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build a team for music success

Today, I’d like to talk about what it takes to build a team for music.

As a musician, you’ve probably got more things to do than you have time in the day, right? You need to write, practice, play, rehearse, perform, and record.

But you ALSO need to manage your social media pages, manage your email list and email your fans, plan your music releases, pitch your songs to bloggers, music supervisors, venue owners and bookers, and music libraries, and that’s only scratching the surface. And more times than not, these essential business tasks push your music aside.

The simple fact is it’s hard to get everything done on your own.

And this is one of the biggest dilemma of the indie artist.

Isn’t the music why you set out for a career in music in the first place? Is it really necessary to push aside the music to be successful in today’s music industry? I don’t think so.

DIY vs. DIWO

DIY has been the catch phase of the last era in music. But the truth is, no one has all the skills – or time for that matter – to be successful completely on their own in music.

Let’s say you’re trying to do everything yourself… Will you realistically be able to dedicate enough time to do each thing really well? Will you be able to put in the time to come up with interesting and engaging posts for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat while also developing a strategy to get gigs in bigger venues, recording and planning an album release, pitching your new single to music bloggers, and keeping up with your email list? You need to work smarter.

We all start out as DIY artists when the to-do list is shorter, but it’s not usually something that can be sustainable as we begin to grow and we take on more (and bigger) responsibilities – at least not without completely burning out or skipping sleep entirely.

So I’d like to propose a new phrase: DIWO, or Do It With Others. Instead of trying to do everything yourself, try approaching your career like an entrepreneur approaches a new startup. Build an efficient team gradually over time. Start lean with the people you have around you already, divide tasks according to skills, and hire in new team members as you grow.

Here’s some of the key steps in building an efficient team around your music.

1. Figure out what kind of team you need.

There’s no single formula for a team that will work for every musician. Your career path, your goals, your personal skillset, your time commitment, and your career level all factor into who you will bring onto your team and when.

If you need a little help figuring out your goals, I suggest you download this free guidebook: Your Music Plan for Success. It will walk you through easy questions to help you determine what you want out of your music career, which will also help you figure out which team members you should target. Click here to download it for free.

So for example, as a songwriter you may begin working with other songwriters and co-writers in the early stages of your career to grow your catalog and increase your skill set quickly. Depending on your skills, you may work with a producer or engineer to get TV-quality recordings, or you may be able to do this yourself in your home studio. At first, you may start submitting your own songs to music libraries and other licensing opportunities, but you may begin making direct connections with music supervisors, ad agencies, and filmmakers to license your music. As your career begins to grow, you may start working with a publisher to help you get bigger placements and connections. You may not be interested in releasing albums so you won’t even need a record label.

Let’s look at another example. If you’re a traditional band that tours and releases albums, your team will look very different. At first, you might either self-record your songs or work with a producer or engineer you know, and distribute your songs through a service like Tunecore or CD Baby. You’ll probably do a lot of the booking yourself at first, but eventually you’ll employ the help of an agent when your gigs start bringing in enough money. As social media, email, and planning gets too difficult to handle on your own you might seek the help of a manager. And eventually you may begin working with a record label or some bigger distribution partner.

2. Bring on team members when the need arises.

In both examples above, the teams grew slowly over time as the needs manifested. Early on, your team may very well consist of friends and family, and that’s okay!

It’s also important to remember as you build a team for music, that many team members come on board when there is a financial incentive to do so – they need to make a living too! Agents make a percentage of your live performance income, so if you’re only making a few bucks, they’re not going to find the gig too appealing.

3. Assign roles and responsibilities.

A really important thing many musicians miss is that your band members can function as a team in the early stages of your career. Each member has different skills and proficiencies they can bring to the table, and you’ll get a whole lot more done if you divide up tasks.

The first step is to take a look at the jobs that need to get done. You may need to consistently be posting on social media and engaging with your fans. You may need to write weekly newsletters to your email list. You may need to be reaching out to venues and booking gigs (and of course, promoting those gigs). You might need to design a basic t-shirt to sell at your gigs, or get a few key photos to use on your website. Get together with your band and make a list.

Once you have a list, brainstorm together who might be best-suited to take each task. Do any of you know photographers, artists, or website designers you could work with? Is one person more comfortable with talking to people and pitching your music to venues? Are any of you a social media buff who spends hours online? Look at each member’s skills and divide up the to-do list accordingly.

Once you start splitting up the tasks, you’re able to get things done a lot faster and move on to new ideas and new goals.

Build a Team for Music Success – Where to Go From Here?

Wherever you are in your music career, planning and building your team accordingly should always be a number one priority. Like we talked about earlier, who you bring on to your team will depend entirely on your goals, so it’s worth getting your goals and expectations straight.

If you need a little help figuring out exactly what you want in your music career, check out this free planning guide: Your Music Plan for Success. This guidebook will walk you through easy questions and exercises to identify your goals and begin building a plan to achieve them. Click here to download the guidebook for free.

In the New Artist Model Music Business Accelerator course, we have an entire module dedicated to team building and time management.

The New Artist Model is an online music business school for independent musicians, performers, recording artists, producers, managers and songwriters. Our classes teach essential music business and marketing skills that will take you from creativity to commerce while maximizing your chances for success.

Check out the Music Business Accelerator (MBA) a new program that will help you plan your music projects, promote your music and create a sustainable career.

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The music industry isn’t the same as it was in the past. A lot of people have spent a lot of time complaining about this following the rise of the internet, but like everything else, it’s just change. Change isn’t positive or negative, rather it’s what you do with that change that matters. The successful musicians and music business people are embracing that change and running with it as a new breed of entrepreneurs.

In today’s music industry there is no one-size fits all model. We are all free to experiment and find out what works best for us, our fans, and our music careers. This is the true definition of entrepreneurship. Today’s music business approaches would not have worked in the past when technology was expensive and valuable connections were hard to come by.

