5 Steps to Kick Start Your Music Business

5 Steps to Kick Start Your Music Business

The beginning is the most difficult. When I started my first business I had all of these grandiose ideas about what I wanted to do.  The problem is, when you look at the big picture you can easily miss a lot of the important details involved with getting you there (costs, costs, costs).

Below, I’ve outlined 5 Steps that can take you from the grand idea stage to the execution stage.

1. Write Your Ideas Down

As a musician, you are used to constantly writing and creating.  This really shouldn’t be a stretch.  However, the problem is that a lot of creative types think in a flow which causes them to house their business ideas in their head.  Take your ideas and write them down along with and add-on ideas that relate to the main idea as you go on.

This is important because it brings you closer to a developed music business plan that will help others align with your vision (remember, your TEAM has to be aligned).

2. Map Your Idea

Great, you have written your music business idea down and are ready to start bringing on the fans, right? Not so fast, your plan is still not actionable and we need to break things down further.  In this step, you’ll want to map our your idea and add-on ideas as well.  To do this we need to take our overarching business idea and put it in the center of a piece of paper.

We’ll stick to basics for these examples but lets say you want to createvmerchandise for your music business.  You would place “merchandise” in the middle of the page.  Simple enough, right?  Now we need to think about what it takes to make this idea viable.  A quick few ideas that could make this viable are:

  • Designs
  • Production
  • Fans/Customers

Again, these are very basic but help to get a point across.

The next step in the mapping stage is to identify the additional subsets that help to make design, production, fans/customers viable.  So for example with designs we can draw up the following:

  • Outsourced designer
  • Learn graphic design programs
  • Pre-made designs

You will continue mapping these out until you have at least 5 levels that helps make your business idea viable.

Probably the top choice for mind mapping software is XMind however you can also use Coggle if you are looking for something free.  Of course, you can also stick to good old fashioned paper and pen.

Once you have done this it is time to move onto step 3.

3. Assess Your Music Business Investment

Now that you have your mind map completed, it is time to start adding some costs to this business idea.  For each link in your mind map you will want to put an expected cost associated with that activity.  You will be able to tie this all the way up to your main business idea for an expected idea cost.

From here you will want to start thinking about how many fans/customers you will need and how much money you will need to make in order to make a profit.

4. Find the Profit – Create Your Plan

So now that you understand how many fans/customers you need in order to make your idea profitable, it is time to develop your plan.

A lot of this is just a numbers game to identify where you need to focus your efforts.  Let’s assume our investment/profit analysis identified that we need 100 fans/customers per month to make a healthy profit.  We now need to figure out where these 100 fans/customers will come from.

It is here that you will want to do a little research on the community involved with buying your type of product within your music business.

Let’s go back to the apparel example.  We may want to look at merchandise from similar artists and look at some of the reviews.  What types of merchandise have the highest reviews for this artist? If its apparel, what colors are selling?  You can get a large amount of information from this alone and it will help you decide exactly  what merchandise you need to offer as well as what sites your target fans may be frequenting.

But, this is MUSIC business and you are a MUSICIAN not a merchandise creator.  You are very right, which is why this research and plan creation phase is so crucial! You are not going to go to these identified communities and peddle your merchandise, you will focus on your music while knowing that the merchandise that you are offering is of value to this fan community.


Now that you’ve done research and created a sound plan where you understand your investment, your break even point, and where your fans/customers are, it is time to EXECUTE the plan.

I would say it is fair that this is where the majority of musicians attempting to make a business out of their music fail.  There are all of these grand ideas but no execution. Execution is the true key to being successful in this music business game as everyone has ideas.




Moving Smart and Steady In the Age of Now

Snail Pace - Speak Your Music

Instant, in your face, breaking news.

We live in a world and a time where everything is moving EXTREMELY quickly.  People are live tweeting events as they happened and sometimes even without all of the correct information.  This is a time where you can blur the facts as long as you were first with the story.  It’s crazy it really is AND it can be detrimental when working on your independent music business.

I’ve spoken before about how beneficial it is to act quickly on things but I want to take a step back into the beginning phases of setting up the processes behind your music business.

Sometimes you need to slow down and understand the reasons behind what you are doing and ensure that you have the processes in place and that what you are doing has a purpose.  It is easy to think that whenever a new media device/outlet comes out that you need to hurry up and get to it.  There is some truth to this — you NEED to be where your fans are.  But, you also have to understand how that device or outlet fits into your overall goals.

It doesn’t help to jump into the latest social platform without understanding the best way to interact with your fans.

So, what SHOULD you be doing?

