How To Launch A Career In Music

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A discussion about getting started in the business, and brief overview of SMTM Records.
How to launch a music career


So you want to know how to launch a career in music? Welcome to the club! A career in music has historically been an extremely difficult thing to achieve, and the path to that objective fraught with peril for an artist. I personally have heard and seen all the horror stories. So many amazing bands and musicians I have been associated with have failed to realize their potential, burdened by an industry that treated artists like commodities to be used and discarded. The nexus of art and commerce has always been this way. But times are changing! Artists now have more power than ever. However, with great power comes great responsibility (thanks Spidey!).  If you are going to be an empowered independent artist, it is your responsibility to educate yourself, and manage the trajectory of your career. And make no mistake, it is complicated!

We are here to help!


I have been writing, producing, and performing music for over 35 years. My first foray into a recording studio was in 1982, in Ann Arbor, MI, where I grew up. The large part of the ‘80’s saw me slumming around the punk and rock scene in the corridor between Ann Arbor and Detroit. The ‘90’s saw me make my way to San Francisco. Once there, I built my first real studio, The Blue Room. In 2000, with a growing family, I moved operations to Charlottesville, VA, where I built studios number two and three.

Over those three-plus decades, I have produced, written with, or shared a stage with some pretty cool folks- Mike Davis (MC5), Ron Asheton (Stooges), Cult Heroes, Scott Morgan, Suicidal Tendencies, White Zombie, King’s X, Train, Storm Large, Randy Jackson, Jay Stolar… the list goes on. Also, I have been a presenter and mentor at many music conferences such as MMC, Atlantis, MEIC, Cape May and more.

But I am going to keep my history here brief, as that is not the point of this post. More about me here.


I have often found myself in the role of a mentor. I have always been free with advice, whether it is presenting and mentoring bands at conferences as mentioned above, or giving tips to studio clients about topics outside of the actual production. Lately, I started to think “Why not create a platform where instead of advice, I can provide actual services instead?” Thus, the idea of SMTM Records was born.

Also, I was sitting on a massive back catalog of my own music. Some of it had been released already, and some not. There were some success stories, and I had songs charting on various radio playlists, some film and TV placements, etc. But a lot of it was just relegated to my hard drive and was not out in the world doing work! For several years, I had envisioned some sort of space where I could aggregate all of my music, and have a platform to release the many, many songs I had written that had never seen the light of day.


I guess it was the DIY ethic instilled in me by my early years in the hardcore/ punk scene, but I never have gone the route of trying to attract attention from major labels. I have always been a DIY kind of guy. Producing my own records, doing my own marketing, booking my own tours, etc. Now, don’t get me wrong… DIY does NOT mean you have to do EVERYTHING yourself. DIY just means being your own CEO. It’s been my pleasure to have hired and worked with plenty of great folks over the years.

The cool thing about DIY, is the education you get! When you have to wear ALL of the hats, you end up getting a very good working lesson about what works and what doesn’t. Also, you are forced to stay on top of new trends in the industry. The music business has changed dramatically over the last 35 years! We live in a golden age for DIY’ers. It is now entirely possible to establish and maintain a decent, if not lucrative career in music, without ever having to sign a contract!


That all said, it can certainly be overwhelming to try to run the entire show on your own. Even if you hire out key parts of a campaign. The amount of detail that goes into a successful record launch can be staggering. Songwriting, production, creative and design, branding, web development, marketing and PR, rights management, distribution, legal. It can be extremely difficult choosing where to focus your time.

That is where SMTM comes in.


We are essentially a label services group. Yes, that is definitely a new buzzword in the business. But the model is a good one. Essentially you can hire us out to handle any one or more of the above-mentioned aspects of a campaign. You choose which parts of the launch you can handle and leave the rest to us. You retain all rights to your music. We have many different levels of service available, but each situation is unique. Feel free to give us a shout- we are happy to talk with you about what your needs are and see if there is a fit.

We also sometimes offer a more traditional approach, in which time and/ or funding are offered to an artist up front, and we take a piece of the profit on the backend. These kinds of deals are not right for everybody, and we always are 100% transparent with an artist about what goes in and what expectations are.


We won’t sell you an eBook, or an online course. There’s plenty of those guys out there if that is what you want. Some of them are actually pretty good, most (IMO) are just trying to line their wallets, at the expense of folks who are eager to have an easy button, or connections to a music industry “insider”. It’s marketing for it’s own sake, and there is always an up-sell.

We also won’t tell you that this will be easy. It’s not. Only hard work, time and dedication will earn you a career in music. That is not only true in the music business, but in any industry. However, the music industry is especially competitive, and if you don’t have a plan, you are likely not going to have any success. We can help you with that plan.

And this is exactly why we started SMTM. To give artists a one-stop shop where they can have access to all of the services they need to launch and nurture a viable career, while maintaining majority control over their catalog.

There will be a lot more happening here over the coming months. Stay tuned!

Matt Singleton

Matt Singleton

Father, husband, writer, musician, record producer. Student of the warrior spirit. Founder of SMTM Records.

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