[This post is excerpted from Music Career Killers! 20 Things That May Be Holding You Back In Your Music Career and How To Fight Back!, a white paper released by Music Marketing Classroom.com. Reprinted with permission.]
Every hour of every day, there’s a talented musician somewhere on the planet who makes the decision to put their artistic side on the back burner in favor of a more stable career. Although they vow they will pursue music in their spare time, just this simple mindset shift could mean that writing songs and playing gigs will always take a back seat to almost everything else in life.
In a way, it hurts too much to do music when you make this decision because it reminds you of all the dreams you had and gives you the feeling of being a failure. Even the most committed musicians can be ground down to nothing after years of playing empty shows and sending out hundreds of demos with no reply. But once you start to recognize the common mistakes you’re making, you will be able to avoid them and get on with the real work of consistently creating music that your fans will appreciate.
Music Career Killer #1: Not working on your music every day
You can spend your whole life learning music marketing and still fail if you don’t have great music to promote, but you can suck at marketing and still do well if your music is on point. The ideal, though, is to find that perfect balance between marketing and music creation.
Commit to working on your music skills for an hour a day, and do your marketing in any additional time that you can spare. It can help to make this into a little game, so every once in a while go back three months in time on your YouTube channel and see the kinds of songs you were writing then. Over that time period, you can really start to notice an improvement if you work on your music and songwriting daily.
Music Career Killer #4: Not selling anything
So many musicians drop the ball at this stage: they produce great music, but then feel bad and don’t ask people to take the next step to buy something. Or they do try and sell, but because they don’t feel comfortable, they get nervous and do a poor job of it.
So if you don’t currently have anything for sale on your website, then don’t do anything else until you do. It can be as simple as a $5 per month subscription to get a song of the week delivered to their inbox.
Music Career Killer #8: Not taking at least one marketing action everyday
I’ve mentioned the importance of daily progress with your music, but just as important is the power of doing one thing per day that will get your music out into the world and in front of a targeted, interested fan. See, music marketing is like trying to push a car with your bare hands. At first it seems like it won’t budge, but then you start to get a little movement and before you know it, you’re going at a steady and predictable pace. Once in a while, you’ll come across a hill where you can sit back and let things roll, all you have to do is steer. But if you just start to push for five seconds then stop for a few days, then come back and try again for five minutes, you will never build up enough momentum and it will never get easy.
One of the biggest challenges that faces the modern DIY musician is consistency, because things will come up in your life that seem more fun or more important than working on your marketing.
But a little bit of focus on one really cool project can work like magic – all you need to do is remember why it’s important and why you decided to start learning music marketing in the first place. For me, it’s being able to work for myself and staying out of the rat race. I find that idea always allows me to refocus on what’s important.
Music Career Killer #12: Boring your fans and playing it safe
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen this happen. You go to a show and see a band rocking out some amazing tunes, but each time you see them, they just continue to play the same old set over and over again. The bottom line is that one set of good songs does not make a career.
Make sure you write something new everyday, and the gems will come by default. You’ll be showing people considering an investment into your music (a fan, a record company) that you are making a commitment to being consistently productive now and in the future.
Music Career Killer #13: Playing every crap gig you get offered
When you first start out you might as well play every show that comes along because this is valuable experience, and can even save you some money on the practice room. This becomes a career killer, though, when you continue to play every bad show that comes along in the hopes that it might just convert one new fan.
Playing to empty rooms with no pay not only sucks, but it’s also like a cancer to your career because it will destroy your enthusiasm. Next time you get offered a bad show, turn it down and spend the evening connecting working toward getting a killer show. One really good gig is worth a hundred empty venues.
Music Career Killer #20: Getting jealous of other musicians
Nobody feels great about getting jealous, but it’s natural right? You work your tail off for months to try and get hits to your site, and then you see another musician getting featured in the press and you know that in one day they are going to get more hits than you got in the last three months. I’m sure you may have felt something like this at some point.
But if you just make a little mindset shift, you can get a new perspective on the success of others. When you see another musician doing something cool like getting played on the radio, getting signed, or getting press, think to yourself, “Cool, that means I have the opportunity to do the same thing, because this guy has just uncovered another opportunity for me to market my own music.”
If you go as far as to track other musicians who have a similar fan base to your own using Google Alerts, you can get daily updates offering new opportunities for you to connect with people who will be open to what you do because they just featured something similar. This follow up approach is something I call the “slip stream,” because you get to ride on the wave of the work done by other musicians and PR companies and it can take a lot of the guess work out of your marketing.
Shoot For The Tipping Point
There comes a time in the life of every successful musician, when you have added so much value to the world that suddenly your Twitter and Facebook numbers are going up everyday, and your website traffic is increasing by itself.
This is the point at which enthusiastic fans start to become like your automatic promotion machine, and if you give up before this ever happens you will never know what it feels like.
Having reached “The Tipping Point” you can scale back your music promotion a little bit, and focus much more on the creative process.
Diligently promoting your music on a regular basis for an extended period of time will bring you great rewards, especially if you keep these killers in mind and stay on your toes.
As Bon Jovi once said…
“Oh you got to KEEP THE FAITH!!!”