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Study finds young bands need business skills to succeed

Academics in the US say new study shows business brain is almost as important as musical talent to up-and-coming acts

Academics in the US say new research shows that one of the most important skills up-and-coming bands should have is a grasp of "business communication."

A study carried out by North Carolina State University finds that rock musicians face significant business communication challenges, requiring them to develop skills they wouldn't have predicted needing when they set out on a career in music.

Stephen Carradini, one of the academics who worked on the study, says: “I found that rock musicians, particularly those without major label support, face a unique set of challenges.

“The musicians had to communicate with a lot of audiences – fans, potential fans, booking agents, record labels, etc.

"They also needed to write in a wide variety of formats, from business emails to social media posts for fans to advertising materials aimed at attracting new fans.

“First, they have to build an audience – identifying and attracting fans on a consistent basis. This is fundamentally a communications challenge. How do you reach people who aren’t fans yet?

“Second, musicians have to be prepared for slow growth – meaning that it will take a long time and a lot of work to reach a point of being economically self-supporting, rather than working multiple jobs.

"This slow growth means it’s difficult for musicians to hire people with relevant skills to help them with their professional communication challenges. And that limitation is itself one reason that growth is slow."

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A string of established rock stars have spoken out about the difficulties facing new bands recently, with Gene Simmons from Kiss even going as far as to say "rock is dead" because record labels don't give new bands enough support.

But Carradini says having a bit of business knowledge can help young bands find their feet.

“Musicians can rarely turn down gigs – even lousy gigs – because there are a finite number of venue bookers in any given region. And musicians can’t afford to alienate people who control their access to venues.

“This means that musicians have to learn a very particular type of business communication skill – how to negotiate from a weak position.

“The work highlighted in this paper shows that the music business is distinct from other industries, but it’s still a business.

"People who want to go into music would be well-served to find training in at least the basics of business communication, in college or elsewhere.”

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