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Welcome back to this training series on the top 10 mistakes traditional musicians make that keeps them from the ideal career and lifestyle they want…

As I traveled through my long and winding journey over the last dozen years running my content business I’ve come across a few distinct problems that have tripped me up and made everything more difficult.

Over the next couple weeks, in addition to the 10 biggest mistakes we’re seeing – I will be revealing some of those discoveries and unloading some insights as well as the solutions I’ve either found or built to solve the problems for both myself first, and then my clients and students.

The thing about Artist Development today, the thing about building a music business in the modern music industry as an independent musician is this…

Everyone agrees and understands that it’s an important thing to do, but no one wants to invest in doing it. The labels and investors are looking for ROI and making their best bets on an act to back. The artists still think they need these executives to achieve their dreams, and the opportunity is right in the middle.

Artist Development in the Modern World is a CATCH 22. A paradox.

It takes time and money to develop even the most entry-level piece of music, or drawing, or standup routine….

It’s rigged against us.

The problem AND the solution is that we are on our own to make it happen, but there is a more direct way than what we’ve typically done.

The collection of new wisdom, business models, tools, technologies, and transformational paradigm shifts have brought us to…

The birth of the Modern Artist.

The next level of Artist Development really boils down into what we refer to as Complete Artist Development. Which is just a fancy way of saying 3DIMENSIONAL-as opposed to 1 or 2dimensional career development.

It is about developing as a person, it is about developing your artistic talents and your brand, and it is also about developing the entrepreneurial and leadership skills needed to go from “starving artist” or a traditional artist, to the visionary and leader of your modern music business.

Meet Tom – The Skeptical Traditional Musician Who Eventually Saw The Light

Twenty years ago Tom’s career looked like this…

His responsibilities largely consisted of making sure his guitars and voice remained in tune, his rigs were squared away, there was enough gas in the Econoline – and that he and his crew rocked their live shows.

Tom, with all due respect did his job well.

Nowadays we can simply do so much more than we’ve ever been able to as independent artists and musicians.

There are more avenues and opportunities to explore than ever.

  • Universal availability to create and produce broadcast quality music for less than $1,000
  • Ability to host and promote our music and our message to the world for free.
  • Ability to build and engage a tribal following and loyal fan-base online.
  • Ability to fund all additional expenses for a DIY career path, through dynamic and profitable direct to fan relationship marketing, where NO-ONE has to lose or be taken advantage of.
  • Access to instant worldwide collaboration with the IDEAL team of superstars (global networking and communication)
  • Large variety of free artist development tools and technologies
  • Primetime to establish and build a platform for yourself on a global stage
  • Vast amount of SERIOUS streams of revenue for artists and songwriters through placement, licensing, royalty generation, and contests.
  • Opportunity to finally be at the center of it all with our creative talents as the driver and growth of our career.
  • Freedom to design a lifestyle around OUR desired preferences and control our destiny in every sense of the phrase. To create and enjoy our own version of paradise. Our own little slice of musical heaven on earth.
  • The ability to finally eliminate starving artist syndrome.
  • And last but not least, the ability to do ALL of this, with nothing but an invisible idea, turned into a non-material piece of content, that anyone can create.

The last 15 years have seen the rapid evolution of not only digital technologies like the internet, but have also laid the groundwork for the next generation of content creation, and content creators.

Communication and connectivity born of creativity – using the FULL palette of tools available to create value, art, freedom, fulfillment around a lifestyle we choose…

So, then why aren’t more Artists and Creators CREATING their paradise, doing what they love, when and where they choose?

Again, what’s the problem?

Artist Conundrum #1: The Problem With Reality That We Have To Overcome

“With great Power Comes Great Responsibility.”

Well – really just having to do so much more stuff. Professional Musicians now have more responsibilities.

Today, Tom (and his Millennial son and daughter’s) job looks like this…

In addition to making sure their guitars and voice remain in tune, their rigs are squared away, there is enough gas in the Econoline – and that he and his crew rock their live shows!

