Building a Solid Foundation for Your Music Career

Building a Solid Foundation for Your Music Career

What is the most important part of a building? The foundation.

It’s the same with music careers and businesses. If we want to grow, we need to build a solid foundation.

And this usually takes some digging. It requires some hard intellectual work and research. It doesn’t just come together in a vacuum or by accident.

Extending the analogy further, the part that usually takes the longest to build with any building is the foundation. After the foundation is in place, the rest of the building comes together much faster.

First, we need to know what we’re building towards. We need a blueprint. Otherwise, we don’t know how deep or wide to dig.

And that depends a lot on the type of career you want to have, whether it’s being a songwriter, a touring musician, a work from home music producer, or whatever else you might have in mind. You can create whatever you want, but you’re going to get more assistance from others and the universe if you’re clear on what you want and can stick to your guns.

Starting with the end in mind is an exercise a lot of people don’t do. So then, their building efforts are haphazard, and they end up having to repair their foundation later. It usually ends up being costly and difficult. Much more tedious than if they had started with the right foundation in the first place.

To offer an example, Music Entrepreneur HQ’s most visited blog post is a book review of Dr. Joseph Murphy’s The Power of Your Subconscious Mind.

At first, we were excited to see all that traffic come in.

There was one problem though. The people who came to check out that post? They were mostly interested in Dr. Murphy or his book, and not at all in music or building a music career. We thought we’d found an intersection of interests, when in fact we’d ended up attracting a different niche crowd altogether. So, we grew a lot of traffic and email list “bloat” that was never going to be good customers for us.

The sad part is that it took a couple of years to sort this all out. And my solution was to create an entirely separate email list for these people, in case I ever decided to take the niche more seriously and had other recommendations to send them.

Music Entrepreneur HQ still benefited from having a highly trafficked blog post. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” as they say. But what we learned from this experience was that we had to be a lot more careful about the content we published on our site. We needed to be sure that it was a good fit for our target audience if we had any intention of selling to them.

It’s often been said that if you lead with your interests, your audience will follow you. But sometimes this just isn’t true.

So, let’s start with the end in mind. What is it that you want in your music career? Be as clear as you possibly can. Don’t rush the process. Don’t get frustrated with it. Brainstorm. Speculate. Think about it. Talk about it. Discuss it with your mentors and people you trust. Journal about it. And let the picture form in your mind.

Once you know where you’re going, it’s all about unfolding the journey. The details start to take care of themselves. Instead of “working towards” something, you’ll be seeing the goal as a “done deal.” Then you’ll be unfolding it a day at a time. That’s a journey full of freedom and ease.

Don’t make up the blueprint as you go. Start with the blueprint.

For a proven, step-by-step framework in cracking the code to independent music career success, and additional in-depth insights into making your passion sustainable and profitable, be sure to pick up my best-selling guide, The Music Entrepreneur Code.

Music Marketing Blueprint Template [INFOGRAPHIC]

Music Marketing Blueprint Template [INFOGRAPHIC]

Earlier this year, I wrote a post called How to Create Your Own Music Marketing Blueprint.

The objective of that article was twofold:

  1. To help you understand how marketing works. When you see marketing as something you need to do on an ongoing basis – rather than something you do in phases – it helps you to stay consistent in your promotional efforts and by extension helps you build your momentum. Momentum is only achieved through consistent effort.
  2. To help you create your own music marketing blueprint template. I shared with you how to create your own mind map to begin to think about the various marketing channels that are out there, how to make your written plan, and how to bring your plan into alignment with your goals. When you put all of these elements together, you have your own music marketing blueprint.

At the very end, I gave you an example of what a music marketing blueprint could look like. That is the graphic you see below.

Ideally, you should go through the entire process of building your own music marketing blueprint, as that’s where you’ll get the most value out of this “infographic”. When you create your personal blueprint, it helps you to clarify your goals and make a plan for their achievement. It helps you to recognize your strengths and weaknesses, and it helps you to identify potential marketing opportunities too.

