It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock ’n’ roll. It takes even longer if you hope to make a reasonable living once you’re there.
That is where Victoria author Aaron Bethune and his book, Musicpreneur: The Creative Approach to Making Money in Music, come into play.
Bethune, 33, has discovered during his years in the music business that every artist could use a helping hand. Some musicians entrust booking agents, managers and promoters to handle the business end. Others attempt to go at it themselves.
In most cases, the results are middling. Bethune figures “99 per cent” of musicians are not making their living through music. Making it to the peak of the music business is a combination of luck, talent and happenstance. Bethune knew this as he began writing Musicpreneur, but the point was hammered home repeatedly during his research.
“People follow other people and their success but don’t find success themselves,” he said. “One big thing that everyone does is look at someone else’s success and they try to come up with the same recipe. They take those ingredients and they repeat it. But they always miss the one thing.”
According to Bethune, that one thing is uniqueness, the distinguishing factor that separates one artist from the next. Those who discover it occupy the one per cent inhabited by the Taylor Swifts of the world, he goes on to explain in the book.
“Why aren’t people making a living at it?” he said. “Why is this person on the radio? There are answers to all these questions.”
Bethune dives into the topic over the book’s 368 pages. Chapters are separated into categories such as branding, public relations and radio promotion, among others. Bethune, who was born in Montreal, wrote from a Canadian perspective, though the content is universal, he said.
Musicpreneur was released through Above the Noise, Bethune’s newly created publishing company. Buoyed by the illuminating experience of writing his first book, he intends to release other titles.
“It became kind of a personal challenge, this book. It was really beneficial for me in the sense that I was able to focus what I had done over the years.”
He has spent much of the past decade consulting, managing and promoting artists. Bethune, who has a degree in jazz guitar from Vancouver Island University, knows firsthand the perils awaiting performers as they navigate the ever-changing industry. And he has a grasp on the way various cultures affect their exports, having lived in Canada, England, Spain and the U.S.
He combined his experience with interviews conducted for the book, largely with what society would term successful people. Bethune ingested it all, from the clinically researched psychopathy of CEOs to the persistence and drive of professional athletes. “A lot of research went into trying to get every angle I possibly could.”
He came to sobering conclusion. “The answer isn’t in the music industry,” he said. “It’s outside of it.”
Bethune expects the book to be suitable for musicians looking to create income with music. His audience, however, is somewhat amorphous.
“I’ve written it with the intent that someone will look at this with a fresh mind. Whether it’s a veteran who wants to further their career or someone starting out, it’s not for dummies. There are some pretty complex strategies involved.”
He has already received substantial feedback. A post-secondary school in San Francisco (which he chose not to name) has asked Bethune to expand Musicpreneur into a semester-long course, he said. Another prestigious institution, Boston’s Berklee College of Music, has also expressed interest, he added.
At the end of the day, it’s only rock ’n’ roll. The deeper issues — the biological effect music has on the human brain; the impact one’s age has on the passion for a particular band — won’t be fully explained any time soon, if ever. There is hope, however.
Bethune found that while artists today have a better grasp on their own checks and balances — more so than their peers did decades ago — there is no ceiling on the amount of information available to a musician, should he or she choose to absorb it.
That made Bethune’s job easier the deeper he got into writing Musicpreneur.
“There is a real lack of understanding of how the business works.
“But once you know the rules of the game, you know how to play the game, and you can come up with your own rules.”
For information, visit musicpreneur.ca.