These days, it seems like being an artist just isn’t enough. The whole new basket of responsibilities that comes along with the internet / digital territory has left people with so much more to worry about besides what matters most ( the music ). Below I list 10 steps to get you from studio to stage, and stage to stadium.
1. Branding – Personal Identity is a VERY important piece of your entire career. A logo, Specific Colors, A Certain Style, Maybe a signature intro, outro or action that you are known for and remembered by. Branding is by far one of the most effective methods of getting you off the ground. People need to be able to identify with you, and quickly. If you are starting to brand yourself, you should be using a logo that’s clean, clear, and easily read. The same goes with color choices. If your branding is too much like other people or companies, it can get lost or easily mistaken as theirs. If your branding is too unique, it could end up being difficult to read and may leave breaks communication. Branding is important when people are trying to discover you, as well as support you. I commonly make the analogy to wrestler’s of the 80’s/90s’ when mentioning individual branding. They are perfect examples of wearing it all on their sleeves, and being “in character” at all times. Make something memorable, be unforgettable.
2. Promotional Collateral – Materials like merchandise, promotional cards, pins, stickers, and other things that help spread awareness of you are very important. Once again, if they are unique or stylish enough they can be utilized as a conversation piece. Whether you sell them or give them away, the biggest goal here is to have things to leave behind for them to remember you by. If you have materials that create an emotional connection with the audience – you’ll receive even better results/response from it. It’s also a nice touch to send someone a cd and include a “bonus item” that they weren’t expecting. When doing artist management and development, I normally start off people with 10,000 “promotional cards” that have their logo on one side, contact info on the other, and tell them to leave them anywhere and everywhere that may have potential traffic that can send them to hear and interact with your product.
3. Open Mics / Being Active – Whether you want to stay in your basement or bedroom making music or you want to go party every night. As you know, most of this business is based around who you know, connections and communication are key for staying on people’s radar and getting opportunities. If you make music that fits a specific demographic, look at where those people are in abundance, and spend your time there. Create consistency in going to specific outings and you’ll end up meeting other people who also frequent the places, this also allows you to easily weave in and out of conversations. If you can actually participate in the activities at these said venues, even better! This game is very much out of sight, out of mind and this forces you to interact with others who could be potential customers or collaborators.
4. Collaboration vs Competition – Teamwork makes the dream work right? Sometimes a collaboration can yield an amazing response and is often used as a way to ‘kickstart’ careers or bring someone up with you. If you are unknown, but work with a producer, dj, or other artists that are more known, it can help you cross-pollenate and really expose you to different demographics. The best types of partnerships are the ones that make sense and have a bit of synergy already. Having people who are already more established co-sign or vouch for your talents by joining you on different parts of a record, is a great look and addition to your artist resume/press kit.
5. Professionalism – Sadly this one still somehow manages to be elusive and forgotten. This is pretty simple. Arrive on time to all meetings and appointments, remember there is a time and place for everything. When people ask what you do, answer in confidence. Nobody likes a “trying” anything, don’t be an aspiring Blank, you are either all in, or not in at all. When interacting with promoters/event coordinators, other talent performing, the venue staff, and beyond. It’s extremely valuable to make connections with all of these people because you never know who’s listening and watching, let alone where they are connected beyond the current show. When someone is on point and organized with all of their cords and equipment, they generally get offered more gigs because they are reliable and easy to build with. Even when sending emails to bloggers, and filling out festival forms. Use proper english, good etiquette, don’t get too cocky or arrogant, and maybe even offer to help if you’re just going to be waiting around otherwise. A little effort goes a long way.
6. Save Money – Having access to a decent bankroll can definitely help you climb faster, especially when you can pay different publicists, editors and more types of people or services that help you push your product/brand out to the masses on a larger scale. NEVER pay to play, if the show requires something like this, simply don’t do it. You will end up wasting your time and money performing in front of people that were guilt tripped or forced into a room together, only to see 1 person, and that in itself leaves people standing around disengaged with the show or gone with the wind as soon as the first breeze swings through. When you can pay for better production, guest drops or features, dj cuts, mixing, mastering, mailers, booking venues, and more. You want to stretch your dollars as much as you can and only utilize what you need. Some people save up and book themselves onto their own tour. With sites like Airbnb and Googlemaps this is becoming an easier and easier task. If you decide to tour, you can save money in a variety of ways by pre-planning and seeking deposits prior to arrival of each location. Once you see a larger demand in certain cities, you can utilize your funds to go back as well as aim to target specific areas of the city with a concentrated marketing plan.
