Is There a TED Talk to Crack Your Music Career?

Updated: Mar 4, 2020

Studio Time. Albums. Royalties. Streaming. Labels.

What’s the way to go if you are an upcoming artist?

Áine Cahill, touted the current ‘Pop Queen’ of Ireland, in an exclusive interview with Half Step Rock, recalls, “I actually didn’t start singing at 16, I started teaching myself piano. I didn’t sing really until I was nearly 18. I grew up in a family that was all about sports so I didn’t know anything about music or the industry/scene in my town. I just wrote songs in my bedroom for myself. Never thought anyone would hear them.”

Does that sound like your story?

Most musicians seem to start from the unknown and never really find a reliable method to build a music career on the way, either. In fact, if one goes by numbers published by the US Census Bureau, only 10% work as full-time artists after graduating from an arts program. The other 90% change careers. One latest Citi Group Research report says the music industry is in the midst of two profound changes. First, consumers are increasingly opting to rent — rather than buy — music. Second, the demise of physical music has prompted artists to tour more often, driving significant growth in concerts and festivals.

So, how can musicians make money in this changed changing industry? Is there a FORMULA to becoming a ROCK STAR? Sign-up with a label, Get your music streaming, albeit for peanuts in return, Do live performances for money that’s never enough to pay your bills, Get mentored, Make a band or go solo, Sustain with covers or venture into original content and then, there’s the big question in the words of Hadi Eldebek – why should artists be poor?

“I worked as a waitress in a hotel restaurant in my town. That’s how I would pay for my studio time. My dad would drive me to and from the studio, my family has always been supportive,” shared Áine. This is in Ireland with a total population of only around 4.2 million where the music industry still contributes over €700 Million to the economy. Started as a self-produced artist with “Paper Crown”, her first EP, Áine’s voice has been noticed as the likes of Adele, Lana Del Rey and Amy Winehouse with her popular singles "Black Dahlia", "Plastic" and Blood Diamonds”.

First Music Contact and the Independent Music Sector in collaboration with Sound Diplomacy UK, and other professionals working within the industry have launched a research towards making the case for a National Strategy for Music, in Ireland, which will measure and map the health of current music support infrastructure of the industry. Dope! Ironically, though there are several grants, private foundations and patrons that have financial programs to support artists across the globe every year, most artists remain oblivious to these opportunities, lost in the sea of technology, embroiled in the daily struggle between Art and Basic Survival.

When asked how she went about producing her first EP, despite being clueless, Áine shared, “I was buying some music equipment from the local store in my town and I got talking to a guy who works there, he mentioned Martin Quinn so I Googled JAM Studios and it went on from there.”

“The music industry in general, I don’t know. I’m so focused on my own thing that I’m not really paying full attention, I just want to make the best music I can,” shared Áine when asked about her take on the global music industry. “I want to release an album for starters. For me at the moment it is royalties from Airplay that get me the maximum money. I’m not really touring or anything else,” the 23-year old shared when asked about what’s working for her and ongoing path.

“I think signing my deal was massive for me. When I left school I set a little goal for myself, I wanted to sign to a major and I’ve done it. I’m really proud of that,” shared Áine on bagging a big label deal with Warner Music UK, in October 2018, when she performed at a special BBC2 broadcast at Glastonbury.

In 2012, Metallica launched its own Independent Record Label “Blackened Recordings”, wrapping up a 28 year relationship with Warner Music Group, since 1994. Lars Ulrich, drummer of Metallica said in an interview, "forming Blackened Recordings is the ultimate in independence, giving us 100% control and putting us in the driver's seat of our own creative destiny.”

We just saw a street musician post over 14 million YouTube views in the meantime. Wait, what????

Given the many seemingly opposing direction all stakeholders within the Music Industry Eco-system are taking today, it is still a jeu à somme nulle game for industry, one thing coming out clearly in all this though - we have expired an era in Music Business and haven’t figured the rules of the new one, yet.

Brace yourself for some turbulence ahead. The ride is gonna be a bumpy one, for a while.

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