I’m going to get right to the point about these mistakes…
With the new year amongst us, now is the perfect time for you Songwriters, Music Producers, and Recording Artists to get a fresh start. This means abandoning bad habits and correcting the mistakes that have been hurting your music career.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, why would someone continue making the same mistakes over and over again?
It has been said that the definition of insanity is "repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results." I wouldn’t go as far as saying these mistakes are a sign of insanity, but I will say that too many musicians continuously make repeated mistakes and ultimately get nowhere in their career.
How does this happen? It’s simple, they don’t know they’re making the mistake.
By being unaware of such mistakes, it’s only natural that most up and coming musicians do what seems like the “right thing to do.”
The right things meaning they do the following:
- Create a profile on SoundCloud/YouTube/Bandcamp/Etc.
- Create a website (This is a BIG maybe)
- Upload and release new music
- Tell everyone to listen and buy it
As necessary as these actions are, they usually generate little to no plays, downloads, and sales.
To kick the year off right, I decided to point out 5 common mistakes I see musicians make when it comes to their music career.
#1. Lack of Mobile Integration
This mistake can also be titled ‘Lack of Mobile Strategy.’ Regardless of its title, the bottom line is the mobile downloading process is flawed and the alternatives can be a bit tricky. I'll explain.
As of today, there are nearly 100 million people that use an iPhone as their mobile device. This number is expected to continue growing over the next two years and musicians aren’t reaping any of these benefits, here’s why.
Let’s say that I’m the lucky soul that follows you on social media and I see your post about the release of your new single that’s now available for FREE Download. I follow the link that’s in your bio and it takes me to your SoundCloud page. I listen to the song, decide that I like it, and try to download it but something goes wrong.
Instead of seeing an option for the download I see this:
In the example above, you can see, there are no options available for an iPhone user to download music from SoundCloud. This can be a major setback for any musician that is marketing and promoting new music. Not only does this happen in the SoundCloud app, it happens on all music based websites and it’s not the websites fault, it’s Apples.
The only way an iPhone user can “download” music is by opening the song in a QuickTime player within a mobile browser like Safari or Google Chrome.
The problem here is companies like Apple, Spotify, and Tidal, have made it difficult for music listeners to actually own the music they listen to. With online streaming becoming the norm for music consumers, how will listeners keep and possess the music they love?
I mean sure, each streaming platform allows you to make music available offline, which means users can listen to saved songs without an internet connection. As great as that is for listeners and the streaming platforms, what good does that do for you and your music?
You mean to tell me, someone can pay $10 a month to listen to your music as many times as they want, even make it available offline, but you the musician can’t sell your music directly to fans unless you make it available for purchase on iTunes?
This forces the artist to settle for streaming royalties, which are fractions of a cent, compared to download sales that can actually turn a profit.
For Android users, this isn't a problem. Android allows users to download videos and music directly to their mobile device. When it comes to releasing music to iPhone users, it’s going to take a little more effort on your end to ensure the download is possible.
I’ve researched this topic in an attempt to find a proper solution to this problem and have found a couple of alternative options.
Step #1. Cloud Storage
Dropbox, Box, Google Drive are a few examples of cloud-based storage platforms that allow the user to upload files into a cloud and share the files with others. One approach to using one of these platforms with your music is uploading your single or album and redirecting fans to the URL after the purchase confirmation. Online payment systems such as PayPal and Stripe both have URL redirecting features that make this possible.
Step #2. Mophie Space
This app is my favorite alternative to this problem. It isn’t perfect and I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out on a better solution but in the meantime, this will have to suffice. Mophie Space is a file media manager that allows you to download and import files such as documents, photos, videos, and music.
Instructing fans that purchase your music to download Space and import your music into the app has a particular benefit that I find your fans will appreciate, here’s why.
The majority of mobile users listen to music on one music platform, and it makes sense. It can be an inconvenience to bounce back and forth between music apps to listen to songs you like. One of the reasons ‘Playlists’ are so popular right now is convenience. Playlists allow listeners to have their favorite songs all in one place and organized by category.
