The Busywork That Brings Music Career Progress to a Screeching Halt

The Busywork That Brings Music Career Progress to a Screeching Halt

Knowing what to prioritize isn’t always easy. Much of the time, it requires rigorous forethought and planning. But that’s no excuse not to do the work.

In any business, the big question is not whether you can design a beautiful logo, create eye-catching business cards, or set up a stellar website. The question is whether you can get to your first dollar. You can do this without creating a damn thing these days, because you can take pre-orders to test the demand for a product, you’re thinking about making.

If you want to get a visual on an entrepreneurial endeavor that’s not moving because of busywork and obsessing over details, go and watch season 4, episode 20 of How I Met Your Mother, titled Mosbius Designs.

I understand that this is a “business” example, but I would argue it’s totally applicable to artists. Now, I understand that music is a passion. And you want to create something you love. The point is – if you want to build a profitable career, you want to make sure there are other people out there whose hearts also beat over the same thing!

This will largely determine whether the next 10 years of your career will be spent playing every dive bar you can find, growing your audience one member at a time…

Or…

Coming out of the gate with strong wave of momentum that will quickly carry you onto the shores of the next phase of your music career.

I remember coaching a business owner who wanted to build a locally sourced, eco-friendly, humanitarian, customer-pleasing, employee-conscious business. I’m not exaggerating, I’m summarizing.

You can’t help but admire the heart of someone who wants to do that much good in the world. Someone who even questions whether they should be using the internet because of the strain it puts on the power grid and what that means for the planet.

But in the context of entrepreneurship, this was, for a lack of a more eloquent term, utterly and completely stupid.

What we encouraged her to do was look at how she could sell her first product. Get to her first dollar. Validate a market. If she could sell her product and build a profitable business, in due course, she’d be able to do more in the world.

As a giving, agreeable, listening person, I’ve often had to remind myself that you can’t contribute out of scarcity. You can only contribute out of overflow. My recent charitable efforts were intentional and deliberate, and they were created through initiatives that didn’t cost me.

You can’t contribute out of scarcity. You can only contribute out of overflow. Click To Tweet

But no, she insisted on doing things her way. Not only did she not make an income from her business – the people she’d partnered with, hired, or contracted to work with never stuck around for more than a few weeks.

When you have a new idea about what you’re out to accomplish every other week, it signals a red flag to everyone around you who might have bought into your initial burst of passion and enthusiasm.

I know from having talked to a friend of mine that the stars don’t always align out the gate. One of his band projects was initially thinking about becoming a cover band. But it never worked. It wasn’t until they decided to work on originals that things finally clicked for them. Had they simply jumped from idea to idea without thinking, though, they would have missed out on creating their life work.

As for my coaching client, the story doesn’t end there. I helped her set up her website, and she had the audacity to accuse me of having insufficient systems in my business while I was on vacation recovering from burnout. I was halfway across the world without a computer offering customer support from my smartphone. I should have charged a hefty sum for that. It was a low moment for me, but I had to acknowledge that everything wasn’t hunky dory on my end either.

What we learned from that experience was to never put client websites on our servers. Let them buy their own hosting, so if they run into any problems, they can contact customer support and give them a tongue lashing on their own time.

And that’s a whole other lesson – learning from your mistakes!

But to conclude, let’s put this in terms any artist can understand. Before you go out and spend $40,000 on your indie dubstep breakbeat banjo jungle reggae funk, make sure someone gives a crap.

There is absolutely no virtue or value in creating a micro-niche there’s no demand for! I’m calling B.S. on this strategy. I’d much rather see you enter a generic market like “rock” and differentiate using your marketing and branding than spend countless hours and thousands of dollars testing your violin Celtic metal punk junk country fusion just for the hell of it.

There is absolutely no virtue or value in creating a micro-niche there’s no demand for! Click To Tweet
Breaking the Toxic Patterns of Trying to be “Better” in Your Music Career

Breaking the Toxic Patterns of Trying to be “Better” in Your Music Career

This might fly in the face of a lot of things you’ve heard before. But you’re a creative mastermind, and a brilliant abstract thinker, so I trust you as a keeper of this knowledge.

What I learned from author Mark Manson (you might have heard of a little book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck), is that there’s a toxic pattern hidden in many personal development methodologies. And I can honestly say I’ve sometimes been caught in that toxic pattern!

Again, I know this is paradoxical because what are we talking about here if not self-betterment – strategies and tactics for a better music career? What does it mean to be a musician if improvement is subtracted from the equation? Nothing, really, because it’s our job to show up better than we did last time! And make no mistake – practicing your instrument or voice every day is a form of personal development!

