Advice Inspired By The Music Industry Blueprint Podcast With Rick Barker
(Listen to the full episode of The Music Industry Blueprint with Rick Barker that inspired this post here.)
There have never been more or better opportunities for success in the music industry, so if you’re feeling stuck, it’s likely because the industry is evolving in ways you’re not. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you won’t recognize success until it happens to you. There are infinite ways to not be successful. Even among people who get signed by a label, only one in twenty-five will put out an album.
If you sit around and wait for it to come to you when you’re not looking for it, it won’t. Apply the following tools and it just might.
The bottom line is: your lack of progress is proof that you aren’t doing enough of the right things. Whether what you are doing is too little, too much, or flawed, you need to be willing to try something different. That is especially true if it means pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
The industry is always changing, so you must change with it. That is not to say that you should make random or unproven changes to your business practices. Rather, you should adjust your behaviors by design; some approaches, attitudes, and behaviors are known contributors to success.
About overnight success: it is a mirage. Nobody stumbles into success. The goal of being plucked from obscurity and placed at the top of the Billboard charts is wildly unattainable.
In today’s music industry, labels are not designed to make you successful. They are not there to build you from scratch or to find fans for you. They are amplifiers, giving you the reach to make you *more* successful. Calling an artist a sensation makes a better story. But that mythology belies the work you must do to get your music in front of people who want to hear it.
Creatives often hate calling what they’re doing a business. They’re making art, moving people, and giving voice to the human experience, which is far from business-like. People sometimes acknowledge that they’re building a brand, but then resist seeing that as more than picking colors and logos to complement their organic self.
The thing is, approaching what you’re doing with a business mindset makes you more likely to recognize what is and isn’t working for you. A plan, target market, and marketing strategy create metrics to determine which actions and behaviors are moving you forward and which are holding you back.
You need to know where you want to go and how long it will take you to get there. The key to that first part is to be specific about how you will identify and measure what success is to you. The key to the second part is to be patient and pragmatic; expecting overnight success will set you up to see failure even in incremental progress.
Combining those elements will establish a plan to recognize what success will be at each point in your professional development journey. Good business strategy will look different at different stages of your experience.
Good business is not just about making good music. Rather, it is about making sure your music has an audience and asking what (more) you can do to max out your engagement with them.
Your fans give you a career. Your music and your brand are about them. It’s your song, but it’s their story. It’s your brand, but they have to feel connected to who you are. Maintain a “one-to-many” strategic focus; work to find ways to make people feel like you are reaching out to them as an individual even though you are speaking to the larger group.
Expend as much effort engaging your audience as you do making music. Youtube is the #1 platform for music discovery. But you should still develop a consistent,*specific* presence on each of the most industry-impacting social media platforms (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube). Each one speaks a different language to a different user base.
Don’t just cross-post and/or the only post when you want something; you’ll alienate your people by seeming like a lazy opportunist. It’s a cutthroat industry with crowded, noisy engagement platforms. Your branding has to be on point and you must actively seek out, build, and maintain attachment.
Targeting a large audience and having a lot of low-resonance followers isn’t the best plan. Vanity metrics (follower/subscriber numbers) are less important than engagement (the percent of followers that like, share, comment).
It is a better business strategy to target a small community well than it is to appeal a little bit to everyone.
Even if you change or bridge genres, your genre should always be music that resonates with your people.
Your audience engagement levels will forecast your ability to sell albums, concert tickets, and merchandise, and a paying audience is a huge metric (and predictor) for success.
It’s tempting to think that the road to success would be shorter and smoother if you knew people at the top of the industry who could help you cut corners. But success is more about who you know at your level.
If you don’t have high-quality metrics, demos, or bookings, don’t try to skip steps by throwing your music at the head of a label. Focus on networking with the people who can help you increase your engagement and monetization, get better recordings, and gain access to stages where the next-level people will see you when you’re ready for them.
Fans give you a career, connections give you opportunities, and labels polish you and put you on a stage, yet your success ultimately hinges on your work ethic. There’s no substitute, not even money, for having a plan or for the networking you do to connect with fans and industry professionals.
There’s also no substitute for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Whether that involves admitting that your music and/or branding is missing the mark or relocating to a music hub where you’ll have to compete for the stage, you ultimately create the conditions that enable your success.
Many music industry creatives don’t have the time or energy to develop their strengths into selling points; they do too much. Then they stall out when they come up against problems that they lack the skills to solve and pour all their effort into doing things that they aren’t uniquely good at doing.
But you don’t have to do everything on your own. There is no shame in delegating tasks to people who will excel at them. The most successful people in the industry focus on doing what they are good at and remain undistracted by what they are not.
Now that we’re at the end of the post, if you feel optimistic and have new ideas about how to steer yourself towards success, that’s great. If that’s not what you’re feeling, if you feel like you’re up against an obstacle that you aren’t sure how to navigate, there is still some good news. You can try doing things differently. You can surround yourself with people whose strengths compensate for your weaknesses.
If that is the level you’re at, I’m the right person for you to know. Reach out and book a free consulting session.