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You Are Your Business: The Top 5 Things Musicians Need to Do

music business

As an artist, performer, band member, bandleader, or however you want to label yourself and your pursuits, you are a company. Congratulations! The good news is that you are chief in charge of your destiny. The bad news reads much the same way. You are your business. Meaning you are now solely responsible for carving out the path to success while maintaining your sanity and a healthy sense of self-worth. Here are 5 things you need to do to run a healthy business of one:

1. Learn a skill that someone will pay you for. Whether it’s bartending, IT, or data entry, it pays to have a fallback. Thinking outside the box, there are tons of skills you can develop to get a day job AND push your music forward: event planning, marketing, sales, public speaking, contract law, van driving! No, that’s not the sexy, fame-or-bust attitude, but the reality is that if you can’t pay rent you’ll be evicted. If you’re evicted, you’ll live on a bench. If you live on a bench, you’ll freeze in the winter… and then you’ll never be the next Adam Lambert. Never!

2. Market yourself. As an artist — presumably one without representation — you are a corporation of ONE. That means there’s nobody pounding the pavement for you and nobody spreading the buzz about your next breakthrough performance… except your mom, and she lives in Peoria.

You are solely responsible for your own success. Take this as a giant motivating factor and run with it. At times, that means shouting from the hilltops. There are a number of online resources (including our Touring on a Shoestring course) that teach the how to’s of social media marketing, booking gigs, and spreading the word about how truly unique and wonderful you are.

3. Love what you do. If I had a nickel for every time I was told I needed a thicker skin I’d be able to buy… well, at least a thicker skin. Maybe a nice leather motorcycle jacket. Regardless, it’s a used-up adage, but it still rings true. Your art needs to serve your soul — to fill you up when everything seems hopeless. Find that and you’ll be able to make it through almost anything!

Rejection is aplenty. Just because you killed it in the battle of the bands back in your high school glory days, doesn’t mean instant success in a larger, more competitive arena. Readying yourself for some rejection is good. Just plant your feet, get a level head, and repeat “Goosfraba”. And then come back for more!

+ Learn more: Check out our FREE course, Touring on a Shoestring, and get ready to hit the road today!

4. Learn to budget. Get your expenses in order, chief — especially when there’s little to no money flowing in. A spreadsheet is a great way to see your monthly expenses in the same place. No, you don’t need excel, although it’s pretty great. If you have a Google account, which anyone can, use their free spreadsheet tool, Sheets, and list your expenses: rent, electricity, food, phone, subscriptions, insurances, travel, etc. Best part? Spreadsheets will do the math for you. Imagine that! Need band-specific expense tracking? Hal Leonard has every kind of expense worksheet a musician could dream of.

5. Network. Everyone is a possible connection. This means going to events, talking to people, perfecting your elevator pitch, and being generally likable. The last thing you want to come across as is annoying or needy. People remember that and won’t want to work with you. Go with the flow, remember people’s names, familiarize yourself with their work, and be able to carry a conversation. It’s the little details that go great distances.

+ Learn more: Everything you need to know to run a successful band in our course Building a Better Band.

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Jonathan Hack

Jonathan is a Brooklyn resident, musician, writer, and ping pong aficionado. His career in the theatre has spanned acting, music direction, production, carpentry, and more. As a marketer he has worked with major brands in music and fashion. He is a proud member of AEA and NATS. Follow him on Twitter @writerninja and on Instagram @jonnyhack.

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