How to Get Started in the Music Industry as a Musician or Artist

Starting your music career can be daunting, but planning will help

man playing guitar on music studio floor with laptop and sheet music
••• Gary Burchell/Taxi/Getty Images

Perhaps the most common question any young, aspiring musicians asks is, "What is the first thing I should do to get started as a musician?"

It's easy to understand why. After spending years honing a craft any artist is anxious to know what happens next. So now what?

The problem with this common question is that there is no "one size fits all" answer. There are so many things that can inform the next steps in your music career, including your personal goals and genre of music.

Major Record Label vs. Independent Music Career

Perhaps the easiest thing to consider first, and something that can offer a bit of a roadmap, is whether you envision an independent music career, or if you see yourself settling into the major label world. 

An independent music career can include a do-it-yourself approach, or you can connect with music businesses and labels working at the independent level. Which is right for you depends on a few different factors. First is a matter of simple preference. Some musicians are fiercely independent and want to do it all, while others want to focus solely on their music.

Genre choice also matters, particularly if you're interested in breaking into a major-label-dominated world like pop music. Sometimes your brand of music will dictate how you need to approach your career.

Step 1: Make a Plan

Identifying your industry path will help guide the most important next step: Making a plan.

The indie route may see you producing and releasing your own music, and either shopping it to indie labels yourself or with the help of a manager.

Entry to a major label most often requires the facilitation of a manager or a lawyer to shop your music to the labels on your behalf. But how do you attract the attention of a manager or attorney?

Playing live provides exposure to the industry and to fans, and every show brings you one step closer to winning over a manager or winning over a fan base to attract the attention of managers, labels, booking agents and others within the industry. As your base grows, demos become the next clear step.

The road to notoriety can be frustrating. A lot of intangibles may cloud the process of developing a music career, but persistence and dedication are key. Define your goals, make your plan, then start playing live. Setting these wheels in motion will set everything else off. You'll learn how best to react to the unique opportunities they generate for you as a growing artist.