7. Packaging / Presentation – Presentation is a key to success. This can boil down to album artwork, your cases, vinyl sleeves, designs, colors, fonts, even the wrap/packaging. If you have unique packaging, that comes as a real thoughtful piece. People take notice, and they remember it, and your art then becomes a collectable or limited piece that correlates with you. Think about unique methods of delivering your content to the masses, or specific and more important VIP’s.
8. Distribution – Once you have a physical or digital product, how are you going to get it out there? Distro is generally provided by labels, PR companies, some creative agencies and large digital/physical retailers. Unless you are phenomenal, let’s face it – you will have to put in work to move units. Finding a good distributor is kinda like buying a new car. You know it’s going to cost you quite a bit, but that cost is negated by what you gain from it, and how far it can take you. A good product with great distribution, can really catch on like wildfire and end up all over the world very rapidly via internet. Bad distribution can leave you with a surplus of product and nobody who wants to buy it or share/sell it. Before joining a label or signing a contract for releasing an album, definitely do your research on what options are the most feasible for you. I generally suggest aligning your type of music, with the brands or labels that best promote to that audience. You want to stay in your lane, but don’t be afraid to step a little beyond and ask questions, because a closed mouth doesn’t get fed.
9. Manager / Agent – While not always required, still important – normally a good manager will give you the focus and direction to make good business decisions and help you become a more well-rounded performer. An Agent can help you get booked for more gigs, as their career is built around relationships that require talent. They are literally a middle man, take care of them and they take care of you. Represent them poorly, and you could potentially have the reverse effects of what you want. Some of the best managers really make or break an artists career. You can be shaped and molded into an even more influential powerhouse with the right support backing you. If you are at a point in your career where you may be getting less offers, and few requests to be involved – it may be a good time to look at these types of people to see what they can do for you.
10. Perform / Practice – You’d probably be surprised to know what percentage of professional musicians do not practice once they get their big break. This causes them to eventually fall off or forget the basics that were at one time in place to create consistency in their careers. I understand this stuff may be a no-brainer, but you can never have “enough” practice in a specific craft. We are also creatures of habit and bad habits die hard. Never performing and never practicing equals the jogger who just got the cast off his leg, only to break it again. Normally what you put in is what you get out, and this is one of those cases where if you take it seriously, you should be able to get the most out of your shows, instead of trying to squeeze blood out of a stone.
“You can market ‘til you are blue in the face – hire the best PR or radio motion company in the world – but unless you have what people want you have nothing. No matter whether you’re recording your 4th studio album or your first, you’re always a work-in-progress of becoming your best yet, and quite frankly, you can never dig too deep or work too hard on your music.
Here’s some addtl information from Cari Cole – (Celebrity vocal coach, artist development expert, and new music business mentor)
101 Things Every Musician Needs to Know in 2015:
1. Practice your craft every day. That’s the only way you’ll exceed expectations (yours
2. Sing every day, it takes an unbelievable amount of practice to be great. Don’t let
anyone tell you otherwise – ever.
3. Train your voice. A pro vocal coach will make you sound 100x better and much faster
than you could on your own.
4. Think ridiculously positive, you’re going to need every single ounce.
5. Train your brain to beat the odds, not succumb.
6. Expect success and don’t be disappointed when it doesn’t happen overnight. It never
7. Create powerful mantras that help you regain your strength, i.e., “I am brave”, “I am
8. Have boatloads of patience. You’ll need every milligram.
9. Prioritize. Musicians are not wired for business naturally and are easily overwhelmed
by the lengthy to do list. Every Sunday, sit down and prioritize the top 3 things on your list for
the week ahead.