As an indie musician, I already know you are extremely creative—more so than most business people out there! You may have never thought of it this way, but you have the same mindset, problems to solve and thought process as an entrepreneur. The key is to harness that creativity in your career, capitalize on this new artist ecosystem, and build it into your own model.

Artist ecosystems – Past and Present

In the past, the record labels were in the position of power. Due to high costs, musicians couldn’t record, get to radio, distribute their music, or communicate with their fans without the help of a record label. It just was not viable. The only way to make it was to be picked by some A&R rep and even that didn’t guarantee you success if the label dropped your record, cut your marketing budget, or shelved your project.

Today, your success is largely in your own hands. Forward thinking musicians are acting more and more like entrepreneurs. You are no longer a product for big record labels to sell. You are your own company—and you are the CEO!

The road of the indie musician is very hard. There is no magic bullet. But the potential is there if you know what you are doing and can identify multiple revenue streams and team members to support your career. If you think of your music career as an enterprise or a business, you can put things in place to help you be more successful.

Build Music Careers Like an Entrepreneur

1. Finding Your Fit

So how do you approach your career like an entrepreneur? It all starts with a product, a service or idea—in this case, your music. Think about exactly what it is you are making and how it is different from the stuff already out there, but don’t just think about your music: your personality and image are important aspects of your “product” too. What genre do you most identify with? Are you an emotional songwriter or a larger-than-life performer? Do you stand for any particular attitude or set of beliefs?  What are you all about?

Next you should figure out who your customers are. In this case, your customers are your fans. With the internet, this information is pretty easy to come by. Check out who your fans are with tools like Google Analytics, Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media channels you use. You should talk to your fans after your shows and get to know them as best you can. How old are they? Do they share any interests? As an example, Karmin is specifically targeting young teen girls interested in popular music. Who is your target audience?

2. Start Lean and Learn

A lot of entrepreneurs get bogged down in the business planning stage. They think they need to plan out every step of the way and be able to predict their revenues five years out to a tee. If you haven’t yet, take a read of The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. It’s an easy read and the concepts can be applied to any industry, even music!

As a lean startup, you need to get your product or service to the market as quickly as possible. It doesn’t need to be perfect—just get it out there! This is where the New Artist Model really differs from the past. It’s no longer about spending a year (or sometimes more) and tens of thousands of dollars (or more) on a full length album. Release small and release often. Start getting feedback from people as early as possible and listen to what they say.

There’s a couple of methods here. You could release small EPs or single tracks every few months. You could release a traditional album but keep cover songs flowing on your YouTube channel every few weeks. You could also stretch (if you are that prolific) and release one or two original songs a month. One strategy I’m a fan of is the “like for release.” Release one song to your fans via social media and tell them you’ll release the next one if you get x number of comments or likes. Not only does this get fans hyped, it also shares the news with their friends. Just be sure to pick a number that you think is attainable for your current career level!

The key with frequent releases is to learn from them! That way you can fine tune your songwriting, performance, and marketing for releases down the road. Producer and DJ Zedd frequently plays songs he’s working on live before they are released. He gages the crowds reactions to various parts of the songs and if it’s not where he wants it to be, its back to the drawing board—or laptop or console.

You could release rough recordings or videos of song sketches or ideas and ask for your fans’ opinions, or release two songs simultaneously and see which gets the most plays. The whole idea here is to experiment early and often, listen to what people say about you and adapt accordingly.

3. Build a Team

Every successful entrepreneur has a team, but this is something a lot of indie musicians lack. With the term “DIY” pounded into your head for years, its no wonder a lot of musicians still think going at it alone is the best option. On the other end of the spectrum, some musicians think that a “team” means a top manager, a major label, a publisher, and booking agent that cost you a pretty penny in the end.

Most entrepreneurs don’t have teams made up of the top dogs in their field. More often than not, they work with a college buddy or family member who really digs their product or cause. When you’re just starting out, passion trumps experience any day (especially when you’re short on cash).

Think about who among your group of friends and acquaintances would be willing and able to step up to the plate. Do you know anyone passionate about the music industry or in business school? Do any of your friends have a knack for taking good photos or any experience with creating websites and social marketing? Do you have someone who knows the local club scene and can help you network and book gigs?

4. Network

If you’ve ever met a really successful entrepreneur you’ve probably been overwhelmed with their energy and outgoing personality. Not all entrepreneurs are extroverts, but they are all passionate about what they are doing and are eager to spread the word and make connections. Take tips from the entrepreneur and don’t be afraid to tell anyone and everyone about your music, your band, and what you are trying to achieve.

Don’t be that band that plays at a local club and doesn’t talk to anyone before or after the gig. Introduce yourself to the other bands playing or the guys running the lights or sound board. Get a conversation going about music. Who knows, you may find a way to collaborate! Especially in the music industry, your success will come from your connections. It is all about who you know and what you know.

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Of course, there’s a lot more to this strategy than what we covered here. In the New Artist Model online music business courses, you can learn how to run your music career like a real business. You’ll create an actionable and personalized plan that will help you turn your music into a reliable income stream.

If you want to learn even more great strategies from the New Artist Model music business courses, be sure to check out this free ebook. You’ll learn great strategies for gigging, recording, and marketing that you can begin using right now!

How to get your break in music

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There’s no secret formula that will guarantee that you get your break in music, but there are things you can be doing right now to increase your chances. This article, written by Ari Herstand of Ari’s Take, originally ran on Digital Music News and has some really great advice for indie musicians trying to build a successful career. Here’s a short excerpt, but you can read the full article over on Digital Music News.

Ask any star what his or her ‘big break’ was and most of the time you won’t get a straight answer. It’s not because she is trying to dodge the question or because he is embarrassed about it. It’s because there was no “big break.”

Every successful musician’s career is made up of many little breaks.

The overnight success story was really 10 years in the making. Gigging non stop. Touring empty clubs. Hustling music supervisors. “Showcasing” in front of “big wigs” and “performing” in front of “nobodies.”

