Monday, January 10, 2011


I'm guessing that there's a lot of artists out there who are full of ambition and enthusiasm around this time of year, ready to take over the world in 2011. With the promise of a new year stretched out before us, we have a renewed sense of energy and we're excited about surpassing last year's accomplishments.

I'd like to offer up a few tips to help you get the most out of your efforts and keep you on track, so you don't get so caught up in the day-to-day grind that you forget about the small, but extremely important details. All musicians know that they have to write and record their music, perform live, create and utilize promotion and marketing materials, network, etc., but all of this can be meaningless if you haven't built a solid foundation from which to grow.

First Things First

Before you begin doing anything, I would strongly urge you to do a little soul searching, so that when you do begin to act, you'll know that you're moving in a direction that is properly aligned with your core beliefs and values. If you're a band/artist who's been around for years, don't ignore this point. You may find after answering some key questions that you've been wasting time traveling down a road that will lead you to an unfulfilling destination.

The very first thing you must do is determine exactly what motivates you to make music in the first place. Do you want to make music just for yourself or do you want to share it with other people and build a fan base? Do you want to be wildly rich and famous or would you rather make a modest living and still be able to walk to the corner store for milk without getting mobbed by the paparazzi? Do you only want to play local venues, or are you willing to jump in a van with your band mates and hit the road for weeks or months at a time touring?

The answers to these questions will make a huge difference in how you approach everything and what your next steps will be. Take some time to write down your career goals, so you're clear about what's important to you. What will it take for you to be successful by your definition?


Once you know what you want, educate yourself so you can make informed decisions. If you let yourself get caught up in the media hype of what the music business appears to be, you're only setting yourself up for disappointment and failure. If, through your soul searching, you've found that you want music to be your career and not just a hobby, don't fall into the trap of assuming that you're going to be discovered and carried to super stardom by the 'magic man' of the music industry. Strive to really understand the economic realities of the biz and then put together a plan of action that makes sense.

What Category Are You In?

Define which musical category you fit into. Don't be the band that says, "Our music is so diverse that we can't pin it down to just one category." If this sounds like you, you need to take the time to choose a definite musical direction. If industry pros can't put a label on you, they simply won't work with you. You need to know this in order to understand who your fans are and then to determine where and how to market your music to them effectively.

I understand that it can be difficult to categorize a band like U2 if you look at how diverse their music has been over the decades of their existence, but remember that comparing yourself to a band like U2 is a moot point because they're not playing by the same rules as an up-and-coming band. When a fan walks into the local HMV to purchase U2's latest album, they're not buying a pop/rock CD, they're buying a U2 CD. Big difference.

Walk The Talk

Whatever it is that you decide for yourself, make a strong commitment to get things done and follow through with ACTION toward your goals. Keep the promises you make to yourself as there is a direct correlation between this and your self esteem. The more times you fail to keep your commitments to yourself and to others, it further erodes your self worth.

I hope this helps to get you thinking about some steps you may have missed along the way. Believe me, I missed a lot of this stuff when I was doing my thing back in the 80s. We just wanted to play and we didn't really have anyone to steer us in the right direction and we didn't have a great tool like the internet where we could google a topic and get access to millions of pages of content in 1.37 seconds. Ah, what an age we live in now. Enjoy!

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