This is where Space comes in to save the day. Not only can Space users import audio into the Space music player, the app also syncs with your iTunes music library, importing everything in your iTunes into the Space library. This eliminates the frustrations of bouncing from app to app just to hear a few specific songs.
This is the real issue with streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify, and Tidal, with their exclusive music releases. They make you choose between platforms and disrupt the listening experience.
For the DIY musician, not only is it on you to release a great body of work, you also have to make it as simple as possible for your fans to access your music. This means thinking beyond the studio and entering the mind of the listener. Until there is a proper solution to this, musicians that plan on releasing music have to develop a strategy that benefits the musician as well as the fans.
Lastly, there's always avoiding these approaches overall by simply giving in and adding your music to iTunes and the other major digital music stores like Amazon MP3, and Spotify. If you're interested in adding your music to these major platforms but aren't 100% sure what the best and most efficient approach is, click here and I'll help you make the better decision.
#2. Outdated Marketing Strategies
There once was a time when indie musicians didn’t have to apply an extensive amount of effort to sell their music to fans. In that time, the listener may have only heard one song once or no music at all and still chose to buy the album to support the artist.
Those days have come and gone. Now, the typical “hey buy my music” approach is nowhere near as effective. Sure, you may get the occasional fan that does so, but what the majority of fans are looking for is the ‘Experience.’
Fans don’t want a single or an album that is sold to them, they want something they can be a part of. This is why music festivals and virtual reality are growing in demand. Today’s music listeners value more bang for their buck and would rather spend money on an experience compared to listening to music the traditional ways.
Marketing and promoting music is supposed to be fun and exciting. This includes finding new ways to build anticipation for releases. Two great examples are the marketing campaigns for the band The 1975 and the Singer-Songwriter, Birdy.
After catching their show at Coachella, I’ve been keeping a close eye on the marketing efforts of The 1975 and just as I suspected, the band went on to initiate a marketing campaign that resulted in their latest album ‘I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It,’ becoming the No.1 album in both the U.S. and U.K.
They did this by blacking out social media pages to build anticipation, directly engaging with their fan base, leaving handwritten clues, and streaming their live rooftop performance in DTLA, which you can view below.
Taking a completely different approach, Birdy targeted the Asian market for her 2016 tour and had great success with building excitement amongst her fan base. Birdy left signed origami birds with tickets to her live show stashed in cities that were part of her tour. She also did an unannounced pop-up show and released her own birdy emojis that ended up reaching 33 million downloads.
Both The 1975 and Birdy created campaigns that left fans eager to be a part of their album release. This is a recurring response from fans when the artist goes the extra mile to engage with their supporters. The element of surprise has yet to fail, neither has fan involvement.
Here are a few other ways fans can be a part of the creative experience:
- Live streaming of studio sessions
- Fan suggested song topics
- Scavenger hunts
- Pop-up performances
- Social media contests and #challenges
For you Songwriters, Music Producers, and Artists that are interested in developing a marketing system that will ultimately engage with your fans and grow your business, provide your email address in the form below and I will send you exclusive step-by-step information on how to build your digital marketing strategy.
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#3. Think They Know It All
There are three categories of people I have encountered in my life that fit under the category of always think they know everything. Those categories are teenagers, gym-goers, and musicians. It goes without saying that this doesn’t apply to everyone who falls under each category but there is a large percentage of Songwriters, Music Producers, and Artists that have the talent to be successful but don’t have the right mentality because they think they have the music industry all figured out.
This is terrible.
Even the veterans I know in the music industry will tell you that they don’t have it all figured out because the industry is in a constant state of evolution. There’s no way that a person can know everything there is to know about being a musician and what it takes to make it to the top.
It doesn’t help that some artists reach ‘overnight success,’ giving other musicians a false sense of hope that it can happen just as fast for them. In reality, the possibilities of that happening are slim. At the end of the day, the one thing that will prove to be essential to success is experience.
The main reasons people like aspiring musicians and gym-goers think they don’t need any advice, training, and coaching, is they get results in whatever methods they are currently using and think that's good enough.