10. Don’t fight your musician nature. You are supposed to be highly sensitive, ridiculously
creative, and super anxious. It’s part of what it takes to be a “creative”. So you can stop
beating yourself up now :).
11. Don’t be permanently knocked down by rejection. If you’re doing your job right, you will
be rejected, many, many, many times. It’s a sign you’re on to something (unless you’re not.
Sometimes it’s because you’re just not there yet #itsalongjourneyworthtaking).
12. Take more risks with your art. Great artistry often steps outside the norm or is inventive.
13. Stop comparing. Comparisons distract you from your own path.
14. Perform as often as you can. Put in your 10,000 hours. Nothing less will put you
on the front lines.
15. Don’t skimp with your musicianship. It shows.
16. Make the best music on the planet and don’t stop until you have it. Period.
17. Make the music you want to hear. Stop trying to please everyone else, and please
yourself first – it’s infectious.
18. You can market ‘til you’re blue in the face, but if you don’t have what people want ~
you have nothing. #backtothedrawingboard.
19. Create your music masterpiece. First and foremost you are an artist – not a marketer.
Music comes first.
20. Write songs that tell your truth but hit universal truths at the same time. When you
write from your truth, it becomes an instant branding tool.
21. Don’t cave in to rhymes. That means focus on content first and rhyming second.
22. Don’t leave filler lyrics in your songs. Every word of your lyric is precious
real estate, choose words carefully – use synonym finders to be more innovative.
23. Study songwriting, don’t take stabs. Songwriting is like golf, you suck most
of the time until you don’t.
24. Write melodies that fit your voice and how it wants to move. Nothing is less
compelling than an under developed or over-reaching melody that makes a
singer sound worse or less than they are.
25. Write songs that fit you as as an artist, not just good songs – there’s a difference.
If you don’t know what I mean, check out the links below.
26. Develop your signature sound, one that is instantly recognizable and undeniable.
27. Write songs that are hard won. Stuff that was cathartic for you.
28. Fall in love with why you are different.
29. Write music that offers people something more.
30. Be relevant. Make music that makes sense to the musical climate. You can
be vintage but don’t bury yourself in an era without having some modernizing
31. Follow music trends but don’t copy them. By the time you release yours it will
32. Put your ear to the ground. What’s happening in rehearsal rooms and on the
street is the next wave – not what’s on the radio. That’s already gone…
33. Stand out, don’t fit in. Don’t be a copycat.
34. Become a master of your craft. Your competition is.
35. Make broadcast quality music. Nothing less.
36. Work with top notch producers and that doesn’t always mean top dollar. Their
work speaks for itself.
37. Only work with producers who produce the kind of music you can imagine for
yourself and nothing less.
38. Want amazing off-the-hook kick ass vocals on your next record? Work with a vocal
arranger (links below).
39. Don’t devalue your music with a crappy brand that hurts not helps. Elevate yours.
40. Send out a regular monthly newsletter. That means the same day, same time every
month. Consistent marketing builds trust.
41. Have an email opt-in in exchange for something incredibly awesome that your fans
will want and please don’t use the phrase “free music.” Come up with a compelling title
for your giveaway (maybe the title of your songs).
42. Hire a VA (Virtual Assistant). And if you don’t know what that is or why you need one,
check out the links below.
43. Engage with your fans – find out who they are and talk to them. They will love you.
44. Go way out of your way for your fans. Fans are who support your career and pay you.
45. Nurture your dreams, they need your constant watering or they wither and die.
46. Have BIG dreams. Don’t be afraid to dream big, big dreams create momentum.
47. Don’t overlook the details, they’ll nip you in the bud every time.
48. Things take way longer than you think, so plan for that and plan way ahead.
49. Always use strategy. Never ever do anything in the music business without a strategy
behind you. Careers are created, orchestrated and manufactured. You want to build on
every last move.
50. Plan out your year. Start with your goal and reverse engineer.
51. Don’t release your whole album at once. It’s a waste of marketing potential. Use each
video or song release as an opportunity to shout out and grow your list.
