If you can answer these 10 questions, you will be well equipped and very well prepared for your career as a musician. Some of these questions are no brainers. Some you may not have ever given a thought to. You need to have answers for all of them. Trying to figure things out on the fly works in some industries, but not so much in the music world. Planning is key. If you make it all the way through this guide, you should be able to answer each question below.
Life Lession #1 – Make a plan and stick to it.
Do I have a Product to Market Yet?
Well… do you? What this means is, do you have any songs yet? How many? You can’t play a show with only a couple songs. Most places you go play at will give you at least 15-20 minutes. So have at least 5 or 6 songs ready and know them. Mistakes happen when playing live, but the more you make the less interested people will be in you. You’ve got to be able to play them with your eyes closed. You must have the lyrics memorized perfectly. This should go without saying, but cover songs won’t cut it. Maybe one sprinkled in at every other show, just to get people’s attention. But your music career should be about your music.
Who is your target audience?
What is your demographic? Men, women, older people, younger people, casual music fans, music lovers? Are your fans going to be fans of Rock music? Folk? Pop? Ska? If you know who you are trying to attract, it will be easier to think of how to attract them.
How will you get your music heard?
You’re not going to magically get played on the radio. And venues won’t call you to come play for them. You’ve got to figure out how to get your music from your brain, to your instrument, to a CD, computer, or venue and ultimately to potential fans’ ears. It’s not as easy as it sounds.
How much time can you dedicate to creating new music?
If you’ve got a full time job already and you’re trying to get into the music business, you’ve got to find a way to set aside time to make new music on top of all the other tasks that we’ll get into shortly. If you’ve got a part-time job, it gets easier. If you don’t have a job, well, you’ve got nothing but time – right? Sometimes you’ll come up with a new song in a flash. Other times you’ll run into a creative wall and won’t come up with anything for weeks.
How much time can you dedicate to attracting new fans?
The internet is going to be your best friend. It will give you the chance to reach literally millions of ears. But you have to put in the time and effort. You could/should end up spending three, four, or more hours a day social networking and promoting yourself and your music. Do you have that kind of time?
This question very likely will end up making or breaking you – especially if you’re in a band where everyone wants to do something different with the money. Coming up with a plan before the money starts adding up is crucial. Otherwise, don’t be surprised when band members start fighting and end up splitting up the band.
How will you create an EP or album?
Seems simple enough right? I’ll record it! Sure. Do you know how? Do you have the equipment (instruments, mics, software, computers, mixers, etc.)? Are you going to pay someone to record you? Who? How much will that cost you? Where will you get the money to pay for it?
How will you distribute your music?
There are various websites that you can use to get your music into the ears and minds of listeners. You need to know them, use them, and use them correctly. Avoid using iTunes and Amazon MP3 when you first begin.
How will you communicate with your fans?
This might not seem like it would be all that complicated, but if you have thousands of fans and you want to let them know about a contest you’re having or a new single, EP, or album to be released, you’re going to want to find a good way to let them know. Facebook picks and chooses who sees what based on their special “formula”, so don’t bank on your fans being informed with Facebook. And unless you’re repeating your Tweets multiple times a day, Twitter isn’t a great option either.
How much money do you have to fund your career?
Something many aspiring musicians never consider is that unlike most careers, you have to pay this job – sometimes for years – before this job will ever pay you. If you want to become successful, you will be spending more money than you bring in for a good while. Earning a living making music isn’t something that happens overnight, over weeks, or months. It can take years before you even have a decent following. And by that time, you’ll have spent way more money promoting yourself, driving to gigs, buying equipment, buying new instruments, CDs, and merchandise than you’ll have actually made from your music. Don’t believe me? Ask Barley Station. Ask Velcro Mary. Ask No Island. It’s the same as any conventional, self-employed, start-up business. Don’t expect to make a profit, or even a salary, the first three or so years.
Life Lesson #2, have realistic expectations.
If you’ve read this far and haven’t given up – or simply concluded I have no idea what I’m talking about and that American Idol is real – go take a potty break and grab a snack and something to drink. Things are about to get really detailed and really overwhelming in the pages ahead.
You are on page 2 – Creating a Gameplan