In school, if you’re right 60% of the time you’re a failure. In the music business, if you’re right 60% of the time, you’re a genius (unless you’re starting an indie label).
Posted on | January 17, 2009 | No CommentsIt’s true. Picking winners in the music business is a lot like hitting major league pitching: Most people strike out a lot. For every band on a major label that succeeds, a far greater number fail. This means that the A & R staff of most labels spend most of their time failing. So if you ever meet one of those rare individuals (and they do exist) who seem to pick winners more than half the time, bow down in front of them. In music business terms, this person is a genius. And if you happen to be one of those people, well take a bow. You are a genius.
There’s only one exception to this rule. If you run a small independent business, like an Indie record label, you don’t have the luxury of failing so often, because a multi-national corporation with huge cash reserves does not own you. So you have to be more careful. If you only have one band on your label and it fails, you can survive such a failure if you’ve been smart with your money and structured your project so that all the costs are properly scaled (insert reference).
But once you start juggling more than one project at a time, things get much more complicated really quickly. So growing an indie music business is a perilous game. If you have any success at all initially (and even sometimes if you don’t), the temptation to expand quickly is ever present. But if you haven’t given serious thought to how this growth will be managed and created budgets that accurately address the contingencies involved, it won’t take too many failures to kill the business.
So unless, you’ve got a personal fortune and your business is actually more of an art project, it’s best to remember that small is beautiful, especially at the beginning of a venture. As I said above, failure is common throughout the music business food chain. It’s as likely to happen to a big company as a small one. And as often as not, while the underlying lessons it has to teach may not be that different up and down the food chain, the scale of the damage may vary quite radically. So if it’s almost preordained that you’re going to have some failures and learn some hard lessons, why not try to keep your first failures small? It’s a long game. There’s no reason to risk mortally wounding yourself before you’ve barely made it out of the starting gate.