17 Most Laughable Myths Of The Music Industry

A Dog Strangely Laughing at Music Industry Myths
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1) Getting A Record Deal Means You Will Be Successful In the Music Industry.

Did you know that 98% of all acts that sign to major labels fail?  Meaning 98 out of 100 artists who actually get the deal don’t recoup enough money to pay for their advance and get dropped before their second (or even first) album is released.  Getting a record deal is much riskier than going at your career on your own.  Success in the music industry doesn’t need to mean getting on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, selling out arenas and getting hounded by the paparazzi.  It can mean making a comfortable living as a musician. And you don’t need a record deal for that.

2) Windowing Is An Effective Strategy

In the music industry, ‘windowing’ means holding off putting your album on streaming services for a window of time to maximize sales.  It may have an been effective strategy in 2012.  Or not.  Taylor Swift windowed.  Ed Sheeran did not.  Adele did.  Mumford and Sons did not.  They’ve all done just fine.  And broke sales/streams records.

But that was years ago.   You can’t put your album on iTunes and not Apple Music.  Not, you shouldn’t.  You literally can’t.  Apple won’t allow it.  YouTube Red is launching and will kill windowing dead in the water.

If people can’t listen to your album they will move on.  All the release day hype and marketing money will be for naught if when people go to check out the album, they can’t.  They will forget about you.  They aren’t going to spend $10 just to see if they like it.

Unless you’re Taylor Swift or Adele, it’s not going to work.  If you want a successful touring career, break down the access barriers.  And remember, fans aren’t going to pay for music anymore. And that’s Ok!

3) Streaming Is Bad For Music

A CD or download sale is treated equally no matter how great the album is.  It’s a one time payment never to be earned on again.

Contrast that with streaming.  If a song is great it will get played over and over again for years and years.  Earning MORE than just a single sale ever could.

Streaming pays less initially, but much much more in the long run – if the music is good of course.

4) Getting Your Song On A TV Show Will Shoot You To Stardom

Yeah, it’s cool to get your song on TV.  But do you know how many shows there are?  And how much music is placed?  This isn’t 2007 Grey’s Anatomy.  Very few TV shows actually break artists anymore.  It’s another music industry myth.

Commercials on the other hand can help (as made clear by American Authors and Imagine Dragons). And they also pay loads more than TV placements. Like $100,000 more. Yes, licensing can help pay your bills. And give you a bit of exposure. Definitely. But don’t bet the house on TV placements. It’s just one part of the equation.

5) Playing Well Known Venues Will Enable You To Play Other Well Known Venues

Putting on your website that you played The Whiskey means nothing.  Everyone knows that if you have $400 you can pay to play any venue on the Sunset Strip.  It’s much more impressive if you brought 100 people to a basement house concert than just playing a well known venue.

No one cares what venues you’ve played.  Except your Uncle Joe.  And he still thinks you should go on The Voice.

6) You Will Have A Music Career If You Go On A Singing TV Contest Show

Name 10 American Idol finalists.  Not even winners.  Finalists.  There have been 14 seasons.  That’s 140 top 10 finalists.  And you can’t name 10.  Well neither can anyone else.  And how many The Voice contestants can you name?  These are TV shows. Not career builders. Yes, if you’re smart, you may be able to use it as a launching pad into the music industry.

But most likely you will be locked into horrendous label deals with zero negotiating power and even if you do succeed will probably try to sue them like Phillip Phillips did. 

7) Major Record Labels Develop Artists

Hilarious.  Labels only want to sign artists who are already successful.  Already proven.  And even if you pay some lawyer loads of money to ‘shop’ you at labels and convince some hot A&R dude to sign you, you’ll be lucky if you get an EP out.

Most labels put out a single or two and if that doesn’t do well (and don’t think they’re going to put Rihanna money behind it), you’re dropped.  And even if your album comes out, if it flops, you’re done.  This ain’t the 1973 music industry, where Columbia Records will allow two complete flops because they believe you have Born To Run in you.

Labels demand instant success. If you don’t bring it, bye bye.

8) Major Record Labels Are Leading The Music Industry

Sure, they have loads of money still. But leaders, they are not. Their album creation and marketing strategies are paint by numbers, old school music industry.  Songwriting camps.  Release plans that haven’t changed in 5 years.

Today’s album marketing plan should not be the same as last year’s.  But at most labels, it’s identical.  Labels are the last to come around on everything from downloads to streaming.  Labels fight tech in court instead of innovating creative ways to work with the technological developments.

They want the music industry to stay in the 90s. But its the 2010s.

