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MusicBizAdvice.com answers your questions about the music industry.

Q. Can a new older female artist (I’m over 40) make it in the music biz? I’ve been singing for years but didn’t go for it before because I was raising a family.

A. It depends on your musical genre and how you define success. If by “making it” you mean a major label deal and becoming a pop or rock star, the answer is usually no. When it comes to new artists, major labels are interested in younger artists, because there’s potentially more money to be made – particularly with the advent of the 360 deal (in which the label gets a share of merchandise, fan club, and touring income). In the labels’ eyes, younger new artists present more opportunity to create a trend, and trends present more opportunities for selling merchandise. (I’m not saying I agree with this philosophy; I’m explaining the situation based on what’s in the heads of the major labels’ powers that be.)

(If you’re going the niche Indie / D.I.Y. route, possibly. More on that in a sec…)

Musical genre plays a big role; some musical genres focus more on trendy imaging than others. If an older artist’s musical genre has a main audience similar in age to the artist’s own age, the artist stands a better chance of success–particularly for female artists, who may develop a strong female fanbase that appreciates seeing one of their peers become successful. An older new artist’s best shot may be in Adult Contemporary (“AC”), classical, or gospel for example–bearing in mind that AC is a category that already- established artists tend to “age into” so the competition’s pretty stiff. (Hang with me here. There’s good news coming, I swear…)

Two potential game changers: shifting demographics in terms of economics, as well as splits of preferred forms of media among age lines. This means that older consumers, rather than the industry’s traditionally-preferred 18-24 year-olds, may spend more of their disposable incomes on music, making the music industry pay more attention to older age groups in the future. The industry moves slowly, however, and ageism and sexism are still factors in our culture and often override the numbers.

Meanwhile, there’s nothing stopping you from going D.I.Y. and doing it yourself! With extremely well-planned, non-traditional promotion avenues (think about where women your age hang out and sell your CD’s there, in addition to the usual iTunes and Amazon route), and a lot of hard work and hustle, you can define success for yourself, on your own terms.

Got a question about the music business? Email your questions with “Q&A” in the subject line. Include your name or initials, city and state, and the name of your band, if applicable. Questions of a general nature will be answered as space allows. (Be sure your spam filter is set to accept email with hyperlinks from qa@musicbizadvice.com so we can let you know your question is answered and can direct you to additional information if necessary.)

Answers in the MBADC Q&A are to be taken as general advice only and are not intended as a substitute for legal advice from a competent entertainment or intellectual property rights attorney.