms with. That being said, it has been my experience that those who are in it for themselves also tend to be the ones who don’t end up making it in the long term, so perhaps if you drive forth and stay true to yourself you can eventually scratch out a career for yourself.