How To Become A Professional Guitarist & Musician. Part 2

There are few things more tragic than a person who has invested all of himself/herself into a life-long dream nly to fail because of a single bad choice or a single important, but overlooked, fact.

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To get the most out of this article, it is critical that you read Part 1 to this series before reading on There are few things more tragic than a person who has invested all of himself/herself into a life-long dream (such as pursuing a big professional music career) only to fail because of a single bad choice or a single important, but overlooked or underestimated, fact. Sadly it happens all the time. Imagine investing tens of thousands of hours over many years, studying hard, learning as much as you can, to hone in on all the various musical skills you've developed, striving for excellence in everything that you do, strengthening your creativity, investing piles of money on everything from music gear to your music education (lessons, classes, etc.). Then doing all the necessary non-musical things to position oneself in the music industry such as, making key contacts, developing a fan base, promotion, etc. Now imagine that a single, overlooked or underestimated, element was missing. Or maybe a fatal mistake was made inadvertently on your part. Something that seemed so insignificant actually caused you to be seen as undesirable or high risk in the eyes of record companies, managers, producers or publishers. From our (us musicians) frame of reference, what appears to be common sense or sound logic to us, may not be congruent with the common sense or sound logic from the music industry's (record companies, managers, publishers, producers, etc.) frame of reference. I'm referring to the risks that companies have in investing in people as described in Part 1 of this article. As an example, I have a friend (who shall remain anonymous in order to not embarrass him or his band), who is extremely talented and one of the best musicians I know. His band, singer and music are all truly world class. The songs are built upon wonderful musical and lyrical depth and integrity. Yet their sound is accessible enough to the common person to be on rock radio stations around the world. The band is highly motivated, has an amazing work ethic, and possesses almost everything to be a mega huge band. On several occasions I've offered words of advice on how the band could be seen as significantly more valuable to the record companies and managers they were in negotiations with over the last couple of years. I offered to help not only because the leader of the band is my friend, but because I know the band has enormous potential and a real chance of fulfilling their stated goals. There was no need for this band to try to be in the right place, at the right time because they have been in the right place, at the right time, many times. They've been in close contact with high level record companies and management firms. In general, these key industry people liked the band on both a musical level and a personal one. However, time after time no significant deals were offered by any of the people or companies they had been talking directly to. What is frustrating for my friend and his band is that these industry people aren't going to spend any of their time telling the band the truth about why they are not interested in taking the next step with the band. If the perceived problem cannot be fixed easily and quickly, the industry people won't waste their time even discussing the problem. Instead they'll stop returning phone calls and emails or give the band some superficial bogus reasons why no deal will be offered. Some of these so-called reasons range from, our company is not looking to sign any new bands this year, to we're having some legal issues on our end and can't sign you now. Of course these statements were obviously untrue and only served to get the band to give up and go away by showing that there is no chance to move forward. It's just an excuse because if any of that were true, they would never have invested weeks or months into talking to the band before offering a deal. So what was really happening? Why did the industry people even bother to talk to the band in the first place if they had no real interest in offering them a real opportunity and contracts??? well... the answer to the second question is that they DID have serious intentions on signing the band. The answer to the first question is the company was doing research on the band. They were testing the people (especially the leaders) of the band. No I'm not talking about doing research on what the band's songs sound like, the style or their image. Those things were already clearly known from the press kit (the package the band sent to the companies which contained, their CD, photos of the band members, DVD of video footage of the band, website info, their biography, etc,). And it was that press kit (as well as some persistence and lots of emails and phone calls, etc.) that got the company's attention - all of that happened before the company ever returned the band's calls and emails to begin talks about working together As you can see, getting in front of some key people wasn't the problem, the band had done this several times on their own. Their consistent problem was that the band could never seem to close the deal. Every time industry people probed deeper and researched more about the band, there was something that kept coming up in each case that killed the deal. To the band, it was not only extremely frustrating to go through this over and over again, but the worst part was they weren't ever given the whole story from the record companies and managers about what the problem was. The record company people were also frustrated because they had found yet another great band with great potential but here was another band that didn't have the complete package together. And what is worse is that during such times, the record companies were losing