9) If You Book A Show, People Will Show Up.

If you don’t promote your show, heavily, no one will come. Plain and simple. One Facebook event ain’t gonna cut it.

+ 7 Reasons Why No One Is Coming To Your Show

10) Record Sales Matter

Sales are done. Streaming is now more profitable than physical or download sales at Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group. And they were done for indie music lovers awhile ago. Indie artists should be working the subscription angle via BandCamp or Patreon along with pre-order, crowdfunding campaigns via PledgeMusic, Kickstarter or IndieGoGo. Sell experiences, merch and other offers on streaming services with BandPage. And of course, diversify the revenue stream. There are so many more ways to make money with music these days above just album sales. Get creative. Take your head out of the f’in sand!

+The Largest Independent Music Store Moves To Subscription Model

11) If People Stop Paying For Music, Musicians Will Stop Creating It

That was the argument 15 years ago when Napster hit. There is more music now than ever. Musicians create music because we have to. It’s in our soul. You want to pay me $20 for a concert ticket, $20 for a T-shirt, $35 a year for a BandCamp subscription, $250 for a PledgeMusic pre-order package, and $50 for a BandPage offer, but don’t want to pay $10 for a plastic disc or digital files of data?

Fine by me!

12) You’re Either A Struggling Artist Or A Superstar

Middle class musicians are the fastest growing group of musicians out there.  Just because Uncle Joe hasn’t heard of your band means nothing.  Have you heard of his plumbing company?  Does that mean he’s not successful?  For some reason music is the only profession where people define success by fame.  There are thousands of musicians making a living doing what they love who aren’t famous, but are incredibly successful.

Success is defined by happiness. Not income. Period.

13) Social Media Is More Important Than Email

Social networks come and go.  Email has been the only constant.  If you aren’t building your email list, you’re doing it wrong. Kevin Hart attributed selling out Madison Square Garden to his email list.  Not Facebook or Twitter.  Yes, it’s important to have a presence and engage with your fans on a daily basis on the social networks you feel most comfortable on and where your fans lives, but don’t prioritize it over your email list.

14) If Fans Want To Buy Merch, They’ll Find A Way

Bands b*tch all the time that their fans don’t buy merch.  Bull.  Maybe yours fans don’t buy merch because you aren’t selling it to them in the right way.  Or maybe you have crappy merch.  You can’t throw a couple CDs in the corner of the venue and expect people to buy them.  If you don’t have a bright display, someone selling your merch (from when doors open to when they close), quality items, and a credit card swiper, you’re missing out on your number 1 tour income generator.

+ 10 Ways To Sell More Merch At Shows

15) ‘The Music’ Is The Only Thing That Matters

Yes, the music, first and foremost, needs to be great.  That’s a music industry truism.  In the streaming age, you can’t throw loads of marketing cash at a pile of shit and expect people to gobble it up.  But, unfortunately, great music without promotion means nothing.

Indie artists without a team around you have to work extra hard to get your music out there. Just posting it on Facebook and sending it to your email list will not turn your album into a chart topping success.

You need an interesting story.  A cohesive image.  A marketing budget. You need to tour and/or work YouTube.

16) It Matters What Studio You Record In

The only thing that matters is what your album sounds like, not where it was recorded.  Recording vocals through a U47 in Studio 1 at Abbey Road Studios is going to sound nearly identical as recording vocals through a U47 in your bedroom.  Pay for the talent, not the room.

17) You Need A Publicist To Get Press

Another laughable music industry myth.  Bloggers prefer being hit up by artists and managers over publicists.  Traditional press outlets like newspapers, magazines, radio and TV shows may respond better to publicists with whom they have a relationship, but a manager or artist can be just as effective.  Save yourself money, do your own press outreach.

49 Responses

    • #18 Ari Herstand Is A Music Business Authority!

      Seriously Ari, you’re headed towards the land of Lefsetz if not already there! For the love of God I hope find your writing to be for entertainment purposes only.

  1. Anonymous

    Great article Ari. I love the tips on merch. I really enjoyed meeting you at D.C.s house concert and yes I love my signed copy of your album. Keep rocking!!!!

  2. A. Nonymous

    I’ll only go over 1 point, I don’t have all night… Point #10; name a single artist who has made more out of streaming than selling. Name 1 artist who has actually made decent money from streaming.

    • Noah

      We had that article about a dude who made 40k on spotify streams. That’s good money in my opinion

    • Robert Jensen

      If Hotel California started streaming in 1976, what would the profit have been to date? Would streaming it for that long surpass what album sales were? If its better or even equal, musicians are better off since they will not be able to blow the money all at once.

