As with most genres of music; there is a massive amount of really amazing electronic producers/DJ's out there, all over the world, that are struggling to get discovered and make a name and even a career from their talents.
There is also a very large number of electronic music producers that are making a living doing exactly what they love. Some are making enough to get by without having to have a "real job" (aka the rat race). Others are making enough to do only what they love and live a pretty comfortable life from it. Then there are those that have committed 100% to their passion, their craft, their "burning desire". Those are the ones that have risen to super-stardom and are living life completely on their terms and pretty much anything they desire is within their means to acquire or experience.
I'm not a businessman; I'm a business, man.
~ Jay Z
While coming from a different genre, artist Jay Z nails it with his quote "I'm not a businessman; I'm a business, man". This mindset is the root of this entire article.
Not all artists are cut out for or even interested in being a "businessman" or "businesswoman" and that is okay. But what is critical to getting to that next level, and all levels thereafter, is that you must treat your chosen career as a professional recording/performing artist, like a business. You have to bring all the things to the table that you would if you were starting any other business. You have to adopt and live by certain business-focused mindsets. Again, you don't have to be good in business or even interested in the business side of music. You do have to think of your career as a business nonetheless!
Ok so you get it. You have to treat your music career like a business... "But what does that mean? What does that look like? What are the actual things that I need to do to start seeing massive, positive change?"
Well let's start by identifying the things that are critical in successfully starting and growing a profitable business.
- Determine the absolute goals that you have for your career - By absolute, I mean what are the deep, real goals that you have? Not just "I want to be a huge name" or "I want to make millions". You have to be absolute, you have to be definitive, and you have to get super specific! For instance: "Within the next six months, I want to hire or get picked up by one of the top 5 electronic booking agencies in the US"; or perhaps "In the next year, I want to finish my track, hire a publicist to help with the pre-release hype, hire a social media expert to help with online promotion, and hire multiple music promotion companies to get my track out to radio and club DJ's in certain territories".
- Create a strategy - It is exhilarating when you have taken the time to sit down and really establish your goals. Once you have them in front of your eyes, that specific, they become more palatable. Now all you have to do is create a strategy of how to achieve those goals. Strategy is one of those things that an artist may or may not know how to do or doesn't want to do; that is where hiring a manager or consultant could be extremely valuable. Any great personal manager or music consultant is going to be very good at strategy. But whether you hire a manager/consultant to do it for you, or you decide to take it on yourself; like coming up with the ways in which you will attract a top booking agency or how best to setup and manage your social media for the best and fastest results, etc; those are things that must be done. What are all the actions that need to be taken in order to achieve my goals? That is your strategy.
- Draft the plan - Strategy alone is like knowledge without action; unless you plan how to execute the strategy, it is just a cool thing waiting to happen. Planning is so key to everything because it is where you identify the human resources needed to successfully execute on your new strategy. Will you try to do everything yourself? Perhaps in the beginning you might, but then once things start to happen/change, you might find that you're now ready to hire others to take on some of the strategy. Or you may determine up front that you need help right out of the gate because while you're an incredible creator of music, you are not all the other things that are required to make your career a successful business, or maybe you just don't want to do them yourself.
- Execute and adapt - So you have your strategy, you have your plan; you have your team identified and are ready to get to work. Assuming that you're prepared to execute (I'll touch on that more below), the next thing is to pull the trigger on your plan and begin executing on your strategy. Once you and/or your team start to notice some things changing, you will need to determine if those changes are in line with your goals and if not, how will you adapt to either get them in line with your goals or get rid of them and replace them with new strategies that will. To make this completely successful you have to be able to make that call. If you wait too long on something that isn't working, it could derail the entire effort. So it is important to identify as early on as possible, what is and what isn't working. Then you have to make unapologetic changes quickly and definitively in order to get things on the right track.
So now that I've broken down the key components to start treating your professional music career as a business, there's one thing that so often keeps the above from happening or worse, it actually happens without being prepared (as I mentioned above).
Ok so let's talk about budget... This truly is the reason for this article. Now that I've shown you above how in order to be successful as a professional artist, you have to treat your career like a business. Because let's face it, if you look at any of your own heroes in this business and really think about how their career is ran, it IS a business! If it was not ran as a business, it wouldn't exist in the ways that you see it. So the next question to answer is: Would you ever consider launching a legit business, with real hopes of it succeeding, without having the capital to launch it?
Over the years, I've interfaced with so many amazing artists in the electronic music space and so many of them are out there trying so hard and have the heart to do what they love. But so many of them are not treating this passion they have so deeply, as a legit business. They're not setting aside X number of dollars from each paycheck in order to have the budgets required for the steps above (and many other things required that are not mentioned in this article). I see them spending money on gear and on festival tickets yet not setting anything aside to have a small social media ad budget or be able to hire a publicist. So many corners get cut or completely removed simply because there's an up-front cost associated with it. Until you decide that those costs are what is required to be successful and start making those priority for your budget, things will likely continue on the status quo.
So that is what this article comes down to... Budget!
Decide that the business of you is worth the investment and start creating a budget to take your business... your career... your life, to the next level.
If you were in front of an investor and she offered you a deal to invest $100 in your career, for a 10% share of everything you make, for the life of your career; would you be offended? Hell yes, you would! But when you are that investor, why are you not offended by the lack of budget you're investing in yourself? GET OFFENDED!
I truly hope this article helps and even inspires at least one amazing electronic (or other) producer/DJ that is out there with tons of passion and raw talent but just hasn't been able to understand why wheels continue to spin and they just haven't been able to get to where they want to go. My passion is helping those in the electronic music business and my biggest reward is to witness, or better yet be a part of, those times when people succeed and achieve their dreams.
I'm extremely grateful that you've taken time from your life to read these thoughts of mine.
~ Marty True