But fundamentally, it all comes back to the why. If you don’t have any leverage on yourself, it can be hard to persist to make your dreams a reality. You need to get in touch with your desires and feel them in your gut.

In any case, thanks for checking out this week’s “infographic”. Please share it with anyone you think could benefit from it!

Music Marketing Blueprint

Embed It!

If you think this graphic will add value to your audience, please feel free to embed it on your website. Copy and paste the following code where you want the graphic to appear on your site:

How to Create Your Own Music Marketing Blueprint

In order to create a music marketing blueprint, first, we need to take a look at the bigger picture.

What’s the bigger picture? It basically comes down to three things: Planning, Creating, and Marketing.

It could be argued that a musician is always in one of these three phases. There are many subheadings that could go under each of them, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

First, let’s examine each of the three phases.

The 3 Phases

Phase 1 – Planning

This is the preparation stage. Songwriting, fundraising, demoing and pre-production would all go under this category.

For example, if you’re about to record an album, then planning activities might include songwriting, fundraising, demoing and so on.

If you’re about to launch a crowdfunding campaign, you would be storyboarding a video, planning out what perks you’re going to offer pledgers, what financial goals you hope to reach, and so on.

If you’re creating an ad, then you would be thinking about what colors to use, what copy to employ, what message you want to convey, and so forth.

Inactive or otherwise dormant musicians could also said to be in this phase. Maybe they’re planning a new release, or maybe they’re going to go on tour again, but for the moment you’re not hearing anything from them or about them.

If you’re planning anything, then you’re in this phase.

Phase 2 – Creating

Creating is where your product is made.

If you’re recording an album, then this is the time and energy spent in a studio.

If you’re putting together a live DVD, then it’s the actual performance itself.

If you’re making merchandise, then the process involves design and branding.

Creating takes many different forms for the modern musician, but it all comes back to the necessity for a product.

Without a product or a service, you don’t have a business. Your products would be things like CDs and DVDs, and your services would be things like live performance.

Phase 3 – Marketing

This is the phase in which all of the promotion happens.

If you’re getting the word out to your fans about an album or a show via social media or email, you’re marketing.

If you’re uploading videos to YouTube, you’re marketing.

If you’re blogging to keep your fans engaged, you’re marketing.

Marketing is of little merit without a product, service or some form of content to share.

It is possible to gain some traction for your content, product or service without marketing, but this is very rare, and it explains why marketing is so crucial to the entire operation.

The Progression of the 3 Phases

The 3 Phases Interweave

Sometimes, musicians do follow a linear progression, from Planning to Creating to Marketing, and then back to Planning. However, this isn’t always the case.

Once your career is underway, the three phases tend to interweave, and you might even find yourself in the midst of all of them at the same time.

This is where overwhelm sometimes settle in, and you get that feeling of “How in the world can I do all of this?”

Regardless, this interweaving is crucial to understand if you want an effective music marketing blueprint. Here’s why.

The 3 Phases Interweaving

Why You Need to Understand the 3 Phases

Why do you need to be aware of each of the three phases? Because you need to be looking at each of them as a cohesive whole, not just as separate, individual parts.

Marketing is the sum of each of the parts, not merely the activity that follows a release.

Musicians often fail to recognize the connection between all three phases, and that is one of the main reasons why their marketing fails to be effective.

You often hear musicians say things like, “I want to tour, but I need a product to get behind. I have to support the release.”

I would not argue that it’s a good idea to have product to sell while you are touring.

However, if you hear someone say something like that, it should immediately tell you that they’re not seeing the bigger picture.

If planning hasn’t started (they don’t have a tour booked), and the creative process hasn’t begun (they haven’t started recording their album), then it’s almost certain that the marketing piece hasn’t started either.

Marketing is not something to start and stop, and only initiate when you have something you think is worth marketing.

Once you start marketing, you should keep marketing.

Does that sound overwhelming?

Well, the basic idea is to make marketing part of your daily routine, so that you’re not overrun.

