Surviving A Music Business Recession

Surviving A Music Business Recession

It takes some skill and wisdom to navigate a music business recession.

People are always asking me about what my secrets have been for getting ahead in the music biz. It’s almost like they think there is some magic answer that will help them move up the ladder. Well, in a funny way, maybe there is one. But you might not like the answer.

Music business recession

Table of Contents

What Is A Music Business Recession?

A music business recession, like any industry recession, shows certain signs that indicate a downturn in the industry. Here’s a simplified breakdown of what to look out for:

1. Reduced Sales and Revenue: This is one of the most direct signs. There’s a noticeable drop in the sales of music, including physical formats like CDs, as well as digital sales and streaming subscriptions.

2. Decreased Concert Attendance: If fewer people are attending concerts, gigs, and festivals, it’s a signal that the music industry might be facing financial challenges. This could be due to several factors like lower disposable income among consumers or reduced interest.

3. Budget Cuts in Music Companies: Music labels and companies might start cutting their budgets, which can mean less money for artist development, marketing, and other activities. This can lead to fewer new artists being signed and less promotion for existing artists.

4. Artist Struggles: Artists, especially those who are not yet well-established, might find it harder to make a living from their music. This could be due to lower earnings from sales and streaming, fewer opportunities for live performances, or reduced support from labels.

5. Shift in Consumer Spending: People might start prioritizing essential expenses over entertainment, leading to less spending on music-related products and events.

6. Changes in Music Consumption: There might be a shift in how people consume music. For example, they might prefer free streaming services over paid subscriptions or choose to attend local gigs instead of expensive music festivals.

7. Impact on Music-Related Jobs: There could be layoffs or fewer job openings in various sectors of the music industry, including live events, production, and retail.

8. Investor Sentiment: Investors might show less interest in funding music-related startups or projects, indicating a lack of confidence in the industry’s profitability during this period.

These signs can vary in intensity and might not all occur at once. But collectively, they can give a good indication of a recession in the music business. Remember, industries often go through cycles, and downturns are usually followed by periods of recovery and growth.

What Can We Do?

There are basically three rules that I live by and have had for 30 years. In order to succeed in the music biz (the simple answer), you need three basic ingredients. In time you will find that all three ingredients are inner-related and that one hand scratches the other. You must have:

The 3 Rules To Surviving In The Music Business

A Great Musical Product

1.) A great musical product (it doesn’t have to be original – but if you are going to do a cover, do it nothing like the original… avoid comparisons.) The first 20 seconds of the production have to be both innovative, infectious, and flawless. This has to be music so catchy that if you, yourself, had only enough money to buy one CD a year, this would be the one you would buy.

Put yourself in the consumer’s seat. Remember, we are presently in a devastating recession. Talk is cheap (there are lots of sales pitches out there), and money is dear. For someone to buy your music, they need to be really moved by you, in a way that no one else has.

Artist/Band - Songstuff Music Community Join


2.) Relentless drive (unending belief in yourself). 99% of the artists who are successful did not “make it” overnight. They knew, at the start, that they would most likely be in for a “long haul” before the public would become aware of them.

The chances of being a huge success in the selling market are actually less than that of being kidnapped, believe it or not. When people see those odds, they tend to become daunting. The sooner you get started, the better. Look at former Mouseketeers, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Christine Aguilera. Starting early certainly gave them a “leg up” in the business. However, having said all this, it is truly never too late. At 56 years old, I am starting to be discovered in the biz. Why? Because I didn’t give up.

I believed in my music; I believed in myself. I knew my niche, as it were. I realized my market.

The great Lou Rawls once said at a seminar that his golden rule for success was, “Never change your music to suit the public and current trends. Do what YOU believe in. If you believe in your music, then sooner or later the public will, too.”

Business Savvy

3.) Business savvy. This is the one that some artists absolutely hate to acknowledge. Many believe that the words “business” and “artist” are polar opposites.

Every year, a few songwriters approach me by saying that they feel that being a business-minded musician is the equivalent of “selling out”. Interesting premise, but I beg to differ. Songs are a communication. If you believe in your art, then you will admit that you believe in communicating the message of the song with the most listeners you can possibly relay the song to.


Now we get to the ultimate goal: exposure.

  1. You’ll need to learn all about agents and managers.
  2. You will need to schedule at least an hour per day of web work.
  3. You will need to know about tax shelters.
  4. You will need an office that includes: a computer, possibly (probably) a home studio, a phone/fax machine, a scanner, a filing cabinet, and a few absolutely great books about the music business.

One of my personal favorite books is Hal Galper’s book, “The Touring Musician”. The best way to find out the music business book for you is to talk to some of the most successful people with whom you have already made acquaintances within the music business. There are newer, and more current books constantly coming out.


Finally, do not discount the importance of seminars and webinars. John Moxey, founder of Songstuff.com has been a constant inspiration to me. Great business savvy includes finding new places of inspiration!

I hope this article was of great help to you. Questions? Feel free to contact me here at Songstuff.com via our Songwriting And Music Community.

About Cheryl Hodge


Cheryl Hodge has been in the music and songwriting business for well over 30 years; recording on several labels; among them Atco Records (Raindogs, 1990), and has released 4 CDs of her own; on her own label: Jazzboulevard.com Records.

She has performed her music for the last 10 years with noted jazz guitarist John Stowell (amongst many others), and they are about to release a CD of co-written originals. She has been a private instructor to many; including the gifted Paula Cole. She is also the author of “A Singer’s Guide to the Well-Trained and Powerful Voice”, and is a published vocal arranger.

Cheryl is currently the head of the vocal dept. at Nelson, BC’s: Selkirk College Music Program. There, she teaches Songwriting and Advanced Songwriting, Business of Music, Arranging, and Vocals.

She continues to write and produce her original materials and has just released “Cheryl Hodge: Original Article” – a compilation of her favorites.


Related Articles

Do you want to find out more about the music business? If so, you can find articles and tutorials on our Music Industry Articles page.

Useful Links

Would you like to join in the discussion about the music industry, copyright and music law, or music publishing? For that matter, just about any music-related subject? Then join our music community!

You might also find our Music Industry Board particularly useful.

To help you to understand specific terms, take a look at our Music Glossary. It has extensive descriptions of music technology terms and concepts. It also contains entries about music theory and terms from across the music industry including music marketing and music promotion.

Become A Contributor To The Songstuff Music Library

Contributors Wanted

Are you a qualified entertainments lawyer? Or perhaps you have in-depth knowledge about tour management? Are you a music marketer or an experienced band manager? Perhaps you are a booking agent? Would you be interested in helping musicians to build their skills and understanding by contributing demonstration videos, reviews, articles and tutorials to the Songstuff music library? We rely upon musicians, and people working within the music industry, being willing to contribute to our knowledge base.

As well as contributions to our music library, we feature contributions in our site blogs and social media portals. In particular, we add video contributions to the Songstuff Channel on YouTube.

Please contact us and we can explore the possibility of you joining our contributors asap.

Songstuff Media Player

If you would like to listen to some awesome indie music while you browse, just open our media player. It opens in another window (or tab) so your playlist can play uninterrupted as you browse.

Open the Songstuff Media Player.

Playlists are curated by SSUK for the Independent Music Stage and Songstuff.