Business- the Fifth Element

When we think of music we think of art, freedom, emotion, excitement, entertainment, etc. When we think of business we usually think of the opposite- static, conservative, unemotional, etc. Trying to put these two disparate elements together can be extremely challenging. I would call DOING BUSINESS the 5th element of being a Rockstar.
Artists don’t tend to enjoy doing business and business people don’t tend to be thought of as all that artistically creative. In order to be successful as a musician there has to be consistent, creative and aggressive business moves made. Behind most any Rockstar you will find a person or persons making business moves,making connections and in general advocating for the artist’s business interests.
I would like to take this opportunity to point out the difference between the music business and the bar business. Rockstars write, produce, release distribute and perform original music. Playing covers in a bar, venue or at an event doesn’t qualify one to be a true Rockstar in that they are playing someone else’s music and have no personal investment in the music that they perform. The venues that feature cover bands actually have to pay a licensing fee to the original artists’ Performing Rights Organization as compensation for the performance of their music by cover bands or from broadcast radio, TV, satellite radio or recorded disc.  Though original artists often perform in bars they are selling and promoting their own music and products and are enhancing their own business in the process- not just as paid help for the venue.
So back to the importance of embracing the business of music. As soon as you or someone else profits from your performance and/or products you are doing business. If you intend to profit from playing original music or make a career playing original music- which means making money to pay your bills with you music- then you are working in the music business. Musicians have a tendency to avoid doing business, curse it and often ultimately fall short or fail because of their reluctance and/or inability to deal with the reality of doing business as a musician.
Many Rockstars have had shrewd, saavy and aggressive business people helping them to make connections and get opportunities that they couldn’t or most likely wouldn’t have been able to on their own. Jimi Hendrix had Chas Chandler, Led Zeppelin had Peter Grant, The Police had Miles Copeland, Elvis had Col. Tom Parker and there’s people like Sean “Puffy” Combs, Babyface, etc. etc. who have helped many a burgeoning artist find his or her way in the music business.
Business in music includes creating products to sell i.e. music, merchandise, live performances, broadcast on radio, TV and the Internet and promoting you products with music videos, poster, ads, interviews, reviews, etc. Producing music costs money from purchasing gear, paying for studio time, paying engineers and producers, duplication, artwork, etc. Performers usually expect to get paid from their live performance and promoters expect to profit from these performances. Print ad space costs money, posters and printed material cost money to design and duplicate, professional websites cost money to design, host and maintain, radio programmers expect the music that they play to energize their audience (customers) to purchase the products or patronize the businesses of the advertisers that buy ad time, etc. Often the musician is the only one who doesn’t see the relevance of the financial side of playing music as a career and the advantages of handling their business wisely.
A Rockstar is at the top level of career musicians just like a top-level pro athlete or actor and attains that level of success by becoming their own brand/business and having a high monetary value as a product.
The value of a Rockstar- and really any saleable product or service- is based upon their fan (or customer) base. Since individual fans (customers) may only spend $10- $30 on the artist at a time- maybe once a release cycle (assuming they buy the album and maybe buy a t-shirt and maybe go to a show which would add a little more value to their purchase) the artist needs a significant number of fans to cover the overhead costs of producing, distributing and promoting their music as well as to fill seats in venues to make them profitable to artist and promoter. Most businesses whose earnings (and existence) depend on a musical artist’s fans (customers) are going to work exclusively with artists with large fanbases because they are the most profitable. Artists without significant fanbases may not even be able to cover the cost of producing CD’s, merchandise or performing live therefore unwise to work with from a business point of view. Artists with the largest fanbases have the most potential for profit all around.
The bottom line is that what makes an original recording artist i.e. a Rockstar successful (and possible for that matter) is having a large number of people interested in what they are doing which is called a fanbase. Without this element appearance, performance, strength of recorded material, etc. has no significant business (money) value. Having a large fanbase grants the artist access to larger performing venues, radio and TV airplay, national press, etc. Having the ability to access mass media just accentuates and perpetuates the ability of the artist to maintain and grow their fanbase (customer base). Many very talented, attractive artists with excellent live shows and strong recorded material have failed due to lack of a fanbase (customers). I suppose that developing a fanbase might be the 6th and most important element of becoming a Rockstar and it is perhaps the most difficult element to achieve. What is the secret? We’ll work on that in the next installment of 50 DAYS TO ROCKSTARDOM. Stay tuned!!!