But once and awhile one of the music supervisors opens the email, listens to the song and has a spot for it in this week’s episode. Or the headliner of the show you were asked to be the local opener for pokes their head out of the green room just long enough to be wowed and asks you to join the tour.

One tour or one song placement won’t make a career, though.

But how do you get that local opening spot to have that chance? How do you get the music supervisor to open your email? How do you do you get a gig at your local club? How do you meet the videographers to create your viral video? How do you find the producer to create your hit record?

You have to be on people’s radars.

I just ran into someone at a show who I hadn’t seen in months. We got to talking and a few days later she called me and offered me a gig.

She absolutely would have not thought to offer me the gig in a town of thousands of fantastic musicians had we not run into each other a couple nights prior.

It was because I was on her radar.

The majority of the opportunities I’ve gotten have not been because someone thought I was the best for the job. It was because we had just had lunch or she had just read my tweet or we just ran into each other at a show.

Comment below and tell me what you’ve done to get your break in music. 

There are a ton of other things you can be doing to increase your chances for success. We cover this and more in the New Artist Model online music business school. Our classes teach essential music business and marketing skills that will take you from creativity to commerce while maximizing your chances for success. To get started for free, download your free copy of our most popular ebook, Hack the Music Business, here. 

 

Top 10 strategies for indie musicians

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One of the best ways to grow is to look at what’s worked for other indie musicians and adapt it to your own career. I’ve compiled 10 great strategies with 10 real examples to get you going. A lot of musicians I’ve talked to think they can’t start making strategies to move their career forward until they’re making money, until they take some business classes, or until they get a manager. The coolest thing about these strategies is that you can start using them TODAY.

Here’s strategies 6-10. (You can find part 1 right here.)

6. Find Your Niche

The best way to get a really dedicated fan base is to start small. Start local and move up from there. Just focus on your town or city and build up a strong following. Stay after your gigs to get to know your fans. Give them something really valuable and unique. Once you’ve conquered your local scene, move on to the next city. Its a long process, but in the end you’ll have a lot of people who are very excited about your music.

In the same way, you should really focus in on a niche. This can be anything you want – a genre, a attitude, a belief. Aligning with a niche creates the opportunity for a connection – chances are there’s a lot of other people out there who are just as excited about that niche as you are!

Eileen Quinn, is a songwriter and sailing enthusiast who combines her two passions into one by writing sailing songs. She targeted a market that isn’t already saturated with music – the sailing market – and was able to really be the star. It may seem like she limited themselves in terms of audience, but in the mainstream music industry they would have been just another artist. In their specific niche, however she was able to really stand out!

7. Get Your Fans Talking

As an indie artist today, you’re most likely in charge of your own marketing. Marketing can seem like a completely daunting task if its just you trying to get the word out, but you actually have a whole team of marketers just waiting to share your music – your fans!

With the constant presence of social media and the internet, most music fans today are bombarded with more information than they can possibly process. As a result, most music fans look to recommendations from trusted sources for new music. These trusted sources could be a good music blog but more times than not it comes from a friend.

The Wild Feathers are a rock band out of Nashville, TN. In the week leading up to the release of their self-titled debut album, The Wild Feathers made the album available early at their live shows. On top of that, the band gave their concert-goers a little surprize. Every album sold included two CDs – one to keep and one to share with a friend. (Source) By selling the album early they are specifically targeting their superfans – the ones who would travel hours just to get their hands on the album before everyone else. Because they are so passionate about the music, superfans are also most likely to tell their friends about The Wild Feathers. Giving them an extra CD to do just that really empowered their superfans to share.

8. Develop a Brand Strategy

“Branding” and “artist image” aren’t new concepts at all. Since the beginning of music artists have been defined by genre and personality attributes. Especially today, there are so many people out there trying to make it as a musician that you really need to consider why people would buy your album or go to your show instead of someone else’s.

There are two common approaches when it comes to defining a brand. Some musicians like to list every single genre they draw influence from. On the other end of the spectrum, some artists are afraid to even approach the task of labeling themselves. No brand is just as bad as a confusing one.

You don’t have to confine your brand to just musical style. Weave in elements of your personality, your beliefs, and your attitudes. Before  Sum 41 made it big, they had a hard time getting a record deal because many labels thought they were just another Blink 182 imitation band. The labels only heard one dimension of the band – their sound. It was their image, personality and attitude that really set them apart and got them the deal in the end. The band took camcorder footage of them goofing around and edited it into an audio-visual EPK. The resulting seven-minute hilarious video showed the labels that they were more than just punk music. They were characters and they were very good at projecting their character through media.

9. Find a Balance Between Free and Paid Content

Your music is valuable, and you can ask people to pay for your music in a variety of ways! Remember that money isn’t the only form of payment that has value. Information can be just as valuable or more than cash in many instances. Free music is one of the most effective ways to grow your fanbase. Even big-time musicians like Radiohead and Trent Reznor have used free music to their advantage. The key is to have a reason for free.

When trying to navigate the realm of paid content don’t let yourself be restricted to the typical music products like the CD and tshirt. Services like BandPage Experiences allow you to sell unique products and experiences to your fans. The sky’s the limit, and the more personal the products and experiences, the better. Rock Camp used a BandPage Experience to host a contest, allowing guitarists to purchase entries to win a spot at the Ultimate Musician’s Camp. Anberlin used a BandPage Experience to sell all access passes to their tours.

10. React to Opportunity

In music, opportunities pop up when you least expect them, and it’s your job to be ready! These opportunities could be anything from a pick up gig, to a publishing deal to a chance to collaborate with a local musician. Either way, the artists that can react quickly are the ones who succeed. While you want to take the time to weigh your options, remember that overthinking an opportunity can be just as bad as under thinking. There comes a point where you need to just decide to take the leap or not!

