My Team posted this Tweet below on Twitter and it moved me to write a Blog about the courage it takes to be a music artist and to take the necessary risks to build a viable career let alone the investment of time and resources. I also want to speak to the crippling self-doubt many artists deal with (that actually goes with the territory), and the stamina and guts it takes to find your place as a viable artist in the marketplace.
We’ve all heard the adage “It takes money to make money”. Ya, well to get an artist off the ground requires investing. Artists have to spend thousands of dollars to get any project released, from a single to an EP or album. Add to that the 10-15 years in music artist development it takes to be worthy of standing on that stage. All in hopes of their music being heard, enough to make a living at it so they can do it properly instead of squeezing it in between their other job and their life / family .. fill in the blank ___________.
Being an artist requires not only passion and dedication, but endurance. It’s an arduous and long path from inspiration to release in the hopes of making it an actual career. It’s really difficult to do. Platforms like Spotify and Apple Music don’t make it any easier by cutting into their profits. Artists are the reason the industry exists and yet they are not truly supported properly especially during the climb or in tough times. Support your local musician friends – they really need it! Buy their music, shout out about them, comment on their posts, share their music, buy their merch, offer support if they have a Patreon or a way for you to contribute.
As an artist myself, I spent a lifetime becoming worthy enough to stand on that stage and perform. Music school, private lessons, performing, recording — I loved every minute of it, but once you get into the business, it can become a kind of love-hate relationship. On one hand you are inspired and driven as heck, and on the other hand you feel completely overwhelmed by the seemingly endless staircase in front of you. There is so much rejection along the way and no one believes in you until you are producing music on a higher level. Most friends and family secretly wish you would just give it up so they don’t have to be disappointed for you (especially if they love you, they don’t want you to get hurt or delude yourself). It can be difficult to overcome your self-doubt as a musician.
I came close to being on Oprah and selling millions of records. I closed my studio for 2 years at the suggestion of a producer and I spent years in the making of that record as I searched within looking for the muse and my inspiration. I entered into an apprenticeship with don Miguel Ruiz (author of “The Four Agreements) and Rita Rivera who was one of his teachers. I had a soul awakening and my heart was bursting with songs from the experience. I made these high level demos to share with the community and Miguel’s publisher heard them and signed me to a record deal. We put out the record with the goal of having me perform Miguel’s prayer on Oprah (Oprah loves Miguel) but the project got cut short by Miguel having a major heart attack and almost dying. And needless to say, it cut the project as it took years for him to regain his health.
The heartbreak for me was huge. I didn’t recognize myself. This was my last chance at attempting yet again to be the artist I dreamed of. I came so close. It left me with a bitter taste for a while, until I finally accepted it. So I understand how it feels. The struggle is real. Nothing is more sacred or important to an artist than their dream and the hope they need to achieve it.
Here is my best advice from what I’ve experienced, and from having a front row seat watching tens of thousands of artists over the past 3 decades from my studio in New York. Take what speaks to you and leave the rest. Only YOU know what you really need. Pick the one that resonates the most and work on it.
1. Define Your Mission: What You Want to Manifest in the World
Your Mission is important because it drives your vision and your Team. People want to work with people who have a strong clear vision of where they are going and what they want to do in the world.
Write your Mission statement now. Let anyone you work with know your mission. We repeat ours every Wednesday at our Team meeting. It keeps the team (and you) aligned with your deeper purpose. This is a very important exercise for your musician mindset too.
2. Define Your “Why”
Defining your “why”, why you do what you do, helps give you clarity especially when there is a setback in your career. We can’t control what happens to us, but we do have some control over how we respond. Knowing your “why” helps you stay focused on your deeper purpose and inform your artist development process.
3. Build a Business Plan to Reach the Outer Limits of Your Wildest Dreams > Think BIG
Musician Maggie Rogers wrote a 21 page business plan as her dissertation completing the Clive Davis School of Music.
We have a 22 page business plan template that we use with our artists at our label services company. We figured 1 more page might just be even better :). We build out the plan in 3 Phases all the way through an artist’s career. This helps a potential investor see the full potential of the artist’s brand. For more information visit https://ccvm.co/.
4. Don’t Go Alone Into the Valley of Darkness > Gather an Aligned Team
My biggest piece of advice for the indie musician generation who is told they can do it alone, is that you will only get so far. It’s virtually impossible to run a business solo, and you are a small business. Especially today there are too many parts and pieces, you’ll drown in creating content for social media alone.
Start by gathering a team that is aligned with your Mission and Purpose. Just start with one assistant to start taking things off your plate and helping with the to do list.
Look for people that believe in you wholeheartedly and are aligned with your mission (see #1). Look for people who are Muses. These are people who actually love (prefer) to be behind the scenes helping you be the face of your brand. They are excellent support team workers and can be so supportive. It makes a huge difference to have people with you on the journey celebrating wins and holding your hand through the losses. Building an aligned team is one of the most important things you can do to support and grow your music career and build a stronger musician mindset. Think of all the things they can take off your plate so you can be the artist!
5. Take Intelligent Risks
Nothing great is ever achieved without some risk. No risk, no reward. As an artist, you need to take risks and as an entrepreneur and small business owner you need to take risks. Just to BE a music artist is to be a risk taker. But it’s going to ask more of you than that.
Do your best to take “intelligent risks”. As much as you can, base your decisions and risk taking on numbers, insights (on social media), email open rates, Google Analytics on your website. Consult with experts in their fields to help you make the right decisions. You first need to BUILD THE EXPERIENCE — create the music they want, create an experience for your fans to step into – one that speaks to them. You’ll know because the numbers will tell you. And beware of social fans who are not dedicated fans. Grow that email list people. Why? Because you own it.
And – artist is his or her own business. You & your craft are your product. No one will ever invest in you if you don’t invest in yourself.
🕰️ Invest your time.
💰 Invest your money, if you have it.
🤗 Invest your feelings.
🙏 Invest your belief.
❤️ Invest your love.
✨ Invest your very soul.
I’m cheering you on. Reach out if you need help. firstname.lastname@example.org.