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Eight Steps to Music Success - By Jeffrey P. Fisher
Want to move past a mediocre music career into a thriving, exciting, and moneymaking music business? Here are eight reasons preventing you from being the success you want to be ... and what to do about them so you can build and sustain your career at the level of success you need, want, and deserve.

-- You're not mentally prepared
What does success means to you? You must prepare your mind for both the demands and rewards of success. Surely you believe that your success is inevitable if you work hard and persist? Nobody hands it to you on a silver platter (and who would want that anyway?). Solid determination and an interminable will to succeed are two crucial characteristics you must cultivate. If you are lazy or looking for an easy way out: Stop right now. This isn't for you. This article is for people who want success and are willing to put the time, energy, money, effort, patience, skill, and talent to the task.

-- You're not technically proficient
Are your skills, image, presence, demo, and other factors showcasing your best work? If not, you need to concentrate on improving your technical skills in these four areas:
---Writing skills
---Oral presentation skills
---Business skills
---And, of course, your musical talent

You must be able to communicate effectively. Writing promotional material and delivering sales presentations are crucial to your survival. You will be meeting with clients by telephone and in person. You must learn to explain your business and music in ways they'll understand and that let you sell yourself, your ideas, and your music. If you can't communicate effectively, you are doomed to fail. You must understand the intricacies of these skills, practice using them, and ultimately master them.

What about business skills? I'm advocating you to run your musical career as a small business. And there are many advantages to running your own business. It's up to you to discover what works for your situation and then exploit every possibility.

You can't afford to take these important points for granted. Yes, your music matters, but your people and business skills are also vital to your eventual success. Making it in today's music world is a demanding job. You will use every single ounce of your talent, knowledge, stamina, and skills to thrive.

-- You don't understand the real problem
It's unfortunate but there are quite a few musicians out there who just don't get it. They concentrate on production and not selling. If you are more concerned with getting a good drum sound on CD than getting your CD into buyer's hands, you'd better listen.

While gear is cool. And production and engineering are fun. And playing into the wee hours of the night is a rush. It's all a masquerade for what is really happening. The key to succeeding in any business is promotion: Getting your music products and services into the hands of those who need and want your offerings and who have the means to pay for it. Making music is easy compared to the time and energy you must spend solving the promotional riddle. Don't make the mistake made by most who fail. The need to promote well is crucial to your success.

-- You don't have the necessary promotional material
No matter what part of the music business your are choosing to pursue, there is one constant. You need your CD, biography, picture, sales letters, brochure, news releases, contracts, and other collateral material designed to promote you and your work. No business can succeed without this necessary material. You can't exist with just a demo and stack of sticky notes. If most musicians would put the time and attention they put into their music into promoting and selling their talents, there would be many more successful artists in the world.

-- You're not committed to success or willing to do what is necessary for success
I believe you can have anything in the world, just not everything. To be the musical success you envision, you need to sacrifice something, give something up. You can't have a full social calendar, and a full-time job, and a family, and a band and devote your full energy to each. Something's gotta give and you must decide what it is going to be.

That may seem cold-hearted. Surely this is America. And the American dream is to "have it all!" Unfortunately, many well intentioned people have failed miserably or even gone to an early grave while chanting that anthem. You must first decide what it is you want and then concentrate on getting what you want.

-- You haven't planned how and what you are going to do.
Have you scrutinized your competition, considered your promotional gambits, studied the many options available to you, and determined a plan of action? You've set your goal. And committed your resources of time and talent to attaining your success. Now you need a specific plan of action. This doesn't need to be some fancy doctoral thesis. Start with this simple format: Here's where I am. Here's where I wish to go. And here's how I plan to get there.

-- You haven't determined how to measure your success
What does "making it" mean to you? I followed a local band that kept pursuing a record contract. For years they played all around town and bars, festivals, parties, even touring regionally. Unfortunately they missed the success right in front of their noses. They had a loyal following, many paid gigs, and sold merchandise, including their own CD's for profit. Still they spent energy trying to get the elusive record contract and ignored the success they had already achieved. Eventually it all caught up to them. Members left and life went on. While I think the record deal was a noble goal, they spent too much energy on it and ignored the tidy little business that was waiting outside their door. So though they had a plan, they never adapted to changing circumstances.

You need a one year plan, a five year plan, and a life plan. Just remember that your life is a work in progress, never to be completed. Use the plan as a road map, but be flexible. When you set your goals, and how you plan to achieve them, make sure you also include a measuring device for the specific outcomes you desire. For example, you might be inclined to say you want to make money from your music. Hold it. That's to vague. How 'bout this instead: I will earn my living entirely from music related ventures within two years. That's easy to measure. If you are still holding down a part-time job to pay the bills 25 months from now, you know you didn't reach the goal you set for yourself.

-- You haven't put in place a means of reviewing these steps
Don't make the mistake of thinking about these steps once and then filing them away. You need to periodically review these steps and determine what is working . . . so you can keep on doing it. And what is failing . . . so you can fix it FAST. Take time out from your endless pursuit to reflect on what you did, are doing, and should do. It can sometimes be a sobering experience or a wake up call. But often it's a good feeling with a sense of focus and accomplishment. Pride. Good for you. Now don't let that stop from reviewing your past, learning from it, and applying what you learn to either changing or staying on course.

Though I've been a little tough with you so far, I hope you appreciate my candor. I designed this advice to help you succeed. That's what you want. That's what I want you to have. All you need to do is apply this knowledge to you own particular situation.

Jeffrey P. Fisher is the author of three best-selling music books: "Ruthless Self-Promotion in the Music Industry," "Profiting From Your Music and Sound Project Studio," and "How to Make Money Scoring Soundtracks and Jingles." He is currently working on a fourth title due out during 2002. Get more information on his "Moneymaking Music" Web site at

For even more profitable music industry advice, subscribe to Fisher's FREE Moneymaking Music Tip of the Week by sending an e-mail message to with "subscribe tip" in the subject or body.

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