Anyone can go to the gym every day and do 100 push-ups and will eventually start to see some type of results, but how long did it take? Was their technique correct? Will the results last long term or will they go away from poor dieting?
There are plenty of question that I can ask because there is so much detail that goes into proper exercise routines and long-term results, this is why personal trainers and nutritionist are important. It’s no different for musicians.
If I were to release a single and tell everybody to listen to it and buy it, I may get a few plays and downloads in the beginning but what about 3 months later?
How do I follow up with the fans that decided to purchase the single? How will I make enough money in sales to make back what I spent on production, recording, mixing, and marketing the single? How do I know how to target a specific audience that would appreciate my type of music?
Again, there are plenty of questions and every day I come across arrogant musicians that think they have it all figured out and eventually fail.
Part of this is due to what I mentioned earlier, they don’t know they’re making a mistake. As true as this may be, it’s not entirely the musician's fault.
Plenty of Songwriters, Music Producers, and Artists seek out advice and guidance but fall short of finding it due to a shortage of experienced musicians willing to pass on their wisdom.
Here’s a list of things any musician that is serious about their career does:
- Read books and articles like this one
- Attended music expos
- Find an experienced mentor
- Ask tons of questions
Finding a mentor or a coach provides benefits to all music creators, from beginners to experts. Even Beyonce had a vocal coach, ever heard of David Lee Brewer? Didn’t think so.
I know I wouldn’t be a Platinum-Selling Producer if it weren’t for the mentors I had when I was just getting started.
Having a mentor can help save time and help eliminate mistakes that would be made if the mentor weren’t around to be a voice of reason. Now, I have to say that finding a mentor isn’t easy. Like everything else, it takes time and a little bit of luck, but this is the music industry and that’s always the case.
Is finding a mentor the right move for everyone? Not necessarily.
Of all the musicians that are out there in the world, a vast number of them make music for fun and have no interests in pursuing music as a career. For those of you that are interested in pursuing your dreams, I’ve put together a guide to help with making the transition from amateur to professional. Download it here.
#4. Don't Know How To Utilize the Internet
If ‘Looking for A Manager’ was a class offered at a college university, ‘Learning the Internet’ would be the prerequisite.
The internet is a musician's best friend and can generate many lucrative opportunities when utilized, no different than a manager minus the 10-20% commission a manager would take.
When it comes to any business, the more success you can generate on your own, the more others will be interested in working with you. Record labels, publishers, and managers are no different. The relationship between such companies and musicians could be considered much B2B.
Because of their reputation, managers are one of the first things musicians think is necessary to start generating opportunities. They don’t understand that a manager needs something to manage. The more music placements a Songwriter, Producer, or Artist can generate, the more valuable they’ll be to people like managers.
Once the workload gets to a point where the musician can’t keep up, that’s the perfect time to bring on a manager. At that point, the manager can leverage previous achievements to generate more work opportunities and can help make decisions on what the musician should spend their time on next.
The second thing musicians think they need is a record deal or publishing deal.
Here we go again.
Musicians no longer need the support of record executives and labels to release and distribute their music.
That's not to say that signing to one of these companies is a bad idea. Labels and publishers have a large pool of resources that can create an overnight star when paired with the right team and musician, but there is a time and place for everything.
When just getting started, indie is the way to go.
Chance the Rapper appeared on the Ellen show last September and in his interview, he addressed his satisfaction with being successful without signing to a record label. See the interview below.
Chance is one of many artists that share similar views. Macklemore, Frank Ocean, and Childish Gambino are a few more worth mentioning.
So how does one get to such a level?
Here are 4 ways to get started:
- Good Music
- Social Media
Good music is a given, and to be honest, at this point, it doesn't even have to be that good. There are so many people in the world that someone is bound to like it. But creating music that is timeless will make it easier.
Websites are where a lot of artists drop the ball. A website should serve as the hub for everything to do with the musician. Not only should it provide music, merchandise, and current news, it should be designed to capture fans.
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Social media serves as a broadcast platform. Once the music is ready and the website is designed to convert, social media profiles are used to engage with potential fans and bring new music to their attention.
