MusicDish e-Journal - March 17, 2018
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Review of "Developing Music Careers In Uncertain Times: A Psycho-Spiritual-Musical Manifesto"
Peter Spellman makes a clear distinction between the music industry and the music trade
By Michele Wilson-Morris
(more articles from this author)
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Peter Spellman, M.A., M.Ed. is the Director of the Career Development Center at the Berklee College of Music, and founder of Music Business Solutions (, a training resource for music entrepreneurs. Spellman recently wrote a paper called "Developing Music Careers In Uncertain Times." I found it to be informative, entertaining, intriguing, and thought provoking to say the least.

Spellman's major premise is that no longer are musicians/artists bound by the chains that have been imposed upon them by the music industry for so many decades. In fact, he makes a clear distinction between the music industry and the music trade. He states, "The former is primarily the domain of transnational corporations and organizations like the RIAA and the major music companies; the latter the domain of most musicians and a tremendous diversity of small music enterprises, most "under the radar" and perceived by the former as basically insignificant in the larger picture."

Mr. Spellman is very much correct in his assertion. For a very long time, the major labels have dominated the music industry and market, and independent artists have had little or no chance to have their music heard without going through them (major labels). Things have changed, however, with the internet and the various opportunities it offers artists to reach music lovers on a global scale. There are, of course, other factors as well, such as technological innovations in home recording studio software and equipment, as well as new business models.

The premise of the paper is that there are four critical principals that artists must be aware of and diligently committed to in order to be successful: growth, focus, flexibility, and synergy.

Growth: Success is not a destination; it's a journey. In any industry, but particularly the music business, one must exercise patience and creativity. Learn to think outside of the box and be willing to try new and different things, with the understanding that in time, with the right amount of effort, there's a payoff. Also, learning to strike an inner-outer balance is crucial by spending time both alone in an effort to "manage one's consciousness" and by spending time with others to "allow the exchange of ideas and information".

Focus: Find your niche - don't just follow the road most frequently traveled. There are too many people already on it, and you don't want to be one of them because it's simply too hard to differentiate yourself from the rest of the crowd there. Understand that what you believe, you can conceive. Henry Ford once said, "Whether you think you can or you can't, you're right." Get rid of negative thoughts and visualize yourself doing what you want to do. Though you may have to do other things in the meantime, the image of your dream should always be in front of you. Envision it happening, use all of your senses to feel it, and make preparations for it to occur.

Flexibility: "Especially in the early stages, a career musician must wear a number of hats. You might be a Performer-Writer-Teacher-Barista or Producer-Babysitter-Sales Associate. That's appropriate; all of us have done it." Spellman uses a quote in this section that I particularly like: "Write your goals in concrete, and your plans in sand." He also suggests putting your goals down on paper as people who do so are much more likely to obtain them. You must then have a game plan for reaching those goals. "Think of companies you already resonate with and try brainstorming ways you can link up. Find ways to add value to what these business are doing with what you have to offer." And don't worry about what you have to do right now in order to make the music you love. Many celebrities have had jobs that weren't their career choices, but they did them anyway. "Gwen Stefani scrubbed floors for Dairy Queen and P Diddy cleaned toilets." Who would dare laugh at them now?

Regarding flexibility, there's one last point that needs to be brought to light. "Forget jobs; look for the work that needs to be done. Find your special skill that can be used as a door opener. Also, be entrepreneurial in mind and spirit."

Synergy: Spellman states that "Music is a 'who you know/who knows you' kind of business," and indeed it is. Nurture and expand your relationships. "Forging key alliances is critical to building a multi-dimensional music career. Teaming up can multiply your efforts and move your career in an upward trajectory. Utilize your friends and relatives, the internet - any method or means at your disposal to get your brand out there. "Network with the well connected."

If you don't know how, learn how. "It's a high time, lost cost marketing strategy," says Spellman, and you must make sure that you find the right combination of people with whom to network. Work the crowd. Keep your eyes and ears open to the latest trends and know what's going on! Use online communities to find out what you don't know, and to get the word out about yourself as well.

In summary, the tables have turned, in favor of the little guy - the independent artists and musicians. As they continue to do so, make sure you're prepared to take advantage of everything you possibly can. Stay "in the know," and be a giver as well as a taker. You'll find that opportunities are made much more often that they're found.

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