As a music business educator, I am openly biased about the subject of education in our industry. I do believe education has its place in every industry. However, we need to be careful to use education as it was initially intended to receive its full benefits.
The etymology of educate is to “lead out” or “bring forth,” which are both action phrases. This is something I think most artists overlook, or an area where they lack awareness. Most artists I know are looking at education as a way to find a magical key to unlock success in our industry. They end up becoming professional students, because no such key exists.
At an early age, I realized that most school systems teach you about the greats, but they don’t necessarily teach you how to become great. I also noticed that most of the greats we learned about in school were not highly educated, but they were highly driven or actionable.
There is certainly something to learning how to perform brain surgery before cutting open somebody’s scalp, but in our industry, most of the education happens in the field, and somebody’s life isn’t normally on the line.
When I studied music business at SAE, they taught me everything from how our industry started to how to read contracts. However, it wasn’t until I started my own firm on Music Row in Nashville, TN that I truly learned that our industry operates largely off of relationships.
When I studied audio engineering at SAE, they taught me about the different DAWs (digital audio workstations) and how to mic a set of drums. Nonetheless, it wasn’t until I received my first project to master from Sony/RED that I learned about what major labels really need to successfully release an album in terms of file types, formats, and documentation.
At Warner Bros. Records, as a naive 16-year-old executive assistant, I learned that the music business isn’t about the music; it’s about the business. Notably, the best way to win in business is to give it a go. That’s right — take a swing, and hope your bat doesn’t fly out of your hands and hit somebody close to you.
Keeping with the baseball analogy, think about Babe Ruth. He’s known as one of the greatest baseball players of all time, simply because he took more swings and hit more baseballs than many other players. But, he also missed more baseballs than many other players.
Another example is Thomas Edison. Clearly, Edison didn’t go to school to learn how to build lightbulbs, but in the act of making an incandescent light bulb with a bamboo filament and failing more than 1,000 times, Edison eventually succeeded and changed the world forever.
I guess what I’m saying is get out there and make mistakes — and learn from those mistakes. Let the results of your intentional actions be your education.
At LearnMBE, the educational space I oversee for creatives, I’m always straightforward about the fact that the success of our members does not come from our lesson plans, and most of our lessons are derived from my mistakes. Even with my 40+ years of experience, there’s only so much I can give our members by way of communication. Their real education will happen through actualization. Many of our members are thinking “how,” when I prefer that they start thinking “now.”
Sure, it’s good to know what a split sheet is and how publishing works. It’s even better to have a song in the marketplace that’s generating a royalty payout. Even if you didn’t negotiate the splits in your favor, you’ll be more mindful of your splits and publishing percentages on your next song release, and you’ll make better decisions. Either way, at least you took a swing at it and gave it a try.
Would you rather study how to swing a bat and learn about the velocity of a ball when it travels through the air, or hear the crowd cheer when you hit your first home run?
For every bad music industry story you hear, there’s a great music industry success story right behind it, waiting to happen.
Do your research, take classes, and join educational communities like LearnMBE — but, never let learning replace your education, which can only be realized by taking action.
Now, get out there and start swinging your bat (whatever that looks like for you).
Write your first song.
Record your first song.
Release your first song.
Pitch your first song for placement.
Produce your first beat.
Sign your first artist.
Perform your first show.
Sell your first piece of merchandise.
Here’s to your first home run. Cheers!
To learn more about Sidney Eugene and LearnMBE, visit www.learnmbe.com.
About the author
Sidney Eugene is a veteran of Music Row, who has learned how the music industry operates at its core. Sidney believes artists are the center of the music industry. As the founder of LearnMBE.com, a community of independent artists, record labels and anyone who wishes to succeed in the music industry, Sidney has made it his mission to help independent artists succeed and think like a major record label.https://bit.ly/41Kwe5P
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