The music industry is truly global. No matter where you were born or where you got your start in this business, the surest way to the top of the heap is to cultivate an international fan base.
Yes, that means you have to endure interminable transoceanic flights.
But that’s not the first thing you need to worry about as you nurture your budding musical career, nor the most consequential. If you’re laying the groundwork for global domination, you can’t put the cart before the horse. Do these five things, in roughly this order, and then get ready for what’s next.
1. Set Up a First-rate Website
Before you do anything else, create a website for your musical outfit. If you have the budget, consider retaining a creative marketing firm to help you turn up a first-rate website as soon as practically possible.
If not, use a website builder with image-rich templates, and be sure to include key site elements: background on your outfit, a merch shop, a music shop (download-for-a-fee), upcoming show dates, social handles, and more. Purchase international domains (for instance, yourname.co.uk for the United Kingdom, yourname.eu for the European Union, and so on) so that you’ll have non-U.S. sites ready to go when the time comes.
2. Find an Experienced Entertainment Attorney
Next, find and hire an experienced entertainment attorney who can help you navigate the messy world of international licensing and royalty agreements. Look for a prolific partner who’s done more than his or her fair share of IP-protection work — like Helen Yu, an entertainment attorney based in Los Angeles, who represented more Billboard Hot 100 artists in 2014 than any other Hollywood music lawyer.
3. Understand the Tax Implications of Your International Sales
Dealing with U.S. state and federal taxes is complicated enough. Add a dozen or more international markets into the mix and there’s no way you can manage your tax obligations on your own. Hire an accounting firm with international tax reporting experience — and work with your attorney to ensure that you’re minimizing your tax liability while remaining in compliance.
4. Network With Reviewers and Other Industry Influencers
It never hurts to put in a good word for yourself. Work with your agent (and on-the-ground representatives in any international markets you’re targeting) to ensure you’re meeting the right influencers in the right places.
5. Set an Aggressive Touring Schedule (Even If You’re Not Playing Stadiums)
The more you play, the more exposure you earn. Tap your (hopefully growing) network of industry connections and lean on your agent to set up as many shows as you can in as many cities as possible — even if you’re not yet selling out stadiums.
Think Local, Go Global
You have every right to hope and expect that your hard work pays off and, someday soon-ish, you find yourself playing sold-out shows in Tokyo or Tel Aviv or Trondheim.
If and when you find yourself in such fortuitous circumstances, you mustn’t lose sight of where you came from. Hold onto that hungry mentality that got you here and trust that a wholehearted embrace of your roots is exactly what your fans crave. You don’t want to disappoint them, after all.