First, you need to understand what your goals are and who your fans are.  I’ve said it numerous times — YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND YOUR DEMOGRAPHIC!  Once you know who your fans are you can ensure that your goals align with reaching those fans.  Those fans will tell you exactly how they prefer to consume media.

How do they tell you?

Once you understand who your fans are and you have interacted with them, you can understand what other pages they like, what people they follow, and what kind of statuses they retweet or share.

How does this help?

If you have fans or a demographic that seems to retweet live feeds of their favorite bands, perhaps it would be beneficial to host a Google Hangout or join a service such as Meerkat and get involved with those fans.  You should join platforms just to join, you should join because that is how your fans CONSUME entertainment.

You wouldn’t do a concert in a hardware store because they have the materials to build stages.

Building a business takes time and you need to understand your fans, your goals, and how you can ensure that the actions you take allow you to reach your goals and keep your fans coming back for more.

Move Smart!


Don’t Stop The Hustle: What It Really Takes to Make It In Music

If you review how-to guides, people talking about music business, or websites peddling their latest independent music business guide you’ll notice a common theme:

Do XYZ and you will be famous.

Millions will buy your music.  You will be worn out and need to hire a manager to field all of those show booking requests you’re getting.

While I can provide knowledge and how-to’s to making it happen with your independent music business, I feel like I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t bring up an important fact that relates not only to independent music business but the music business in general.

If you want to reach your goals, you’re going to have to hustle.

It’s cliche.  Obviously, you’re going to have to work hard but what people don’t tell you is how much it can weigh on you when you are grinding it out and seeing almost NO results for months on end.

We live in a world of instant gratification.  It’s easy to think that it only takes a few weeks to see results but, this is simply not the case, especially if you are starting from scratch.  Not only do you need to hustle for months on end, you need to stick to your plan day in and day out.

Let me take you back to my first music business in marketing and promotions.  I needed a break.  I had been working hard day in and day out trying to get clients, trying to network, building  up brand recognition, writing articles to get my name out there, and exhausting myself trying to make it happen.  I was broke.  I don’t mean that “I have some money still broke” I mean that “I hope I have a friend who is throwing a BBQ” broke.  That’s when it happened, a major label connection called me and said they had an issue with product.  Their promotional product for a tour had gotten stuck in my city due to a shipping issue and they wanted to know if I could go pick it up and bring it to them two hours north.  Without hesitation I said “On my way.”  The problem:  My gas tank was on empty.  I flipped over every couch cushion and emptied every random change jar I had.  I was able to come up with $20 to put in my tank which was enough to get me one way to my destination.

For the next three days, I didn’t eat.  I drank water and stayed hungry trying to hustle and get this major label client.

It worked and it helped get my first music promotions business off the ground.

Never stop hustling. Never give up.

I can’t promise that all of my tips and advice will make you absolutely successful.  I can promise that the tips and advice I give will be sound and that if you are willing to put in work and utilize the tips I provide that you will be on your way to making it happen.



Independent Artists Are Missing the Online Boat

Social Media profiles…check

Music uploaded…check

A couple youtube videos…check

And this is where it ends for a lot of independent musicians looking to expand their online reach. Unfortunately, a lot of independent musicians are missing the online boat because they lack a true strategy in their approach to their online presence.

What a lot of artists will do is haphazardly join and post on social networks without understanding how these social networks add to the larger picture of who they are.  What good is posting on Facebook if you don’t actually interact with these fans or tell them where to find your latest and greatest music or your next show?  Have you set up directed posts to tell those fans in the next city you’re doing a show in that you have a show there?  Have you reached out to them directly to let them know you appreciate them and to bring their friends?  If not, you are missing the potential to create LOYAL fans.

The great thing about the internet is the ability to interact with a vast network of people who you wouldn’t have been able to reach out to otherwise.  The problem is that a lot of time the focus goes to building the network and not utilizing it.  I’ve said it before but the reality is that 500,000 likes/views/followers means nothing if only 3 people are truly engaged and have the potential to become “loyal” fans.  However, if you work to engage these people you have to potential to create loyal fans who want more content, more shows, more merchandise.

Artists need to get out of “blanket” marketing and get into the “engagement” marketing game.  Those who do not are missing out on a lot of potential loyal fans.


Business for the Independent Musician

Speak Your Music was founded on the principle that artist’s create.  Whereas a lot of people who get involved in music also tried to get their own music career going at some point, this was never the case for me.  I’ve always been the business person in all of my music dealings and have never tried to pretend that the music lime light was something I aspired to engage in.

The true difficulty, I’ve found, for musicians trying to make it independently comes from a lack of sound business principles. Most independent artists learn a form of “street business” that comes from the constant hustle and grind of trying to peddle your music to whoever will listen.  This street business knowledge is extremely important for the independent artist but it must be supplemented by the foundations of business.