      It also forces musicians to write better music. The days of quick commercial profit, one of the biggest complaints of a majority of musicians, could be a thing of the past as we enter the age of long term streaming vs quick pump and dump songs.

      Streaming is too new yet to know whats going to happen. Though, as the business model is worked out it could very well work in the musicians favor long term.

      • Anonymous

        Hotel California was released on December 8, 1976.

        There have been 14,219 days since the release (not including today). That’s 1,228,521,600 seconds.

        The song, “Hotel California” is 6 min. and 31 sec., or 391 seconds.

        That means the song could have been streamed 3,141,998 times per subscriber.

        Multiply that by 20 million paid subscribers (using Spotify as an example) and the average streaming rate (represented as “S”)

        (3,141,998 x 20,000,000) x S ~ $3.50

        • roland

          at the moment the numbers are horrific. the success of this format relies on more subscribers. many more. will that actually happen? who knows?

  3. Niklas J. Blixt (@niklasjblixt)

    Lot’s of greats pointers!

    In one way the streaming is more fair (even though we could discuss the amount per stream, but we’ll take that another time). Now you’ll gett paid everytime someone listens to your music as long as it is available for streaming. Back when people bought CD’s you got paid once and never gain for that same CD, no matter how much or how little people listens to it. This gives you a better feedback on your music plus you’ll get paid for it.

    That’s at least my two cents.

  4. D'Michael

    I would saying having a publicist is definitely one thing an artist needs…especially when no one knows about them. If I came out with music, you think Billboard Magazine would just let me e-mail them for a press release? Publicist opens doors and that’s a FACT.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      It’s interesting that you mention this. At DMN, recently we’ve been debating the value or PR people, overall we’re starting to think they bring very little to the table. Oftentimes they’re aggressively spamming us, making it difficult not easier to work with the client, and brow-beating us for not following some made-up embargo or yelling about some opinion we have. I’m starting to think we’re wasting our time, about 95% of the time, with publicists.

      • GGG

        Rant time. Unless you can afford a top (still overpriced) publicist on retainer AND you’re actually big enough that people already know about you, publicists are not at all worth the money.

        1) Many worthwhile publications don’t even post about bands unless they have x amount of Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/whatever followers. Doesn’t matter if the person pitching is the writer’s own mother. They have page views to hit. You can be the greatest band in the world, but if you’ve got 600 Facebook likes, you ain’t gettin written about 99/100 times. Not to mention you’ll be one of 20+ bands the site posts about that day.

        2) I’ve been involved in 6 record release campaigns for indie bands now, and I did just as well this last time emailing/calling people myself than the other 5 times where the bands shelled out for PR. Go out and make connections yourself.

        3) If you are just starting out and don’t know anyone, it can be good just to have something to show, but do not pay more than $1k a month. It’s not even worth $500 to get the bullshit local blogs you’ll get to show for your money.

        4) Everyone receiving these emails knows the people sending them are being paid to send them. So where’s the urgency, where’s the passion? It’s someone doing the same thing they do with 5 other bands every single day. Why would anyone care about that?

        • Noah

          I agree with this. I think publicists are frustrating in general. Even I get emails from them daily and there isn’t any reason to be sending me the emails

          • jr

            Please make sure to note the difference between a marketing strategy and a publicist. All too often publicists become the strategy and it invariably fails. Only top end publicists get the work done and they do it if and when marketing has done its job.

        • D'Michael

          I don’t know if you were in a band acting as a band member or you represented a couple of bands. If you were representing multiple bands, than it was probably your job to do it yourself anyways.

          Also, you said you had already done campaigns. So you had already established some time of relationship already.

          Someone who does cold calls/e-mails representing themselves as the artist will not have a bigger or better impact than someone else who is representing you. Yeah, they might be garbage at times, but you gotta be a special artist who can easily pull that off by yourself.

          • GGG

            I represent(ed) them, and whether it’s my job as manager to do it myself or not is irrelevant. Publicists exist, they say they will do this for x amount of money, and people pay them. Based on my experience and the experience of pretty much everyone I know, their results are almost NEVER worth the money.

            As for the next part, yea, exactly, that’s my point.. Put time into forming your own relationships, don’t pay thousands of dollars to use theirs, especially when you don’t even talk to the people most of the time. The vast majority of the people I contacted I had never spoken to; the publicist did. So your point here is also sort of moot. I’m sure the fact they wrote about a band that doesn’t exist anymore 5 years ago had no role in them choosing to write about the new one. Maybe it made them open the email in the first place, but they still had to like the music and decide. Not to mention, I cold emailed/called people that I know had never heard of the band, so that wasn’t a connection, that’s just knowing how to approach people and sell them on your shit.

