How to Jumpstart Your Music Career

Don't sit around waiting for your music career to happen to you - step up and make it happen! Here are five ideas to breathe new life into your music career and to make sure you are building a foundation for long-term music industry success.

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Know Your Goals

Male musician holds microphone and guitar on stage surrounded by strong light and smoke
Henrik Sorensen/Stone/Getty Images

It sounds too obvious, but is it? You may know that you want to "make it" in the music industry, but what exactly does making it look like?

Focus on short-term goals first. If you're a musician who has never played a show before, maybe getting an opening slot at a local show within the next three months is your first objective.

If you would like to start a label, choosing a name and doing the paperwork required to start a business within the next six weeks is a good first step. 

It doesn't matter if you're further along in your music career or just starting out - whatever you need to do next requires the first step. Identify it. Then identify the next few steps after that.

Once the paperwork is done, for instance, will you sign your first artist? Figure out exactly what you'd like to complete in the next twelve months, break it down into steps, assign yourself deadlines for each step, and then, most importantly, do it.

Having small goals and accomplishing them will feel a lot more productive than spreading your attention to a million little half ideas you sort of try to see what will happen. And it will feel more productive for a good reason - because it is. 

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Get out There in Person

Life cannot be conducted from behind a keyboard. Music industry success can have a whole lot to do with who you know, and the people who can help you aren't going to come over and ring your doorbell. Get out there in person and get to know some people who can open some doors for you.

Don't be afraid to take chances and don't be afraid of getting shot down. There's nothing wrong with hearing "no" in the music business - in fact, you'd better get used to it. The bottom line is that if you don't ask, you don't get. 

And don't think because you live in some place way off the music map that there isn't anyone you can meet. Start small. Put in a call to the booker at the one club in town. Hit up the music reviewer at the local paper. You are not alone, I promise you. Big networking events can be awesome, but nothing wrong with conquering your home court first. 

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Get out There Online

OK, life and music careers cannot be conducted from behind a keyboard, but these days it is tough to get a start as a new artist without spending at least some time behind one.

Drown out the choruses of "you must be on X site" - X site changes all the time anyway - and instead find a social media platform or to two that feels comfortable to you and stick with using it. You don't have to be everywhere. You just have to be somewhere, and you've got to be there consistently enough to build up a community with your fans.

If you're trying to break into the business side of music, social networking isn't necessarily about building a community of fans, but it is about joining the music business community. Your direct line to someone who can help you get a foot in the door might be a tweet or Facebook update away.

Again, don't get bogged down in which site is fashionable or blah blah blah. Find the one that works for you and focus on making it great. And also - social media is never enough. Have your website where you can control your identity completely and build your "brand," as it were.  

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Find Your Team

There are things in your music career that you're going to be great at, and there are things that you're going to be better off letting someone else handle for you. Know the difference.

Even the most dyed-in-the-wool DIY kid can't do EVERYTHING themselves without letting some things slip through the cracks or not get done quite as well as they should. Finding your team doesn't have to be corporate or expensive or any of those things, either. Say you're a musician trying to book all your shows and struggling.

Somewhere out there is someone who wants a shot at booking shows for musicians and wants a chance to show how hard they can work. Join forces. Collaboration and cooperation mean so much when you're establishing yourself in the music industry, no matter what role you're trying to land. 

If you've got a few things going for you already, finding the right agent, label, manager, PR company, and so on can help you get to the next level. Again, this doesn't mean having to give up your rights or sign away creative control. Remember, this is about finding YOUR team. Teams are made up of like-minded people. Don't make the mistake of thinking that having help in your music career is a cop-out. It's not. It's really smart. 

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Get Yourself Together

The music business isn't like the banking world, but it's still a BUSINESS. If you want music to be your job, then start treating it like one. Consider the following:

  • Contracts can protect your rights and protect your friendships. Don't be afraid to ask for one, and don't be afraid to seek advice before signing one. 
  • Keep your appointments, show up for things on time and keep your communications professional. 
  • Consider expenses carefully. 
  • Meet your deadlines.

Even if you still have a day job, if you want to go full time in music eventually, then it pays to start treating it like a job right now.