We’re halfway through the year. If you haven’t been paying attention to the following ideas, it’s time to start.
1. Stop trying to do everything yourself
Think of your career like your social life: you need to get different things from different friends. You have certain friends for when you feel like partying, certain friends for when you want to be coddled, and others who are always good at giving out tough love. And you need all of these people to feel balanced and well-rounded. It’s the same thing with any artist’s music career – no one is good at everything. The most successful artists aren’t the ones who can do it all themselves, but rather the ones who appreciate the value of really smart collaborations and partnerships. Let 2014 be the year that you put a lot of energy into working with amazing, smart, talented people who will make your music better and your career more mobile.
2. Get out and play shows
You can’t sit on Twitter or Facebook or Muzooka all day and expect things to happen. I mean, they’ll happen on those platforms too, but for an artist, the most important “social media platform” remains the Stage. You must get out there and play music for actual humans and let those humans form an actual emotional connection to your songs, and feel a personal connection to you – that’s how loyalty and love is created, and those are the things that drive people to spread the word. The internet is here to supplement the fundamental music industry bottom line: nothing replaces a great live performance and good word-of-mouth.
3. Make a plan – but don’t get married to it
Very few artists can just make music and play shows aimlessly and see quantifiable progress in their career. It just doesn’t happen, unfortunately. It would be like a writer just hanging out on their own blog and wondering why the New Yorker doesn’t come banging on their door. The “But I’m so talented! They should come to me!” mentality is not getting anyone anywhere – partially because industry people have so many people banging down their doors, and partially because the internet has made it too daunting to sort through all the noise.
Unless you have a solid plan for moving your career forward, you are part of the noise. So this is the year: Set goals about shows you would like to play, projects you would like to finish, people you would like to collaborate with, or have meetings with – all the things that are going to push you in the next phase of your development. Get organized about it, figure out the steps you need to take. But always stay flexible and open to adjusting your plan as your needs and goals change. Easy, right?
4. Your “lifestyle” isn’t convincing anyone
Okay, we’re all on the same page with this by now, right? People who are running around putting forth an image of success without having any actual success to back it up aren’t kidding anyone anymore, right? The whole “fake it til you make it thing” is over. It’s been over for a while, but now you’ve officially been told it’s over so you have no excuse to think it’s a valid career strategy. In 2014 and beyond, the new motto is “work really hard, network like crazy, and make good music til you make it.” Not as catchy, but way more useful.
5. The time to sacrifice is now
You should never devote your life to something you don’t love enough to give things up for it – especially music. A lot of people say they want a career in music, but fail to think about what that might really look like, or what they might have to give up to get it. What these people really mean is, “I want to be a super successful, rich, famous artist.” – which is a totally different thing from a “career in music”. Are you willing to work your ass off? Are you willing to be broke and throw all your money into your career? No one is going to invest in you before you invest in yourself – and that might mean giving up extras like booze and weed and vacations and time with your girlfriend or boyfriend. There are people who love music enough to give those things up, and people who only want to be in the business as a way to get those things – the difference is crucial. This is a good time to figure out which side you’re on.
6. You aren’t different
I’m not saying your talent isn’t exceptional, or your skill isn’t hard-earned, or that your sound isn’t wonderfully unique – all of those things could be true. But in terms of your position in the music industry as an indie artist, you are pretty much on the same level as everyone else – for now. And I don’t point that out to make you feel bad about yourself. Not at all. Just to remind you that, in the eyes of listeners and the industry in general, you aren’t automatically special. You just have to work a little harder to make them see that.