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November 5, 2010

How-to is the new What

The traditional view of a musician's work is that they write and/or perform a song and then try to sell the song and/or recording to other performers or to fans. However, Part 1 of this book is dedicated to demonstrating the narrowness and folly of this view.

What artists of all kinds actually do is touch other people's lives and help them enjoy their existence - by growing their business, sharing their experiences, or enabling their escape from the mundane. When you view a musician's work in this way, many more sources of value and esteem become apparent.

Under the 20th century model, musicians produced a musical product and fans consumed 'What' the band produced. In the 21st century it is increasingly difficult to make money from selling the 'what'. Music is not a product, it is a service. Showing people 'How-to' do what you do can be more lucrative than selling 'What' you did.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and many people would pay good money to get a one-hour guitar masterclass from Eddie Van Halen or a session on production from Timbaland even though they may never believe they can be as good as those guys. Private music teaching has always been about this and as the cottage-industry structure takes over, this also applies to local songwriters, video makers and other creative types who have a record of esteemable creativity.

Your How-to output need not be limited to face-to-face classes. Instructional DVDs, books, blog posts and Youtube video can get the same effect. The key is to become involved in sharing tips, tricks and techniques with people - building aspirational new relationships and gathering more esteem from all sources in online and offline communities.

Many mid-level musicians have always known this and moved into a How-to career after their performing career ended (or at least, after it peaked). They took up other roles in the industry, or became teachers, speakers, authors or academics.

Adding a how-to element to a musician's business plan can be the tipping point at which the day job can be left behind. This may be very lucrative and enable musicians to moving between the 12 categories mentioned above: from The Unsigned, DIY to The DTF-With-a-Team; or from The Professional, Gigging Musician to The Signed Artist.


Helping others to improve their skills by sharing yours can be a fulfilling as well as lucrative addition to a musician's business. This involves making connections with others and thinking laterally about what you do as a musician - and being prepared to share it and gather esteem for your contribution to others' lives.

This post is one section of Part 3 of Dr Huge's "How the record industry got it so wrong". The latest version of the complete ebook can be downloaded here and a hard copy can be ordered here.
Posted by DrHuge at November 5, 2010 4:18 PM

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