Why So Many Artists Struggle
Up-and-coming artists have so many false notions about the music industry and how to make a career in it. There is no shortage of con-men waiting to prey on these artists nativity and ambitions either. Don't believe anyone who tells you the music industry is easy, or that you can become an overnight celebrity. Let's dispel all myths about the music industry and get a much-needed reality check.
Do Not Expect Instant Results
People get into this industry wanting to run before they learn to crawl. The only people who will buy your music are your fans. Well guess what? By trying to make money right away, you're putting the cart before the horse.
Artists that are able to SELL their music are established. They've paid their dues and built their fanbase organically. They have successful projects, they've been in the public eye. Who are you, and why should your fellow man pay money out of his pocket to listen to your work?
THE GOLDEN RULE
When you are starting out as an artist, your focus should be 100% on growth. Growing your audience, growing your fanbase. Expect to lose money in the early stages of your career. Eliminate all notions of making an immediate monetary return on your investment.
You should NEVER put a barrier between a potential listener and your music. Don't try to sell your song on iTunes in the beginning. Don't hold your song hostage for a 'Facebook Like' or a ReTweet. Make it readily accessible all over the web, on multiple platforms (if applicable).
Do not do this! WORST DECISION EVER!
Growth: Your Long-Term Strategy
If you're serious about getting into the music business, and I mean SERIOUS - ready to put in hard work, long hours, etc. - you must realize right now that it is a longterm venture. Very few musicians make money in the early stages of their career. If you think you'll somehow become an overnight celebrity, don't even waste your time and play the lottery instead.
You need to focus instead on getting fans. And I'm talking real fans, not 'buying fake fans'. You want to establish a line of communication between you and listeners, whether that be Twitter, Facebook, Email, etc.
Start local and grow outward. In the beginning, your main focus should be getting fans from your town or city. Easily done by doing open mics, opening for touring rappers who are doing concerts, going to shows and supporting other artists, etc. Next should be your state, then your general area of the country. (ie. WestCoast, EastCost, South)
When Should I Start Making Money?
That's not something I can advise, as every situation is unique. In most cases, the money will eventually find you. If you've done things correctly, you can expect to be approached for paid shows, club appearances, featured verses and hooks, etc.
In the end, it's all about the size of your fan base. And if you don't have one, you will struggle to make money. Period.