To be successful in the music industry, you need to understand how it operates. Networking, career paths, independent releases, and shopping for labels are all valuable knowledge whether you’re an artist, producer, or industry exec. To help you get started on your journey, we’ve sourced and answered some of the most frequently asked introductory music industry questions on Quora.

What are the secrets to becoming successful in the music business?

Two essential elements to being successful in the music business are perseverance and tenacity. Whether you’re a performing artist looking to gain international acclaim or a music industry professional looking to become a successful executive, one has to focus on long-term goals and commit to being patient along what will be a long and windy road. Practice and time put in will pay dividends in the end. Also, be realistic, know your potential, and acknowledge that there is tremendous competition which will keep you grounded and focused.

What careers in the music industry pay the best?

Like other industries, there are many lucrative careers; however, they depend on one’s success in the particular field. Some positions include entertainment attorney, hit songwriter/producer, film composer, entrepreneur, manager, label/publishing executive, and many others.

Has streaming changed the music industry for the better?

Streaming has given consumers unlimited access to music, and, as a result, artists have major potential when it comes to reaching new audiences regardless of geographic location. In turn, they also have access to countless fans and listeners globally. While major record companies and labels have the upper edge with regard to resources and reach, independent artists can find effective ways to leverage the streaming field and grow new audiences.

What are some facts worth knowing about the music industry?

Not surprisingly, streaming continues to grow, and at the end of 2020, there were over 440 million users (IFPI Mar2021). Also, currently, over 60k tracks are being added to Spotify every day, which will result in approximately 22 million new songs in Spotify’s catalogue by year-end. Given these numbers, the massive growth this sector has seen is not surprising.

What is a great way of networking and gaining essential contacts in the music industry?

Begin building your contacts and relationships early on in your career. Many of your peers and friends will frequently become longtime business acquaintances, associates, or partners. Also, be respectful of everyone and anyone. Treat others how you wish to be treated. In doing so, people will remember you in the future, and you may come in contact with them for business purposes or otherwise. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions or reach out to new people to make new connections. 

What is the best way to maximize a release?

Plan, plan, plan. Before any release date, you should have formalized a cohesive release schedule. Allow yourself ample time to pull together the necessary promotional materials and have your social media strategy in place. Also, given the high volume of music releases, allow ample time to schedule your release via your distribution service. Finally, factor in any outreach to press or influencers who may help spread the word.

Should I self-release or try and get a deal with an independent label?

Currently, either option is viable. Should you wish to go with an independent label, determine what the label could do for your release above and beyond what you are able to do on your own. Whether that be through financial support/advertising, geographic location and support (digitally and yes, physically), social media promotion/amplification, pitching to playlists, press, etc. All of these areas can be tackled independently. However, depending on the artist and situation, it may make sense to partner with a label that has a team of people who can provide substantial support (and expertise) to maximize the reach/impact of a particular album release.

If I were to shop my project to a label, what are they looking for / what are some ways to get signed to a music label?

Generally speaking, labels look for artists who have developed themselves artistically and who have managed to cultivate and grow an active audience/following. Less is done in the area of artists’ development, and artists who have already built an active fanbase are typically more attractive. From there, labels can leverage their marketing, promotional and editorial power (as well as creative guidance in many cases) to maximize the artist’s visibility. Social media and statistics are key, so it’s important to focus on building and maintaining an active audience and streaming numbers. Once you’ve achieved this goal, interaction with a label via social media can often lead to a business relationship of some sort.

Are there any courses that teach the music industry?

RAC provides a comprehensive music industry course that covers all aspects of the industry, including entrepreneurship, should you choose to go that direction. Given the fluidity of the music industry, it can be helpful to have a rounded perspective and broad approach when entering the field and in determining what areas suit you most and are of interest to you. Furthermore, knowledge of entrepreneurship (and general business and its practices) can serve you well in the event you wish to start your own business or enterprise.

Who are we? 

Recording Arts Canada is a sound and music production college that offers an online or onsite program with campuses in downtown Montreal and Toronto. Our program combines essential theory, vital hands-on training, and career support, so you can start landing professional opportunities within a year. You can apply for our next cohort here.

Have a music industry question? You can request we answer your question on Quora, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.