Money wants an opinion

Money wants an opinion. Almost all the great artists out there have a real vision about what it is they want to do. It's been my experience that most of them would prefer to maintain absolute control of that vision. In the music business, this notion of creative control can be one of the most contentious issues between artists, record labels and music professionals. The most successful artists manage to find a balance between their desire for creative control with the financial realities of building a career in the music business.

Money is the key driver of success in almost every business and it's no diffferent in the music business. While it's possible to get started without a lot of money, nobody has succeeded at the highest levels of the music business without having access to big money and expertise. Where you find that money and what you're prepared to do to get it and keep it flowing is something you need to figure out. When you're just starting out, you might get some money from your family.

They'll do it because they love you and they want to support you. That money could come from your personal funds, but in most cases, that's going to come down to what you can scrimp and save from your day gig. You can get the money from a crowd funding campaign, but the fact is, that unless you have built a bit of a following prior to that campaign, you'll be competing with tons of other artists looking for dough. Most of the successful artist campaigns that you hear about are from artist who previously had a record deal and an existing fan base to draw on.

And the hard truth of the matter is that it's not just a matter of finding the money. You'll need to spend that money in the right places at that right time. And that's why in most cases the best source of funds is from companies who are in the business of signing artists, developing those artists, marketing and promoting those artists. Typically, that means record labels and music publishers. No matter who you get that money from, they're going to have an expectation. Why? Because money wants an opinion.

When your parents are giving you that money, they're doing it at first because they want to support you, but I think if we're being honest here, in most cases, your parents just want to give you a chance to live your dream. And if it's not working out fairly quickly, I think they'd prefer that you move on and get a real job. So even your parents' money has an opinion. When you run that crowd funding campaign, you're making promises of what you'll do with that money and offering various perks in exchange.

In most cases, I think, those folks will expect you to come through on your end. Maybe you'll get the money, but you'll have to do more than just make the music to get it. So that money comes with some strings attached as well. When you sign with the record label, they will have expectations as well. In most cases, it's true that they could likely have some valuable perspective that might actually enhance the creative vision you have in mind. The problem is that for most artists, it's very easy to be dismissive of the expectations that come with money.

And sometimes that can cost you dearly. I met a talented band recently who'd made a terrific album on their own. They clearly had an idea and a clear vision of what they wanted to do and were actually in the process of making some things happen. And those efforts attracted the attention of a terrific label who had a track record of success and offered the band a record deal which gave them a chance to play and compete at the highest levels of the business.

But the deal fell apart when the band would not agree to let the label have some say in the selection of a producer. The label wasn't saying that they were going to make that decision unilaterally, only that they could have a voice in the discussion. I spoke with one of the band members after it all went wrong and I ask him what if the label had suggested a producer that you guys admired and had the ability to deliver that producer? Would you have taken the deal? His answer was a definitive yes.

But the band got lost in the idea of creative control and forgot that money wants an opinion. And so today that band is still fighting to make things happen, but likely lost a great opportunity to play at the highest levels of the business. The moral of the story is this: Unless you have the money and expertise to compete at the highest levels of the business, you'll need to get that money from somebody and when you do, you can expect that money will want an opinion.

Treat your bankers with the respect that they deserve. When you disagree, take the time to make your idea their idea. Accept the fact that there's some smart folks out there with money in the music business that could actually help you and you'll increase your chances of doing something great in this music business.