New Year resolutions be damned. They are typically broken and discarded within 36 days of being created.
Lest you feel special enough to break that barrier, straight for the jugular, resolutions are usually abandoned because people attempt to build on a past of stumbles and failures instead of clearing away the garbage and starting fresh. Building on shaky foundations is foolish, doomed from the start.
For ambitious creatives who still believe in themselves, I prescribe a separate regimen of choosing three words for your year and keeping them visible in your workspace for the duration, a practice author Chris Brogan turned me onto years ago.
Here I will share the three words that lived as possibilities for me this past year, as well as the three words I’ve elected for 2022.
Reflecting on My 3 Words from 2021
Maximize – I discovered the true meaning of maximizing in 2021, in which I was pressed for breakthroughs and expansion in every area of life. I discovered what it means to move multiple projects forward with urgency. I let go of the need to second guess every decision and action. I came to a point of acceptance, that no matter the project, I could create my existence instead of hoping and wishing for a following or waiting for some influencer to recognize me for my talents. I am a champion of artistic success, undeterred by setbacks or failures, which will ultimately serve as the building blocks for my inevitable success.
Optimize – At the dawn of the year, I created my own path to optimization with a YearSheet, and reviewing it now, I can see that it served as my North Star until I was presented with far superior paths. I’m in my third quarter of a yearlong leadership program, in which I got to discover powerful structures for accomplishment. Marketer Russell Brunson’s DotCom Secrets was later layered in, filling some critical knowledge gaps. I got more than just better. I got a breakthrough.
Experiment – At my business coach’s urging, I set out to establish myself as an expert and celebrity in music. And so, experiment I did, with live streams, blogging daily, 18+ platforms, and more. Yet again, I had no way of knowing I would be presented with breakthrough opportunities, and instead of moving idly and frantically from one project to another, as I surely would have done of my own agency, ended up fulfilling on pinpointed, longtime dreams like the Elite Players: All Access Pass online academy. I became a three-time winning, one-time nominated Best Original Score composer of The Nobody Prayer (Original Soundtrack). With Break the Business, I made my first foray into satellite radio. The second edition of the best-selling The Music Entrepreneur Code was also unleashed.
My 3 Words for 2022
Intention – Beyond my 20% time, my days of dizzying and unfocused experimentation are over. I now know myself better than ever, and I’m settling in for the long haul. I am an author, entrepreneur, and musician, and attempting to remove or tweak any part of that is to mess with my very identity. I declare 2022 a year of powerful, massive, intentional progress in areas that matter most to me.
Recognition – Success, for me, is not about individual accomplishment. And while awards and accolades are desired and welcome, I’ve realized that they rarely serve as vehicles for fulfillment and are sometimes hollower than they appear. I seek a breakthrough in recognition, knowing that it will ultimately mean confronting what I have been avoiding and fearing in recognizing myself and others.
Love – Another bold choice, but I’m ready for the challenge. Love takes many forms, whether it’s self-love, loving another, falling in love, demonstrating love through action, tough love, or otherwise. Breakthrough in this area is wanted, knowing it will mean looking deeply in my own life where love is missing and not freely given.
Choosing Your 3 Words
Over the years, what choosing three words has taught me is this – you are choosing areas where breakthrough is desired.
So, selecting “Relationship” as one of your words when you have no desire of confronting your greatest challenges and fears connected to relationship is incongruent. If you’re not prepared for breakthrough in that area – usually requiring upheaval – opt for something else.
Following intuition is acceptable, though, as you know yourself better than you think you do, and you will choose words better suited to your situation than you might think. Too much pondering can be a hindrance in progress.
2015 – Profit, Outreach, Expansion (planted some important seeds)
2016 – Flow, Create, Helpfulness (an unfocused year)
2017 – Adventure, Collaboration, Health (a challenging but awesome year)
2018 – War, Initiative, Connection (a year that started weak and ended strong)
2019 – Confidence, Breakthrough, Fulfillment (a year of intense personal growth)
2020 – Completion, Curation, Synthesize (a year to find my North Star)
2021 – Maximize, Optimize, Experiment (a breakthrough year in production, productivity, validation, team, and communication)
Further reading and helpful prompts are also available in my Start Your Year the Right Way, with convenient notetaking space built right into the book. Setting yourself up for a powerful year is a matter of setting the right structures in place, and your discovery begins with identifying profitable practices for your career and life.
