One of my mentees Talia asked for feedback on her idea of creating a mental health program for the music industry.
She has come across many people (both young and middle-aged) who have expressed concerns of being overworked and underpaid, which she feels can be a contributing factor of negative mental health symptoms.
Since entertainment is such a desirable industry to work, there will always be extreme competition, especially for the most lucrative positions.
Generally speaking, the only way to substantially grow your income is by significantly increasing your value to the entity you work for (even if that entity may be your own company).
If you are a manager, you need to either break an artist by building a revenue generating career with and for them or sign an established artist who is already generating revenue. Alternatively, you can operate the logistics for a top tier act another manager signs. While managers who sign acts and can make the largest moves for their career will usually be paid more, quality execution on any aspect of an large artist’s career is valuable in its own right.
The above process is similar for lawyers, business managers, or agents looking to increase their paychecks.
On the label side, as an A&R, if you want to increase your salary substantially, you would need to sign artists who go platinum. Alternatively, you could be the source for finding or creating hit records for an artist already on the label’s roster.
If you work at a label, but are not in the business of signing artists, it can be less black and white when it comes to analyzing how your results translate to the bottomline and further career opportunity. A hit digital campaign or right brand collaboration can’t “go platinum”, but since the right campaign can play a major role in propelling a track to that status, it’s possible to climb the ladder from other departments too.
In order for creatives (directors, photographers, etc.) to significantly increase the amount they make, they must create such high quality work (regardless of budget) they become a part of the story of the artist they are creating for, such as Virgil Abloh became to Kanye. Or they can also make the transition into more traditional business roles. Alternatively, creatives can utilize consistency of their work to build a monetizable brand platform for themselves, a la Cole Bennett and Lyrical Lemonade.
There are exceptions to the above, but they are not the norm.
Since entrepreneurs or freelancers don’t always have a salary they can fall back on, it’s often a riskier endeavor. It’s fairly normal to feel alone at times throughout this process and a great support network of likeminded people can be effective in helping weather the lows and also help come up with groundbreaking ideas to exponentially grow business. In exchange for the higher risk, there is often more to gain if and when things workout.
For those feeling overworked and underpaid as Talia pointed out, it may be inspiring to know almost every leading industry executive had to “do whatever it takes” at some point to get to where they are today. And as they dedicated themselves fully on the way up, until their actual financial value outweighed the work they were putting in, they were not paid well… In fact, many (including myself) started working for free.
While luck does play into the process, the best way to increase your odds of success at any level are to put in the work and spend the time necessary to build groundbreaking content and great relationships.
Work isn’t everything. I believe and preach balance, whether through meditation, working out, or even eating right. With that being said, there may be a time where you are tested… As you seek the opportunities and begin to take the step to increase your value, you may be asked, “Are you all in?”
Supercharge your growth by trusting your gut, believing in yourself, and following your dreams intensely with a burning desire to bring them to fruition every day.