The odds of making a success of yourself in the music business are loaded so scandalously against you that the sensible thing any right-minded self-respecting individual should do is forget about it completely. Go join that cover band, get a day job sawing wood, or just defraud the state and feign mental ill-health so they'll leave you alone to get on with your indulgent arty music no one in the real world gives a damn about. Now that's the way most people make ends meets choosing music as a career option.
Let's take a look at what you are up against if you stubbornly intend to pursue a life-style fully supported by that original material only you believe in. For the purposes of this article we're assuming you have a credible guitar based product that you need to get out there into the hands of guitar fans the world over.
First of all, forget record companies. They may as well be a footnote in history. No major label wants you, or for that matter, ever will. There aren't that many of them any more anyway! Unless you are big-time mainstream, the cutting edge of fashion or such a freaky one-off novelty, no label will want to take a risk with you. If you play guitar to a high standard that pretty much screws you up with all of the above for a start!
Small independent labels are better but they usually lack the ability to fund much in the way of promotions and usually have a pretty sketchy distribution network. But hey! Sketchy distribution is more than you've got right now isn't it? If you get a specialist distributor who is prepared to take say ten albums from you to distribute to their market in their home country, make arrangements to go and tour in that country to support that distributor. Can't afford it? Bass player works shift patterns? Drummer needs his welfare check? Tough... you lose! That's how it works! The distributor helped you didn't he? Help him sell some more albums and then next time he might risk taking 50 units from you or even 100. Do this over three years in five territories and you got yourself a little niche market that bigger fish might start getting interested in. If your distributor doesn't get rid of those first ten albums he ain't going to take any more, is he? So, in the grand scheme of things you sold ten albums but at the same time closed down a potential outlet for bigger numbers if you had worked with him. No one is interested in you if they can't see a way of making money through you. That is the simple rule in the music business.
You have to be prepared for the long haul. You have to allocate someone to spend their entire life on your behalf taking anything on offer. Continually pushing and squeezing anything from anybody. Get the album into anyone who will look twice at it. Get it reviewed, who cares if it gets a slating? It still means a lot of people reading the review now have at least some idea of who you are.
Get a web site with an interactive message board. If people go on there to give you a pasting... get over it. See it for what it is. They have taken their own time, with the entire Internet available before them to go to your site to offer an opinion. Chances are, they will provoke a reaction from your true fans and friends and suddenly there's a debate going on with all sorts of strangers joining in. It takes a bit of courage but it does get people taking about you. It's no bad thing whatever they are saying. Worse to be so bland no one can generate anything good or bad to say about you. Be a little controversial. You are instantly interesting.
Get an image that identifies you, and make sure the press pack you send out to support your claims is instantly effective the minute someone takes it out of the envelope. You want an industry to invest something in you don't you? What does it say about you if you send them some photo copies of a local press cutting and a three song CD-R with a fold over budget insert? If you love your work that much, get it on a real pressed CD with packaging that's of a quality to ship to high street stores. Others do.
An album might take five or even ten years from conception to just break even in it's production and promotion costs. If you are not prepared to put your entire life into it's success then it probably isn't going to happen. Are you prepared to spend every penny you have on not only getting it recorded and packaged but also into the hands of others who may just help you? No one person will move you a quantum leap forward. Everyone just moves you a step further at a time and even then they might decide they hate you and use their influence to move you three steps backwards! It costs an absurd amount of time, effort and money to even engage some people let alone get them into your way of thinking. You'll probably need to put aside a thousand CDs just to give away!
Are you prepared to lose your entire concept of normal life to get a chance at success? What about your house? You could sell that to help with promo couldn't you? At what point do you look at that stupid CD you love so much and say, "It's just not worth it!"