Busting Through the Plateau – or, How To Get a Music Career Back on Track

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As a musician I wake up every day and say, “What am I going to do today that will push my music career forward?” The worst feeling is when I can’t answer that question. Like now. I’m at a point where I feel like I’ve reached out to all of my music industry contacts, tapped out my fans, and done everything I can think of doing. I know there is more to be done and I don’t know what it is, and I’ve reached some creative/career exhaustion that’s making me not want to do anything, anyway. Long story short: I’m stuck.

When I was writing my eCourse (In The Key Of Success: The 5 Week Jump Start Strategy), I knew there was this big question I wanted to answer, not only for myself, but for other indie music artists making a go at a career in music: “How do I bust through this [expletive] plateau?”

To me, the plateau stage means being stuck in cycle of writer’s block, career block, overwhelm, breakdown, and anything else that describes a less-than-desirable state of indie music career being.

I speak from experience here. The short list below is something I’m currently using to break out of my early 2012 plateau. It is derived from patterns of breaking through in the past as well as things I do now that get me results.

My plateau experience
In the year after my first record came out, I was packing shows, selling albums, and seeing exponential increases in my mailing list signups. Then it stopped. I was no longer a novelty to my friends, family, and local music community. I hired a PR company, I changed up my live show, I took actions and asked for help. And I learned that anything I could possibly do to get unstuck falls into these two categories.

1) Get into action.
• Set up to-do lists and put each item in your calendar. And stick to it.
• Make a schedule for yourself and stick to it!
• Give yourself time for breaks.
• Give yourself time to make booking, pitch, and other important phone calls.
• Give yourself time to be creative. Start writing your next hit.

2) Ask for help.
• Get a few friends to keep you accountable each week to the things you say you want to do.
• If you can afford it, with either money or trading services, hire someone to help with booking, PR, or anything else you’d like help with. Also look to local colleges for interns.
• Ask for help in other areas of your life.

Getting into action is simple if you know what to do and just don’t want to do it. You gotta pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get a move on. Period. If you are not sure what to do to start taking actions that will be effective and yield results, then head to #2. You can also head to #2 if you’re like me right now and just exhausted by the routine of making booking calls, researching music supervisors, and the whole pounding-the-pavement shpiel. And that’s okay. It happens. If the phrase “taking action” makes you want to curl up in a ball an not come up until September, it’s time to ask for help. Help can come in lots of different forms and it’s not saying anything less of you to ask for it. This time around, I’ve signed on with a group of music professionals that specialize in PR and artist development to explore new possibilities with my musical endeavors. For you, it may be hiring an intern to do booking calls, asking your spouse to do some of the household work for one week while you rejuvenate and recommit to your career. It may be purchasing an inspiring book or completing my eCourse (which I promise will help!).

Looking outside yourself for motivation is ultimately how you can create it for yourself. I’ll keep you posted with my plateau-busting progress both on this blog and on twitter @CBE, #bustplateaus.

Cheryl B. Engelhardt is an established pianist/singer/songwriter who has toured the US and Europe, licensed songs to over a dozen TV shows, and who composes music for films, national ads, and CollegeHumor.com. Cheryl is the author of “In The Key Of Success: The 5 Week Jump-Start Strategy,” an incredibly effective, result-oriented eCourse for independent musicians who are serious about breaking through plateaus in their careers. Because you are a loyal Echoes reader, you get a ridiculous 70% discount off the regular price by typing in IHEARTDM in the “discount code” field.

Cheryl’s next workshop will be held in NYC in August 2012. For more info, visit her website www.CBEmusic.com and follow her on Twitter @CBE.

Finish Line image provided by Shutterstock.

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