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Why You Should Treat Your Music Career Like a Startup

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rory Seydel and originally appeared on the LANDR Blog. Remember – if you need your songs polished instantly, give LANDR a try!]

The music biz is still the wild west — Here’s how to be an outlaw.

Howdy stranger.

Music promotion and growing your career as an artist is the most difficult thing you can do on this earth (trust me, I know).

I’d argue that growing a startup is the second hardest. (I know about that too).

For some reason I’ve been fortunate—or crazy—enough to try music and startups. It turns out it’s a lot easier if you learn from both.

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They each require constant GROWTH. That six letter word that that can’t be ignored in any career — be it creative or business. Or creative business.

Here’s what I’ve learned, and what you should too:

MAKE A PLAN

This sounds obvious, but let’s face it: musicians aren’t the best at thinking ahead.

We live in the moment. And that’s fine.

But a little foresight goes a long way. Especially when it comes to the lifecycle of recording, releasing, promoting and touring.

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Every good startup has a roadmap — or in musicians terms a longterm plan (hello dreams!).

They also have a short term plan (reality!). Just don’t be afraid to be fluid— ’cause when life happens, you need to be able to adapt.

RELEASE FAST

Think of it this way: you spend 3-years working on your first record. But then you realize that your brand of obscure underground music resonates with no one.

Music changes at an insanely rapid pace, the internet decides the speed of consumption and taste.

So how do you stay ahead of the curve? Easy. Release your music while you’re making it.

Publish it to SoundCloud. See what resonates with your community, your audience, your friends.

Take the feedback you get and make more music. Your community is a super supportive laboratory where you should test all kinds of stuff. When it doubt test it!

If something works do it again—but better. If it fails then ditch it quick.

Release constantly and listen to your audience. They will guide you to your best work.

STAY HUNGRY STAY FOCUSED

Remember that roadmap from your original plan? Use it.

Take 5 minutes a day to be inspired by your hopes and dreams. Don’t be afraid to be hungry.  Sacrifice in the name of your art.

Work in the moment and remember why you started creating music in the first place.

Stay in and work on your projects instead of going out. It’ll pay off faster than you think.

FAIL EARLY FAIL OFTEN

This saying gets thrown around constantly in business but it’s essential to quick growth.

People are afraid of failure. But as the startup gods have taught us: Failure is awesome!

It sounds weird but think of it this way: you learn a heap load more from failure than you do from mediocrity.

In mediocrity we pat each other on the back, learn nothing and don’t grow.

In failure we have no choice but to look at what can be done better, pick up the pieces and go back to the drawing board knowing what to avoid.

USE TECHNOLOGY

Startups are not afraid of technology (probably because they are too busy making it).

But musicians often are. Don’t be afraid. There are tons of hyper useful and creative music technologies being developed right now.

Get used to the idea that good technologies exist to make your life better. It’ll open up a whole world of possibilities.

Native Instruments, Ableton, LANDR, SoundCloud and Echo Nest are a few examples of technologies that are pushing the envelope to help you.

And with new music tech popping up daily there’s no sign of it slowing down. Get involved or get left behind.

COLLABORATE

Think Jobs and Wozniak — Lennon and McCartney. Kraftwerk or the way Kanye manages a teame of hundreds.

You need people around you. You need them to bring out the best in you, and you need to bring out the best in them.

The role of the conductor is often under regarded.

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BE DIGITAL

There’s a community for everything online. The sooner you find yours, the more successful you’ll be.

Look at the way Radiohead sells records. From booking a tour to setting up a website, you should be pouring most of your promotion time into music promotion. That means digital marketing, communities, sales and PR.

Don’t underestimate IRL. Hit the road and get involved face to face. Just make sure to update your Instagram as you go.

Having an antiquated business plan for your music career won’t cut it any more — you need a lean startup plan with smart strategists (AKA awesome bandmates).

So make a new plan. One that fits today AND tomorrow. And enjoy some rapid growth.

  • Justin Rifica Douglas

    Good read. We must stay on the cusp of the ever changing music industry.