A new year always brings new potential and new opportunities, but the first step is knowing exactly what you’re aiming for. Here are a few things you can do to start hearing a lot more “yes” in 2018.
We all want to hear more “yes” in our music careers. Like “Yes, I’ll book your band,” or “Yes, I’ll review your new album on my blog,” or “Yes, I’d like to license your song for a new TV show.” It’s got a nice ring to it, right?
Here are a few things you can do to start hearing a lot more “yes” in 2018.
Create a community mindset
I’m putting this one right up top because it will probably have the BIGGEST impact on how many opportunities come your way. As an added bonus, it’s super easy to implement.
It’s a simple shift in mindset. Instead of thinking, “How can I get what I want?” think, “How can I help you?” or “How can we work together to accomplish something awesome?” It’s an acknowledgment that other people have their own goals and needs and it’s about offering to give before you ask anything of someone else. At the very least, it’s about offering some benefit in return for someone’s help.
This pretty much applies to just about everything in music.
Let’s say you want to get your new album covered and reviewed by a blogger. A self-centered approach would be to just email them and ask for a review. BUT, let’s think about them and their agenda…
A blogger has his or her own audience to entertain and search traffic they need to capture. That means they are always looking for valuable and interesting content and great stories. Maybe that means you offer them an exclusive (they can debut your single before anyone else), or maybe you share the story behind the album and how it came about so they have something interesting to write about. Or perhaps you give them some freebies to give away to their audience. Much more compelling, eh?
As another example, maybe you want to start working with music brands and gear manufacturers on a sponsorship or endorsement level. Emailing the company and asking someone to send you free stuff probably isn’t going to work out for you. But, if you contact a company, tell them you love their stuff and that you’d like to do a video talking about their products, how you use them, and how great they are, and you want to share it with your fans and give the company permission to use it, now they’re getting a benefit from you. AND it can open up the door for future collaborations.
Ask the question
I know, it seems obvious, but you’ll never hear a “yes” if you don’t ask the question. And yet, the music industry is filled with vague emails and offers (most of which go straight to the trash).
If you want to book a gig or get a song licensed, don’t just tell the booking agent or music supervisor to “check out your music.” There’s no purpose there and no reason for a response. You need to give them a “next step” to carry on the conversation.
Finish your email by specifically asking for a gig or asking if they have a place for your song in an upcoming video or TV show.
As a rule of thumb, always read through the emails you send and ask yourself, “Is there a clear action item here that requires a response?”
It’s not always easy — a lot of times we’re afraid or hesitant to ask a direct question for fear of being too pushy. Or perhaps you’re afraid to open up the door to a “no.”
But it’s all a learning experience. No one will hear “yes” all the time — not even the most successful musicians on the planet. A “no” should trigger some introspection, a chance to reassess and pivot your approach. Are you not ready for this opportunity? What can you do to become ready? Is the opportunity not consistent with your goals? What should you focus on instead?
People are more likely to say yes if you’re on top of things and prepared. Rejections usually aren’t personal, and it’s not always about someone not liking your music. Sometimes it’s just too last-minute to pull things together or you’re not the perfect fit for the opportunity.
The fact is this is business. People have schedules, and when that schedule is filled, it doesn’t matter if your music is the best thing since sliced bread. If a blogger already has her articles and reviews written and scheduled for the month, your last minute request simply isn’t going to fit.
So give plenty of notice, be early, and be prepared. Be what they’re looking for when they’re looking for it.
Keep connections active
I know it’s probably been pounded into your head at this point, but your connections really are the key to success in the music industry. You’re more likely to get a “yes” from people you know.
When someone has worked with you before, they know what to expect: they know the professionalism you bring to the table and they know the kind of quality you provide. In other words, you’re a lot less risky than pulling some cold-calling artist out of their email inbox.
With that in mind, it’s really important to keep your relationships alive and active. And that takes work on your part.
Don’t just view a connection as a one-time opportunity. Think of it as a long-term partnership. If you want to hear more “yes,” take some time now to reconnect with your network and brainstorm how you can continue to work together.
Be the initiator
No one cares about your music career as much as you do — not publishers, record labels, or booking agents. That means no one is going to look out for your goals better than you. If you’re waiting around for someone to come along and hand you a great opportunity, you’re going to hear a lot less “yes” in 2018.
If you want something to happen, you need to make it happen (or at least take all the steps in your power to get the ball rolling). If you want to attract a booking agent to help you break into larger-scale tours, ask yourself, “What can I do to make this happen?”
One thing you can do: do everything in your power to look like a professional artist and a solid partner. Create a strong live EPK, own your local gigging scene, build up your live set, keep track of your gig income and ticket sales so you can prove that you’re a solid investment.
You can do research and find potential booking agents you want to work with. Search the Internet, mine your network and artist friends for recommendations, and see if you have any common connections that could give you an introduction to booking agents. Then you can make the first move and reach out when you know you’re prepared.
Be proactive and be the initiator and you’ll get a lot more of what you want.
A new year always brings new potential and new opportunities, but the first step is knowing exactly what you’re aiming for. If you haven’t quite determined your music goals for 2018, download my free workbook, Your Music Plan for Success. It will walk you through setting your goals and defining your career so you can head into 2018 with more focus.
Dave Kusek is the founder of New Artist Model and Berklee Online. Over the years he’s worked with tens of thousands of musicians around the world across every genre imaginable and in many different markets. New Artist Model is an online music business school designed especially for indie musicians. Learn how to turn your music into a career, understand the business, and start thinking like a musical entrepreneur.
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