What I got from Manson is that trying to be better all the time can be a depressing way to live. And even beyond the hype-based, rah-rah weekend conferences that light you up for a mere week before you crash and go back to “normal” life, there is something about being in constant pursuit of more that disagrees with one’s identity, spiritual path, and desire to be happy (which many have entirely written off).

One of the reasons for that is because it’s human nature to play the comparison game. “Look how much better they’re doing,” you say, recognizing just how far you must go to be at their level, whoever they are, and whatever they’ve accomplished. And I do mean to say you don’t have the context to even understand how or what they’ve accomplished, because you are not them.

Either way, the question is, can you be content with where you’re at? Can you enjoy the journey of kaizen, of being a little bit better today than you were yesterday, and staying in that process over the long haul?

Because the thing about every destination is, the journey is the longest part. If you don’t enjoy the journey, you’re not going to be much happier at the destination. You might experience a fleeting sense of relief or joy, maybe even victory or celebration, but it will be so brief compared to the long, hard road it took to get there, it will hardly feel worth it.

The thing about every destination is, the journey is the longest part. Click To Tweet

As hard as it might be to believe, every day can be a holiday. It takes some deep, intellectual work for this to sink in, but if you’re up for the challenge, have a read through Reality Transfuring, Steps I-V by Vadim Zeland and Joana Dobson. I don’t know what they were smoking or what planet they were sent from to write this work, but it can really open your eyes to the possibility of going through life with a carefree sense of joy and excitement.

Now, Bruce Lee said:

Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.

And his point is well-taken. Diamonds are forged under pressure. We all transform under pressure.

But I think what Zeland was saying is that even in challenge and difficulty, the events themselves are neutral, and we can make them mean whatever we want them to mean. You can go through any event in life with a sense of discovery.

What I learned from Manson is, instead of trying to be better, be curios. At some point, we all start to feel like we’ve seen it all, heard it all, or tried it all. But that can’t possibly be true when our lives don’t seem to be working at the level, we see others working. There’s always more to discover, more to learn. And sometimes it’s the simplest things.

In an interview with author Tim Ferriss, former CD Baby founder Derek Sivers said it was a profound discovery for him that women like sex. Like I said, the simplest realizations can sometimes alter your course for good.

Being curious is still personal development, but it’s a different approach. It’s coming from a place of humble discovery versus all-knowing arrogance.

Are You Still Working on Flashes of Elation?

Are You Still Working on Flashes of Elation?

I’ve recently had some personal questions from those who are either interested in my forthcoming book, Flashes of Elation, or have already pre-ordered it, and are wondering about its status (and rightfully so). So, I thought it would be worth making a public statement so that no one would be in the dark about this.

You may have seen my November Monthly Hustle post on Music Entrepreneur HQ, seen the blurbs about “next books” and noticed that Flashes is missing from the equation.

First, and most importantly, I have not abandoned the project. Yes, I’m still working on it. And it is a very important work to me.

I admit that I use the term “working on it” a little loosely here, because honestly, I haven’t had a whole lot of momentum with it since 2018. But this is not because I don’t intend to complete it.

I am acknowledging that this has become somewhat of a Duke Nukem Forever or Chinese Democracy type situation, but at least what you can say about those releases is that they eventually happened (even if they didn’t impress). And it’s going to be the same with Flashes of Elation – it will happen, and hopefully, it will impress.

The other reason Flashes doesn’t appear in my “next book” list right now is because there are still some tough editing decisions to make. Will I eliminate certain chapters or entire sections of certain chapters, will I write new chapters, will I knowingly break certain writing conventions (spelling, grammar, formatting, etc.), and so on.

Not to make too much of it, but these are the types of difficult decisions I’ve been facing in the editing process, for a book that is sure to be the same length as The New Music Industry (66,000 words), which I laboriously edited many times (12 hours at a time), along with the help of my editors.

There is some good news in all this, though. I started an intensive yearlong leadership program about six months ago, and I’m in what they call the “Completion” quarter. And that means I’m looking for every opportunity to tie up loose ends in my world, and I know that Flashes is one of those loose ends I’m not willing to sit with for much longer.

But first and foremost, I plan to complete another Duke Nukem Forever or Chinese Democracy that’s been gnawing at me for even longer, and that’s my musical release, Back on Solid Ground.

That said, I’ve created a separate list of projects and tasks to complete, and Flashes of Elation is on that list!

As challenging as they have been, the last few years have taught me a great deal. With Music Entrepreneur HQ, I thought I was building a community / membership. Only to find that the traffic was just as disengaged as the stats showed. I thought it was growing into a profitable, sustainable business. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone one step forward and two steps back in the preceding years – even more so in the last six months.