thousands of dollars and human resources by investing the initial series of talks, meetings (flying people around the country to make the meetings happen) and on some preproduction work. What was frustrating to me was to see this great band suffer like this. We had several conversations about what I believed was holding the band's opportunities back. Yet he (my friend) didn't seem to believe in what I was advising him to do and change. Instead he went back home wrote new songs that he thought might be a bit more radio friendly, then rewrote them again to make them heavier, then rewrote them again to make them less progressive. Focusing on the band's sound (which was never the problem). In the end, none of that mattered since the songs (in all their various versions) were truly great marketable songs. What the record companies and managers were really looking for when talking to the band is a long list of things that make up a complete package. The fundamentals of that longer list was: 01. The level of Overall Potential Value related to both the band as a whole, AND in all of its individual members. 02. The amount of Manageable Risk associated in investing in the band's short and long-term career, AND in each of its individual members. 03. The Quantity and Quality of Existing Physical Proof regarding the above 2 items. As already stated, the complete list is much longer, but the essence of those items lies in the main three points above. What I've written here is a broad generalization (and somewhat of an oversimplification) of the situations regarding this band and in how the music industry works in dealing with brand new artists in the present day. What is important to notice here is the industry's focus on what values, risks and proof are related to the musicians as people. After so many years of doing all the right things, in terms of musical elements and self promotion, where the band continued to fall short was in areas that its leaders overlooked in the beginning, and then underestimated later, after repeated conversations about these issues. People in general, and musicians in particular, have a habit of focusing on what to do to make it. People often neglect to focus equally on what not to do to make it And that was the source (in my opinion) of the band's problems. They did all the right things. But neglected to address the other things that were making them a higher risk to the industry. Focusing on both sides of the equation (what to do and what not to do) is so important, and that is reason why we spend so much time and effort to correct this in the Music Careers Mentoring Program. For more information on this topic check out these following resources: Tom's other music career development articles:
  • How to Become a Professional Guitarist & Musician - Facts and Myths Part 1
  • Take The Test
  • And the Music Careers Mentoring Program Copyright 2006 by Tom Hess. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Tom Hess's instructional website and world tour dates
  • 44 comments sorted by best / new / date

    comments policy
      Angel Zamora
      It's a good article.The advice is clearly there and his services are apart, Tom is not obligating you. Some people just enjoy to post attacks.
      el57
      yeah pretty good article reminding you chemistry is important as well as music
      The_Raven
      I love your articles Tom and this one was certainly a different style, but good none the less. Saying this, I could have never actually understood the article if it was not for your comments down the bottom here. Thanks.
      Rebourne
      Dudes Don't attack him he is only trying to help us... I dunno if I fully agree with him, but he has a **** of a lot more experience then I do and I respect and appreciate his advice. Thanks Tom!
      frigginjerk
      though you explained it later, your initial article was facking terrible. confusing, rambling, overly wordy, repetetive and and vague. You should read things back before you submit them, and consider if it would make any sense to the reader.
      invincibleneo
      inli3u : There's no way am I the only one who gets this article and thinks it's good?... It's not vauge, it's general. They actually are two different things. Being something that's general, you can't gain very directly from the article, you have to apply it to your life and the things you know to gain from it. To some degree, this article probably is an advertisement. But I don't see how that's a bad thing, especially when the content is good. Would you say that you can't laugh at a skittles commercial just because it's an ad? Most things that most people do are advertisements in some form. For example, dating involves a lot of advertising yourself. I don't think anyone would be like "WATCH OUT LADY, HE'S ADVERTISING LIKE CRAZY!" because everyone knows there's nothing wrong with that.
      There is sometyhing wrong with advertising here because he hasnt been clear enough. Everyone who writes articles here explains things clearly. Tom is talking about understanding "principles" , but he doesnt explain those principles clearly. He is expecting us to join that course to know everything in depth. See I think Tom writes awesome articles and has a plethora of realiy knowledge but he did not try to help anyone but himself in that article. UG is for sharing, not selling.
      Imp
      Not confusing. This article is obviously a plug for the services the author provides. "Focusing on both sides of the equation (what to do and what not to do) is so important, and that is reason why we spend so much time and effort to correct this in the Music Careers Mentoring Program." --Tom Hess So, whether this guy knows what he is talking abour or not is obscured by the fact that this article is, essentially, an advertisement. The rest is obvious to anyone who has had high school economics or any common sense. And of course scince no reason the "example band" was unsigned was listed, not only is the article itself unhelpful, it also does not ring completely true to me.
