Artist Development – The Foundation for Success in the Music Business 1

Artist development in the music industry has transformed, especially in the last 5-10 years. Rarely, now will a record label develop an up and coming artist, and if they do, they want the moon and the stars in exchange. So you may ask yourself, “Where do I start”?

Many artists walk around saying, “I just wanna get signed.”  Or they may think they need to be “discovered” before they really start making things happen.  Most don’t have any idea what it takes to “get signed”, let alone keep things going once the big ball of the record label starts rolling or worse yet stands still, which is the case for many new record label artists.

Many artists are unaware of the importance of Artist Development and the impact it has on their success in the music business.  So, “What exactly is artist development”?

Artist development is the foundation upon which an artist career is built.  If it is sturdy, then the chances for success in the music business are increased.  If it is weak, or worse not even addressed, the chances for success in the music business diminish exponentially.

Record labels used to have scout/A&R reps go out into the field and look for new talent.  They would get to know the artist and their fans and then go back and sell the idea of the artist to the label. With the label’s blessing, they would go about helping the artist improve in areas they believed would turn them into commercially viable products.  With drastic changes in the market, many labels have moved away from artist development and more into developing products like standard product manufacturers.

Now that the Internet has become a part of our regular lives, it is more the artist who must build their sound and image into something consumers will buy. Artists need to have professional product, a solid and involved fan base, and possess basic music business skills to generate a verifiable sales history. Labels are looking to do as little work as needed to produce a quick return on their investment.

Focusing on all areas of your music career is very important.  In most cases it’s the difference between “Having IT” and “MAKING IT!” in the music business.  You need to have talent to get in this biz, but you must know your business if you want to stay in this business. Make sense? You can’t expect anyone to invest in your business if it’s not profitable. Spend your time wisely to find out all you can about the steps required for your music business success.  Not doing so would be much like going to a foreign country with no map, no understanding of the language, no money, and no cell phone.

Artist Development Must Have / To Do List:


–          Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and possess a willingness to not give up

–          Incredible and unique vocals, musical talent and/or songwriting skills

–          Even if you think you’re a pro continue to work on your craft.

–          Action Plan

–          Performance Perfection

–          Image creation and evolution

–          Ongoing education and talent training

–          High quality and effective promotional materials – logo, photos, press kits, etc…

–          Marketing, promotions, and publicity skills – online and offline

–          Basic recording skills – producing, engineering, and mastering

–          Basic knowledge of manufacturing, distribution, airplay, and sales (online/offline)

–          Professional equipment

–          Business management skills

–          Professional management

–          Team building skills

–          Financial management

–          Legal knowledge: copyrighting, publishing, trademarks, and licensing

–          Formal Education – college or technical training (hint: get education in something music business related to enhance your #1 goal)


I know… “But where do I start?”  Start with yourself.  Focus on YOU!  Do all you can to build a foundation that can endure the difficult, but possibly incredibly rewarding road ahead.  The idea is to know all and do most of the stuff a record label will do before you even consider shopping to one.  In all reality, if you are doing it the right way, they will come to you, and if they don’t you’ll be doing OK with your team anyway.  You dig?

Shawn Bray
SBray Productions, LLC
“Be It!”

One thought on “Artist Development – The Foundation for Success in the Music Business

  • Sanny Santos

    This was a great article…i just recently heard an A&R say i need artist development however they did not give me any direction or vision. I studied Business Admin in college but of course its not the same as Music Management. I also write my own songs and handle the legal aspects…i still have much to learn. I am definitely working on my image which lately seems to be key…once again thanks for this great article.

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