The first steps in managing your own music career are to know your music mission and list some vision for the future. Let’s begin with MUSIC MISSION. A MISSION STATEMENT should be short and sweet but may take some thinking and evaluating before you can feel comfortable with what EXACTLY determines your mission. On the other hand, a MUSIC VISION is looking toward the future and stating the direction you desire for your career to grow.
DEFINE YOUR MUSIC MISSION
Try looking at your songs to determine if you have a theme in your songs or gather the songs with themes together. We are not talking about what genre of music they are, that will come later. You can ask yourself:
- Are you songs motivational?
- Are you telling recovery stories?
- Are you singing about losing or finding love?
- Are you showing your angst, looking for answers yourself?
Only you know what your song stories are, so take the time to evaluate….WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY TO YOUR AUDIENCE?
The next question is: WHO do you WANT to listen to your songs? Maybe these songs are focused on people who have lost a love or enjoy a quick beat that makes them dance. Go for the emotional part of what you are saying in your songs and then you can look at their gender, age and what other life activities are most important to your listeners. There are specific steps to releasing music to the public but before all that do some homework about who, in the world would, you like to connect to your songs & stories?
This is not about you trying to reach the entire world, but specifically, who can really relate emotionally to what your songs are saying. By determining the emotion you are trying to arouse in your listening audience, you can later go back and dig into finding your target market. But from evaluating WHAT you are saying with your songs and WHO you want to listen, you can write a 2-line mission statement that can define your music purpose & guide your entire career.
DETERMINE YOUR MUSIC CAREER VISION
Creating a music vision for your career is much different from determining your mission statement. VISION STATEMENTS truly show the connection between your identity, the core value of your work and how you want your career to grow.
MUSIC VISION is filled with how you want your music career to unfold, containing some dreaming about the future but also keeping some realism to what you think you can accomplish in the future. We are talking about, “What you want to accomplish in 2, 5 or even 10 years into the future.” We will give you a few examples.
Let’s say you are writing 10+ songs a month. The ideas just keep coming! It is really OK if you write in different music genres. So if you already have at least 10 songs all ready to record, you will have enough songs to start your music catalog.
Vision Statement: Song Placement in TV & Movies OR Acquiring a Publishing Deal.
If you see your songs in TV or Movies, that means the next 2 years you may want to start attending groups or conferences where publishers, music supervisors OR gaming producers share their knowledge. Also, you could plan to approach some indie filmmakers to use some of your music in their productions.
Also, you will need to take the first 2 years and start educating yourself on PROs, copywriting your songs and understanding publishing splits. So by year 3, you should at least have some of your songs in different media. By year 5 getting that publishing deal where you are continuing to write, record, and produce work for TV, Film, Gaming &/or Advertising.
Again, remember we are talking about your music career for the future.
Vision Statement: To write songs for well-know artists.
You may want to write songs for other artists. Start with entering well-known songwriting contests, researching the management companies of upcoming artist you may want to write for and attending as many songwriter retreats, showcases and industry events you can in the next few years to meet the movers and shakers. And of course, find a way to record your music demos that sound professional.
Start with NEW upcoming artists who may be in line to hit the billboard charts or just won a contest like the ‘Voice.’ Many of these stars on the rise do not write their own songs but they already are moving towards greatness. This will bring your songwriting to light a lot faster than trying to get a big artist record your song. By year 3? Rising artists should be using your songs to hit the music charts!
PERFORMING ARTIST – TOURING VISION
Vision Statement: Tour the entire west coast OR become nationally know performer.
If you want to be a TOURING ARTIST, with 6 to 10 songs you have enough material to release a song to the public about every month. (Most of you will also need to have at least a one-hour music set rehearsed).
So your vision may be to tour the entire west coast by year 3, and become nationally known performer by year 7. This means you need to perform virtually and conquer performing all the local hotspots and showcases within 100 miles of your homebase. The idea is to perform near your home for about a year to get your show, website, merch and social media together. When you start hitting the road, by the end of year 2, you want to be on the road conquering 600…year 3 traveling 1000+ miles, at least 3 times a year.
