As a musician, you’ve had to work for years honing your craft. Now that you’re out in the real world, it feels like your talent, passion, and dedication aren’t quite enough. That’s because, on top of excelling at your artistry, you’re also expected to be an effective businessperson.
That means you must proactively learn how to market yourself (online and in person), make the right connections, and complete all the administrative tasks required to keep your career moving forward.
It can feel like a tall order!
The good news is, you already possess the foundational skills you need to be an effective businessperson. And, as most independent musicians learn, the business side of the industry can actually be empowering, creative, and fun.
The key to success is to proactively nurture your inner businessperson. Here are three easy ways to do just that.
Tip #1 Remember That Business Is Creative
Successful musicians know that it takes creativity to market yourself, connect with your audience in meaningful ways, and stay disciplined to keep going even when things get hard.
Just like a muscle, your creativity must be exercised regularly.
“But, wait a second!” you might be thinking, “Doesn’t all the time I spend practicing help my creativity?”
Yes and no. While music is good for your brain, it can also hinder creativity in many musicians who see their practice as a study in perfection. To keep your creativity flowing and quiet your inner perfectionist, it’s important to seek creative outlets beyond your day-to-day music making.
Get comfortable with improvisation.
The first way to do this is improvisation. Most music students aren’t taught how to improvise but it’s a creative skill that’s becoming more desirable in recent years.
Learn how to become more comfortable with improvisation — and not just with your music, but in conversations and daily activities (even your breakfast!). Get out of your rut and say yes to something new.
Seek out solitude.
Taking time yourself is essential for developing new ideas and recalibrating. (Do you ever notice how your best ideas often flood through at night or in the shower? That’s because you’re pausing!)
Use time away to work through any beliefs or assumptions that might be holding you back in your career. If you have a journal, you can capture your thoughts on paper.
Join a mastermind
Although solitude is necessary, so is getting help from others. That’s because it’s easy to stay stuck in your own way of thinking. Getting feedback from others can challenge you to think of new approaches to reaching your goals and overcoming obstacles.
Tip #2 Get to Know Your Audience
Whether you’re trying to design new performances, compose new music, or teach others, you must know your audience!
That’s because, if you want to make a living from your artistry, you must view your art as a business. And business is all about understanding people’s needs and providing a solution that makes their lives better.
Luckily, the online world provides plenty of easy (and free) ways to get to know your audience, including social media and email.
Getting to know your audience doesn’t require any fancy tricks or strategies. In fact, it can be as simple as asking them questions. Send a survey to your email list, create a poll on social media, or simply talk to people in person, keeping an ear out for their inner motivations and frustrations.
When you understand what inspires your audience to take action, you can then take steps to creatively deliver what they want.
Tip #3 Be Disciplined About Setting Goals
Goal-setting is a must-have skill for independent musicians who are trying to make a living from their music. One of our favorite exercises to give clients is one where they create a vision for where they want to be in their careers in six months to a year.
We encourage them to be 50% realistic and 50% unrealistic. The key is to be as specific as possible about where you want to be and what you want to be doing.
When envisioning your future, it’s important to define success on your own terms. If this is challenging for you, you’re not alone. Many musicians struggle to look beyond what they’ve been taught success looks like. If this is the case for you, seek a mentor to help you get clear on your dream career.
Setting goals also requires financial planning, so it’s important to nurture this side of your business as well.
Yes, dealing with your finances can be intimidating but nothing will drain your pockets faster than not having a clear idea of where your funds are going. To start, you can keep it simple by creating a spreadsheet of your income and expenses, and tracking it every month. Having a realistic money picture helps you make goals for the future.
Stay Persistent and Success Will Come
When you incorporate these practices into your life, you’ll discover that the lines between your Inner Performer and Inner Businessperson will start to blur. Marketing ideas will come to you as you compose a new piece and long-term career goals will beautifully coincide with your creative aspirations.
Soon, you’ll be running your music career like a thriving, creative business — and that’s when the fun really begins.
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