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So we’ve covered the fact that many musicians don’t know the next steps they should be taking in their career and many more don’t have enough time to get everything done. Now, we’re going to address both of those problems with a method commonly used by entrepreneurs – a business plan, or in this case, a musician career plan.

I know, most of you probably didn’t get in to music to write a business plan, but if you’re really serious about making a living off your art, it’s an invaluable resource that will help you succeed. Think about all those choices you face everyday. How long should you spend on social media? Which social media channels should you be on? How much time should you dedicate to touring? Is crowdfunding the right way to fund your album? If you have a plan in place that states where you are, what you’re focusing on, and where you want to be in the future, these choices become a whole lot simpler.


If you need more guidance on setting your goals and putting a plan in place that will set you up for success in music, we have a free workbook that you can download right here. Learn how to create a unique plan for your own music career and start putting it into action today!


1. Business Structure

You probably don’t think of your band as a business, but that’s exactly what you are. A lot of the professional bands and musicians out there even go so far as to organize themselves into a Partnership or even a Corporation. You don’t have to go that far quite yet, but you need to think about what everyone’s roles are within your business and how each moving part works together to make one whole unit. How do you communicate with each other? Is one person responsible for decision making or does the whole group vote? Talking about these things up front will make everything run a lot smoother and more efficiently.

2. Revenue Streams

There’s more revenue streams out there beyond just selling albums and singles. Of course, the revenue streams you draw on depend entirely on your career focus. A songwriter will pull from different revenue streams than a recording artist. The main point here is to be creative with it! The music industry is ripe for innovation. Sponsorships and brand partnerships have grown exponentially lately. Some musicians even make money from exclusive membership sites.

3. Booking Strategies

Playing gigs shouldn’t just be something you do on the side. It should be part of your overall strategy. Depending on your goals, you can use your live show to forge a deeper connection with your fanbase, spread awareness for your music to a new city, or meet new collaboration partners.

What’s your musician career plan?

Photo by tradingacademy.com

Photo by tradingacademy.com

In today’s music industry, success isn’t just handed to you. Increasingly, the musician must view their career in the same way an entrepreneur views their startup company. You need to know what you want, how dedicated you are, and then make a plan not unlike a traditional business plan that will lead you to YOUR success.

With so many options in today’s music industry, success can mean different things to different people. Some people will be happy gigging their home town a few days a week and keep their day job. Others won’t be happy until they are playing stadiums in front of thousands of screaming fans. Some musicians may be happy living in the background composing music for films, while other’s want their single featured on the top 100 chart. Knowing what you want is the key first step in planning how to get there.

Shaun Letang wrote this great article for Music Think Tank that really sums up what you should be doing right now to plan your career. Here’s an excerpt of the article, but you can read the full article on Music Think Tank.

Define What Success In The Music Industry Is To You

Before anything else, you need to decide what your personal definition of success is. The reason for this is simple; if your idea of success is becoming well known in your country for being a talented musicians, you’ll need different steps to achieving that than you would if your aim was to earn a full time living from music.

So what is your final end game? What do you want to achieve? If you’re not yet sure, here are some common outcomes which a lot of musicians aim for. I’ve also included a (extremely generally) look at what’s needed to reach these goals:

  • Aim to play good music you and your friends will enjoy.
  • Aim to become well known at a local level. (Requires a lot of work).
  • Aim to become well known at a national scale. (Requires a lot of work and luck).
  • Aim to become well known at a international scale. (Requires a lot of work and a lot of luck).
  • Aim to earn a part time living from music. (Requires a lot of work).
  • Aim to earn a full time living from music (Requires a lot of work).
  • Aim to become wealthy from music (Requires a lot of work and a lot of luck).

Feel free to mix and match your goals as you need. For example, it may be your aim to be well known in your local area and earn a full time living from your music. This is an achievable goal if you know what you’re doing.