If you are seeking council moving forward with your new year plans, and desire to make 2022 a breakthrough year, the premium on my coaching will be worth your while. Get in touch. I do not respond to all emails straightaway, but always get back to potential clients in a timely fashion.
My musician friend recently said to me:
All the information is out there. It’s not hard to find anymore.
True, with Google at our fingertips, we can find answers to questions like who played guitar on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” the actress who played Andy in The Goonies, or Japan’s population (and facts much more obscure).
What we so often forget, though, is that a career in music is not a problem Google can solve for you. Sure, you found me – and you’re better off with than without – but chances are you still had to do quite a bit of digging to get here.
People vastly underestimate and undervalue curators who painstakingly go to great lengths and pay a high price to piece together the best information, and vastly overestimate and overvalue social media and Bitcoin gurus, something I could just as easily be doing if I was only in it for the money.
But I’m not here to air grievances.
What I wish to rectify is this flawed way of thinking.
Sure, there are no magic pills or silver bullets as applied to something like fitness. There are plenty of fit people out there. It’s not much of a mystery. Everyone knows it’s about exercise and diet, though they aren’t always aware of which levers to pull to get desired results.
Saving money? It’s all about paying yourself first.
Learning an instrument? Practice for three hours per day over the course of years and decades.
But if you still don’t have the results, you need to ask yourself why. Because if it was all about information, you’d be whatever you wanted to be – a bronzed god or goddess sitting on a golden throne with everything handed to you on a silver platter. I’m betting that’s not your reality.
Fundamentally, it’s not about information. It’s not about ideas. It’s not about genius level thinking.
It’s about action. Action is genius in motion.
When I heard marketer Russell Brunson say:
Publishing daily for a full year will solve all your business problems.
I went out and published daily for a full year.
Ultimately, it did not solve all my business problems. But it gave me something else – it helped me develop the habit and discipline of writing every day. And that has led to some incredible opportunities (that were a little too easy to take for granted early on).
Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of climbing the mountain, you don’t appreciate all the blessings on the way to the top. Today, I appreciate the new connections and opportunities so much more than when I was in the process of publishing daily for 365 days.
By the way, I have now kept the habit for 17 months.
Either way, having read this guide, the question is, what are you going to do with it?
Are you going to take responsibility, spring into action and do something with the knowledge you’ve gained?
Or are you going to set this down and say to yourself, “gee, what a great read” and move on to the next?
I don’t want anyone sitting around a campfire talking about my guide. I want to hear your success stories, and I want you to email them to me. That’s only going to happen if you get into action.
Quick reminder – you can now get The Music Entrepreneur Code – 2022 Edition, the second edition of the best-selling guide to getting paid for your passion and impacting more fans without wasting years of your life and thousands of dollars.
As you’ve seen, publishing can take a few different forms.
And the point of publishing, in case you missed it, is to build traffic. There are only four sources of traffic online, so you’d better be clear on your strategy.
Something I learned from Nick Sadler of NSDMT and The Label Machine is that publishing keeps your existing fans nurtured and engaged, while advertising helps you grow your fan base. That’s not a bad way of thinking about it.
ClickFunnels co-founder Russell Brunson says your early publishing efforts are mostly about finding your voice. You might suck, and that’s fine! It’s even expected. But once you find your voice, your audience will find you. And so, publishing isn’t just about keeping your fans, it’s also about helping them find you.
But if there ever was a trick or a hack to efficient publishing, it would be what follows here.
In The Music Entrepreneur Code, I said that if you’re going to make one type of content, make it video. And at the risk of sounding redundant, here’s the reason for that.
A video (containing speech, like a vlog) can turn into a podcast. A podcast can turn into a transcript (or blog post).
Let’s back up even more. A live stream can turn into multiple video clips, multiple video clips can turn into multiple podcast episodes, multiple podcast episodes can turn into multiple blog posts, and multiple blog posts can turn into even more social media posts.
I’ve tried this method myself, and I love it! It hasn’t always been practical for meeting my immediate content queue, but as much as possible, I like to prepare a show, go live, and then chop up the content for distribution across my various blogs, video channels, and social media destinations after the fact.
Now, I’m not going to lie. This can be a time-consuming endeavor. The upside, though, is that if you do it right, you can create about a month’s worth of content in one go. So, if you’re interested in getting off the content treadmill, this is one way to do it.
