How To Become A Professional Musician
How to Become a Professional Musician Without Being a Sell-out

Written by Katy Goshtasbi

Posted on: June 18, 2018

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A few months ago an up and coming artist and I reconnected after many months of being out of touch.  This artist and I knew each other through common connections and our college association.  His entire goal in life was to become a professional musician and land a record deal. Let’s call this artist, John, for simplicity.

John was so excited to talk to me. He told me that he had great news to share.  John shared that he was in Europe and had gotten signed to a record label.  Even better news, the record label was going to take care of his brand for him.

My heart sank for John.  I knew what he didn’t know.  While part of me wanted to celebrate with him, part of me was sad for him and feared he would suffer great disappointment.

John, like all other artists I know, are truly wedded to their art.  They want to succeed as an artist.  But more than that, they want to stay true to who they are and be able to self-express and move their audiences by writing and publishing music that they find worthy.

This goal does not always align with that of the record studios that sign artists.  Understandably so.  Stop and think about it: the record labels are responsible for making sure their investment in you, as the artist, pays off or else they have to close their doors.  They are running a business and thinking like business people about you and your art and music.  They have to do so.

You, on the other hand, don’t have much (if any) actual money of your own invested in this process once a record label signs you up.  So your entire focus is on staying true to yourself and creating the music that aligns with the real you. That makes sense, too.

So how do we get the two sides to align and respect and satiate each other’s’ interests?

This is where I enter the scene. I get that both sides have a goal to accomplish and it is not always, if ever, the same.  I respect both sides and work with both parties to get “it” done and leave both sides happy and both brands flourishing and growing.

What do you as the artist have to do to become a professional musician and not sell out?

  • Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient and stay in it for the long haul with your studio and label.
  • With compassion, put yourself in the studio’s shoes and see their perspective- even if you don’t share their perspective. This will allow you to be more flexible.
  • Remind yourself each day of why you do this work as an artist and what you stand for. This will keep you focused and help be the start for developing your brand.  This will allow us to communicate clearly with the studios and it will keep you in control of your destiny.
  • Stay self-confident: remember, you are not desperate for a record deal. If you don’t respect yourself and your art, no studio should or will either.
  • Be respectful of the studio’s goal and at the same time stay wise to their reasons. It helps if you keep in mind that the studio is not trying to screw you- it’s not personal for them. It’s business and your goals could be their goals, if we collaborate with compassion and street smarts.


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