Sam Arraj knows something about counting pennies and balancing books. The former President of the Country Music Association of Ontario and an on-going music fan is also a certified professional accountant. In the following column, excerpted from Music Biz Finance, Arraj offers advice to musicians hoping to scale the musical Mt. Olympus using one's brain, imagination and a finely focused budget.
If you're lucky enough to live in an advanced country, your life expectancy is an average 700,800 hours. YouTube creators release 1.3 million videos per day. An estimated 300 hours of content is uploaded each minute, or 432,000 hours per day. To consume one day’s worth of YouTube content, you’d need to spend half your life watching it without sleeping, eating or going to the washroom. Think: if you account for all the blogs, podcasts, radio, traditional TV and other media out there, you'll quickly realize that we’re in a middle of a content explosion. A perpetual nuclear content explosion, to be precise.
A good portion of the content is evergreen. The onslaught on human attention is on a level never before seen. So whether you're an established artist or a new artist, you have to fight for attention every day to make it.
You might write and produce the greatest song of all time, but it’s likely that it will drown in the flood of content that’s released every minute. The challenge for all content creators is to break through the noise. But for a recording artist, the challenge of breaking through the noise is harder, because the cost of producing a great song is higher, relatively speaking.
Here are some tips for surviving the perpetual nuclear explosion:
1 -- Reduce costs
Most people become romantic about the idea of becoming a recording artist, and they spend to chase the dream rather than build the dream. Money is the fuel that will help you live the life you want and deserve – but in the nuclear explosion, you could spend money on a massive ad campaign and not make a cent. You could easily spend thousands of dollars on stuff that will yield zero results.
Money and time are scarce resources, so you have to spend them wisely. By spending thriftily and astutely, you'll have a chance to be in the game longer and survive to brag about it. In business, the winning formula is simple: have more revenues than expenses. That said, start-ups, whether they’re in music or any other business, usually incur losses at the beginning. By being cost-conscious, you’ll make sure those losses aren’t crippling.
2 -- Be patient
If you want to become a doctor, it will take you four years to get a Bachelor’s degree, plus four years of medical school and another two years of residency before you can start practicing. Then, when you’re done, you’ll have to pay off all the debt you’ve racked up in the decade you spent studying to be a doctor.
It took me four years of undergraduate studies and 3.5 years of articling at an accounting firm before I got my CA designation. When I got it, I still needed four more years of experience before I could provide great value to my clients.
So let’s say you’re 22 years old and you just released your first single. Or you’re 38 years old and you’ve decided to finally do the thing you’re most passionate about. If doctors must sacrifice 10 years of their life to achieve their goal, why would an artist think he or she could achieve success with their first single? It takes years for an artist to learn how to record, write, and perform live. In addition, the artist needs to learn how the music business works to build a team and a fan base.
So you release your first video on YouTube and it only got 100 views. Good! Now try to build on that. Patience is very important to achieve success in anything we do.
3 -- Create art, not hits
Stop trying to create the same thing you hear on the radio, or writing songs that are going to be the next hit. Create music that will connect with people. If you're a cute blonde, stop trying to be Taylor Swift. She's got that market cornered. Remember: in the content explosion, if you don’t stand out, no one will remember you.
Why don't you try writing a song about Pokemon Go?!? Millions and millions of kids play it every day. Or, if you're a millennial, try telling Gen Xers and Baby Boomers to go F themselves.
Create something cool and refreshing, and don’t worry about radio or what the industry professionals tell you. There are rules and norms of how to write and produce songs, which you need to understand. But do your thing. If people like it, you’ll get the signs that you’re onto something.