Engineer in the studio

Music Production: Should You Consider a Career in the Music Industry?

This will be a short one today. Got a bunch of work I need to catch up on.

Can you “make it” in the music business in today’s day and age? Well, that really depends on your definition of “make it”. And how much work you’re willing to put in. Here’s a few things to consider:

First: If you’re in it for the fame/money/power/etc, you probably ought to rethink some things. Having worked with quite a few artists that are in it just for that reason, I’ll tell you now that it’s a rough road. Most of them burnout. Actually, all of them burnout. Unless you know lots of powerful people in the industry and/or already have a bunch of money, get ready to work.

fame graphic

Now, I’m not saying it’s not possible to succeed with that kind of motivation, I’m just saying it’s going to be hard. Two main reasons: First, as someone already working in the industry, we see people like you all the time. As humans, all of us like people who are sincere and passionate, and those motivated by fame are rarely either of those two things. Honestly, it gets annoying and I rarely let those kinds of people hire me again. As such, building a network becomes incredibly difficult since nobody will want to work with you. Networking is everything in the music business, so keep that in mind.

Second, fame isn’t a strong long-term motivator in most people. There are rare exceptions, but most every fame-driven person I’ve met has always burned out. Music takes consistent practice and work, just like anything worth doing. If you don’t genuinely enjoy the process and the rollercoaster that the music industry is, you’re going to burn out and give up. At the end of the day, blowing up and becoming the next big thing is a lot like winning the lottery. There’s a lot you can do to put the odds in your favor, but at the end of the day the odds are still against you. I’ve seen a lot of ridiculously talented musicians work hard every day for years and still never get noticed. It’s how the game works, so I’d start to get familiar with the idea now.

overwork graphic

Second: If you’ve decided that this will be your career, be prepared for the workload. Unfortunately, there’s a limited amount of the music-making process that can be automated. It takes time and energy, and usually a lot of it. When I was interning for the big studio in my area a few years back, they literally ran sessions 8–12 hours a day, Mon-Sat, in three separate studios. The engineers were there everyday. Easily one of the nicest studios I’ve ever been to, but they really had to work to keep the bills paid. If you’re hoping to get into audio engineering, that’s a real workload that you might have to embrace someday. Even if you’re an artist, the workload will be somewhat similar. Unless you’ve got a nice budget to back your career, you’ll be spending a large portion of your time marketing and building your network.

punk band

Third: Know your market. I’m a dance music guy. I love it and hope I can one day help it become recognized as an art form. But I live in Utah, where the predominant styles are Alt Rock, Punk, and Folk. As such, you have to learn to work with them if you want to make any money. That’s just the way it is,

But, there are niches you can tackle to make up the difference. For example, in my area, there are a limited number of decent mix engineers. Needless to say, they’re all booked and/or very expensive. So I spent some time getting decent at mixing so I could offer mixing services at a decent price. Know your market, and hopefully find a hole that your skills can fill.

pareto principle

Fourth, know what you’re getting into. The music industry, like any other industry, is subject to Pareto’s Law. 80% of the money is made by 20% of the people. So if you’re not in that top 20%, you’re going to have problems. You’ll find ways to make it work, but they probably won’t be enjoyable. I work part-time in security to make ends meet. It’s just the way it goes. Most engineers I know have some sort of side-hustle to make some extra cash, so if you’re considering moving into the industry, get ready for that very real possibility.

So should you pursue a career in music? I find it very rewarding and enjoyable. I personally love the process, the gear, and most of the people, so it’s been worth it to me. It’s definitely not for everyone, but if you truly love music and want to be involved, we’d love to have you.

As many of you know, these articles are written as part of a “brain dump” recommended by an article I read. I’ve found them very helpful, but they often contain incorrect, vague, and misleading info, since they’re written in a short period shortly after I wake up. I find them very therapeutic, but I openly admit there isn’t a ton of cognitive thought or editing going into them. Keep that in mind. And most of all, remember that there are no rules in music. These are my recommendations, but it’s your responsibility to review, ponder, act, and discover for yourself. Good luck, have fun.

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Danny Demosi

Music producer, mix engineer, and songwriter from Salt Lake City, Utah.