Know how to make a million dollars playing jazz? Start with two million. We should talk about the truth behind this joke. This is the most invaluable advice, I can give you. Don't waste your money. As musician you can fall in many traps. This article will give you some examples.


Heather McDonald suggests: "Before you start sending out your demo, you need to compile a list of labels who might be interested in hearing it. Sending your hip hop demo to an indie rock label is a waste of time and money. What bands do you like? What labels are they on? What labels deal with the kind of music you play? Spend some time online researching artists you consider to be similar to yourself and the labels that work with them. that way, your demo will land in the hands of people who "get" what you're doing."

Hundreds of unsolicited demos are sent in every week to record companies, many of which are never listened to. Even the most conscientious A&R person will only listen to the first 20/30 seconds of a song before sending out a rejection letter. Rejection is part of the game. Accept it.

Labels are looking for artists who already have a well developed sound, stage presence, fan base, marketable music, and game plan. They want you to show them that you can produce content on your own, book shows and perform for crowds on your own, manage your fans on your own. They want to see artists using twitter, YouTube, and other tools available to them to maximize their reach on their own (Mike Lombardo). So sending demos to a label without initiated contact to the A&R person is just money down the drain.

Consultants, publicists, radio promoter and other supporters

If you don't have the time to promote your album yourself, you might hire a publicist, online-promoter or other supporter. If you do hire one, hire someone who specializes in your style of music and make sure you have very realistic goals before going in! Remember, music PR is tough - it's a lot of work with no guarantees that any journalist will write about you or review your CD! Just be realistic! You gotta try but also realize, thousands of other artists are hiring publicists too! (Jennifer Yeko) You have to control the work of your publicist or radio promoter. Ask for reports to verify their activity.

Famous producers and artists

You might think, that you can sell your CD in a better way, when your album is produced by a famous producer or when your songs are performed by well-known artists. Most producers, like many in this business, are hired guns and will work for anyone who has enough money. And now more so than ever, especially since their revenue from major labels has dried up, they are looking more and more to indie artists to foot their bill. If you can't produce a great record on your own, or with an "up and coming" producer or kid in your hometown, you should well, be in another business! Because a big part of being an artist these days means knowing how you want your record to sound and having control over it in the studio. (Jennifer Yeko)

The some argument is in force engaging popular artists for your project. If you are not able to perform your instrument perfectly and inspired, don't make a CD. Nobody with the exception of reviewers is interested to know, who played on which song. Be aware there is a legion of famous instrumentalists on the market, who earn good money, which you can spent for your CD. Ok, when you want a superior sound, a personal music monument for the next years, go that way.

Produce an expensive CD

Don't waste your money in an expensive studio. The smart artists who were signed to major deals took their advance money and used it to build their own studio and buy their own recording equipment. So not only can they make music and their next records inexpensively, they can also rent out their studio to other bands and artists and maybe even produce or engineer other band's records. (Jennifer Yeko)

You can even be smarter. You might be able to work something out with a local recording studio, which are hurting since the home recording revolution took hold. Home recording is so inexpensive to do that it shouldn’t be an obstacle for anyone. A nice home studio can be set up for under $1000. You need a computer, a soundcard with a capable recording input of 16bits at 44.100 kHz and a proper pre-amp, a micro, headphones and recording software.

But be aware that you need a water-cooled computer, because most of the fans are producing noise. An alternative is a digital multitrack recorder. Don’t forget cables and connectors to attach all these things together, plus two mic stands. Prepare a room for your recording.

Don't forget, recording is only the first step. Then there is mixing, mastering, printing and duplicating.


Quality instruments are expensive for the average person. You could pay less for an inferior instrument, but in the long run it will hold your music back. You can certainly buy instruments on EBay. They are relatively cheap, especially compared to what you find in a music shop. Be aware about, what you buy. Go into music stores and find your special instrument of your preferred brand.

Or do your investigations in forums and websites. Better try the music instrument, before you buy one. Always pay with PayPal by credit card. This offers the most comprehensive protection for the buyer.


Musicians continue to believe they operate in some parallel universe where they need no business skills at all. Learn your business.

Record labels

Retail stores are going out of business. Electronic stores and bookshops like Circuit City, Borders. Wal-Mart etc. and most of these stores are very selective with the product they take in. So it looks like dedicated CD stores will be gone in no time. So where is the distribution net now?

Chris Standring comments: "I sign a new deal with a label that is prepared to be respectful to the artist (good luck with that Chris) or do a 'pass-through' distribution deal with a label where they take a percentage of sale only. I become the label. I manufacture. I promote. I spend money on radio promotion and print ads but I make all the money. That's not to say that I won't be paying out a good whack of money to make it all happen but it just makes more sense to me now. If you want to play in the big leagues and compete then money is involved. You bat in the league you are comfortable with.

And with that, I suggest you ask yourself where you expect to make your money in the real scheme of things. If it is from touring, and let me tell you that at the independent level, this IS where you will make money, then make a smart decision about your future. You probably don't need a record label. Unless of course you are going for next year's American Idol contest. If so, good luck with that!"

Borders or Barnes & Noble program

Chris Standring warns: "I spent money on several programs that simply could not report on how effective their program was, and getting an honest response was like pulling teeth. A manager friend said to me as I was deciding where to put my marketing dollars, “It’s unquantifiable as to where the profits come from. You simply throw your money out there and hope it all adds up to something“.

Well, my new response is: “Nonsense!” Why? Because we are now living in an online world where each aspect of our marketing efforts ARE quantifiable. Cost per click, email blasts, Google & facebook ads. We can actually measure how effective they are and decide whether to do them again or not. I think the old school was such a scam 75% of the time because they knew they didn’t have to report the facts. And the competition to get into those old retail programs was fierce. " His conclusion: "Buying into a Borders or Barnes & Noble program is a complete and utter waste of money."


Do you have a further advice for musicians? Share it with us.