52. Find where you fit and then chart a course to make it happen.
53. Grow a pair of balls, women included. You’ll really need them.
54. Don’t ask permission… just do it.
55. Don’t change with the flavor of the moment, stay on your course and it will pay off when
the pendulum swings back your way.
56. Give graciously, people applaud generous natures.
57. Be outrageously bold and true.
58. Speak your truth, it’s what people really want from you – the rawer the better.
59. Share in other peoples success, it will attract more to you.
60. Praise others publicly, you’ll win instant friends (and possibly real ones and not just cyber
61. Stop chasing big names in the business. Find the people that resonate with you and rise up
62. Research anyone you meet and everyone you want to meet in the industry down to their
picture so you can recognize them when you meet them.
63. Shout out about people who help you. It’s really, really, really good karma and will come
back tenfold (it’s a small world.)
64. Share your knowledge, don’t be stingy. You could change someone’s life.
65. Share your successes small and tall. Sometimes the smaller stuff makes a bigger difference.
66. Work with people smarter than you (that includes everyone on your team.)
67. Be generous with praise and short on criticism.
68. Learn the difference between good and great, criticism and discernment.
69. Elevate your brand. Have a killer pic and image that visually nails the sound of your music.
Your music isn’t enough to speak for you – it’s a visual world.
70. Make your website an experience for your fans.
71. Be a trendsetter, not a follower.
72. Pay attention to marketing trends.
73. White is in, black is out. Lose the white type over black backgrounds. Follow the leaders
74. Don’t use basic marketing tactics that you learn from online marketers, music marketing
is a little more fickle than that. While there are similarities, music marketing follows slightly
different rules ;)). Study the right stuff ~ check out the links below.
75. Name your fans and have a #hashtag page title on your site just for them.
76. Stop thinking there is a one-size-fits-all plan for success in music. There isn’t.
77. There are many artist paths, knowing yours is a key to helping your carve your unique
78. Find your next destination and then plan the route.
79. You don’t need a manager. Not until you are making at least $50K a year from your music.
Build your career first. Everyone else does. Except Justin Bieber and he doesn’t count.
80. Work with people who believe in great music and who will tell you the truth, even when
it’s hard to hear.
81. Not every music industry person is created equal. Don’t give the same weight to what
82. Filter advice, but listen to everything worthy.
83. Stay clear of negative people, they’re not good for you, no matter how important they are.
84. If there are holes in your artistry or business acumen, get the highest level of help you
can find. Not doing so will gravely keep you from your success.
85. Know how the music industry works. As Mary J. Blige says “the music industry is no
place for people that don’t know things.”
86. Keep your head up – high, even when you don’t feel like it.
87. Don’t be pretentious, or name drop. It’s compensating for your lack of faith in yourself.
Develop more self-esteem. You can do it.
88. Practice being exactly where you are for one week (not projecting into the future) and see
89. Don’t push the river. The river can’t be pushed and there is a reason it’s flowing at the
pace it is.
90. Read the subtext. It’s not what’s being said, it’s how it’s being said that matters.
91. Don’t put your faith in people, put your faith in yourself.
92. Develop a stronger relationship with yourself. It’s the only one you really have.
93. Forgive easily. Everyone is doing the best they can given who they are.
94. Have big goals but low expectations.
95. Honor your impulsive nature (it helps you move forward), but never make hasty decisions
that you’ll pay for later.
96. Don’t release music just because you have a deadline or you’ll release stuff that is under
par. But always operate under deadlines, just move them back without a second thought.
Music first over everything else.
97. Don’t worry if you’ve promised a release date you’ve missed, things always take way longer
than you think. Just quickly apologize and talk about the improvements /progress/ journey!
98. Follow every artist you can find that you believe in and then shout out about them. This
creates a rich community of support when you need it. And don’t fool yourself, you’ll need it.
99. Don’t vie for attention or adoration from others. Give it to yourself. You’ll stand way taller
and shine brighter.
100. Believe in yourself more than your mother, family or friends do or did.
101. Always fight hard for your music and don’t make anyone wrong in the process.
If any of that speaks to you – it’s what I teach and preach.