[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Angela Mastrogiacomo.]
One thing that constantly boggles my mind is musicians that refuse to believe they are running a business. Simply put, if you’re trying to create a music career that pays the bills or has an impact on anyone other than yourself, you’re running a business—and you need to start thinking like one.
And listen, this is good news! It’s actually really exciting, because when you can learn to pivot and start thinking like the entrepreneur you are, you open up a whole world of possibilities for getting new eyes and ears on your music.
Because, I’m going to let you in on a little secret—most musicians are not thinking like entrepreneurs. And of that tiny percent that are, most of them aren’t taking it a step further to show up as, learn from, and market like entrepreneurs. Which means, if you can start incorporating that into your own business model, you’re going to be at a huge advantage.
So, what do you need to know to start this pivot?
The money is in the list
You may think that having tens of thousands of Instagram followers is where it’s at, but the truth is, nothing is going to move sales quite like an email list. If you don’t already have an engaged, value packed email list, this is the first place I’d suggest you focus. While it’s a commonly known thing in the world of entrepreneurship that list building should be one of the first things you focus on, for some reason, that hasn’t quite made it over to the music industry—and it’s time for that to change.
There are a lot of reasons that email lists are so powerful, not the least of which is you actually own that information—with social media, you don’t have any right to your followers. If your account got hacked tomorrow you’d lose all of it. Not so with your email list. And when done right, your email list can give you tons of insight into who your fans are, help you build stronger relationships with them, and it is always your best bet for making sales—be it new merch, show tickets, etc, a strong email list will lead to a stronger conversion rate than anything you find from social media.
Get creative with your marketing
One thing successful entrepreneurs do well is, they know how to market—and they’re creative about it. While Facebook ads are an incredible way to get in front of your audience, and should absolutely be a part of your marketing strategy, there’s so much more that you can be doing. For instance, you could start a podcast. You could create a Pinterest board around the themes in your brand. You could start a Facebook group.
Dig deep into what your brand is all about and what your fans want more of and give them content that reflects that, while appealing to a similar audience through something like a podcast, vlog, Pinterest, Facebook Group, etc.
Surround yourself with entrepreneurial material
You should always be learning. From books, from podcasts, from other entrepreneurs, one key part of growth is to always be absorbing information, and surrounding yourself with others who want success just as much as you do.
Think about it—when do you feel most motivated? When you’re around people and materials that bring you down or have nothing to do with your vision for your life or when you find a really great Facebook group filled with people who are going after their dreams, or listen to a podcast that makes you feel like you can do absolutely anything? I don’t know about you, but for me, staying motivated and taking action on my goals is greatly influenced by the people and materials I surround myself with, which is why I make a few key podcasts and books a part of my ritual.
Focus on the story
There’s this really incredible book called Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller that completely changed the way I thought about my business. In it, Miller talks about the power of storytelling and how it helps our audience to not only retain what we’re saying (our minds are built to hold on to stories over arbitrary facts) but how it also makes them want to be more involved with what we’re doing. When done right, we take our audience on a journey with us through our messaging—everything from Instagram posts to your email content can be improved with just a few slight tweaks. And I have to tell you it makes a massive difference.
The takeaway is this: storytelling is not only a powerful way to connect with your fans, but it’s the best way to ensure loyalty and sales. People will invest (both emotionally and financially) in things they feel connected to and storytelling is by far the best way to do that.
Always be trying new things—but pivot quickly
One thing you’ll always hear great entrepreneurs say is how they’re able to make decisions quickly and pivot as needed. They won’t agonize over a decision for a month, or wait for things to be perfect before getting it out into the world. That doesn’t mean they’re putting out sloppy work, it just means they’re able to quickly get their ideas and material into the world, see what works, and then double down on it. That way, they’re not wasting months perfecting something, only to see that their audience doesn’t actually like it. They simply get it done, imperfect as it may be, put it out there, gauge the reaction, and go from there.
Similarly, it means they can pivot quickly. So if something isn’t working, they don’t spend a lot of time sulking about it, they simply move on to the next thing and keep trying.
I’ll be the first to admit, this one does not come naturally to me and it takes some real getting used to if this isn’t your natural way of doing things. But believe me, if this recovering perfectionist can do it, so can you.
Being a musician isn’t just about making music anymore—and if we’re honest, it hasn’t been for a long time. It’s about creating a brand, a connection, a loyal and thriving community, and if you want to do that on a truly global scale, you have to start thinking like an entrepreneur. Quick on your feet, always learning, and always seeking the next best thing for your audience. I have full faith that you’re going to rock it.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR, where her artists have seen placements on Alternative Press, Noisey, Substream, Spotify and more as well as the THRIVE Mentorship program—an online community that provides indie artists with affordable year-round mentoring from music industry experts, and much more.