How to Get Started in the Music Industry as a Musician or Artist

Starting your music career can be daunting, but planning will help

man playing guitar on music studio floor with laptop and sheet music
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Without a doubt, the most common question I get asked by aspiring musicians is, "What is the first thing I should do to get started as a musician?"

It's easy to understand why. Every musician wants to know what happens next after they've written songs and practiced until they're great. Now what? They know vaguely where they want to go, but they aren't sure exactly how to get there.

The problem with this common question is that there is no one size fits all answer.

There are so many things that can inform your next step in your music career, including your personal goals and your genre of music.

Major Record Label vs. Independent Music Career

Perhaps the easiest thing to consider first, and something that can offer a bit of a roadmap, is whether you envision an independent music career for yourself, or if you see yourself settling into the major label world. 

An independent music career can include a do-it-all-yourself approach, or you can connect with music businesses and labels that work at the independent level. Which is right for you depends on a few different factors. First is simply your preference. Some musicians are fiercely independent and want to do it all, while others only want to focus on their music.

Genre also matters, particularly if you're interested in breaking into a major-label-dominated world like pop music. In other words, sometimes your brand of music will dictate how you need to approach your career.

If your genre doesn't make things clearer, consider your three primary options by reading these articles:

Step 1: Make a Plan

Identifying your chosen industry path will help you do the most important thing: Make a plan.

If you're going the indie road, you may release your own music and either shop it to indie labels yourself or with the help of a manager.

To make it to a major label, you'll need a manager and maybe even a lawyer who will shop your music to the labels on your behalf. So, before signing with a label, you usually need to attract the attention of a manager, but how does one do that?

Demos can help. Recordings may be the most important thing if you're an aspiring pop star, but the one thing that everyone must do is to play live. Live shows will give you exposure to the industry and to fans, and every show brings you one step closer to either winning over a manager or winning over enough fans to attract the attention of managers, labels, booking agents and others within the industry.

There are a lot of intangibles involved in launching a music career, and often there's no clear answer that is sure to work.

I know, I know: It's frustrating. But trying to circumvent the process and pursue things you're not ready for, like a show you're not prepared to play, will actually do more harm than good. Instead, if you're looking for an absolute first step to take to getting your music out to the people, decide on your goals.

Then, make a plan. Then start playing live. Setting these wheels in motion will set everything else off - and you'll be able react to the unique opportunities they generate for you as an artist.