Amanda Palmer made $11k in two hours by jumping on an opportunity. (Source) Palmer was tweeting with her followers about how she was once again alone on her computer on a Friday night. Fans joined in the conversation and a group was quickly formed – “The Losers of Friday Night on their Computers.” Amanda Palmer created the hashtag #LOFNOTC and thousands joined the conversation. When a fan suggested a t-shirt be made for the group Palmer ran with the idea, sketched out a quick shirt design and threw up a website that night. The shirts were available for $25 and two hours later Palmer had made $11,000!


To learn more strategies that you can be applying to your music career right now, signup to get our most popular ebook, Hack the Music Business for free. 

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1dCOr9T

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1dCOr9T

One of the best ways to grow is to look at what’s worked for other indie musicians and adapt it to your own career. I’ve compiled 10 great strategies for indie musicians with 10 real examples to get you going. A lot of musicians I’ve talked to think they can’t start making strategies to move their career forward until they’re making money, until they take some business classes, or until they get a manager. The coolest thing about these strategies is that you can start using them TODAY.

Here’s strategies 1-5. (You can find part 2 right here).

1. Make a Plan from the Start

Making a great plan is one of the best ways to get to that music success you deserve. Not only do concrete goals give you something to aim for, they also help you decide what your first step should be.

Try to make your goals as specific as possible. Instead of saying “I want to be rich and famous,” try something specific like “I want to be able to be a full time musician with a yearly salary of at least $75,000 and be able to tour outside my home state.” Break down your lofty goal into smaller tasks like “gather contact information for local venues,” “contact 5 venues this week,” and “connect with another band to share a gig.” Suddenly finding a way to reach that goal becomes more manageable.

From the start Karmin knew they wanted to be a pop duo targeting a young teen audience. Manager Nils Gums suggested the duo cover current popular songs to get in front of their target audience. They followed the charts and consistently covered the most popular songs every week. The important takeaway here is that Karmin knew their goal, they made a plan to get there, and they stuck with it. If they had given up on the cover strategy after only a few weeks, they would never have gotten to where they are today.

2. Leverage Your Copyrights
Your copyrights are your business. They are your assets and your products, so it makes sense to take some time to understand them. You don’t need to be on the same level as a big-shot entertainment attorney, but it helps to have a general understanding of copyright law.

There are two kinds of copyright: composition and sound recording. Copyright is created when a musical idea is put into tangible form. So when you write that song down (composition) or record it (sound recording) you own the rights!  All those rights are exclusive, meaning you, and only you can leverage your song. Remember that copyrights are power! You own the copyrights, so you have the power. Think about it, without your copyrights would labels or publishers have anything to sell? Lots of musicians have been realizing this and have figured out cool ways to leverage their copyrights.

The Happen Ins are an Austin-based rock band that were featured in a catalog from the clothing company Free People, a corresponding video, many blog posts, and played at the catalog release party. In order to grow their fan base, the Happen Ins offered a free download to Free People’s customers. In many cases this exposure can be far more valuable than money.

3. Focus on Time Management

Today’s indie musician plays the part of the artist, and the business professional, and as a result, many find themselves juggling entirely too many tasks. It’s great that artists today can be 100% in control of their career, the problem comes when you can no longer find enough time for what matters most – your music!

If there’s anything you are doing that’s not bringing you closer to your goals, stop or take a closer look.  If you’re spending hours each day on tasks that don’t have much benefit, eliminate, simplify, postpone, or delegate to your team members. Try to prioritize the list. More urgent matters and tasks that you keep putting off and putting off should have a high priority. AND REMEMBER, make time for your music!

Michael Shoup is a musician and entrepreneur who turned his career around and started making profit with time management. After graduating college with a Bachelors degree in music, Shoup started his career as a musician and effectively gigged himself into $6,000 of high interest credit card debt. Time management has helped Michael Shoup become debt free. On top of that, he’s managed to self-fund an album, started a music marketing agency, 12SouthMusic, and created a social media app, Visualive.

4. Build a Team that Grows with You

DIY may not be the best option for indie artists. There are a lot of artists out there with excellent business chops, but they’re still not experts. And that’s okay, because you have more important things to do like creating music! The key is to find a team who is motivated and passionate. Instead of DIY, move towards a do-it-with-others (DIWO) strategy.

Your team doesn’t even have to be seasoned pros. If you have a band you’re already way ahead of the game. Everyone has their own unique skills, so take advantage of that!

Pop singer/songwriter Betty Who was able to be really successful with a team made of college classmates. Producer Peter Thomas and manager Ethan Schiff attended Berklee College of Music with Betty Who. With Peter Thomas she was able to find and really latch onto her signature pop sound, and Schiff helped set her up on the business side of things. Betty Who’s “Somebody Loves You” began drawing the attention of the pop music world after the release of her first EP The Movement in spring of 2013. In September 2013 the song was featured in a viral gay marriage proposal video and just a few days later she was signed to RCA Records.

5. Get out There and Network!

Networking is really important to success in music, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed with internal tasks and forget to take the time and introduce yourself. You don’t need a big speech or a prepared pitch. Just get into the habit of introducing yourself to one person at every show you play or at every studio you record in. Talk to the guy in charge of the soundboard, maybe he loved your show and wants to produce your next album.

Remember, networking is a two-way relationship, and collaboration is usually the best way to promote this win-win situation. If you collaborate on a show, a song, or a recording, both of you will be exposed to the other’s fanbase!  Always remember to give before you ask. Do something for someone and they will remember you.

Vinyl Thief used their extended network to find success. The band released their first EP, Control, in 2010 but were disappointed in the results. They called on a former high school classmate, now music marketing graduate, Wes Davenport who started working on improving their marketing efforts. Davenport helped them grow their fanbase through the digital releases of single, White Light, and second EP, Rebel Hill. (Source)

 To learn more strategies for indie musicians that you can be applying to your career RIGHT NOW, sign up to get a free copy of our most popular ebook, Hack the Music Business.

 

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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?

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Most indie artist we’ve talked to face the same exact problem – they don’t know what the next steps for your career should be. You’re creative and smart. You can write, play, or perform amazing music that really connects people, but, as an indie artist, you might feel like you’re trying to fill a role you don’t understand. Especially today, indie musicians have to understand business, copyright, and marketing to grow their careers. You’re a creative trying to be a business person.

