It’s 2015 and you’re ready to get serious about your music. You might have a multitude of goals you’d like to accomplish: maybe you’re ready to make the jump from hobby to career, maybe you’re ready to produce your album, or maybe you’re ready to play your first show.
So how do you do it? How can you accelerate your music career? How can you turn your dreams into reality and create a plan with actionable steps?
One of the most effective ways to start or grow your music career is to accept that it is an actual business. Afterall, just because you’re doing what you love, doesn’t mean it’s not still a job. There are aspects of it that you will not enjoy as much as others, but by making the commitment to treat your music career as a business, you’ll begin to appreciate all of the necessary components that go into earning a living and making a name in the music world.
Figure out what you’re good at, and what the market is asking for.
Music is all about expression, so it’s important that you play material you can relate to and enjoy. However, if you are a huge fan of acoustic covers of metal songs, and no one in your city has any interest in hearing those, you’ll never be successful at getting booked to play anywhere. Find the intersection of material you enjoy and material an audience enjoys, and build your catalog or sound around that.
Music is a job, so be a professional.
The best thing you can do for your career is be someone that other people enjoy working with. Show up on time to everything: meetings, shows, interviews. Be friendly and flexible. The cardinal rule of business is that you must provide value to your customers, so remember that you are providing a service to the people who are listening, booking, or buying merch — not the other way around. It should go without saying that you never want to speak poorly about others in the industry. Remember that you’re not only sharing your music, but providing an entire experience. Make sure it’s a good one.
Invest in quality equipment, but don’t go crazy.
Tools are an important part of this business, invest in solid ones. If you buy the right thing the first time, you shouldn’t have to replace it for several years. Do, however be aware of the fact that tools are not the only thing that make a musician. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need top of the line everything. When I find my mind wandering that way, I like to remind myself that Hendrix would sound better on a $20 pawn shop guitar than I ever would on an insanely high priced piece of equipment. Buy quality, but don’t go crazy.
Spend some time creating promotional materials.
Having promotional materials like a well organized website, a press kit, business cards, and decent recordings makes it obvious that you take yourself seriously. Not only do promotional materials give you a presence, they also allow for a way to start conversations (from your end or someone elses’), give your audience or networking connection something to remember you by, and allow you to provide specific information to the people you are working with, even if you don’t get the opportunity to work it into conversation.
Regardless of what you’re trying to accomplish in the music world, it’s important to set goals. Are you looking to book shows this year? Great! How many? Are you looking to finish your album? Fantastic! By when? Make sure the goals are measurable, realistic, and placed on a timeline. Break it down into actionable steps from there.
Find a way to enjoy the process.
Most musicians dream of standing on stage in front of a million people, signing their first big contract, or hanging their first platinum record on the wall. Very few will dream about the hours they spend practicing solos, the cups of coffee they chug during late night songwriting sessions, or jumping their dead car battery at 3am as they’re trying to leave a gig. It’s incredibly important that you recognize the unexciting things are still a crucial part of your business. Schedule time to practice, and do it even when you don’t feel up for it, network and cold call even if it makes you uncomfortable, and spend the necessary time required to promote yourself.
As with any other job, the music industry is not always glamorous or incredibly fun. By treating your music as a business and yourself as a professional, you’ll be able to greatly advance your career.
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