When I started my first music based business at 17, I didn’t know what I was doing at all.  I lost a lot of money on frivolous business decisions that I thought would be a good idea but if I looked at it from a true business foundations stand-point I would’ve realized that I was creating waste.  I didn’t have processes, I flew by the seat of my pants and tried to react to items thrown at me daily.  There was no strategy.  I picked up the street business knowledge but I wasn’t rooted in the foundations that would’ve helped that first business take off.

With street business knowledge for independent musicians, you’re reactive.

There are no strategies and no processes.

You have a goal that you hope to get to but, you don’t know how you’re going to get there other than try to get your music heard.

This type of business is great for dream chasing but it is not ideal for running a strong business.

The key to reaching your goal is to understand the steps you need to take in order to get there and put processes in place in order to aid you in achieving those steps.

Let’s think about a standard organizational structure for example:

At an organization you will have functional groups such as Marketing, Engineering, Procurement, Sales, Research and Development (sometimes under Engineering), Manufacturing, Customer Service, Finance, Accounting, Legal, and more.  Typically, as an independent musician you will have to ignore some of these functions at first, wear many hats in another case, and build your team for the final case.  However, when you think about the functions you allow yourself to begin organizing your patterns and where you focus your efforts.

Lets break some of these functions down from the standpoint of the independent musician:


As an artist you need to have a plan for how your music and YOU (as the brand) are going to be perceived.  This includes the message you convey throughout Social Media, the branding on any flyers you hand out, how your shows are structured, and the overall way in which your marketing efforts will build on themselves.

Engineering/Research and Development:

Engineering/Research and Development is truly the creative process for independent artists.  In conjunction with your marketing efforts you should understand what kind of music you are looking to make.  Your marketing efforts (along with sales) should help you understand what kind of music your fans enjoy the most.  Note: This does not mean you hurt the creative process by only catering to what is popular but instead you are knowledgeable about what is in the market place and what works.


You need to have goals for you music, shows, and merchandise!  I’ve seen too many times where an independent artist will put on a show and blast it all around social media without a plan.  Focus on what you would expect your actual attendance to be (unless you’re established, you will likely not sell out…be realistic) and then set a goal for sales.  By setting a goal you can ensure you focus your efforts on the correct market to achieve your goal.

Why is this important?  If you focus your efforts in a calculated manner you can also ensure that you have time to focus on other respects.  Think about it this way: If I spent 100 hours  getting people to my show who would’ve come with only 20 hours of work, I could have spent another 80 hours on other potential revenue streams such as merchandising or preparing ways to capture fans.

Organizational structure is key in being able to develop strategies and processes that allow you to take your independent music business to the next level.

In order to understand your own personal independent music business you need to understand how to structure yourself to succeed.  By thinking about the different facets and the processes involved in each you will be able to create a long lasting strategy to move you into a better position with your business.


Music Promotions: Whats In It For You?

music promotions

“Check out my new mixtape.”  We’ve all been approached or have approached people to offer them our latest music.  Unfortunately, many artists are missing the KEY purpose behind music marketing and promotions: getting more fans!

The important thing when it comes to any form of marketing are your metrics, your ways that you are measuring the success of your campaign.  Many artists have 500+ CDs pressed up and then just hand them out without trying to capture those people into their marketing list.

To all of you smart music marketers and promoters you may be laughing and saying, “this is easy” and you’d be right.  But if you think about it the shear amount of musicians who are skipping something as simple as capturing someones name and Email address is ridiculous.

There is a huge problem in music business and that is the focus on making money NOW.  Its not so much an issue with wanting the money NOW it’s an issue of that mentality clouding an otherwise business savvy artist’s judgement.  If you’re an artist who has done shows, think of all the people who’s EMail addresses you could have captured at the door, if you’re smart you could have even offered an EMail discount (business savvy people would be able to make the discount money back easily with their new list).

When handing out mixtapes, there is no reason not to have someone who is on your TEAM (see older posts) out there with you capturing Email addresses.  You can’t create a loyal following by throwing darts at a map, and when you just throw money away with no marketing plan that is exactly what you’re doing.

It isn’t all about Emails, though.  How difficult is it to lock in a show before the release of a mixtape?  Not very.  Try advertising that show and offering discounts on the insert for your mixtape.  Mixtapes can be a costly promotion, but if you are smart about it you can easily make your money back.

Finally, if your team is lazy, consider hiring some marketing consulting from someone who has experience.  If it’s going to help you make money back on items you previously would have considered sunk costs, then it is worth it.

Until next time…make it happen.