I never would have discovered all that if I hadn’t gone through the motions of setting it all up and testing it in the market though. And maybe one day I will have a hungry, ready, engaged audience for what I’ve created. But I can see that time isn’t now.

I guess what I’m saying is – in experimenting with a lot of business models and initiatives, I’m recognizing that what people want from me most is music and books. And so, music and books you shall have. Online academies and coaching programs? Maybe for another time.

And, once the political weirdness that’s been playing out across the world over the last 21 months starts settling down, maybe you’ll see me on the stages of the world performing and giving presentations again.

Anyway, at this point I’ve gone on long enough, and I can’t justify spending more time on this when indeed, I could be working on Flashes of Elation. So, I hope your question has been answered, and thank you so much for sticking with me. It’s been a ride.

How to Get Your Music Out to a Bigger Audience

How to Get Your Music Out to a Bigger Audience

Obviously, there are many ways to get your music out to a bigger audience.

Social media represents a massive opportunity, and that’s where most people turn to when they want to get their thing seen by more people.

And that’s not terrible thinking, but let’s face it – standing out on social media takes something. Even if you do capture people’s attention with your hulking muscles, toned butt, or shiny guitar collection, will it be for the right reasons? Will those people go and listen to your music after they’ve ogled your shapely behind?

So, getting attention on social media isn’t enough. It’s useless unless you get people to take a next step with you.

Getting attention on social media isn’t enough. It’s useless unless you get people to take a next step with you. Click To Tweet

Does that mean you should throw in the towel? Obviously not.

There’s a marketing concept that has been shown to work over the long haul, and while it will take some work to execute, it can help you reach bigger audiences in bursts and spurts (versus the gradual build of setting up a website, a blog, social media presence, ads, and so forth – good to do, but try combining that with what we’re about to look at, and you will see huge results).

What concept am I referring to? Dream 100.

There are different ways of thinking about Dream 100, as well as how it will look implemented in one’s career, but at base, it’s all about seeking out people who already have the audience you want, building a relationship with them, and making requests of them after you’ve built up that relationship.

In my world, that generally means requesting guest post opportunities, making podcast and radio appearances, giving presentations, and the like.

I can follow these people on social media, share things they publish, comment on their posts, send them books, offer to cover them on my blog, or interview them on my podcast (all things I’ve done!).

If there’s any reason to build your own publishing platform, it would be this – you can add value to your Dream 100. If you can’t do anything in return for your Dream 100, they are less likely to work with you. Creating mutual benefit is of the essence.

How will you create value?

Can you send your Dream 100 a gift? Share their social media posts? Listen to their music, podcast, or radio station? Buy their products?

Whatever you do, my suggestion would be to start small. Trying to build a relationship with 100 people at a time can be overwhelming. Work your way in with a few before you add more to your list.

And go into it with the right intentions. You’re not trying to take advantage of anyone. You’re looking to add value to your Dream 100. That’s the foundation. When things are going terribly in your music career, you’ll be glad to have dug your well before you got thirsty. The connections you build – your Dream 100 – is your well.

Creating Your Unique Selling Proposition as a Musician

Creating Your Unique Selling Proposition as a Musician

Your Unique Selling Proposition is all about standing out.

And I will be transparent and say it’s one of many things I didn’t fully understand about business until I dug beneath the surface.

Because the theory of it is a little different from the practicality of it.

Theoretically, it’s about positioning. How do you make your business look different than anyone else’s? What do you offer that’s different and why is that good?

And that all sounds good and well. But then you’re still left with the abstraction of the concept. A confused mind does nothing, so I would imagine that’s where a lot of artists landed on this. They know it’s a good idea. They understand the concept. But they’re missing the steps. They don’t know what to do next.

So, from a practical standpoint, we need to go and look at what our competition is doing. Not just stare at their website, but listen to their music, buy their merch, join their email list, study how they’re talking to their audience, and more. The more successful they are, the more you have reason to examine what they’re up to.

You’ve built your Dream 100 list, haven’t you? If you haven’t, now would be a good time for that, but the point is you should already have multiple artists in your crosshairs who you’re building a relationship with, because they have access to your audience.

Regardless, what you want to do here is look at several artists in your market and figure out what they might be missing. Because that’s where you can bring something new, something different, something revolutionary and innovative to the table.

And remember that music isn’t the only way to differentiate. You can differentiate yourself in your marketing, and most likely, that’s where the greatest opportunity lies. The niche war is overrated, and if it isn’t over already, it will be soon.

Once you know what your USP is, you want to hit it hard. Make it a part of your brand and everything you do. Iterate and adjust if it doesn’t work.