Most Musicians don’t fail because of their music. They fail because they are ill-equipped to market themselves, build connections – and most of all – run their career like a business.
The education system often doesn’t even touch on websites, social media, marketing and storytelling, and other crucial components of building a music career. A music career isn’t just about playing an instrument, writing a great song or becoming a more accomplished vocalist. There’s a whole other side to it.
This is why we need sites like Sessionville or CD Baby’s DIY Musician Blog. Musicians have the opportunity to supplement their learning if they are willing. However, they have to make a conscious choice to do so. No one is going to put a gun to their head.
If you want to run your career like a business, you have to commit to ongoing growth. When you become a growth-minded individual, the right people, resources, events and circumstances will begin to flow into your life.
Here are several steps you can take today to structure your music career more like a business.
Step #1 – Shift Your Paradigm
In general, music does not run on a supply-and-demand model. It is not a product that you buy, use up, and have to get more of later (like toothpaste or soap or shampoo). Moreover, the ability to purchase digital downloads means there is no limit to supply.
Where artists have the opportunity to work the supply-and-demand model into their career is in the area of live performance. A musician can pick and choose the opportunities they take, though many of them don’t exercise this power.
There is certainly something to be said for woodshedding. A musician has to feel confident about their ability, skill and comfort level to put on a great show. They have to practice on their own time and perform in front of an audience dozens if not hundreds of times to develop their craft. This being a necessary evil, a musician might spend the early part of their career paying for free, for lunches, for honorariums, or maybe a bit of money.
However, this is what many musicians keep doing, even after they’ve reached a level of competency that would allow them to command more respect and more money.
If you’re playing a show that requires your fans to pay a cover charge one week, and you’re playing a free show the next, not only are you deluding your first performance, you’re putting out mixed messages into the world, too!
Sometimes this is a problem with venues, but by and large it’s a problem with musicians, because many of them just keep giving themselves away to opportunities that supposedly offer “exposure” or some other intangible, unquantifiable benefit.
If you’re a professional, then start treating yourself that way. Your time and your music have value. If the venues aren’t agreeing to your terms, either rework your value proposition, or create your own opportunities by booking community halls, concert venues, or other places of business and enforce your terms.
Step #2 – Create a Vision Statement
Do you know what you want to accomplish with your music? Do you have any specific goals in mind? Do you have a plan for how you are going to accomplish your goals? Do you know what you want your life and music to look like five to 10 years down the line?
A vision statement should outline where you see yourself headed in the years to come. It should give you a concrete idea of whether or not the opportunities that come your way are in-line with your overall vision.
The reality is that most musicians have to get better at saying “No.” They commit to too many things, give away too much of their time to fruitless pursuits and end up sabotaging their value.
If you can’t see yourself being particularly choosy at this point, that’s totally fine. This is something you will grow into, assuming you are consciously pursuing personal growth on an ongoing basis.
Your vision statement is a concise two-to-three paragraph summary of your purpose and your future. Make your future a good one, and start aligning with it in the present.
Step #3 – Meet More People
The results that you want out of life often come from doing the things you don’t particularly feel like doing. Your comfort zone is the enemy of progress.
A lot of people cite public speaking as one of the scariest thing you could do, but I would have to guess that meeting people is up there too. Some people are more outgoing than others, and some have developed their people skills to the point where they are more comfortable doing it, but to get to the point where it’s a daily habit is where many people give up.
If you’ve been taught that it’s not who you know but what you know that counts, then you’re going to have to reprogram your mind. It might be good to learn about jazz chords or key signatures or chord inversions, but I can promise you that making more connections in the industry (and in general) will have a greater impact on your career than becoming a better musician will.
If you had solid people skills, could you negotiate better deals? Could you add value to more people? Could you decline unfavorable offers without burning bridges? Could you leave people feeling better off than they felt before meeting you? Could your build mutually beneficial partnerships with other musicians?
Sure you could, and you could do a lot more. If you want to open up new opportunities in your career, become a people person.
If you want to learn more about running your music career like a business, I would encourage you to purchase the new How to Set Up Your Music Career Like a Business audio course. This 30 minute audio is packed with information you need to bring your music career to the next level.
If you’re read this far, you’re obviously interested in equipping yourself with the knowledge and resources you need to succeed on your own terms. Investing in yourself and your own progress is the smartest thing you can do. Get started today!
Is it hard to believe that musicians don’t fail because of their music?
Most musicians that have extensive training in their craft do not lack creative ability or talent, despite how self-critical or perfectionist they may be. They may have untapped potential in the areas of business and marketing, however.
Ask any skilled musician. Once you’ve achieved a certain level as a vocalist or instrumentalist, it gets harder and harder to take things to the next level. In other words, your proficiency only grows marginally after a certain point. To go beyond your current level might require days, weeks, months, or even years as opposed to seconds, minutes, or hours.
Your Untapped Potential is Far Greater Than You Even Know
Just because it’s hard work to keep growing, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to improve as a singer or instrumentalist. What it means is that you have other untapped skills that have plenty of headroom for improvement. If you could improve your business sense by two or three points on a 10-point scale, you could achieve much greater things in your career.
Does that sound unrealistic? Take a look at the following graph.
If you would rank your talent, creative ability or skill level at a nine, and your business sense at a three, your untapped potential is over 70% of the entire graph!
Even if you managed to inch closer to a perfect 10 in your creative ability or talent (arguably, there is no upper limit), you can only increase your territory by a smaller percentage of the graph.
Therefore, the better way to reach your full potential is to increase your business sense, your entrepreneurial skills, your leadership ability.
