Most indie musicians' goal is to make money making music so we can keep making more music.
But our daily actions rarely support that goal.
Instead, we get sidetracked and work on stuff that doesn't really affect our bank balance.
This post presents a system that ensures you keep your eyes on the prize and do what matters.
Want to get paid to write songs?
You need to write lots of songs and get them in front of lots of people.
Want to get paid to play gigs?
You got to call up lots of venues and schedule lots of gigs.
Want to sell millions of albums?
You gotta build a time machine :p
Want to get millions of streams?
You have to release a single and send it to lots of people, preferably people who already have a platform that can put your single in front of lots of other people.
Even if you only focus on the one or two things that make a difference, you've got a lot of work to do.
Reading this blog post will only help if you take action.
Here are 6 proposed action steps.
Grab your checklist at the end 😉
Step 1 – Define What You Want To Do
Don't worry about it too much. You can change your mind in 6 weeks if you want to.
Just go with what your gut says for now.
Where do you want to go?
How do you want to earn a living?
Playing live gigs? Licensing songs to performing artists? Getting your music on TV? Selling sound effects? Making custom audio for corporate videos? Selling beats to rappers? Teaching the piano?
It can't be all of that.
Pick 1 revenue stream for the next 6 weeks.
At this point we're not concerned about making music or building a following or networking.
We're just choosing a revenue stream.
Do not overthink this. You're making a 6 week commitment so you can take massive action and get feedback fast.
You'll have plenty of opportunities to adjust your approach down the line but the first step has got to be to pick a direction.
Step 2 – Identify What's Essential To Be Successful
Look at people who've already "made it".
What did they do to get there?
What's the ONE thing they focused on more than anything else?
Draw from the experience of others.
Tools change fast but systems tend to stay the same.
For example, if you want to be a rock star and land a record deal, you need to be out there gigging and meeting your audience. Don't worry too much about spending hours in the studio to record a demo, hone your skills while you're on stage like Justin did.
If you want to write film music, it's essential that you score films, meet filmmakers and build your portfolio. Watching online tutorials is non-essential, it's a bonus. Learn on the job.
If you want to license your existing songs, it's essential that you send your music to hundreds of licensing opportunities like Chuck did. Not one, not ten, hundreds.
What can you do TODAY, and tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, over and over again, that will make the biggest difference to your music career?
What do others credit for their success?
What will bring you one step closer to their level?
Step 3 – Focus On What You Can Control
There's certainly an element of luck that comes into play when it comes to "making it" in the music industry but….
Getting from 0 to 1,000$/month is in your hands.
And that's a solid basis to grow from.
If you've made it to 1,000$/month, you'll figure out a way to get to 2,000$ and more 😉
The trick is to focus on what you can control.
Don't worry about luck for now….
What can YOU do that's in YOUR control?
You can't decide that you'll license your songs to 10 artists, but you can decide that you'll submit your music to 100 music publishers.
You can't decide that you'll get to play in your favorite 3 music festivals, but you can decide to apply to all of them and more.
Forget about all the things you don't have or can't do.
Step 4 – Put An Action-Oriented System In Place
Feel like you're working hard but not getting the results your hard work deserves?
We've all been there.
It often means we got sidetracked and wasted a bunch of time on stuff that's not important right now.
How to you stop that from happening?
Build a system to start tracking your key actions. The ones you designed in step 3.
Make it easy and visual so you actually do it and can clearly monitor your progress.
Want to get paid to write songs?
Commit to writing 5 times a week and sending your songs to 2 publishers every week.
Want to get paid to play gigs?
Commit to calling 5 venues a week and send music festivals to 2 festivals every week.
Then track it.
Want to get millions of streams on Spotify?
Create your own playlist and add 5 new songs a day. Share your playlist with 2 music bloggers every week..
Want to make custom audio for a living?
Score 5 minutes of video every day and reach out to 2 indie filmmakers every week.
Track your progress.
How do you track your progress?
I prefer using an index card because:
- my phone is a potential distraction and I don't want to be distracted when I'm working;
- it's 100% tailored to my taste and needs in a way that a mainstream app can't be.
It's not about trying to achieve something.
It's about doing and seeing what works.
Step 5- Hold Yourself Accountable
Schedule a date with yourself in 6 weeks. Actually put it in the calendar and set a reminder.
You can also schedule a date with me in 6 weeks in the comments section but more on that later 😉
Do NOT deviate from the course until then.
For 6 weeks, you are COMMITTED to the strategy you chose in steps 3 and 4.
Every 6 weeks, ask yourself: did I do my job?
Doing your job means honoring the commitments you made in step 4.
Example: score 5 minutes of video every day and reach out to 2 indie filmmakers every week.
85-100%: you did your job, you can move on to step 6
70-85%: you did ok, you can move on to step 6 but remember that big results are going to be tough to come by if you're not delivering more consistently
Less than 70%: you don't have enough data to evaluate whether you chose the right strategy. Better you spend some time figuring out why you're not taking action.
Are your action items realistic or do you need to lower the bar a little bit to actually get things done and build momentum?
Are you letting your fear of failure take over? It it something else altogether?
If you're regularly letting yourself down, a little introspection can't hurt.
Maybe remind yourself why you're doing this in the first place?
Honesty and objectivity is key here. Don’t be too hard on yourself but don’t make excuses either.
Step 6 – Keep Learning
- What worked?
- What didn't?
- What did you enjoy doing?
- What was difficult?
- Is there something that's promising that can be explored further?
- Is there a process that's ridiculously long that may be optimized?
Be ruthless when getting rid of the stuff that didn't have the desired effect.
Be curious and eager to learn from everything, the stuff that worked and the stuff that didn't.
There’s only so much you can do. Save your energy to build on what’s bringing you positive results.
Were certain types of music publishers more responsive than others?
Did a certain type of venue work out better for you than others?
Did you have more fun working with indie filmmakers or ad agencies?
Did you notice something different when you pursued a lead recommended by a friend?
What happened when you stayed away from social media for a week?
WARNING – This does NOT mean running away and starting a new project every time you get stuck or you're disappointed with your results.
If you want to write music for film, don't give up until you've scored a few short films for 2-3 indie filmmakers. If you don't like it then, pick a new destination!
Time To Practice!
Let me know in the comments….
1- What revenue stream are you going to focus on for the next 6 weeks?
2- What activity have you identified as ESSENTIAL to make money that way?
3- How will you frame this action so it's 100% in your control?
4- How will you track how often you're taking action?
5- When do you want me to follow up with you? Give an exact date.
I will hold each and everyone of you accountable by email so…. if you're serious about getting closer to a full-time living making music, now's your chance!
Want a checklist to stay focused?
Grab it here.