Every time you play for a new audience, you need to kill with your show! Winning over an audience who has never seen you and making them true fans, is the real object of touring. You need ALWAYS breakeven on your first tours, so don’t concentrate on just playing clubs, try outdoor city events, festivals, colleges and county fairs, who all pay you to perform and already will have an audience for you to perform to.
Vision Statement: Be a FIRST-CALL touring musician for established bands.
Let’s say you are VERY good guitarist, able to pick up and play a variety of kinds of music. You want to go on tour and be the guitar player for a number of well-known artists. You will want to start doing a lot of session work your first 2 years. Most First-Call touring musicians are found when an established band needs a special sound and a producer or engineer recommends you as a quick learner & great musician.
Also, learn how to sight-read music and brush up on your unique sound and inventive solos. Many touring artists also gather at music jams to let other musicians know they are back and want more work. Only a few of you will actually go to an audition to land a touring gig. It is your music skills and networking chops that will keep getting your touring work.
BONUS: HOW TO IDENTIFY YOUR MUSIC GENRE!
Please don’t tell me your music does not sound like anyone else! Are you saying you have NO music influences? I know it is sometimes difficult to define your specific music genres but it is really OK to blend your influences.
The first question anyone will ask you is, “What does your music sound like?” If you are a songwriter and dabble in many genres, then it is OK to talk about different music sections of your catalog. OR if you are a session player and you can play a bunch of music genres, I bet you still have two music areas you are more expert in. Again, we are talking about leading with your best skills.
As original DIY artists, if you are not sure what music acts or vocalists you sound like, I bet if you gave the music to 3 or 4 of your music fans, they would tell you what music influences they hear in your songs. But don’t fight the comparisons if you think you don’t sound like one of the suggestions.
CHOOSING YOUR COMPARISONS
I had a student who told me that everyone says her band sounds like Coldplay, but then she remarked, “I hate Coldplay!” I then asked her, “Who do you think you sound like? I told her, “You get to pick her comparisons and then share that with the world.” Making the suggestion before someone listens will make them search for those influences.
USING FANS SUGGESTIONS
I experimented with another person who said he did not know what his music sounded like and we played in front a group of 10 people. They all made suggestions like, “I think his songwriting style is more like John Mayer.” He admitted John Mayer was a big influence on him. But we still could not really place his vocal style. But when he walked into the room the next day and I yelled out, “Your voice sounds like Elvis Costello!” He started laughing and said over 7 years ago, when he was in high school, he WAS Elvis Costello. He was obsessed and sang all his song, dressed like him and wanted to be him! Funny huh? He took away saying, “People compare my music writing style to John Mayer but with vocals sounding like Elvis Costello.” When we say that music combination, can’t you almost play it in your head?
USING COMMON MUSIC INFLUENCES
Here is another way to choose your musical style. Let’s you have a band; ask everyone to write a list of their early influences and I bet you find at least 3 musicians or bands you all have in common. Take some of those influences and blend your comparisons. Now, I don’t want you to say you are the next Beatles, but you may say, “ Our fans say our songs have a Beatles vibe mixed with contemporary style of Ed Sheeran.” OR maybe, “We have a powerful rock edge like Led Zeppelin with a female vocalist compared to Lady Gaga.”
The big deal is YOU GET TO CHOOSE.
Put the comparisons in your bio and under your photos and when a press person or calendar listing uses your photo and uses those comparison words, you get to go back into your bio and now say, “The LA Weekly describes our music as, “YOUR DESCRIPTION.” You want an industry professionals or press person to use your own words. Getting others to promote what your music sounds like will be a big push to get fans to listen.
I hope all of this is helpful. Choosing your music mission and determining your vision statement to guide your career, is really the first step in making your successful music plans for the new year. Getting comfortable describing your music, that is a bonus!
So get creative and go for gold….dream BIG….push to be nominated for a Grammy OR be the songwriter whose most listened song be on the Billboard Charts OR strive to be a First-Call touring musician… but just acknowledge…..there are many steps to achieve before reaching your career vision.
If you use one of our suggestions…let us know at MusicBizMentors@gmail.com. I would love to hear about your successes!