How to make it in the music industry

“If you’re in the music business, you probably don’t have a soul…myself included,” joked Paul Steele, founder of Good Time Inc., at the crowded Macklemore Approach music business seminar Wednesday night.

With a bemused chuckle at the crowd’s reaction, his words set the course for the night: a night that would prove to be exactly what everyone hoped for, yet not exactly the one everyone expected.

Wednesday night, Neely Dining Hall overflowed with music industry hopefuls anxious to take in every word that five industry professionals on stage could offer. Generally, music business seminars draw a full crowd, but the Macklemore Approach captivated an audience so expansive that people were left standing outside straining to hear.

The panel consisted of Kristen Dabbs, founder of Musicians Corner and co-founder of the record label The Ready Set; Derek Webb, co-founder and president of NoiseTrade; Beth Laird, co-founder and president of Creative Nation; Larry Kloess, founder of Cause a Scene and Paul Steele, founder of Good Time Inc.

Independently, these professionals have created successful platforms that have allowed them to stay relevant in the ever-changing music industry. Collectively, they represent the new turn the industry has taken into the hands of the music industry’s entrepreneurs.

The consensus of the evening was that the music industry has changed, is changing and will always be changing. The industry has evolved into a 1000-niche market. While it may be a potentially intimidating concept, you can still be in the business of being uniquely and distinctly yourself.

For Derek Webb, that meant taking his experience in marketing his own music and expanding upon it to create NoiseTrade. During his performance career, he learned by giving away free music he could not only create markets from new listeners, but he could also pinpoint different cities where his music was popular for touring purposes.

Webb took this concept to create a platform to help independent musicians like himself self-promote successfully, and he now runs a thriving business.

For Larry Kloess, it meant going from graduating with a psychology major to throwing himself headfirst into founding Cause a Scene, which books house shows for local and national bands.

On his journey, there were countless people who told him he wouldn’t be able to do it, but Kloess created his own opportunity and never took “no” for an answer.

“I opened my own door…actually into my house for the first 20 to 25 shows,” he said.

Each panel member shared their personal stories but one common theme stood out. To begin, not only do you need to become an expert at what you do, you have to make yourself an irreplaceable asset.

Furthermore, you’ve got to work hard and be okay with failing every once in awhile. Stay adaptable and tenacious. Find what you love, commit to it and start doing it now. College is a good place to learn how to fail in order to find success.

Finally, in whatever you do strive to be great, to be resonant. The industry is tough, but it’s not impossible.

“I lost a lot sleep thinking it wouldn’t be okay,” said Steele toward the end of the night. “It’s going to be okay.”

This article was written by Haley Buske. 

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