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While blazing your trail to independent music success, you might encounter a few roadblocks. But the extent to which these roadblocks hinder you will largely depend on how well you understand the following.

These five layers form the foundation of a successful music career. They empower you when you’re disempowered and show you the way when there appears to be no other way.

Pyramid of independent musician success

Principles / Mindset

Most foundational to your success in music is your mindset. It accounts for 80% of your success. And your mindset should be built on time-tested principles.

Principles don’t change just because you change, and rest assured, you will change.

When all else fails, principles are what will keep you anchored in the real world, not some pretend world where everything always goes right. Because many things will go wrong on your music career journey.

When all else fails, principles are what will keep you anchored in the real world. Click To Tweet

You may not be able to depend on anything else – band mates, gig dates, record contracts – but what you can depend on is principles.

Experience

Your experience as an artist is invaluable. As you perform more, you’ll gain more live experience and become a better performer. As you record more, you’ll gain more experience in the studio, and gain a better sense of what’s expected of you when the engineer hits the “record” button.

But experience isn’t everything. “Every time we play at XYZ bar, at least 50 people show up to see the show.”

That may be your experience, and it may have proven true to this point, but there are factors you can’t possibly know, and this “truth” won’t always remain true.

The bar could shut down. They might stop promoting musical events to their 500 email subscribers. A natural disaster could unexpectedly come along the day of your show.

Some of this might seem far-fetched, but you’re denying reality if you think that nothing could ever change the 50-person turnout.

So, it’s key to know the difference between principles and experience. When you can’t rely on experience, you can rely on principles. But it doesn’t work the other way around.

Branding

An artist’s brand informs all aspects of their mission, image, and marketing activity. A brand might be the hardest thing to figure out, but once you’ve got your finger on the pulse of it, all other decisions concerning your career start to fall into place.

An artist’s brand informs all aspects of their mission, image, and marketing activity. Click To Tweet

A brand cannot take the place of principles because it’s built on principles. It cannot take the place of experience because it’s built on experience.

But it can outclass marketing any day because your brand informs your marketing. If your brand isn’t undergirding your marketing, chances are you don’t have a strategy yet.

Marketing

Marketing is critical. But without a brand, it’s mostly a shot in the dark.

Who are you trying to market to? Where do they like to hang out online? What publications, magazines, or blogs do they read? What podcasts or radio shows do they listen to? What do they like to watch on Netflix or YouTube? What interests do they have?

If you know your reason for existing, your mission, your purpose, you can build your marketing around that, because that is your brand.

But you can’t build your marketing on any less, because then it is reduced to a tactic (shot in the dark) and not a strategy.

Tactics

Tactics are basically the to-do list for your daily marketing activity.

“Send an email campaign to fans every Thursday at 1 PM EST” is the very essence of a tactic. It’s a specific thing to do, on a specific day, at a specific time.

Of course, such tactics are ineffective, or at the very least, less effective than they could be, away from a proper marketing and branding strategy. How do you know you should be sending emails at a weekly cadence, on Thursdays, specifically at 1 PM EST?

Further, who is the email being written to? Why is it being written? What’s the message, and with what voice are you going to deliver it? What action do you want the reader to take having read the email?

These are easy questions to answer if you know your brand and have a marketing strategy. Much harder to nail down without it.

The 5 Layers Are Your Foundation

If you’ve understood the above, then you’ve realized something most artists haven’t – success doesn’t happen by accident. You must be deliberate and intentional about creating your foundation, and you will have a shaky foundation if you don’t understand the five layers of independent music success.

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