You might have a lot of questions about setting up your live stream, what gear to use, what social media sites to post to, and so on. And what I will tell you is that you’ll figure it out as you go. It’s not as important as getting into the habit of publishing.
Quick reminder – you can now pre-order the Kindle edition of The Music Entrepreneur Code – 2022 Edition (just in time for the holidays). Don’t get left behind – be the first to get my latest work into your hands!
We’ve established that publishing is one of the few ways to get traffic online.
So, what about this idea of publishing daily?
Obviously, it’s going to prove quite ambitious for experienced content creators let alone artists who often have day jobs in addition to fledgling music careers.
If I were to bottom line it, I think it’s about finding what works for you.
Standing on the Shoulders of Titans
I’ve been publishing daily for almost 17 months.
After a year, I thought about redirecting my energy elsewhere, but ultimately, I didn’t feel like breaking the chain.
Author Seth Godin says blogging daily is one of the best career decisions he’s ever made, even though he admits to “blogging into the void” much of the time.
Show Your Work! author Austin Kleon recommends sharing your work with the world as it’s being made… preferably daily. Though these days Kleon seems to publish three to four times per week. It’s still nothing short of impressive.
ClickFunnels co-founder Russell Brunson says if you publish daily for a full year, it will solve all your business problems (although there are some stipulations to go with that statement) – it’s a lofty promise my yearlong blogging efforts didn’t deliver on, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work or won’t work for you.
Podcaster John Lee Dumas started a daily entrepreneur interview podcast a few years ago, and because he was the only one doing something so bonkers, his show caught fire a couple of years in and now he rakes in hundreds of thousands of dollars per month.
Although he doesn’t talk about it all that often, entrepreneur James Schramko created daily videos for years, a habit he’s returned to in recent years.
The funny thing about this is that none of these people need to do it anymore, and yet they seem as active on the publishing front as ever.
Take from that what you will.
Personally, I write because I want to write. Because I like to write. I’ve been blogging “into the void” for ages, and most of the time, the only strategy behind that is that many of the posts I write (not all) will eventually make it into a book.
And regardless of how my interests or efforts shift, no doubt I will continue to publish in some capacity.
To wrap up this section, I want to answer a few frequently asked questions.
Do I Need to Write?
No, you don’t.
There are three dominant forms of content online – text, audio, and video. And you can choose the one that’s right for you.
I can tell you from experience that some forms of publishing require more time and effort than others, especially if you’re expecting perfection (please don’t insist on perfection if you’re going to publish daily). There’s no need to make this more complicated than it needs to be!
Do I Need to Publish to My Blog?
No. I have a friend who publishes daily on Instagram and does quite well at it. And considering the time and effort that can go into other forms of content, sharing daily on Instagram doesn’t seem so daunting.
That said, everything I’ve already shared about ownership still applies. You’re in a position of compromise if you don’t backup your content and add as many people to your email list as possible.
What do I Even Talk About?
Many experts, like entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, advocate documenting your journey. And this is what I would recommend as well.
I understand that not every day in the life of an artist is filled with bizarre misadventures and exciting breakthroughs, but can you post a picture (even an old one)? Share a lyric snippet? Talk about your favorite guitar? Show people what you’re up to in your DAW? Film a quick segment of a Zoom call with a fan or friend (with permission, of course)?
Of course, you could. And that would be more than enough to keep your audience engaged.
Do I Need to Publish Daily?
No, you don’t.
Or should I say – I can’t make that decision for you.
It’s going to take something to publish daily. And, again, while I can’t tell you what that is… you might call it a certain determination, consistency, perseverance, or even tenacity in the face of a wild world where there are always more fires to put out… It’s not all going to be candy canes and butts in thongs.
You can publish at a frequency that feels right for you. Not even the top marketers follow their own advice in this regard.
As entrepreneur Noah Kagan says, do 100 of something and then you’ll know a) how it feels, b) whether you enjoy it, and c) whether it works.
You may have heard experts say you don’t need to make something to sell it. Meaning – you can set up pre-orders and test demand before you put all your time, energy, and money into developing a product no one will buy.
Does this work? And if so, how?
The Cost of Releasing an Album & What We Can Learn from it
Chances are you already know everything that goes into making an album.
I have a friend who recently completed his, and at the end of the day, it cost him $40,000 to record his music and put all his marketing materials together.
And I have no doubt he will work hard and find an audience. His music is kind of like the meeting place of modern-day pop mixed with 80s sensibilities, and we all know there’s a market for that.