If you’re already out there in the music industry, you’re taking steps to grow your career but you may not know how effective your actions really are and whether they take you closer or further away from your goals. You might have a great group of fans but you don’t know how to get them to actually pay for your music. You might see an endless sea of possibility – from touring to publishing to recording – but now know which will take you to the success you want.

Can you relate to any of these problems? Check out this video to learn about the next steps for your career. By signing up for the mailing list you’ll also get access to free lessons from the New Artist Model course.

If you really want to grow your music career the next step isn’t to get a record deal or tour the country. The next step is to do a little soul searching. You need to ask yourself a few questions and really think on your answers. Here’s two of the key questions you need to ask yourself. To learn about the other two, check out the video.

1. What do you really love doing?

If you want to turn your music into a sustainable career you need to be doing something that you love. Maybe you’re a really passionate musician but you get debilitating stage fright. Don’t push yourself down a road you don’t want to go down! I know, everyone is saying that touring is the only way to be successful as a musician today, but in actuality the only way for you to be successful is your own way. You won’t attract dedicated fans by hiding behind your amplifier on stage, so maybe take the time and focus on your songwriting and connect with your fans on that front.

2. What does success look like to you?

We all want to “make it” in music. But that can mean different things for different people. Maybe you’re happy just playing weekend gigs in your home town. Maybe you want a major record deal. Maybe you want a publishing deal with a small indie publisher that gives you plenty of attention and creative freedom. Try to be as specific as you can. After all, how will you know when you’ve achieved success if you don’t even know what it looks like?

If you answer these questions you’ll be one step closer to really understanding your career. Knowing where you are and where you want to be will really help you make decisions along the way.

We’d love to hear your answers to some of these questions in the comment section below!

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1dfwQFR

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1dfwQFR

Goals are really the driving force behind your music career. Musicians, more so than most other people, are familiar with the power of goals. That need to improve – to play better, create better, and perform better than you did yesterday – is what gets you up every morning. It’s what keeps you excited and passionate.

I’m sure you’ve set goals for your art. To finish writing that song you’ve been working on. To refine your technique on the double bass pedal. To find that perfect sound for the violin track. To learn a new song in time for band practice this week. Musicians are constantly – whether conscious or not – pushing themselves towards goals. It’s part of the job. It’s part of the mindset that makes a musician. Musicians are some of the most dedicated people on the planet.

You’re a musician. You know how to set goals and push yourself. Now, you need to put that same dedication into your career goals. You’ve no doubt seen how the goals you set for your art have improved you as a player, a performer, and a writer. After all, there was a time when you were picking up that instrument for the first time. You can experience that same amount of improvement in your career with some smart goal setting.

The following was written by Simon Tam for Music Think Tank.

Specific

Ask yourself the big questions: Who, what, when, where, why, when? A specific goal lets you know what you want to achieve, when you want to achieve it by, why you are doing it, who will be involved, and where it will happen.

For example, a goal I’ve used before: Tour the continental U.S in August 2013 with at least 18 shows, playing a mixture of all-ages, 21+, and convention shows making an average of $500 per night. Also, see an increase on social media and web traffic by at least 10% and increase online sales by 20% for the month before, during, and after the tour. Those are all specific targets that I can definitely measure against.

Measurable

A goal should have specific metrics so you know if you’re making progress. If you have one larger goal, you should break it up into smaller parts over the course of time. That way, you and your team can always know where you stand against the overall goal. During this time you should be asking questions with how, when, and what: how much do you have left to go? When will you reach your goal? What do you have to do to stay on track?

Using the tour goal listed above, one could easily measure against the goal in a number of ways:

  • How many shows have been booked for August 2013? What kinds of shows have been booked?

  • How much income is being earned per night?

  • What is the average monthly online sales? Have they increased – and if so, by how much?

  • What do I need to do to help increase merch sales, at shows or online?

Attainable

The goals that you develop should be ambitious but realistic. If you focus on what you can do, it sometimes reveals new opportunities. For example, potential sponsors – many are probably in your own backyard but are often overlooked for the larger, sexier opportunities.

Goals should grow with you. As you gain more resources, abilities, finances, and followers, your goals should get respectively larger. Having them just out of reach helps you stretch. However, having them too far away will only cause frustration.

Relevant

The goals that you choose should matter. They should motivate you and drive your career forward. For example, I’ve talked to many artists who have a goal of playing a large festival like SXSW even though it doesn’t relate to their current state of their music career. Things shouldn’t be goals just because others are doing them. Ask yourself these questions: Is this the right time? Is this worthwhile? How will this directly help me?

Timely

Your goals should have a time-bound deadline. When would you like to reach your goal by? If your goal is shrouded in the idea of “someday,” you’ll have a much more difficult time of reaching it. If you want to achieve a goal by the end of the year, you’ll work more aggressively for it. For example, if your goal is to sell 5,000 records, you would treat it much differently if that was 5,000 someday as opposed to 5,000 by December.

Everyone

Goals in a band should have everyone involved. People should be on the same page, have the right expectations, and the proper work ethic for reaching the goal.

Also, when I saw everyone, I mean everyone. This includes spouses or other people whom we depend on for support. If your band members would like to tour 8-10 months out of the year but their significant others aren’t supportive of that goal, some serious issues could arise – especially when that opportunity presents itself. .

Revisited

Goals should be revisited often. Not only should you be checking on your progress toward your goal, but you should also see if those goals need to be adjusted. Ask: are these goals still relevant? Is this what I want/need still?

How can you make your goals SMARTER this year?

This post is by Bob Lefsetz from the Lefsetz Letter. To read the full article, click here.

1. You have to NEED to make it.

Wanting to make it is not enough. It must be your one true calling. If you’re willing to be broke, with no direction home, you might possibly make it. Sacrifice is the key element. If you’re not willing to sacrifice your home, your relationship, forgo children and sleep on the floor when you’re forty, don’t expect to make it in music, certainly don’t expect to sustain.

