Music Business Tips (Part 1)

Have some basic budgeting “cents”

Bad jokes aside, it’s a good idea when you’re trying to start your own business to make use of budgeting in order to keep your finances in the black. Prioritizing expenditures and adhering to a strict budget (do you really need that $4 cup of coffee?) might not be fun, but it will keep you afloat financially until you’re able to set up a sustainable, predictable income. By the same token, it’s scary to spend money when you don’t have a lot of it, but spending on your business in smart ways is the best way to push your growth forward. When it comes down to it, I usually ask myself the question, “Will this help generate new business (directly or indirectly), and/or develop new relationships?” If the answer is yes, then I will spend the money. If not, I will usually pass.

Forcing it never works

Lots of times you’ll hear about entrepreneurs working 80-100 hour work weeks on their business. The phrase, “If you aren’t working, someone else is” comes to mind. However, I believe there is a point of diminishing return (especially in creative businesses) where “forcing” yourself to work doesn’t help. Hard work and smart work aren’t necessarily the same thing. You can certainly work hard on your business goals without removing the balance of having time off to spend with friends and family, pursuing other hobbies, or just stepping back and resting. A lot of times, a break brings a fresh perspective that helps to refocus and clear my head after being “down in it” for so long.

Don’t tie yourself to outcomes

If you’re checking email more than three times a day, you’re subconsciously developing an attachment to the slight kick of excitement when you get an email (dopamine is actually released when this happens). It’s very easy when you’re first starting to drum up business to want those emails from potential clients to come in. But when you are checking your inbox every 15 minutes, you reinforce a mindset that you need this business to be satisfied. Work will come if you’re doing the right things, and checking email fifty times a day doesn’t make the emails come any faster. Same thing goes for social media. It’s been hard to break my habit, but now I have designated times to check and respond to emails so I can focus on my other tasks without being distracted. I’m a strong believer in actively selecting what does and does not get my attention in the present moment. Make a conscious choice to decide when that email will get your attention and when you will browse through your social media accounts.

Do whatever you can whenever you can

A brief list of things I’ve done in the music business to make money: live sound engineering, music licensing, vocal recording, video background music, business presentation background music, music production, vocal mixing, instrumental mixing, film/TV licensing, DJing, producing lessons, apprenticeship programs, and probably more that I can’t think of. The point is, you have to do what you have to do even if it isn’t exactly your core competency. I would spend all of my time just producing and mixing instrumentals if I could, but I’ve had to branch out and learn other areas of music in order to build relationships and make more opportunities for myself. For a similar example: if you’re a recording artist, instead of just making your own songs and selling them, find other opportunities that are related to your work. Host a spoken word poetry night, offer to do a theme song for a local business, learn how to DJ and play some gigs around town, or even Skype with amateur artists to give advice and help them learn.

Get a job

If you find it’s best to get a part time job to supplement income while you work on your business, I’d recommend something that’s flexible with your schedule and also isn’t the end of the world if you miss time. Waiting tables, driving for uber, or working a retail job are some examples. Getting a job in which you have a lot of responsibility probably isn’t the best idea. If you have a last minute co-write meeting and have to run out for your music, you should be able to do that. Your priority is your business, so pick your job accordingly.

Know when to hire someone

I have an extensive background in IT and computers, so when I was first starting my business it was tempting for me to try and handle all of the IT tasks that I needed to do to get started. Given the right amount of time, I was sure I could figure everything out and get it going, plus I would have total control over the outcomes. However, I soon realized that I didn’t want to spend all of my time doing IT – there was a reason I left my full time IT job in the first place. I wanted to make music, so I started outsourcing tasks to other people so I could do just that. It cost me more money up front, but the time I gained from not having to worry about those things enabled me to create more music. It helped grow my catalog and eventually build relationships.

Hopefully these tips will help you along your journey to music business success. Want specific ideas about starting out, finding a job, or outsourcing? Feel free to reach out with any questions or comments:

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