      Imp
      invincibleneo wrote: UG is for sharing, not selling.
      x2
      tgibson
      Amazing article. It astounds me to see this information shared to everyone. I don't really think this article could be any more clear on being the right person not just musician.
      inli3u
      And of course scince no reason the "example band" was unsigned was listed, not only is the article itself unhelpful, it also does not ring completely true to me.
      Well, I don't know about you guys but I had no problem plugging in things I've experienced as reasons the band didn't get signed. That was the point. The message is clear and a good one in my opinion. But clearly that's just my opinion. If everyone here shared your opinion I would agree that his articles shouldn't be greenlighted, even if I think they should be. That isn't the case though, enough people claim to like it that it should definitely stay. UG seems to agree.
      axe_grinder247
      regardless of whether or not this is an advertisement - a completely absurd gesture, by the way, because he clearly is here to help out aspiring musicians, not for $$$ - it doesn't change the fact that this is very noteworthy advice...who better to listen to then somebody who's actually made it in the music industry...you can't honestly think he's in it for money, can you? "If I was doing this for the money I would allow everyone to join this mentoring program. No, I'm here because I sincerely enjoy mentoring musicians that are passionate about music and have a powerful desire to "make it" in this industry. Anyone who has studied music with me for a significant period of time already knows that these words are genuine and their meaning sincere." a very helpful article, right along with every other one of his
      korn_dawg
      axe_grinder247 : regardless of whether or not this is an advertisement - a completely absurd gesture, by the way, because he clearly is here to help out aspiring musicians, not for $$$ - it doesn't change the fact that this is very noteworthy advice...who better to listen to then somebody who's actually made it in the music industry...you can't honestly think he's in it for money, can you? "Anyone who has studied music with me for a significant period of time already knows that these words are genuine and their meaning sincere."
      A significant period of time = more than significant amount of $$, and anyone willing to do that MUST like the guy. So yes, we can believe it's for the money. He also alluded to problems which were never actually mentioned in the article, which turned out to be obvious when finally revealed, but ended with "For more information on this topic, check out these following resources" which leads to a site where we may pay him if we are (something to the tune of) of a 'select group showing promise & dedication.' All of this does seem to be directed at new, aspiring musicians which would gladly pay this man money until they 'hit it big..' Hey though, to each his own even though I found this useless
      insight1234
      I kinda liked it! I mean. It wasn't the best read I've ever had, but you made an important point with the extra explaination I got it better too.
      insight1234
      Oh btw, he DOES advertise! O.o " To get the most out of this article, it is critical that you read Part 1 to this series before reading on"!
      difitzio
      This article is about how to attract a record deal, they look for what sells and 90% of what sells today is bullshit girl/boybands, pop music and some kind of unfortunate mix between pop and rap. Speaking of investing in rock music though, those record labels must have turned a blind eye to a few crackheads and acid droppers over the years good article all the same though, To increase your chances you want to stop doing anything that would make you more of a risk. Then again if you do things they way you like it, and for your love of music then you are a winner what ever happens
      bassmanjoe08
      Seems you were building up to nothing, man. What was the problem, how did you propose they fix it?
      Mike_Philippov
      This a great article, it requires one to keep an open mind while reading, and it conveys plenty of useful information while encouraging the reader to also THINK for him/herself. Great job Tom! Mike.
      inli3u
      There's no way am I the only one who gets this article and thinks it's good?... It's not vauge, it's general. They actually are two different things. Being something that's general, you can't gain very directly from the article, you have to apply it to your life and the things you know to gain from it. To some degree, this article probably is an advertisement. But I don't see how that's a bad thing, especially when the content is good. Would you say that you can't laugh at a skittles commercial just because it's an ad? Most things that most people do are advertisements in some form. For example, dating involves a lot of advertising yourself. I don't think anyone would be like "WATCH OUT LADY, HE'S ADVERTISING LIKE CRAZY!" because everyone knows there's nothing wrong with that.
      Dayn
      Oddly enough, the music industry is an industry, and industry revolves around money; hence, getting a record deal is about money. Music is music; music as a career must be for money, pure and simple. Whether it's money for you or the record company, it revolves around money. Everything revolves around money whether we like it or not. Yet there it is.
      sumfears
      Strat_Player wrote: um wait what was wrong with the band i couldnt catch it...
      I am with you. I read this big article that just beat around the bush of this band's problem and then never stated there problem. I guess it was ok. Does not really help.