            For the last part, at this level, I don’t think that’s necessarily true. If the pitch is concise and mildly intriguing, and the music is good, doesn’t matter if a band, a manager, a publicist, or whoever emails. In some cases, I think a band member may actually do better, since people love being friends with musicians.

      • Ben

        I don’t know. . . I think the right publicists do a great job at opening doors for artists, but once those doors are open and people are paying attention, it’s up to the artists to meet the challenge.

        If you do, people notice, and you get somewhere. If you don’t. . . well, at the very least, you could end up writing for DMN I guess.

    • Anonymous

      “If I came out with music, you think Billboard Magazine would just let me e-mail them for a press release?”

      Um, yes…

      • GGG

        You can email them all you want, chances are they won’t read it, let alone listen to it.

        I know enough people on the receiving end of EPKs/unsolicited pitches to know they don’t look at 90% of them.

        • Anonymous

          “I know enough people on the receiving end of EPKs/unsolicited pitches to know they don’t look at 90% of them”

  5. Marla

    I stopped reading by Q 12, which is the biggest joke ever. Music success is ONLY defined by how many records you sell. And for the record, Q 11 is also ridiculous. There are more musicians and more music being created today than ever before. Correct. And 99% of it is absolute shit!

    • A-J Charron

      Thank you! About 15 years ago, I was a reviewer. I wrote that the greatest thing about the digital revolution was that everybody could make an album. And the worst thing about the digital revolution is that everybody is making an album. 99% of music being made shouldn’t; a lot of artists simply don’t have the writing skills, or the production skills or the arrangement skills, or …. Just because you wrote 10 songs doesn’t mean you’re ready to record them, skills need to be honed, a lot of work needs to be done before being ready to record.

  6. Anonymous

    Complaining never solves anything, but that won’t stop me– It’s such a drag that a music creator has to be so much more than somebody who creates music. Most artists aren’t wired to be salesmen but now it is expected. The scale is now tipped towards people who are the best salesmen who can play music, not necessarily who makes the most creative, innovative and moving music. Multitasking is grossly overrated. The musical geniuses out there that don’t have friends or family stepping up to volunteer to handle all the other stuff for free…they’re screwed. We’ll never hear them. Instead we just get business-savvy “entertainers” whose calculated music leaves me cold.

    • 4

      imagine if beethoven also had to write press releases, do album cover design, shoot & edit videos, post photos to instagram, create posts for Facebook, snapchat and the endless stream of new social media, create t-shirts, etc

  7. Mike Vial

    Like usually, there is an overwhelming amount of negativity on DMN’s comment board, but there is also a healthy dose of reality balancing out the overall optimism of these counterpoints to the #17 myths.

    I think it’s important to embrace the reality of #3 of streaming, and yes, I do think we need to embrace it as songwriters, I do think songwriters need to face some tough facts about the actual numbers involved, and allow themselves to adapt (which I don’t think is crowd funding/subscribers in the longer term idea of sustainability, unless the country’s income inequality balances out):


  8. Anonymous

    3) Streaming Is Bad For Music
    From the perspective of a stand alone songwriter.
    I million downloads and/or CD sales would produce mechanical/digital royalties of $91,000 to be split between the songwriter and the publisher. That amount would be paid for every million sales.
    Assuming that number of sales was the result of a hit single … performance royalties for that single could be as high as $400,000….

    Combined mechanical/digital and performance income for a million on demand streams could reach as high as $100.00.

    What was that about your insinuated claim that streaming is good for music?

    • Mike Vial

      I’d need a clearer breakdown of the numbers to make a conclusion to agree with you, but my instinct tells me the idea of the number of songwriters who pay all of their bills from writing royalties won’t exist in the future; but that was inevitable with or without streaming of Spotify/Apple Music because Youtube Ad revenue was already low, and trading hard drives didn’t make anyone any money except the makers of hard drives.

      Do note, you can’t compare 1 million downloads to 1 million streams. If you follow Billboard’s equation, 1500 streams is 1 album sale.

      One million streams of one song might be considered 7000-8000 sales. How much are the mechanical royalties for 7000-8000 sales? Probably not $91,000.

      Sometimes when I ponder the numbers, I feel like it’s OK, this makes sense. The numbers are equal.

      But then I do the equation of TIME it takes on the listeners’ end, let alone the fact that Spotify isn’t actually paying $0.005 per stream, but the equation is often reliant on how much music the consumer consumes or if they using the free-tier ad platform.