A little bit every day is the secret to achievement in adulthood, right?

Practically speaking, that might look like sharing your plans with your fans at the Planning phase, or taking an Instagram photo at the Creating phase (i.e. when you’re recording in the studio). It’s not terribly complicated.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of Planning, Creating and Marketing, we’re ready to start developing your marketing blueprint.

The Different Parts of Marketing

Like we talked about earlier, there are many subheadings that exist under the three phases.

When it comes to marketing, it’s not hard to identify the different pieces, but once you have the subheadings laid out in front of you, you can probably start to think of items that exist under each of those.

In other words, you can keep getting more and more granular. I wouldn’t say that you can keep drilling down forever, but it’s kind of like a Matryoshka doll; there are a lot of smaller dolls within the bigger doll.

Matryoshka Doll

Matryoshka dolls.

So let’s identify some of the most common marketing tactics.

  • Advertising: advertising almost always costs something, but it can also yield huge returns. Print ads, newspaper ads, newsletter ads, TV ads, and even online ads would fall under this category.
  • Social media: social media is hugely popular, and is only being enhanced by mobile technology. It provides an opportunity for you to get your message out there and engage with your audience.
  • Video/YouTube: more and more musicians are turning to video to get their music out there, producing music videos, lyric videos, making-of videos, acoustic cover videos, and so on.
  • Email: email subscribers are almost always more engaged than social media followers. It’s an old tool to be sure, but it’s a proven one.
  • Blogging: blogging offers you the opportunity to engage with your audience on a regular basis, and can be good for driving search traffic to your site too.
  • Podcasting: you can use podcasting to broadcast your music and message on a regular basis, and even establish yourself as an expert in your field.
  • Press releases: press releases are short articles that discuss newsworthy topics. They can be distributed through a variety of different services and catch the attention of press and media people.
  • Contests and giveaways: contests and giveaways can be leveraged to build your fan base. They serve to keep your fans engaged, and can draw the attention of new people too.
  • Crowdfunding: a crowdfunding campaign involves all three phases that were mentioned earlier, but a healthy byproduct of initiating a campaign might include attention from new people.
  • Live performance: every gig is an opportunity to share your music with a new audience. Few things compare to the effectiveness of performance in making new fans.
  • Radio: radio is still a great way to get your music heard on a bigger scale. It isn’t necessarily easy to get on the radio, but the effort is often worth it.

Again, there are many other ways to market your music, and if we’re talking about a broader topic like guerrilla marketing, there really is no end to how deep it can go.

Your music marketing blueprint will be built off of these different components.

You don’t have to utilize all of them. Or, you might think of others you’d like to try or implement.

But now that you’ve taken a look at the three phases and the different parts of marketing, you’re ready to construct your very own marketing blueprint.

Step 1 – Create A Mind Map

Now it’s time to connect the pieces.

The purpose of creating a mind map is so that you have a visual representation of what your music marketing blueprint looks like.

However, at this stage, you should avoid discounting anything from your mind map.

Don’t pick and choose things you like and don’t like; instead, simply list out everything you can think of, and add more as more ideas come to you.

While going through this process, don’t doubt yourself. There are no right or wrong answers, and there is always the possibility that you’ll land on some things you haven’t even thought of before.

Here’s an example of a mind map if you’re not sure what it’s supposed to look like:

Mind Map

Start with a central topic (i.e. Marketing), and define the many subtopics that exist under it.

Hopefully you’ve taken the time to go through this exercise yourself, so that you can really take hold of your own ideas.

Every mind map will probably look different, and that’s totally okay. The important part is that you’ve taken ownership over it.

Of course, I’d like to share my sample mind map with you too. Here it is (you can click on it if you’d like to expand it):

Music Marketing Mind Map

This mind map was created with XMind. It’s not comprehensive, but it is a good starting point.

Even if you do nothing else, your mind map should aid you in creating your marketing plan.

However, I’ve laid out some additional steps you can follow to figure out what your ongoing marketing activities might look like.

