5 newbie music industry lessons learned from #SOC
Straight Outta Compton chronicles the life of Rap mega group N.W.A. who went from the bowels of Compton to superstar status crafting a genre where the elements still exist today. From the clothing, the cars, and the music -the movie is an 80s baby Hip-Hop dream. We don’t want give away the movie for those who haven’t seen it, but there are important music industry lessons you can learn from watching the film.
Lesson 1: Watch the company you keep
When the genius of your talent is recognizable to others you’ll begin to take meetings with those who’ll want to help you. If you are experiencing some level of success on your own, consider keeping things in-house until duties become too overwhelming and you must hire someone. Before you hire, vet the staff. Get references, interview current and former clients, and research past projects for success. Don’t fall for slick words and empty promises. Start working on a trial basis and put expectations in writing. If you’re getting good results, consider extending the trial for a longer period of time until your employee becomes permanent staff.
Lesson 2: Don’t work without agreements
As you know, one of our favorite sayings is, “if it’s not in black and white, it doesn’t exist”. It’s important to obtain and sign production split sheets, contracts, band agreements, etc. before you begin working with someone. Doing so creates an air of transparency that brings an ease to partnerships. There’s nothing worse than collaborating with someone and having a conversation about splits after everything is done. In addition, depending on what went down during recording, you may not remember saying you gave someone 50% writer’s credit. With that being said, don’t give up your goods for free. Get the paperwork done.
Lesson 3: You can’t speak legalese
It is always important to read every document you are signing and more important to understand what you are signing. Even the simplest of contracts can bring despair if you don’t fully understand what you are reading. Years ago we had to fight to get a client out of a ridiculous contract where they received no money from sales. On top of that it was for multiple projects. They basically worked for free. Hidden in simple, but important language, the client signed their career away. All contracts should be looked over by a lawyer. Refer back to Lesson 1 for important steps in finding a good attorney.
Lesson 4: Sign all the checks
It’s very important at all levels to have an accounting system. Like your checkbook, you should keep a record of every transaction related to your business. If you are just starting out a simple Excel sheet to record your expenses, tax withholdings, and profits will do. If your business is profitable but you’re not quite ready for an accountant or bookkeeper, consider using business accounting software. If you chose to enlist the help of a professional, you’ll still need to go over all transactions with a fine tooth comb. Don’t be afraid to ask for an accounting at any time to see where you’re funds are going. One way to ensure this is to sign all the checks! Scrutinize every item on an invoice. Make sure what you are paying for is essential to your business. Constantly review your budget and remove excess items. Seek vendors who can offer the same or better quality at lower prices. Make sure you are putting something back into your business in the form of education, marketing and promotion, or better equipment. Make sure savings are a top line item in your budget.
Lesson 5: Be patient
Keep working at your craft and soon you’ll be noticed. Enjoy the process of creating something new-of sharing your point of view with the world. Wear your uniqueness like a shiny suit. Don’t fall into the trap of being a copycat; it won't get you any further. When you get to the point where you feel your efforts are not working, keep going; another door will open. One thing to keep in mind is that instant success is really not that instant. It can take up to 10 years to hit commercial success. The thing we’ve learned is that, when it’s your time, it’s your time.