How to Make it in the New Music Business
Practical Tips on Building a Loyal Following and Making a Living as a Musician
By Ari Herstand
I am always looking for good information about the music business and how it is evolving. Most of the books I have read on the subject seem to fall into two categories: First are the books written by Music Lawyers which assume the reader is a legal eagle and concentrates on contracts and deep dives into how big record companies and publishing companies work. These books tend to be hard to grasp if you don’t have a legal degree and for most part are totally useless to an indie artist trying to make a living touring, recording his own music and manning his merch table. Second is even more dangerous, the books written by wannabe’s that offer quick fixes and dubious information and whose only goal is to part you from your money.
Now, once in a great while I come across a book that actually takes a practical approach with real world knowledge and experiences. This is the case with “Making it in the New Music Business – A practical Guide to building a Loyal Following and Making a Living as a Musician”.
From the beginning the book reads like it comes from the perspective of being from the trenches. It is specifically geared towards the Indie Artist who is trying to build his own career and what steps that he can take that can make a real difference. Ari Herstand does not assume you are going to be walking into Warner Brother Records to negotiate a deal, but instead he understands the reality of the new music business has you dealing with building a fan-base, booking your own shows, touring and selling your merch.
A quick look at the table of contents gives you an understanding that this is not your typical boring read.
Chapter 1 – Why Music? – A dive into why you want to be a musician and good wake up call on the mindset you need to build a career.
Chapter 2 – The New Music Industry – A good primer on the structure of the new music industry and what type of people you should be looking for, for your team.
Chapter 3 – Recording – Let’s face it — recorded music is no longer a good revenue stream, learn about the recording process and how to make it work for you.
Chapter 4 – The Release – Good practical steps on how to properly setup a “Release” of your recorded project
Chapter 5 – Building a Fan-base one Fan at a time – This is one of those chapters that gave me one of those aha moments.
Chapter 6 – Playing Live – You would think this would be a no brainier, but this chapter may open your eyes to some bad habits and how to fix them!
Chapter 7 – Booking and Promotion – We will be getting back to live music someday, this is the chapter that we all need to read! Learn how to book yourself with some good real world tips.
Chapter 8 – Touring – Like Booking, knowing how to run your tour like a business is essential and Ari brings you some good skills and habits that should be incorporated into your touring business plan.
Chapter 9 – How to Make Real Money Playing Colleges – This is a real valuable chapter on how to break into this market. There is good money to be made and as we move forward after the pandemic, this may be a good way to restart your Touring Business
Chapter 10 – Sponsorship’s and Investments – Yes, even a indie artist can get sponsors and investors
Chapter 11 – How to Master the Internet – Do you have a good well designed website? Is all your online presence all connected and funnels your fans and potential fans to your monetized message?
Chapter 12 – The New Asking Economy –The Difference between Asking and Begging – Learn to effectively use crowdfunding
Chapter 13 – How to get all the Royalties You Never knew existed (And Other Business Things you Need to know) – If you don’t read anything else this chapter is a must read. This walks you through all the revenue streams you have available to you and how to access them.
Chapter 14 – How to get music placed in Film and Television – This is a real under utilized revenue stream for any musician. This is a great way to create a flow of “mailbox money” with the music you already have created.
Chapter 15 – Bump Everyone else off the Cover – How to deal with blogs, press and get your message and music out to the mainstream media!
In addition to the hard cover book, this is also available as an audio book through Audible on Amazon as well as on Kindle! Many times I don’t have the time to dedicate the time to read the book, this is where the audio book becomes a real life saver. At over 500 pages the audio book became a good alternative. I would play the book while I was driving, doing chores, etc. Ari Herstand performs the reading of the book himself and I have to say is very engaging and fun to listen to. He has a real knack for creating a sense that he is talking directly to you. Having both the audio book and the hardcover becomes a real advantage as I often revisit the audio book to refresh and reinforce information in a particular chapter, and the hardcover as a quick reference source when I need to find something quickly.
The reality today, is touring and live music on any substantial level is a good year away. If you are serious about your career as a musician this is one book that will give you tips, steps and information you can implement NOW. You don’t have to wait till we are out of this pandemic to put the principles outlined in this book into practice for your music business. The information in this book could make an immediate difference for not only creating a fan-base but for your revenue stream!
So while you are waiting for this pandemic to pass and we can get back to touring and performing, you should be creating and learning the skills you need to rebuild your career. If you do nothing else, reading this book would be the one thing I would recommend during this pandemic to keep your career on track.
About the Author
Ari Herstand started his music career in Minneapolis – following a brief stint at the University of Minnesota as a classical trumpet and music education major which lasted all of one year. And then he did 3 semesters at a (now defunct) music industry school where he studied songwriting, jazz trumpet and music business. He spent 7 years in the Twin Cities building a grassroots fan-base completely independently without the assistance of a manager, booking agent, record label, attorney or publicist. When he left the Midwest for LA in 2010, he had already had his songs placed in a handful of TV shows like One Tree Hill and The Real World, played hundreds shows around the country, opened for Ben Folds, Cake, Matt Nathanson and Eric Hutchinson, became a staple at Milwaukee’s Summerfest and was selling out venues in a 5 state region – not to mention packing his hometown venues of the Twin Cities and managing a friend’s band. He became known as “the poster child of DIY music” (Forbes).
Since moving to Los Angeles, he has toured with or opened for Ron Pope and the Milk Carton Kids, performed a few hundred more shows, became a staple at the LA singer/songwriter hotspot Hotel Cafe where he regularly hosts singer/songwriter showcases, co-starred on various TV shows like Mad Men, 2 Broke Girls and Transparent as an actor, performed on Ellen with Thirty Seconds to Mars, released 2 books and a couple records, launched a podcast, an online academy and a blog (which got him the book deals) – and grew into a full-fledged music business education and artist advocacy company.
Most recently, he co-founded the UnCancelled Music Festival, which Rolling Stone covered citing “UnCancelled is the most recent — and one of the larger — of the online music events that have sparked up since COVID-19 put a temporary hold on the live music industry.”
He helped write and pass an amendment to get the music industry an exemption under the “gig worker” law AB5 by lobbying legislators, negotiating language and writing countless articles on it and making press appearances. He told Billboard “I had lots of sleepless nights to get musicians relief under AB5, but I’m happy we were able to come to an agreement.”
Now running Ari’s Take as CEO and founder, with a full staff and various instructors and advisors for Ari’s Take Academy, he is focusing on reclaiming himself as an artist – while continuing to empower other musicians to have successful careers of their own. He maintains his Tuesday writing days – with his phone off and his team in full control for the day. And he maintains his tightly knit Los Angeles music community – regularly hosting songwriter showcases around town, performing at renowned music venues and attending friends’ shows oftentimes 4 nights a week.
The corona-virus may have shut down the live music industry for the time being, but it did not destroy music. Nothing is quite certain in the world right now, except that artists will continue to create art. And Ari Herstand is no different.