But there’s no denying that the $40,000 financial outlay was significant, and the oft repeated phrase, “there are no guarantees” applies to him as much as any other artist vying for the consumer’s fragmented attention.
What’s funny about this is that the only cost to record and release my three-time award-winning, one-time nominated short film score The Nobody Prayer (Original Soundtrack) was my own time and energy recording it (which for argument’s sake I will value at $720), and $49 for distribution.
If at some point over the course of my lifetime that release makes me $769, I will be free and clear and into gravy. As for my friend who spent $40,000, I’m not sure when he’ll break even and make a return on that investment.
Is this fair? No. But it also comes from a fundamental difference in perspective and experience.
Selling it Before You Make it
So, is there any merit to this idea of selling it before you make it, of validating a market first, of taking pre-orders on something you haven’t even put any time into creating?
And at the risk of bringing up a sticking point, I want to raise the example of Flashes of Elation, a book I have been developing since 2016.
Now, the project was well underway when I set up pre-orders for it. But I did not have a complete work on my hands. It still caught the attention of my audience, and several people were kind enough to pre-order it on good faith (thank you!).
What I need to tell you, though, is that there are some nuances to setting up pre-orders.
To an extent, yes, you can just say, “I’m making XYZ” and ask people to PayPal you. And if that works for you, go with it.
But usually, it takes a little more than that. Here’s what I learned about setting up pre-orders:
Make the Offer as Attractive as Possible
There are a few key things to consider here. And I know it might be a lot to take in but stick with me and you will see how it works.
We need the following for a successful pre-order:
And we’ll look at each of these elements in detail.
You need to sell your product. And that’s what copy does for you. It acts as a 24/7 salesperson while you’re busy doing other things.
As applied to Flashes of Elation, it was a matter of putting together a blog post teasing the release and talking about the benefits the book would offer.
Now for a bit of secret sauce.
When I put together my pre-order page, marketer Neil Patel just happened to be taking pre-orders for his book, Hustle. His pre-order post caught my attention, so I decided to model it. Apparently, that turned out to be a winning formula, because several people pre-ordered my book too.
My first mockup draft of the Flashes of Elation book cover was honestly terrible, and the book sold despite that. So, I don’t want to put too fine a point on design. But there’s no denying that, psychologically, we tend to put more value on great design.
It’s fundamentally illogical, as author and expert marketer Dan Kennedy emphasizes form over function. And I tend to agree with him. What sells isn’t necessarily what looks the best.
It’s at first brush that we tend to put more value on design. I’ve seen it firsthand as people were bidding on internet businesses. They automatically assumed a website with a better design was a better business. And it often turned out that wasn’t the case. The business that focused on design was the one that was earning less.
The point here would be to 1) have a design, and 2) test it. If it doesn’t work, iterate.
You can put a design together relatively quickly using a tool like Canva, and that’s the same method I advocate for in The Code Breaker Course.
Even if people say they just want the album, or they just want the book, there’s something about a value stack that makes the offer more attractive, and ultimately irresistible.
I learned the term “value stack” from ClickFunnels co-founder Russell Brunson. And it basically means to layer complementary products on top of your main offer.
A CD or a book might be worth $20 to $25. But if you threw in a digital version of the product, some merch, a personal call with the creator (i.e., you), access to a private Facebook group, and so on, it would elevate the value of the product in the eyes of your audience. And even with all these bonuses, if for a limited time, the buyer could get it all for $20? That would wow them, wouldn’t it?
In the Flashes of Elation example, I offered my audience the opportunity to get these pre-order bonuses:
- A signed paperback
- eBook version of the book
- Audio version of the book
- Two appendixes – My Top 10 Tips for Creatives, and interview with Sean Harley [Tucker]
- Audio version of the interview with Sean Harley [Tucker]
Looks quite generous, even to me!
If I wanted to be more aggressive, I could have listed off the value of each of these products and then reinforced the fact that buyers would get all of it for just $25. Kind of like I did on the sales page for Members Only Audios. Not going to lie – it can start to feel pushy after a point, but you can experiment for yourself and see what works.
So, Do You Need to Make it to Sell it?
No, you don’t!
And the advantage here is that if no one buys, you can chalk it all up to experience, go back to the drawing board, and come up with something else. Although I’ve known this for a long time, it feels like I’m learning the lesson at a deeper level now.
Either way, if you do sell pre-orders, be sure to deliver on the product you promised. That’s key!