As a full-time independent musician in the modern music industry Tom’s responsibilities now include the management, coordination and delegation of recording, publishing, merchandising AND performing/touring operations.

This is the most exciting time in history for music, but there’s a lot to keep up with am I right!?

The problem isn’t lack of opportunities, OR a lack of ambition, the problem is the lack of time because there is only so much of it each day.

I mean we all get the same amount right!

So what is it that separates a super efficient, fully effective music business operation verse the average underperforming one??

A few things really, of which we are going to get into now.

Traditional Artist Mistake #1: Not Having a Game Plan.

When we sat down to sketch out some basic planning questions for Tom’s custom drawn blueprints – It became clear that he like many clients hadn’t really ever written down the bands ultimate purpose, or detailed a Vision in writing, or had a written Mission statement.

He certainly didn’t like the idea of “setting goals,” and he had a little bit of resistance to formulating a Strategy & creating “outcomes & objectives.”

After some discussion and pointed questions we found that internally, unconsciously, on some level, he felt that doing all that “goal setting stuff” somehow infringed upon his Artistry and Creative process.

“Do you think having some basic and measurable goals would somehow hinder your product quality or enjoyment throughout the production cycle?” I said with curiosity.

Certainly we all want to enjoy being in the moment I think, and we are musicians because we love making music right!?

I told him that the right goal setting system wouldn’t get in the way of that.

I reminded him that sometimes that moment is not always so fun, and then we have to figure out what we need to do about it…

But even so, things don’t revolve around us and the way we want things to be in the future.

“Things change – and then what,” I asked him?

Through our work together Tom learned that artistry and productive goal achievement were not opposing or conflicting ideas – and actually went hand in hand to support each other. Each one reinforces the other and ensures future moments are as good or better.

Make sense?

Modern Musician Breakthrough:

Gaining Clarity and Focus!

Going from No Plan —> Clear Game Plan

You don’t need a formal, traditional, or academic business and marketing plan; what you need is a custom drawn roadmap.

One that you consistently follow, update, and refer to.

The modern music business is an artist led operation, and for many musicians a clear game plan is the missing piece between enjoying clarity and focus, benchmarking, learning, progressing through realistic initiatives and project targets to drive their careers forward and sustain their lifestyles long term.

Rule #4 Modern Musicians start with a game plan.

It’s how you’ll begin to step your GAME up!

Now Tom was performing on average 1 show per week with his band at local and regional venues, and they were getting around 20+ fans that consistently came to see them play.

His mailing list was about 700 hundred strong as was his Twitter and Facebook following.

When he went to play shows they were usually making 5­-10 CD sales and collecting around 15­-20 new subscribers.

Tom thought he needed to gain “more exposure” and try to get on his songs on the radio.

After some discussion we mapped out a professional content strategy and I helped him refocus his attention onto strengthening his relationship with his existing fan base first.

Analog Thinking in a Digital World

We shifted our attention away from getting more listens and eyeballs to truly building strong relationships with the fans and potentials already in their tribe, rather than chasing after more and more likes without any real goals or campaign initiatives attached to doing so.

Overlooked in all the hoopla about YouTube videos, liking, friending, and flat­belly diets is the truth about the Internet: It is starting to deliver something that people can’t get enough of.

Once a street has two or three pizza places, it gets pretty hard to sell more pizza. Hunger doesn’t scale (fortunately). But connection? We’re insatiable consumers of connection.

Our basic human need to be understood, respected, and missed when we’re gone doesn’t get satisfied easily.

As a result, when genuine connection is offered, it’s often taken. We have easily agreed­ upon definitions for the quality standards of mechanical devices, the tolerance requirements of machined components, or the way to measure the distortion of an amplifier or the efficiency of a certain kind of water filter. But we have no good way to measure connection or even talk about it. Since connection is an essential element of art, it’s worth a moment or two to explore this essential but elusive concept.