      And then consider the competition with the entire music of the world out there, so is it naive to assume one will get enough fans to dedicate 70 hours of time to equal one sale of the past? That one sale of the past took a minute of time at the merch table, or a few seconds of a click of a button on iTunes.

      It’s the time factor that is overwhelming.

      So yeah, songwriters have to leave their writing rooms and get creative to stay a float. Unless they are getting invited to the writing camps for Rihanna and Beyonce. I don’t say that sarcastically, just my observation on the future.

      Henry Ford’s assembly line ended the industry for horses; but it created a lot of jobs in the industrial revolution. We are in an information revolution; it’s ending the jobs of some; we aren’t sure it’s going to create enough income for the new.

  9. Anonomous

    Can someone elaborate on this comment please?

    “YouTube Red is launching and will kill windowing dead in the water.”

  10. Anonymous

    “Social Media Is More Important Than Email”

    Well, that’s obviously true — just like the other 16 statements, for that matter — except in the case of Facebook:

    Stolen Facebook videos are now such a problem that the net result for me personally would be positive if the service were shut down today.

    If you’re not familiar with Facebook theft yet, you should watch this highly entertaining YouTube video — it got a million views since yesterday, and it deserves every single one:


  11. Todd Bishop

    Shit, record sales matter to me. On my last tour a sold a bunch of things, and got a nice 30% exchange rate bonus because the dollar was so weak vs. the euro. I guess I can tell those people to go listen to my record every day for the next ten years, and then get paid the same bread spread out over a decade, assuming they all follow through on that commitment.

    Switching to compensation strictly by number of hours listened is messed up. Not everyone listens to music ten hours a day, but they may have the money and inclination to buy a CD from a band they like for $15. They listen to it once, some, or a lot, and that’s a good value for them. If we’re going to say “record sales don’t matter”, shitcan that medium, and move those people over to just paying Spotify a flat rate, and then Spotify paying out based on actual use, most of the money those people were putting directly into artist compensation is lost. We’re just giving money away.

  12. smg77

    This is a great article. I’m surprised that Paul allowed it to be published.

  13. Jen

    RE: +Protect Your Music From Piracy For As Little As $3 Per Song!

    Really? Why doesn’t the government uphold the LAW !! Do you pay the police to stop a bank robber?

    W T F

  14. Keith R

    “Yes, the music, first and foremost, needs to be great. In the streaming age, you can’t throw loads of marketing cash at a pile of shit and expect people to gobble it up”

    Nikki Minaj sticks her fat nasty ghetto ass in the camera, that’s her musical talent. People throw money at her talentless sewage. Same with the a hole Kayne West, or the horrid voice of Katy Perry. Miley Cyrus puts out a ton of non musical crap, gets naked and sells alot of it. There are a ton more of these corporate slaves producing the most hideous, useless corporate fluff the world has ever seen. There is nothing great about their music. IT SUCKS and you know it. If I wrote some of the crap they release, it would end up in the round file before even making it to the recording stage.

  15. Jourdan

    Every musician needs to read this so they can either nod their head in agreement while laughing or change their expectations and get their head in the game.

    • Anonymous

      Every musician that’s happy with how the tech industry has been running the music biz for the last 10+ years can nod their head and agree with this, but their head is most certainly up in something besides “the game”.

  16. Versus

    “Did you know that 98% of all acts that sign to major labels fail? Meaning 98 out of 100 artists who actually get the deal don’t recoup enough money to pay for their advance and get dropped before their second (or even first) album is released. Getting a record deal is much riskier than going at your career on your own. ”

    I don’t follow this. 2% recoup. Compared to what success rate of those who do not sign with a major label? 0.002%?

    Furthermore, of the other 98%, even if they don’t recoup for that album and get dropped, what percentage do have successful subsequent careers, and how many of those would not have happened without that major label album?

  17. Anonymous

    The premise is correct:
    “A CD or download sale is treated equally no matter how great the album is. It’s a one time payment never to be earned on again. Contrast that with streaming. If a song is great it will get played over and over again for years and years.”

    Where is the evidence of the following conclusion, however?

    ” Earning MORE than just a single sale ever could. Streaming pays less initially, but much much more in the long run – if the music is good of course.”

    Just because the streaming has a longer selling life than a single-sale CD, does not prove that it will ever equal, much less surpass, the lost income from that CD sale.

  18. a. nominous

    Also, don’t get professional advice from someone who think 60 shows a year is something to put on a CV. That’s a weekend warrior (amateur).