Step 2 – Make Your Written Plan

If you’ve taken the time to draw out your mind map, congratulations! You’ve already made it further than most musicians ever will in constructing a marketing blueprint.

Now let’s take a look at how you can turn it into an action plan.

What you need is a written plan, because there is something really powerful about writing things down.

Even if you end up transferring it to a digital calendar or a notebook in Evernote later, it’s worth putting your pen to paper first.

I encouraged you to brainstorm and think as broadly as possible at the mind mapping stage, but this is where you can start to get a little more focused.

First, write down all of the marketing activities that you’re currently doing. Go ahead, this article will still be here when you come back to it.

Marketing Plan

Here’s an example of a marketing plan. Still fairly loose, but it identifies all of the major activities and everything that comes along with them.

With that out of the way, begin to think about whether or not you would like to add anything else to your list.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to add anything just because. It’s good to stay focused, and to put the most effort towards things that work.

Do you have your completed list now?

Hopefully you’ve already identified the various subheadings that exist under the broader headings.

If not, then think about everything that’s involved in each tactic or activity and write them all down.

Finally, determine what’s required of you with all of your marketing activities.

How much time does each item take? Could you eliminate, automate or delegate any of them? Could you make a checklist (or multiple checklists) for yourself to make things more streamlined? On a scale of one to 10, how important is each activity?

Do a deep dive. Don’t shortchange yourself with this process.

Take some time to work backwards. See the end vision in mind, and think about what needs to happen on a daily basis to achieve your goals.

Now we’re ready to move on to the final step.

Step 3 – Bring Your Plan in Alignment with Your Goals

If you don’t know what your career goals are, then you don’t need a music marketing blueprint yet. What you need is a vision, a purpose, a Big Why.

Think about all of the times you’ve abandoned your goals and resolutions in the past.

I’m not trying to make you feel bad. I’m just trying to show you that you were missing something when you went after those goals.

I’ve already said what that something is, and it’s your Big Why. It’s the umbrella, the defining purpose, the overarching reason for your commitment to building a music career.

Whether you’re trying to manage your time better or be more productive, you’re just not going to do it without having some kind of leverage on yourself.

With that out of the way, you’re really going to be banging on all cylinders for this final step if you’ve been faithful to this whole process so far.

I already talked a little bit about seeing your end vision and laying out what you need to do with your marketing to reach your goals.

That’s really what we’re trying to accomplish at this stage.

Plans & Goals

Again, this is a pretty rudimentary example, but the format is worth observing. Notice how it’s stated as a commitment and clearly identifies Big Whys.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what that is, because your mind map, your marketing plan, and your goals are all going to differ from mine.

But I will say that you want to check your goals against your marketing plan to see if they are in complete alignment or not.

A dissonance between the two will not do you any favors.

When you’re working on a project into the wee hours of the night, when you’ve got a flat on the road, when you’ve got a massive to-do list and haven’t had any sleep, only your Big Why is going to drive you to take the extra mile.

A congruent marketing plan will compliment your goals. It will guide you in the direction you need to go.

I’ve talked about the fact that plans don’t need to be perfect before, so don’t worry about that.

You want to make your marketing sustainable, and that’s not going to happen without some forethought.

The great thing about putting in the effort upfront is that you can pass on all of your plans and processes to your marketing person once you’re ready to work with one.

Think big, and don’t try to do it all alone. Plan for the future, and the resources will begin to fall into place.

Bonus: Your Music Marketing Blueprint

I’ve taken you through the process of creating a personalized music marketing blueprint.

However, I know that you were probably looking for a prefabricated plan.

For reasons I’ve already mentioned, a prefab blueprint isn’t going to be the most effective. However, I do think a sample could help you discover new ideas and give you inspiration for creating your own.

So, to finish things off, here’s a completed music marketing blueprint.

You can use it as a starting place. You can use it as-is. You can let it inspire your blueprint. It’s up to you.

Music Marketing Blueprint

Again, this is anything but perfect, but I think you can see where it’s going.