The Reality Of Going Pro

AA little while ago, hip hop artist Spose made some waves when he talked about the realities of signing with a major label over at Yes, okay it’s but the details in the article are sound and, frankly, somehow disheartening and inspiring all at once.

What Spose’s article/interview does better than any of the dozens “indie-vs-label” articles that came before it is illustrate the nauseating and frustrating Catch-22 of going “legit” in the music industry. Namely: you can get recognized for being you but if you want the fame and glory and attention that come from a major label contract, you’re not going to be allowed to be you for very long.



It’s been this way since the dawn of the music business. Seriously—even in the early days of Rock and Roll, music was a factory setup. A label would employ a dozen or so songwriters, some in house studio musicians and then track down someone who had that certain…hip swingy, gravelly vocal je ne sais quoi and hire him (or her) to be the face of the work being done by the label…or haven’t you noticed how many of the songs sung by your favorites have the same names (though rarely the singer’s own) showing up in the writing credits over and over again?

This is true regardless of genre. Country, Hip Hop, Folk, Rock—though country has been particularly good at star making recently. Just take a look at the 2014 ACM nominees, stars galore!

That does not mean it is going to stay that way. The other important thing we took away from the Spose article/interview is that things are already changing. “Indie guys” are making a livable earning selling music that is all their own, through their own indie “houses.”

Why are things finally starting to really take off for the indie guys? Why are people who produce independently starting to be recognized by major mainstream outlets? Indie guys are turning up on mainstream shows. Even though your name might not be among the, (or Grammy or AMA), it is entirely possible that it could be there in 2015 or 16. Why? How?

We’re willing to bet that it isn’t just that iTunes allows independent musicians to list their songs through the distributor. We’re willing to bet that the reason things are finally changing is that the indie guys are finally accepting what the label guys have known for decades—music is a business.

We talk about this a lot here—minding the details of your business. You can be insanely creative. You can write and produce a new song every day. Unless you’re ready to do the gross business stuff, though—you’re not going to earn a whole lot doing what you love.

This means that you need to learn how to license your music. You need to know how to promote your music. You need to know how to book shows (and promote those shows). You need to know how to track your earnings and you have to pay your taxes. Yes—even rock stars pay their taxes.

So don’t let the realities of the studio system and Spose’s experiences get you down. Instead, let it lift you up. He went through the studio system and not only did he live to tell the tale, he took what he learned and used it to build a career.

You don’t have to worry about that middle step (getting chewed up and spit out)!