                                 Seth Godin – The Icarus Deception

The Operational Blueprints of Your Career

One of the biggest frustrations and pain-points i’ve received over the years from my students in regards to growing their careers-is simply the overload of ideas, information, strategies and advice out there… There is uncertainty for where they should focus their attention and resources and further confusion around how to prioritize and act on the opportunities in their queue. We’ll get into all that a bit further in the coming lessons.

The first problem to address is to understand the burden that got us into this mess in the first place. See these aren’t skills many of us were prepared with or taught to manage, and now need to understand.

In the traditional music industry, Artists were essentially strapped onto the hood of an oversized SUV called a record label. Big labels were and are still essentially gas-guzzling Venture Capitalist-like machines that operate on a profit and loss bottom line. The mechanics aren’t inherently “evil,” they, like any Artist are in business… Just like there are good and bad people, there are certainly good and bad labels, good and bad deals, and everything in between… I’m not arguing their ethical or moral intent. This would lead us into a whole different discussion, but while we’re here, let’s briefly review this from our entrepreneurial perspective for a moment.

Labels essentially stole the upside out from under the Artist, and then refused to invest in the development of them, while simultaneously ignoring the biggest growth opportunity for their marketplace… Ever. This left most Artists with a sour taste in their mouth, now forced to fend for themselves… and since business is business, it does feel a bit karmic to see how things turned out.

From a business standpoint, the major label record deal that many Artists and Musicians vaguely see as the goal, is simply an inefficient, outdated way of thinking, and typically a bad business bet.

Modern Musicians start with building a core fan base from the ground up.

They develop their GAME. This is how they set themselves up for long-term success. This is the name of the GAME. (Grassroots Authentic Music Empowerment)

Developing their game starts with-you guessed it… A GAME PLAN!

We plan from the end to the beginning, and then we work our way from the bottom to the top.

Though Artists are in the drivers seat of the modern music business, we don’t just drive around in circles…!

Modern Musicians figure out where they want to go specifically, (GAME Plan) or choose a general direction to travel at first-and then we travel with a ROADMAP  so we can see where we are, where we’ve been, where we are trying to go, and can see and connect the best available route for how to get there.

Having our own set of Music Career Blueprints, a custom Game Plan and a Roadmap is how we answer the central question…

What exactly am I supposed to do? What’s the most valuable thing I could do for my career right now.

It’s a great question…

Which thing, out of dozens of potential activities to choose from is the thing I should do next?

I mean, can you tell me with confidence what should you be working on right this minute, today, this week… and what’s the next move for next week/month/year?

The fact is that there are quite a few variables involved, and each musician’s music career is different and will have a slightly different answer.


Over the years we’ve developed an evolving music career Roadmap for the major milestones and stages in any music businesses lifecycle. With precision born out of a genuine care and concern for the best support for our Artists, we can now offer 1-1 coaching and accountability and help Music Businesses understand their current level or stage in the overall lifecycle, determine what the next best steps are and guide them through it with the real support and training they’ll need.

We call this Music Business/Career Coaching and we’re extremely proud to outfit artists with the attentive, individualized, and 1-1 support that typically would not be within reach for most musicians and music business owners because of the cost of such professional team support and accountability.

Problem: Feeling like you’re shooting in the dark. Flying blind. Stuck in a rut. Don’t know what your next move should be, or what your best options and opportunities are?

Solution: We’ll find you on the roadmap and then home you in on your most effective trajectory, as well as guide and help keep you on track with your vision and targets. You’ll have someone who’s truly in your corner to advise, motivate and coach you through the uncomfortable leaps and next mission until you reach complete music business liberation!

We’ll be talking more about this throughout the training series-but feel free to reach out to us directly  with any questions, comments or concerns you have in regards to Music Career Coaching, Modern Musician Bootcamp, or getting your own Music Business Blueprints drawn up by the Music Business Architect!

We’ll meet back here tomorrow to continue with Tom’s transformation and Traditional Musician Mistake #2!

Stay Fresh!

Jamie Leger

The Music Business Architect