While it’s easy to assume that most people would want to become internationally well known and wealthy from their music, that’s not always the case. As someone who regularly talks to musicians all around the world, I’ve seen that different people want to achieve different things, and everyone has their reasons for their end goal. So no matter what your end goal is, be sure it’s clear in your mind and we can move forward.

Determine What You’re Willing To Do To Succeed In The Music Industry

This is where the whole ‘on your terms’ bit fits in.

So now you know what you want to achieve from your music career, the next steps is deciding what you’re willing to do to achieve these goals. No, I’m not talking about who you’ll sleep with to get to the top (I do not recommend this). Instead, you need to decide if you want to achieve your goals strictly through your personal brand as a musician, or if you’re willing to use your musical skill in other ways to pad out your income and get you better known.

Let’s say the goals in your music career are mainly driven by money. Making a part time living is something I feel most musicians with talent and good marketing knowledge can achieve. That said, only a % of those people will go on to make a full time comfortable living from their music alone. It is achievable, but it’s a lot harder than if you were to also use the talents you’ve acquired from the music industry for other forms of earning.

For example, if you were to start teaching up and coming musicians how to sing, rap or produce, you could earn more than you would from just playing gigs and selling songs alone. Teaching wouldn’t get in the way of you playing gigs; gigs are generally performed later at night, while your teaching lessons would likely be in the day. Furthermore, if you was to teach via a online video course for example, after you’ve created your product you wouldn’t have to actively be there to teach each new person that came along.

There are plenty of income streams you could tap in which are music related, but which don’t involve your personal brand as a musician. Other examples include songwriting for others, doing backing vocals for other musicians, doing skits for people in need of them (isn’t restricted to other musicians) and the like. Think about who you can help with the talents you have, and provide a service to them.

To read the full article, go to Music Think Tank.

What does YOUR success look like? Share in the comment section below.

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”  This is a great quote from Alan Kay, one of the creative geniuses behind the laptop computer and the mouse.  Musician can apply this thinking to their own careers by planning for success in a dedicated and systematic way.

I came across this great guest post by Kevin English on Creative Deconstruction that talks about the “Lower Class Musician” and suggestions for how to lift yourself out of that class into a middle or upper class status through controlling your overhead, aligning your expectations, creating a plan, getting a good and current education and diversifying your product offering.  These are all things that I have blogged about in great detail in the past and agree with completely.

Here in an excerpt from Kevin’s post:

“Learn to structure yourself like any other startup and formulate a strategy on paper that will sustain you for three to five years. You’ll soon find out that overspending on manufacturing, marketing, promotion and distribution is very difficult to recoup.

Adjust Your Expectations

For some of us, music is a hobby and that is okay. However, if you plan on feeding your children by touring the Chitlin’ circuit, that’s another thing entirely. When I realized that writing songs for Columbia Records and recording demos with The Fugees wasn’t going to sustain me forever, I had to adjust my expectations. These gigs were few and far in between and often times didn’t pay half as much as you would expect them to.

I studied profitable ideas, people, and businesses to find a common denominator. I learned that nine out of ten successful startups had a business plan. Not just any old plan, but one that was standard across all industries. Financial planning, marketing, and the management of people and products/services cannot be done on the fly. If all you want is for people to hear your music that is fine. But again, you can’t necessarily expect to make a decent living.

Accelerate Your Learning

Hundreds of books have been written on the subject of business plans, yet no one in the music business seems to think they need one — until, of course, they run out of cash. I spent years in my local SBA in Newark, NJ looking at sample plans, meeting with retired CEOs of successful companies, and learning how basic businesses operate.

If you do the same you’ll realize that most startups have more similarities than you’d expect. However, it is important to point out that no two plans are alike. You will still need to write a plan specifically based around your music-related products and services. My first plan was a disaster. I asked my uncle for $75K with a promise to return 20% of the loan over the next five years. He had a good laugh over that one, but at least he knew I was serious about my dreams.”

To read his full post look here.