      Metallic_Jimi
      This was a very confusing article (one not rarely seen fromt he likes of Tom Hess). I'm not sure if I understand this either, after two reading attempts... but could the main message be like: Talented players, great music, high motivation and all the essentials of becoming part of the music business, all the for nothing because the record company found out that the drummer (or vocalist/bass/guitarist, anyone for example) had a crack addiction problem in the past, which is why they see it risky two invest a deal in them, 'cause it seems uncertain to the record company that the band will be together for long after the debut album. Clearly Tom Hess says record companies these days don't take risks in anything, completely opposite of the 80's when all artists who could play fast got a deal when trash metal from bay area exploded in popularity. So, you **** up once, you **** up for good.
      Fossilized Love
      "How to Waste Precious Moments of Your Life" by Tom Hess All I see is lame articles nowadays. Leave it to the people who know what they're talking about.
      Metallic_Jimi
      Fossilized Love : "How to Waste Precious Moments of Your Life" by Tom Hess
      Completely the opposite I should say. If you actually use your brain and analyse what he says in the last paragraph, the message is quite clear: Trained musician with friends and a fully functioning band, no criminal record= GOOD THING Trained musician with friends and a fully functioning band, a criminal record present= F*CKED UP THING This is a fairly easy example on exactly what Hess says. Even though you could shred like Steve Vai or Malmsteen, record companies in todays world might not sign you up if they see you have had a problem in the past. Why? Maybe when you have succesfully made 2-3 records, the press find out, a scandal escalates and eventually your sales drop. VERY BAD THING FOR THE RECORD COMPANY. This is why they want no risk factors what so ever. The greedy guys sitting in their offices want to make sure their flow of money does not stop, or even worse, turn so that the money flows away from their company. Hope you true musicians understand how important this stuff is. The music business is not like it was in the 80's and 90's, and Tom Hess is a sure source to trust.
      Fossilized Love
      VERY BAD THING FOR THE RECORD COMPANY
      Music should be for playing music. If you're writing shit purely for money, you need to get the **** out of there.
      deathsliberator
      Fossilized Love wrote: Music should be for playing music. If you're writing shit purely for money, you need to get the **** out of there.
      i am with you on this.
      Toms' anominous
      that was a good article, i understood it all. and i hope the band do eventually get a record deal do they have a myspace?
      ClaypoolWooten
      unfortunately 98.2 percent of al bands today suck, and only want money. To avoid offending people, I'll list nothing. *Cough*EverythingonMTVand VH1*Cough*
      LiquidTension99
      unfortunately 98.2 percent of al bands today suck, and only want money. To avoid offending people, I'll list nothing. *Cough*EverythingonMTVand VH1*Cough*
      Definitely, even 1.8 percent is a little generous.
      The_Man_IV
      Confusing Article but get the point... I still think music Industrys Are more Worried about money then anything else in a band as long as the band gives them good money for years to come then the'll go with them. Times have Chnaged. Steve.
      tomhess
      Ive seen the concerns here that the article seems not to reveal what the band was doing wrong. Fair enough I was very well aware of this while writing the article. There are several reasons why I didnt go into detail about what they were doing (in my opinion at least) wrong. Here are the main reasons: 1. Out of personal respect for the band, I want to keep the peoples names anonymous. Two major things the band was doing wrong could easily reveal the identity of the band. It wasnt anything illegal or immoral, but they are aspects of things they continue to do to this day. My intentions are neither to promote nor hurt the bands image in the article. 2. Some of what they do is centered around the individuals in the band and those things can only be unique to these people, other bands would not have the same type of issues as this band does, so some aspects I didnt write about are not relevant to the vast majority of other unsigned bands if it wont be relevant then there seemed no point to discuss them in the article. 3. Ok, now onto some things I can discuss (these are common within bands). This band had some problems that many good bands also have. Although there was a founding member of the band who was the primary composer and labeled the leader, there were significant power struggles within the bands members. Band politics are very common (especially when a band sees big opportunities), people sometimes become greedy and do things to position themselves within the band to gain more power in the band and also in negotiating with record companies. As an example, some people in the band wanted more royalty rights and felt the leader of the band was not being fair. The leaders position was, hey I wrote most of the songs, therefore I deserve most of the publishing rights, Im not going to give that up! Thats potential money that I earned! Then you have a singer who says, yeah well if it wasnt for my voice, we wouldnt even be here in this meeting! Its one thing to have differences in a band (its going to happen as the band grows), but it doesnt help when the industry people see that. When a power struggle blows out of control, that says THIS BAND, AS A BAND, IS A BIG RISK, if they are having these types of major fights amongst themselves now, we definitely are not going to put them on tour and stick these 5 people on a tour bus