The world is not what it used to be. That can be said for just about anything, but in terms of the music industry, it’s certainly true. With the explosion of social media and excellent production software, it’s easier than ever to make great tracks and get them out there. At the same time, everyone else can do that, too.
So how do you get yourself started in a serious career in music? Whether you just graduated with a music degree or have been playing in a local music scene for years, there are certain steps to start your music career seriously that you should consider. After all, this is your life and your passion, so you have to make it work.
1 – Set SMART Goals
When it comes to starting your music career on a serious trajectory, it’s critical to know what that trajectory is. You need to know what you’re aiming at so that you can direct all of your best efforts in the right direction. Some people want to be huge stars, while others want to simply make a living producing and selling music.
No matter what your overall aim is, you need to plan the things you need to do and set up ways to attain them. Take a page from the business planning book to set SMART goals.
S stands for specific. While your overall target might be “to become the next Prince,” this isn’t clear enough to be one thing you can do in a week or a month. Be more specific with goals like “produce two songs in the next two weeks” for a goal that you can achieve.
Measurable means that you can figure out if you have reached your goal or not. Something like “Get 20,000 followers on YouTube” is something with clear stats you can measure, while “Get famous” is not.
Be realistic. Can you really attain a goal like “Put out five records this year”? Be honest with yourself and set goals you can realistically attain so that you can actually achieve success.
Is the goal you’re setting really useful for your overall plan? Do you really need to learn the tuba? Will mastering that new piece of mixing software help, or is it just for fun? Keep distractions down by assessing whether each goal sets you on the path to your target.
Write into your goals when you need them completed, with phrases like “this month” or “by the end of October.” This is a positive way to pressure yourself and avoid that terrible enemy – procrastination.
2 – Treat your Career as a Business
Especially in today’s online climate, being a musician or producer is like owning your own small business (or big business for some). And with a business, you have to think of a lot more than just making good music. Businesses need marketing strategies and branding, assessments of target audiences, account management, and a lot more to be successful.
Most of all, write yourself a business plan. It’s one of the most important steps to start your music career. Where do you want to be in two years? Five years? Plan out how you can get there, what it will take to do it, and how much it will cost. And get yourself an agenda like this Pa dfolio from Wundermax to organize yourself like a businessperson.
3 – Build a Team
Collaborating with other musicians or producers to make great tracks probably seems obvious. But when you’re managing your career as a business, other collaborations may not seem quite so straightforward. Do you know how to do your own marketing? Can you balance the books? What about the legal side of things?
When you’re just starting, you’re probably going to have to do most everything yourself. But as your career starts to grow, it’s important to know when to let others take over some of these tough jobs. This is leveraging their skills and knowledge so you can focus on your music.
4 – Network and Build Connections
The most important support musicians get is from other musicians. Making connections that may not seem all that crucial now can pay off in a big way in the future. Imagine you talk to a performer after her set and exchange contact details. A few years later, when that artist has blown up, she drops a favorable review of your latest track.
This is just one of a million ways networking, and connections with musicians, producers, and others in the industry can help you. Using networking sites like LinkedIn is another. Build bridges!
5 – Establish Your Presence – Online and Offline
If you’re making music, it’s not enough to just sit at home with your DAW and then toss your tracks onto SoundCloud, hoping they’ll be heard. Like it or not, music is a form of social communication, which means you need to get out there.
In-person, getting out there can get you some performance time at local venues. You can even play on the street just to get your sound out there. People will form more connections to you and your music when they can see you play live and meet you as a real person.
Getting yourself out there online is a 100% must. Having a website, YouTube channel, or FB page is an important anchor for people to see that you’re serious. Dropping your tracks on music platforms is, of course, the way to get them out there. But don’t forget about social media’s huge influence on sharing and promoting artists.
6 – Invest in Yourself
Last but not least, this is a bit cliché, but improving and investing in yourself isn’t. Do you need to learn new skills as a musician and a producer? Who doesn’t? Find time and financial resources to put into building and improving your skills, and you’ll find a payoff in the future. This can mean lessons, online courses, and even investment in upgraded equipment.
Money is always an issue. For most people starting a music career, there’s no choice but to work a day job as well. But that day job can be something that helps you as a musician.
Consider trying to find work that relates to your passion, like teaching an instrument, DJing, or even working in a music store. That way, work can bring in income and also help you grow and learn in the music industry.
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Steps to Start your Music Career – Final Thoughts
So those are our top 6 steps for starting your career in music. Making a plan and following it can be as crucial to your career as having great chops, so don’t sell yourself short by skipping it.
Think of yourself as a business, a personal brand you need to manage, promote, and develop and look for the people who can help you do it. That way, your music career will be off to a solid start.
Until next time, let the music play.