2. You have to be great.

Good is not good enough. You’ve got to blow our minds.

3. You can’t do it alone.

That’s an Internet fiction, from a decade past, that if you just posted something online it could cut through the noise. You need a team. The most important team members are:

a. A lawyer

b. A manager

c. An agent.

If you’re not at the point in your career that you can hire a team, delegate the tasks to your band members, or work with a friend who has some music business knowledge. Just make sure these jobs get done!

4. Believers

Sure, you need fans. But all they can do is pay for your Kickstarter record, and have you noticed we hear no more Kickstarter stories, that the outlet is the new BlackBerry, something that used to be that is no longer? If you’re just speaking to your fans, getting money from them, you might be able to survive, but you’ll never be able to grow.

You need people to believe in you. They need to do favors for you, get you on the radio, get you placed on shows, give you a chance to demonstrate your wares. Make connections everywhere you go. With other musicians, the sound guy at the club, the local venue owner, the local film maker or photographer. If you’re totally DIY, you’re gonna be living in your basement.

5. Learning

We live in a country where no one can admit they’re wrong. If you’re not willing to question every choice, do it differently next time, you’re never going to make it. Three years ago, almost everything I’ve said above would be different. You could go viral by your lonesome, social networking worked. But times change. You once used your aforementioned BlackBerry and were thrilled to get your e-mail on the run, now it’s all about apps. People hate change, but those who are willing to do so win. Kind of like in Silicon Valley, where it’s called “the Pivot.” Your original idea didn’t work, so you take the core and go in a different direction. You might think you’re a rocker, but truly you might be a country artist. You might think you’re a singer, but you might really be a songwriter, or a producer.

6. Pay little attention to those who are popular.

By the time you get your chance, completely different people and paradigms might rule. Originality is the key to longevity. Be yourself, not someone else.

7. Popularity.

Means people like you and your music. It comes with haters, because it’s so hard to break through, people are going to be angry that you did. You’ll be told you’re ugly, that your music sucks, that you can’t sing, that you’ve got no talent, but don’t believe it. It’s so hard to make it that if you have, pat yourself on the back and do your best to survive.

8. Longevity.

One hit and you can get royalties forever. Maybe even live dates. But chances are you’ll have to have a day job. The rule is, the harder it is to do, the better the chance of survival. Which is why doctors can always be employed, even if they bitch about their compensation. The barrier to entry to music is miniscule, so there are always others who are eager to take your place. The more skills you’ve got under your belt, the better your chance at lasting. But don’t be holier than thou that you can read music and got a degree, these are just tools, building blocks, a foundation, it’s what you build on top that counts.

9. Be nice.

It’s the key to making it. If you’re a jerk, no one’s going to want to work for you, go out of their way to promote you. Constantly say thank you and go out of your way to be appreciative.

10. Sour grapes.

Are gonna pull you down. The woulda, shoulda, coulda posse can tell an interesting story over a beer, but these people never succeed. Life is full of challenges, if you haven’t been screwed, you haven’t played the game. The road to success is paved with humiliation, you can complain about it or swallow it and realize it’s dues.

Are you ready to make it? Join the revolution. Sign up for the New Artist Model mailing list.

The role of the music manager has arguably grown over the past decade. Record labels are no longer investing as much money into artist development, and as a result, that task is falling to the musicians themselves and their managers. A good music manager can help you navigate the music business, find your voice and your niche, connect with your fans, make connections with industry professionals, and generally make things run more smoothly.

Unfortunately, an amazing manager is not always in the cards financially for musicians starting out, so here’s some great advice from artist manager Emily White. Emily is a super manager and Co-Founder at Whitesmith Entertainment, which is a full-service talent management firm based in Los Angeles and New York, spanning the music, comedy, film, TV, and sports industries. This interview originally ran on Hypebot. To see the full interview, visit hypebot.com.

What was it like starting out for you? Did you always know that you wanted to this from the beginning? If not what was the happy accident or moment of clarity that got you where you are today?

Emily White: I absolutely set out to do what I do. I studied music and business in college. I went to a school called Northeastern University in Boston. I know they’re quite a few music business programs out there now. But when I was in school in the early 2000s, there was kind of like 3 to 5 that I really narrowed in on. Doing a lot of internships while I was in school really paved the way for my career. I did about 8 internships as an undergrad all over the industry; in Boston, New York, and London. Probably most significantly I started working with the Dresden Dolls when I was in school because they were an up and coming Boston band that I was a fan of. I started as their intern, and merch girl. Then tour manager and day-to-day manager and eventually became their manager. The day that I was supposed to walk in the commencement ceremony, I was at Coachella starting a 3 continent tour with [Dresden] Dolls and Nine Inch Nails. Around that time I also worked out a deal with Madison House who became the bands management company and I tour managed the band for a couple of years from age 20 to 23. When I wasn’t on tour I worked at Madison House. So Madison House is really where I learned my management skills and I was really lucky to work for Mike Luba and Kevin Morris, who are really wonderful music loving people. Whether they realize it or not, they really built businesses around the artists, and that was always their strategy, kind of not relying on outside partners. Madison House had an in-house label, and publicists and travel agency and merch company and PR firm and all these things. So that was the kind of mindset I came from, and I definitely apply those tactics on just about everything I’ve done since.

Vincent: How have you found that technology and the internet has improved music business for you personally? How about everybody else? Also, what is your favorite digital resource?

