We’ve all had that dream!
Hot tubs, parties, money to burn, all in all, easy street! Unfortunately, the cold hard reality is that for every golden gilded rock crib in the hills, there are hundreds of thousands scrabbling away for that month’s rent money, or giving the credit card another pasting just to get on a support tour, but you knew that already.
What should be said, is that with music becoming more and more global and accessible than ever (social media/streaming services, oh don’t worry, we’ll get to them!), musicians are having to become smarter, more dynamic, and more unique in order to stand up against increasingly shortened attention spans.
The musicians who are increasingly ahead of the game are the ones who tend to their craft with their business hat on. Gigging furiously will get you somewhere, as will growing a fanbase through a friends and family. There is however, a big switch in mindset between the pool party pipe dreams mentioned above, and the tunnel visioned focus that comes with building a successful brand.
Here are 5 pointers for being more business minded with your music.
Don’t be afraid to benchmark against others
I’d say the biggest lie that a lot of musos will tell is the “…I’m so happy to see XYZ succeed..” Harsh, and not withstanding probably true to some extent, but there will always be that little gremlin in the back of the brain that whispers the immortal question.
“Why isn’t that me?”
Here’s the thing though. We as humans are naturally jealous creatures, and if we see our friends with a new shiny toy (I’m not sure record deals or gigs are shiny toys, but this metaphor is going to continue!), we will smile externally, but covet internally.
Yet there’s nothing wrong with this. The trick comes in the reaction.
Ask yourself how said friend got said super gig on Saturday night at said big venue, or how said friend was able to up their Spotify streams 400% in a day.
Some factors you can control, some you can’t. If Dad Lawyer pumped in capital for a social media campaign to his only daughter, it’s a whole lot different to if she spent the entire weekend contacting playlist promoters, and managed to reach out to a few major players through her persistence.
Accept the factors that you can control (which will often be most of them), ask how they were able to achieve what you wanted, ask yourself if you can do the same, and then go out and do it.
Don’t stop the intensity in how you treat your music.
A point that sounds so easy coming out of the keyboard. This is the sort of statement to hang alongside idioms such as “for every day you continue, another 5 will stop” or “survival of the most persistent.”
However, it is a harsh reality that a lot of musical types are simply not putting enough of the graft in. How many times have we had one of those days where we get home late, stick the TV on, and zone out, or end up down the pub with the usual suspects on a sunny Friday.
Ask yourself this. Could you do this in your day job? Picture your thunder faced boss lambasting your productivity levels after spending 2 hours on Netflix!
A simple reality in life is that if you work hard for something, you will succeed. We tend to apply this to “regular” jobs, such as gunning for management positions or studying for qualifications, yet when in comes to music, we almost ease off and relax into “hobby” mode.
I am not for one second suggesting that making music should be stripped of its fun, its creativity, far from it. However, the bridge from hobby to something more is only ever crossed when the intensity levels are upped.
Be ready to invest but invest methodically.
There ain’t no rest for the wicked, money don’t grow on trees etc etc etc.
There are two polar extremes that are often in play here. Not investing enough, and investing with a scattergun approach.
The reality is that as you climb up the business ladder, there will be hurdles to overcome that will require an investment. How you approach it is a fine balance, and naturally, some obstacles have a bit more “wiggle-room” than others.
For example. A professional looking website is a must. This will start with a pro photoshot image. Can this be skimped on? Not really. A photo from a mate at a pub gig from your mates may capture the energy of a live show, but does it scream quality? You were quoted £150 for a pro-shot set of images that could go across your whole set of social media platforms. A worthwhile investment?
Let’s say you have the image. However, you know nothing of websites. A tech savvy friend has quoted a reduced rate on website design. Or you could do it yourself following a YouTube video along the way. A worthwhile investment?
The point being made is that investment is part of every business, and it should be no different here. Every business, unless it is unique to the point of being revolutionary (and sorry, your music doesn’t fall into that bracket), will rack up losses in it’s initial fledgling period, however this is nothing to be scared about, and should be both assessed critically, but also embraced.
Accept the timespan, people don’t know its happening, but its happening
Italian capitals aren’t built in a day, careers are barely ever built after the first few years.
Musicians are impulsive, impatient individuals who want the world at the click of a finger. A fun Wikipedia game to play is to count the years in between your favorite band’s debut EP or album, and their formation year.
When that debut came out, you were sold the “best new band” lines, and were amazed that these guys had come from nowhere right??
The biggest barometer for quitting is the “nothing is happening” line, when in reality, you are building the foundations to your business. Yes the actual happening is a beautifully immeasurable thing, which could be tomorrow, it could be next year, it could be never, but if and when it does happen, it wouldn’t have occurred without the work that preceded it.
At no point should you think that your lofty ambitions being unfulfilled at present is a sign of failure. On the contrary, it should be an incentive to continue.
Ensure you have a sustainable income source
Probably the biggest home truth, and something that hits potential musicians the hardest. The world of music is unstable, unreliable, and will suck every last penny from you if you let it.
The “I’m quitting my job and doing music” line is one repeated with worrying frequency. How many of these come with a sustainable plan do you think?
Whilst every job you take on alongside music can seem like a waste of time, and something keeping you from creativity, embrace it. It will only build your determination to succeed. It will concentrate your efforts for the time you have, and most importantly, it will give you the environment to keep going. Cars will break, rents will increase, and all of life’s admin and stress points will add up to a sum far greater than a 9-5 commitment.
The feeling of escapism with the knowledge that you have a base and a platform to build from is going to be one of the most rewarding feelings that a human can experience.
Ultimately, the beauty of these 5 points is their simplicity. Anyone can do these, and subtle changes in your mindset and approach will reap benefits in the long run.
In no way should you treat music as something joyless and formulaic, rather, you should treat it as a brand, a business, and your own personal project, that you take pride in both transforming and growing.