for 3 months! and without a tour, records dont sell as well. This wasnt the bands biggest problem, but it was an issue that HAD to be resolved before their potential big shot manager was going to invest in their careers. At least one record company (and probably all of the others they talked to) and the manager was prepared to offer deals to the individuals but not the band as a whole. They could see who was of most value in the band and who represented the most risk. But due to the unique nature of this band, that wasnt really possible (this falls under both items 1 and 2 above). The singer and the writer (my friend) were the most valuable people in this case, but strangely, their value apart from each other was much less than it was as a team and the industry people clearly knew that. The other members could have been replaced if needed, but primary issues were centered around the main two people. In my opinion, the bands biggest downfall was in not understanding (or willing to change their minds about) how the industry works - about risks, about investments, about business, about perceptions, about power, (about their image off the stage!), about how the game is played and why things in the industry are as they are. The people in this band wouldnt listen to sincere and good advice or change their ideas. This is because all of them (the entire band) were idealists when it came to business. This means, they were focused only on how they thought the music industry should be and not on how it actually is. Musicians typically think that the industrys role should fulfill some sort of lets support the musicians and the music idea. But that is not the primary role of the industry. Like it or not, this is a business. People who run music businesses are no different than the people who run Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, or General Motors. This is music BUSINESS. People in the industry are here to make money. The VAST majority of industry companies are not here to support your, my, or anyone elses musical vision (unless they are going to make tons of money on it). This is not good or bad, it is simply reality. Being an idealist, as a musician, is a great thing in my opinion. And when we are discussing music Im a total idealist (as many of you probably are). If you want to remain TRULY idealist, then you might seriously consider investing your own money and making, recording, releasing and promoting your own records on your own. (this is the path I choose with the Hess band. We sell records around the world, but I did it on my own, by myself, with all of my own resources). But if you dont want to do that (
      tomhess
      .... it seems my last reply was cut off too short by the board, here is the rest of it... But if you dont want to do that (which is ok), then you are seeking music business companies to do it for you and pay for it all with their own money and resources. (This is what I did with my other band HolyHell). But unless you can command MASSIVE power (that means you have already sold a million records or more) then you usually cannot have your cake and eat it too. My friend, and the rest of his band, wanted to have their cake and eat it too. And now they are simply without cake. Hungry The main points of my original article wasnt to speak of individual examples of things that went wrong with this band, it was to illustrate a much broader and more important idea which I began in part 1 of this article series. Sure, seeing the examples I just wrote about here, may be helpful, but its value is limited (I only choose to invest my time in this response because so many people had the same problem with the article and it seemed reasonable that I should address your concerns). Someone reading this might say, ok good, now I know to beware of power struggles and resolve them BEFORE we sit down to talk to industry people. Im good to go now. Focusing on the example would be a mistake, focusing on the general principals of the much bigger picture offered in my articles is where all the potential value lies.
      invincibleneo
      I cant believe tomhess wrote such a crappy article. Please dont neccisarily believe everything in this article. THIS ARTICLE IS A ADVERTISEMENT FOR HIS MUSIC MENTORING PROGRAM. The Part.1 to this article is much better and explains a lot more. And to those guys who are trying tho make the point that band members should be "Invest worthy" people by not having criminal records and ill-habits, plz go away coz he already addressed that in the part.1 and I shud say in a better manner.
      ~SouthWillRise~
      Even after your explanation of the "problems", the article still is very vague. In my opinion, there is no reason to post an article if you are not even going to explain the situation in-depth.
      Kole*
      Fossilized Love wrote: Music should be for playing music. If you're writing shit purely for money, you need to get the **** out of there.
      Tom was not arguing that one should change there music to conform to what they "think" the public would like so that they can make more money. In fact, he directly said that there was no problem problem with the original compositions the band created; it was other vices of the varying members that led to their lack of success. I believe that everyone here can agree that composing music for the sake of making money is not true music and only by composing what is true to yourself, can you be considered an artist. Tom was not arguing that it was morally "right" to make music only to become famous or get rich quick. Hopefully this clears up a few things.
      HLrocker
      The first one was great, but this has no more information then the first one did....and you should have stated the bands problem, I read that whole article just to find that out, and it wasn't even in there...this article pisses me off.