Emily: Technology and the music business has extremely benefited me both personally as I fan and absolutely professionally because it really allowed artists to be able to make world class recordings from their bedroom, and also eliminated the gatekeepers of distribution. So for 40 or 50 bucks an artist can distribute their music worldwide on TuneCore, and be on every iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify, and Rdio, and Rhapsody store and platform in the world. What it did is it leveled the playing field for artists, which is awesome, because they didn’t have to sit around and wait for someone to pay for a recording studio and then manufacture plastic CDs, and get their music out to everyone. So for me it’s been very exciting. I’ve always really understood the internet and technology. I love Rdio, Spotify and all the streaming platforms because this is what I wanted to happen when Napster existed. I remember being a teenager in the 90s and in my head I was like ‘I’d pay $15, $20, $25’ [for a streaming music service]. I thought I’d pay $50 a month for the service. So it only took the music industry 15 years to get it together, and offer a legal, viable alternative to Napster, but I think that’s really cool. However, there are obviously plenty of people that made a lot of money back in the day, and they’re not all necessarily evil… that are griping that their income has gone down. That’s something that really hit home for me at MIDEM one year. Because where I see nothing but opportunity in the new music business, and my young bands who are making money, and any sort of income are really excited because they are making a living playing music, they don’t have anything to compare it to. If you are the heirs of famous songwriters, and have multiple homes to keep up. Suddenly those revenue streams do go down. I know that sounds ridiculous, but if you are a person, that’s your experience. That’s your perspective. I know for a lot of people their incomes have changed, but ultimately I think technology has just been great for the music business. Like I said it is made in a level playing field for artists, which means hopefully the best art really wins. I think it’s also weeded out industry people that weren’t in it for the right reasons.

Vincent: When artists are just starting out, do you happen to have a best strategy for getting content, be-it songs, videos, or memes to blogs and social mavens? So in other words what are your methods for forming relationships with these people to break the “stone wall” of silence and to get them to actually react to you?

Emily: I love starting from scratch, because when that’s the case I’m not cleaning up messes and you can just be really organized from day one. So we start with the fans. A lot of times you can ask artists to add email addresses of their friends and family members. I looked after a 6-piece band once. When they all did that, there were 700 people on their email list from the get-go. So that’s pretty powerful. I’m kind of a spaz who likes to know everything that’s going on. I’m really aware of pretty much every email address that is added. What we do is start building out, just a Google spreadsheet called Fancy Friends, and in that we put tastemakers and industry people and things like that. You can also grab those email addresses and see those people based on who is tweeting at, or about the artist through their Google alerts, because if they are blogger. When we get our first piece of press, even if it’s just a local piece of press, it’s so easy to look at that article and grab that journalist’s email address. So the artists/me can contact them directly in the future. If you’re not able to, or don’t want to hire a publicist. You kind of build out your own roller deck and make it really targeted. Which can also be the case if, maybe you did just come up with a video or something, I mean a video is kind of a big deal, but you just have something simple that you want to spread the word on. It might not be like an album, or a big campaign or whatever, that way you have a list of 3, 4, and 500. Hopefully 1,000 tastemaker type of people that you’ve built up over years. So those are the kinds of tools we do from day one, whether it’s a new artist or someone established we’ve taken on.

Vincent: When you’re talking about bands/songwriters relying on the getting the publishing, do you have recommendations for songwriters who are just getting going, trying to get their songs… or that might already have great songs recorded, but want to get them to the music supervisors, so that they actually hear the music when their ears are bleeding?

Emily: Sure. I’m about to write an article on this because I’m very methodical about it. I think when you’re first starting out, don’t be afraid to work with kind of like a re-titling company like Music Dealers or Jingle Punks. I’ve had a lot of success with those companies in early days. Sometimes industry people just gasp at how big a cut those companies take on top of the fact that they are re-titling. But it can be a really good foot in the door. What you need to remember is that even though they’re taking a 50% commission, I can see it in backend in royalties and hundreds of thousands of dollars through the artist’s PRO. You know when a proper sync is landed. I’ve also had every publisher in the industry calling me after that happens. So I don’t think an artist should really be above that, even though it’s not the best deal out of the gate. The real key there is finding humans at those companies. So not just being their system, not being annoying obviously, but really having a relationship with your rep. If you are lucky enough to live in one of the cities where they have offices, maybe playing parties at their offices and showcases. And even writing and recording when they have specific briefs come in. So that’s a great way to start to establish an initial relationship for yourself. At the same time I would definitely send your music, if you really think it’s ready to go and it’s the best it will ever be, send it to a Terror Bird music and Zync and Lip-Sync. Those companies are really great, because they are so selective. They totally know what they’re doing. They also don’t take any ownership. So that’s really nice. So if they’ll take your music on, that’s awesome.

If you could ask a successful music manager one thing, what would it be? Share in the comment section below.

Some of the most powerful advice in the music industry comes from people who worked hard and found their own success. At one point in their life they were just a musician or music lover with a dream. They learned from their mistakes and are here to tell the tale to the next generation of rising musicians and music entrepreneurs.

This post originally ran on Cyber PR. Here’s a consolidated list of 10 tips, but to see all 49 be sure to check out the full article. This advice comes from women in the music industry, but it can be used by anyone.

1. The Three P’s

Christine Ben Ameh
“The 3 PS- 1. Patience. 2. Perseverance. 3.Practice (Makes perfect).”
Recording Artist/Songwriter 
@CHRISTINE_AMEH

2. Fans First

Louise Dodgson
“Always put your fans first. Too many bands & artists are concerned with attracting the interest of the music industry. But the best way to do so is usually to forget all about it! Concentrate on your fans. Communicating with them and working hard to expand your fan base. Making the music and sharing it with people who really appreciate what you do is the enjoyable part. Your fans will help create the buzz for you and if you’re doing your own thing with a keen and constantly growing following, the music industry will no doubt catch up to you in due course.”
Editor, The Unsigned Guide
@editorunsigned

3. Don’t Fear Failure

Roswitha Bartussek
“Envision your destiny and take small daily steps towards it. Don’t be afraid to fail, the more often you fail the more likely you will succeed. Be your authentic self, don’t try to fit in, carve out your niche.”

Artist, CEO of Queen Rose, Inc.