A musicians involvement on social media will determine the number of followers and web traffic generated. More engagement equals more traffic, more traffic equals more fans, more fans equals more money.
See where I’m going with this?
The only issue with actively being involved in social media is it can become time-consuming. Coming up with content to post, images, graphics, videos, music clips, and reaching out to others can take time away from doing other things like making music!
For someone that doesn’t have much time to do all of these things on a consistent basis, this can be a challenge. For that very reason, I’ve put together a Social Media Strategy Guide that will solve this problem.
At this point the music has been recorded, the site has been built, social media followers are growing, what next?
How about some good old fashion mass exposure.
I mentioned earlier that playlists on music platforms like Spotify are growing in popularity. These playlists have developed a knack for generating a ton of exposure to musicians all around the world. Some of these playlists have millions of followers, which is great for musicians looking to reach people they’d normally have no access to.
The question here is what should a musician do to get their music listed on a popular playlist?
Well, first and foremost you can start your own playlist. I look at creating playlists like Djing a party. As the DJ, the goal is to keep the music consistent with the vibe.
To create a playlist:
- Create a list of great songs that fit a particular genre or mood
- Mix in a few of your own songs where you see fit
- Make the playlist public
- Promote it to your friends, family, and followers
- Ask them to share it with their friends, family, and followers
Another approach to gaining mass exposure via playlists is getting your music featured on a popular playlist.
This can be done by:
- Verifying your Spotify and Apple Music Connect accounts (Spotify requires 250 followers minimum)
- Researching the playlists your music would fit best
- Reaching out to the playlist curators, bloggers, and social influencers
- Introducing yourself and your music
- Following up with everyone you reached out to
- Being patient
Getting music placed on a playlist may take a little time and effort but so does everything else. It’s best to be prepared for when this does happen since listeners that like your music will begin to look for more of it.
Here’s where having a website designed to convert and social media pages designed to promote and engage, comes in to bring things full circle. See why this is so important?
#5. Don't Understand Business
For musicians that intend on selling music and pursuing a career in the music industry, understanding how business works is vital. For someone that makes music “for fun” or as a side hobby, feel free to disregard this final mistake.
Understanding business will make it easier when maneuvering through the industry and making deals. It can come back to haunt you if you decide to not take this last mistake to heart and do everything necessary to correct it.
The music industry is known for its complex contracts that require attorneys, managers, and possibly months of contract revisions. Understanding of the terminology, payment process, expenses, taxes, and the politics involved will give any musician the advantage over others with similar goals.
Too many musicians neglect this step and find themselves in trouble when they sign agreements with publishers and labels. This is an easy way to end up on the short end of the stick and being fully taken advantage of due to naivety and impatience.
Learning the business is something that can’t be pawned off to the next person to do and cutting corners in business hardly ever ends well. This also applies to making investments to further your career.
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve encountered a music creator that expects to get things done for free, I’d be a very rich man.
Investing in yourself and in your music career is mandatory. Rather it is paying for education, information, or equipment, the money has to be spent. I recommend not even looking at it as spending money, look at it as making an investment.
You’re investing your time and money into something that will pay for itself over time and if done right, the money will come back to you ten-fold.
Determining what to invest in can be a difficult decision to make. Investing in education, information, and equipment can add up very quickly and neither one of these investments come cheap.
If you’re unsure on what to invest in and what decisions to make when getting started with your career, sign up below for my FREE 3-Day email series. In this email series, I’ll show you the 11 elements needed to run your own music business and will include my Music Business Road Map for you to follow along. These are the same 11 elements I used and it led to me becoming a Platinum-Selling Music Producer. Sign up for FREE below.
Getting started in your music career can be a painful process. As fun as studio sessions are and how exciting it is when you finally get a song placed with a major artist or synced in TV and Film, it’s still a grind and lots of hard work.
Eliminating and minimizing mistakes will help save time, money, and headache. Correcting the 5 mistakes mentioned above will do wonders for not only your career but others you work with. If you enjoyed reading this article, be a team player and pay it forward by sharing this post on your Facebook and other social media profiles by clicking below.
Gerrell "Rellevant" King