Can You Turn a Weakness into a Strength?
If business is naturally a weakness of yours, you can’t expect it to one day become your strength. But you can probably still increase it by two to three points. So if you’re a five, you could become a seven or an eight. If you’re a three, you could become a five or a six.
Every time you become a better businessperson by a single point, you claim another 10% of your personal potential!
If you can better your people skills, you can make more connections that will aid you in your progress. After all, it isn’t about what you know, it’s about who you know.
If you got better at managing your finances, you could fund more projects, go to more conferences, and open more opportunities.
If you had clearly defined goals, you’d be able to break them down into smaller steps that would take you on a path towards achievement.
The Way Forward
So, I’ve just showed you how you can begin to unlock your potential. This is done by dedicating yourself to learning about business, and more importantly, applying what you learn.
But I’m also a realist. Let’s say you’re hopelessly lazy, or no matter how hard you try, you can only increase your business sense by a single point.
Are you in a pickle? No. Here’s why:
An employee works for money and other people. Business owners have money and other people work for them.
This means you can surround yourself with people who are good at what you aren’t.
You may never become a business magnate. Building a single business is a big enough challenge of its own. A music career is a business in its own right, but many musicians never face up to that fact.
So, the best thing you can do is work with people who are strong where you are weak. Get them to help you with the business side of your career!
Unlock Your Potential
Never stop growing. You are capable of so much more than you even realize.
It’s easy to become complacent and never push for change. It’s hard to keep striving towards improvement. But you won’t regret the effort you put into it.
If all you do is adopt a long-term mindset and become more consistent in applying yourself to your career, you’ll be miles ahead of where musicians are.
And now you understand the importance of entrepreneurship in building a music career in the digital age.
What are you planning to do to keep improving? Let us know in the comments below!
Interested in Learning More About this Topic?
If you’re looking for all the latest information on music entrepreneurship, and you’d like to explore this subject in more detail, we recommend checking out David Andrew Wiebe’s latest book, The Essential Guide to Music Entrepreneurship: 2018 Edition.
In addition to everything covered in the original guide, there are fresh insights, new sections and experts quotes, stats, and bonus content in the short volume.
Don’t miss out on cutting-edge information that could help you go beyond in your musicpreneurship career.
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If you are a musician, you should have your own website. That has been my personal philosophy for many years, and I know that other music marketing experts like Andrew Dubber or Bob Baker would heartily agree.
Based on a recent experience with my now ex-web host, however, I have to add a few stipulations…
First, make sure that you can absorb the costs
Shared hosting is usually quite affordable ($3.95 to $9.95 per month is pretty standard). However, I am starting to discover that some hosts don’t scale very well.
Does your provider have plans that range from $3.95 all the way up to their most expensive plan ($249.99 per month or similar)? Or is there a big difference between their most affordable option and the plan above it (i.e. a 100% increase in price)?
If you end up exceeding a bandwidth or file transfer limit, chances are you’re going to have to upgrade (web hosts generally consider it a breach of contract if you exceed pre-determined limits). As your site grows, this is an inevitability.
Having to jump from $3.95 to a $19.95 price point probably won’t seem like that big of a deal. But what if your host doesn’t have an “in-between” plan? What if their next most affordable plan based on your needs is $129.99?
Perhaps you could find a way to cut back on file transfers and stay on the shared plan, but if your website’s audience is growing, you can’t do much about that. So you’ll be forced into upgrading, whether you like it or not.
This is pretty much exactly what happened to me earlier this year. I went from paying about $7.95 per month to suddenly paying $129.99 per month. Sure, my host put me on the cloud plan, but as I would soon find out, even that would prove insufficient for my needs.
Somehow, I ended up exceeding a 10GB file transfer limit after migration. At the end of September, the site went down for several days. I talked to other web hosts who could barely even comprehend why that would happen.
In short, ask around before you commit.
Second, find a plan that’s right for you
This goes hand-in-hand with my last point. You need a budget for your hosting plan, but you also need to make sure that your plan is serving your current needs.
Frankly, I probably didn’t need cloud hosting, and I knew that. I even voiced that concern to my previous web host. They didn’t really have any other options for me, and that should have been a red flag.
This isn’t to say that I won’t need dedicated hosting in the future, but it wasn’t matched to where my businesses were. I needed something “in-between”.
If you can find a plan that has quite a bit of headroom, you’re probably not going to exceed it overnight. On the other hand, if you’re on the verge of using more bandwidth than the plan guarantees, you’re going to have to upgrade.
If you don’t know what your needs are, then talk to your web host. Or, if you don’t have a web host yet, ask around. It will become pretty obvious who cares about their customers.
Third, find a host that cares
I was with my previous host for 10 years. Yes, 10 whole years!
Did that stop them from shutting me down when I could no longer keep up with the ludicrous costs? No way! They were gracious enough to give me three or four days to back up my data, but beyond that, they weren’t going to do me any favors.
I did attempt to negotiate new terms (entrepreneurs are problem-solvers, right?), but they didn’t go for any of my ideas. Too bad; we might have been able to continue our long-term relationship. And maybe they would still be on my resources page too if they had consented. No longer.
Look for a host that cares about your business. Look for one that puts customer service above their own agenda.
I may tell the full story of how things went sour with my previous web host another time. Suffice to say, I wasn’t terribly impressed.
I hope the suggestions I’ve made here will help you in finding a web host that’s right for you. Don’t forget; there is always the possibility that your current host does not do what you need it to do (and you just haven’t found that out yet). Keep the lines of communication open, and be ready for when you need to make some changes.