How Does the Music Industry Work?

Music is a beautiful art form that connects us all. It is able to sum up emotions that normal words don’t do justice. It can calm us down, pump us up and, in some cases, even help heal medical ailments!

For many people, their biggest dream is to make it as the next big musician and share their songs with the world. However, some of the most successful artists such as Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Calvin Harris didn’t become chart-topping musicians all on their own. It took an entire network of people to make it happen.

Creating great music is not as simple as many realize. In fact, the music industry is made up of numerous networks and partnerships that need to co-exist before great music is produced and released.

Some of the most successful entertainment companies, such as the one run by Mark Gillespie, have understood how complex the music industry is and mastered how to integrate all the necessary touchpoints to produce successful musicians and chart-topping songs.

To help up and comers who want to break into the music industry themselves, we’ve laid out a road map to break down exactly how the music industry works.

1. Songwriters

Many people don’t realize that most musicians get help writing their songs. The music industry is largely dependent on talented songwriters who can create musical compositions that are, for the most part, original. It is the songwriters however that own the copyright to that particular song and also hold the power to grant permission for it to be recorded or performed by another person. A great example of this is Sia—who, for many years, wrote hits for other musical stars such as Beyonce, Alicia Keys and Katy Perry before coming into the limelight herself. They will work with a music publisher to ensure they receive appropriate payments for when their song is used in a commercial aspect.

2. Musicians

Then, of course, there are the musicians themselves who perform the song. The artist first has to get the rights to perform and record the song if they did not write it themselves. A musician alone does not make a great song. They tend to have the support of a booking agent or talent manager to help them find jobs and recording labels to further support them.  

3. Music Producers

Supporting the recording artist is a music producer who will also manage the overall recording process. This includes selecting a physical recording studio, managing the overall sound of the recording, adapting the song’s arrangements, instructing the musician and working with sound engineers to fine-tune the song to perfection.

4. Record Labels

Then, once the song is finished, a record label will manage the sales of the music to consumers. Their job is to distribute, market and promote the music while also legally looking after the copyright agreements. The record labels will receive a portion of the profit for any sales the music generates and tend to sign musicians on for longer-term agreements.

5. Streaming Platforms

Back in the day, music was sold through physical albums. But now, thanks to the internet, music can now be streamed online through platforms such as Spotify, SoundCloud and iTunes. This has changed the traditional flow of how musicians can release music, as the digital platforms give many artists more independence.

However, the relationships that musicians have with their managers and labels are paramount in making or breaking their careers. This is because the additional support ensures that their music gets amplified and supported on a global scale. It truly takes a team to create great music—with many people working tirelessly behind the scenes to create the next chart-topping song or album!