Whether you have musical talent or not, building a successful music company, from the ground up, is possible with the right approach. The broader music industry, which is estimated to worth over US$130 billion globally, has always been multifaceted and multi-layered, which has facilitated the starting of many different types of companies over the years.
However, this dynamism is also one of the reasons why starting a music company today requires a somewhat different approach from, say, a decade or two ago. To begin with, technological advances have drastically changed the way people create, consume, and use music.
It’s also opened the gates for different types of businesses to be started (or slammed it shut on some older types). Music recording, for instance, is moving further and further away from traditional recording studios and residing more in the living rooms and home studios of music creators.
So, how do you go about building a music company from the ground up in today’s technologically-driven climate and economy, where everything is going mobile and information is available at the push of a button? Here’s a snapshot of what it takes.
Having a Solid Music Company Idea
As with starting any other business, launching a music company begins with a workable idea that has the potential to be built out. It’s an idea that should not only be a novel concept but based on the recognition of an unmet need that your company may have the opportunity of fulfilling.
Where will this idea come from? It could be anywhere, such as while browsing online, from a personal experience that opens your eyes to a possibility, or even from a suggestion made by a friend or colleague.
Begin With Your Passion/ Area of Expertise in the Music Business
While it might be true that you don’t need to have musical talent in order to build a thriving company in the music industry, you do need an area of expertise that relates to it or at least have a partner who does.
Do you know entertainment law? Do you know how the music business works? Are you a coding geek with an idea to develop legal file-sharing software? Or do you just love music and want to help facilitate how it is created/consumed? Maybe you do have musical talent in a particular area, be it songwriting, singing, playing an instrument, or musical engineering. Whatever your expertise or passion, that’s where you should begin searching for ideas if you don’t already have one, and also where you should focus on to get things rolling.
Some of the starting points for music company ideas include booking services, setting up a record label, providing legal services, venue management, music video production, graphic design services, etc.
As it relates to our business, we chose to focus on music production services as the basis for our company. We wanted to cater to the songwriters who might be wondering " how do I make my own music?", as well as seasoned musicians who want to take their careers to the next level.
We recognized that songwriters and musicians often find themselves at a disadvantage when it comes on to making music professionally due to the high cost of production. Others are not able to access the type of talent needed to help create music of quality because they live outside the musical hotspots, such as Nashville, New York, and Los Angeles. These realities lead to many music creators turning to DIY methods that often result in low-quality recordings that fail to get noticed.
Fast forward to Tunedly, which now allows just about anyone to connect with the world’s best session musicians online, making it possible to create beautiful music from anywhere in the world. In addition, Tunedly also makes it easier for music creators to gain exposure via innovative features and tools while maintaining creative control over the sound you want.
Define Your Target Audience and Your Offering
The idea you choose should be further narrowed down to help you find your niche in a vast marketplace where it’s easy to get lost. It should be noted that the idea doesn’t have to be original, just different enough to attract a market segment.
Starting SongCat (our prototype), for example, meant taking a different approach and tweaking a model that already existed in online music production. Further testing led to the development of Tunedly, which is taking the idea one step further to appeal to another market segment and, thereby, delving deeper into our niche.
Defining what you’re offering is dependent on the people who you have identified as your target audience. Will you be going after consumers or creators, the tech-savvy or tech-challenged, lower-income or luxury seekers? Your audience could be one, or a mix of these, or even another type of audience.
To find out, you may need to ask questions, such as through online surveys and other research methods. You will also need to define exactly what your product/service will do for your user. Once you have clarified these definitions, it becomes easier for you to move ahead with laying the groundwork for building your music company.
Laying the Groundwork
Success in business is never guaranteed, but laying a solid foundation will increase its chances of avoiding failure. Yet, many people often neglect this area of setting up a company when they decide to start out. In addition to creating a strategy, you should also make time to straighten out your finances, register your company name, and sort out relevant paperwork you will need for banks, etc. Taking time to lay the foundation for your music company may seem tedious, but once you have it in place, it will allow you to see more clearly when you do decide to go forward.
Get More Skills
Becoming well-rounded in a variety of subject areas will make you better at running your own company, especially in the early days when you have a tight budget to work with. It may also help you make more money. An article written by Forbes Senior Editor, Zack O'Malley Greennburg in 2013, about how to be successful in business in the music industry, outlines how Dr. Dre makes a fortune, not just from his viral headphones, but also from his skills as a rapper and music producer.
You may not be a Dr. Dre, but learning how to market your business, or learning more about how the music industry operates could make you more versatile. Whatever it is, you should try to learn as much as you can by taking short courses that you can do in your spare time. Learning skills, such as bookkeeping, graphic design, audio engineering, social media marketing, or writing can help to make you more rounded when building your company and even help you cut costs.
Networking with Music Industry Influencers
Success in the music business often depends on who you know or who knows you, according to an article about finding success with a career in music, published by Berklee College. That’s why you need to know who the influencers are and reach out to them as much as possible. Who are the publishers, the artist managers, the communication officers at the various performing rights agencies and music-controlling bodies? Who are the decision makers? You need to go out and meet these people at the numerous industry events that are constantly happening.
In addition, get to know the influencers online. Nowadays, having an online presence is essential for any company that is serious about being around for a long time. Bloggers are a good place to start where networking online is concerned, as well as people and companies with large social media followings. Comment on other people’s blogs, create an account on Reddit and answer some questions. All these activities will help you to build your network, both offline and online while helping to spread awareness of your company and what it is about.
Do Great Work
The quality of the work you do for your clients will determine how long your company lasts. That’s because customers will spread the word about whether your services are of high quality or not. One bad review is all it takes for your business to be avoided like the plague. But one great review, especially when you’re just starting out, could send droves of new clients your way.
As a result, you need to go the extra mile, if you have to, in order to satisfy your clients and be consistent in your results. Doing good work means having the means to find out exactly what the client wants, hiring people with the right skills, and getting tasks done in a timely manner.
Know Your Competition
There will always be competition. The important thing is not to worry about them but to know what they offer and find ways to do it even better. Do your nearest competitors have a strong following online? Then develop strategies to gain more leverage on social networks. Are they industry leaders in the same area of business you are pursuing? Then study their methods and see if you can improve on them or put a different spin on how you deliver value to your customers.
Back in 2014 when the idea for SongCat was born, launching an online recording studio meant looking at what was already available and finding the gaps that existed that we could use to entice people looking for high quality but affordable music production services. We focused on a faster turnaround time and ways to deliver a lower cost product than the competition, while still providing high quality.
Today, our initial SongCat idea has evolved to become Tunedly, in line with new opportunities that we have uncovered for music mastering online and helping songwriters land publishing deals. To date, we have helped hundreds of musicians all over the world bring their projects to life. We launched the rebranded version not too long ago and it's been a continuous learning process. If you haven't tried it as yet, you can always have a look around to see what's on offer.
Finally, Be Positive
No one starts a company with the intention to fail, but going in with a negative mindset is a sure way to become a casualty before your business even gets off the ground. Have confidence in your abilities and your decision-making skills, trust your instincts, and know that you will learn most of what is important as you go along and make mistakes; finding out what works and what doesn’t.
Maintaining a positive outlook will make the journey all the more bearable and satisfying as you continue to build and expand your music company.