@queenrose

4. The Truth Will Set You Free

Erin Dickins
“ Tell the truth – in music and life – never sing a lyric that you wouldn’t have as an epithet. Never do anything artistically to please anyone else. It’s all you – be authentically you – in your passion, your joy and your dreams. Shine your light big and bright no matter how big the challenges. Love every minute of the journey.”
(not just a) Jazz VOCALIST – Recording artist on Dot Time Records
@erindickins

5. Find Your Tribe

Barb Morrison
“Work with people (whether it be a manager, a producer, an agent, a publicist or a record label) who GET you. Having someone fully understand what you’re trying to say with your music is crucial. It’s much more important than how connected they are in the industry.”
Record producer & film score composer
@barbmorrison

6. It’s Not All About You

Cheryl Engelhardt
“Your results are not about you- they show up when you create an opportunity of value for someone else. I use this nugget when pitching music-to-music supervisors, getting a film-scoring gig, when talking with a potential coaching client, or even when inviting a friend to a movie. “What’s in it for them?” is the phrase I have running through my head before making a request of anyone.”
Songwriter / Composer / Creative Career Coach
@CBE

7. Listen

Madalyn Sklar
“Passion and persistence will get you far. Don’t be afraid to go big. Surround yourself with smart, motivated, like-minded people (join or start a mastermind group). Listen. Listening will get you further than anything else.”
Founder, GoGirlsMusic
@madalynsklar

8. Respect Everyone

Lauren McKinley
“Realize that this industry is ever changing and relatively small.  Not only should you respect everyone you meet and/or work with, but also you should always offer help where you can.  The people you help today will be the ones helping you tomorrow.”
Owner, Clover Marketing & Management
@CloverMktg or @LFMcKinley

9. Be True To Yourself

Lori Bumgarner
“Never try to do things exactly the way others tell you to do it or exactly the same way they did it. Promotion of your brand has to be done in a way that is true to you. Not every species of flower blooms at the same rate or under the same conditions!”
Image Consultant/owner of paNASH Style LLC
@panashstyle

10. Find Another Door

Laurence Muller
“When a door closes, never stand there like a dummy, find another door!”
Label Manager / Manager

What’s YOUR most valuable piece of advice? Share in the comment section below!

 

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1cv3FL0

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1cv3FL0

As we reach the end of the year, we all look forward to a new year and new resolutions for a better career and better self. But why not get started now and hit the new year running? Next year, I know many musicians out there who will be working towards goals to play more, write more, and be more on top of social media. Set the ground work now for artistic efficiency!

This guide, by Michael Shoup, was originally posted on Hypebot. It really sets out some great, actionable guidelines.

RULE 1: Minimize

Chances are, if you’re in your 20’s or 30’s, you’re doing too much. You have a Twitter, Facebook, 4Square, Tumblr account, and maybe more. You may not even realize it, but you find yourself wishing you’d start that business, try for that dream job, or make that record… and you don’t because of “obligations” or “responsibilities”, or worse yet, simple “lack of time.” I’m with you. I’ve been there. Unfortunately for us as humans, this doesn’t get easier as we grow older and add families or children to the mix, so it’s best that we learn how to handle it now. No more excuses. It’s time to trim the fat.

While this may not be the exact first step for everyone, I believe minimalism is key. I challenge you to examine what you do on a day to day basis, and ask yourself (a) do you actually like doing those activities and (b) what would happen if you just STOPPED doing part of it. What are the consequences? What is the worst-case scenario that could happen if you just dropped that activity today? What would the benefits be? What if you only used one social network and built your audience there? Would you suddenly find yourself with blocks of time available to dedicate to your passion or audience? I certainly did.

RULE 2: Delegate

While the term “independent” in the music industry generally refers to running your own career, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do it alone. This is one part of the puzzle that I find many creatives miss. I know I certainly did. The beauty of being an “independent” artist is that you’re suddenly the boss of your own career; the CEO and founder of your music, and it’s your job to build a team under you.

Our society, and partially our school system, has ingrained in us that busy is better; that multi-tasking is a necessity, and that Facebook deserves your constant attention. It doesn’t. What does deserve your attention are your goal-driven, well-defined priorities. It’s time to separate yourself from the noise.

This is the rule where I see most creatives lose focus. I personally suffer from the “do-it-all-now!” syndrome, so I can relate, but doing what deserves your attention at the right time creates momentum, and our goal is to feed that energy.

I start this process by taking a pen and paper and writing down all of the tasks that I need to do [Actually, I usually do this starting at rule one and make columns for “minimize”, “delegate” and “prioritize”]. Once I have my list, I’ll give each task a weight based on its urgency, my desire to see it to completion, or the length of time it’s been on the list [longer gets higher priority].

Now, the magic comes in making these priorities actionable. For each item with the top priority rating, I break it down into small steps.

RULE 4: Automate

By running myself through this “5 Rules” process numerous times, I began to notice systems develop each time a similar priority was identified. Perhaps all co-writing appointments could be setup in the same 4 steps. Maybe all my reoccurring payments could be pooled to one credit card that I auto-pay once a month? Could all my booking emails be funneled to an auto-responder that followed up for me and sent a press release? As these systems began to develop, I would ask myself one simple question: Does automating this task make it too impersonal? If the answer was no, I’d set the system in place.

RULE 5: Create!

This is it, folks. This is what you’ve saved up so much time and energy to do. In my personal opinion, this should always be priority and rule #1, even if you do use the first 4 rules to clean out everything else. This is what drives and motivates you. As an artist or content creator, this is what will actually make or break you in the end. This is what you should be funneling the vast majority of your time and effort into as it feeds your authentic ability to connect and engage your audience.

*BONUS ROUND: Take Big Calculated Risks

This last piece I include as a small tidbit to chew on.

At least once a month, I challenge myself to take a big risk with my career; to do something that scares me or toss a Hail Mary with no real assurance that anything will come of it. Though sometimes these amount to nothing, they’ve also accounted for some of my greatest successes and built relationships that I would’ve never dreamed possible.

What are your goals for the coming year? How will you start working towards those goals NOW?