Written by Lindsey Batista, Rock the Dream
Some people still believe that “making it” in a music career comes down to pure talent and getting noticed by the right people. If you’ve paid attention to how things have been working since the early 2000’s, you know that it also takes a business mindset. What it really comes down to, and always has, is the work.
I know you’ve heard that a lot, but what does it really mean? Think about the hours and effort you put into a job. Whether it’s selling fast food or working high up in a corporation, every job requires you to follow a schedule, meet requirements and deadlines, and do what’s expected of you whether you want to or not. You have to treat your music the same way, because the bottom-line is that it’s a business.
Taking on this mindset is the first step. Set aside time, a good amount, and seriously evaluate where you are, where you want to be, and what your plan is to get there. Actually write it out in a strategic plan. Set your goals and a realistic timeline for each. First, list what your overall goal is, and be truthful with yourself. Listing “love and kindness” won’t carry you through to success. Where do you want to be in 10 years? Be specific.
Then list the strategies you will implement to achieve this goal, each with a realistic due date to keep you on track. If it doesn’t help you directly reach your goal, throw it out. For example getting a certain number of new followers or Spotify streams in a certain number of weeks. Do some research on what a realistic goal would look like for where you’re at, and what things you can implement to actually get there.
If this is all new to you, then you’ll have to start by doing your research and learning the industry; and not about how huge record labels work, but what being a successful independent musician looks like. Some important things to really consider at first are; Do you have a brand? This means not just that you put out music under the same name, but you have a clear message and image that encompasses both your music and you as an artist. Do you do any promotion or just put songs out and hope for the best?
Once you get yourself organized on where you are and where you want to go, you need to create a workable, realistic budget. This will determine whether the steps you’ve listed to reach your goal are do-able. Moving forward costs a lot of money. How much money you have determines how quickly . . . or slowly, you can climb that ladder.
Consider how much money you can put just towards music, and how exactly it will be spent. You need a budget for your regular expenses, as well, to be able to do this. And, if you already make some money from music, is it profit or does it all go back into the music and then some? Consider this and maybe make a goal to start breaking even from your projects and eventually being profitable.
Next, you need to continuously follow your plan and implement the steps again and again, ensuring that you achieve the results you’ve outlined for each strategic step. Does your boss give you one huge project for the year and never give any tasks or deadlines in between? Probably not, a regular job usually has daily, weekly, and long term deadlines and assignments to keep everything on track. You should also have weekly schedules that put aside specific times to work on your social media and promotion, booking shows or collaborations, and working on songwriting or completing new projects.
Nothing in life is guaranteed, but you can be assured that doing nothing but make music and hoping someone will find you will take you nowhere. However, to accomplish success requires a lot of work and a lot of time doing things you probably will hate doing. A quick solution is to hire a manager, if your budget allows. Be wary of those who will do it for free. They normally will either scam you or accomplish very little, because they lack the knowledge and skills.
There are legitimate artist development and management companies who can come to your rescue, however, they cost a lot of money. A third option is Rock the Dream, a nonprofit artist development organization who can walk you through everything you need to know and do at a very affordable cost.
Working hard gains you the respect of those in the industry, as well as of your fans, and everyone will applaud your efforts in working towards your dream. The longer you wait to take control of your music career, the farther away success will be.