4 Ways to Jump-Start Your Music Career

May 22, 2012{ 21 Comments }

[Note: This article was a collaboration with hip-hop emcee Praverb the Wyse, based on a discussion that started with his Twitter followers and continues here. Some of the thoughts and words below are his, and some are mine– but, much like the book Braided Creek by Ted Kooser and Jim Harrison, we’ll leave it for you to wonder which belong to which writer.]


These days, venues, ink, and listeners are limited. You’re always going to be competing against acts with bigger budgets and better publicists. So what can you do to get ahead in this music game?

The most important thing you need, even above money, above connections, above good press, is energy; it’s easy to feel drained when you’ve taken control of your own career. Keeping track of so many things at once can zap your energy, drain your battery, burn your fuel, or whatever other metaphor you might like to use. Things can easily slip into cruise-control, grow stale, and stall-out. 

DIY Musician

Here are 4 tips to give your music career a shot in the arm:

1. Make new music-

If your career is on life-support, maybe you need to create new music. Meaningful music. Make music that reflects your current place in life.

Playing the same old songs can be a drag. If you’re feeling like you’ve run your set list into the ground, even adding one or two new tunes to the mix can give an energy boost to your whole show. And when you’re excited about your music, you’re excited about your music promotion.

2. Revamp your website-

Like set lists, websites can grow stale pretty quickly too. Even your die-hard fans are probably only checking your site a couple times a month, but you— you have to look at that thing every single day. Freshening up your website involves more than pressing “refresh,” but you don’t have to get carried away with a major overhaul either.

It’s amazing how just a few design tweaks or color changes can make your existing site feel brand new. And when your website feels brand new, it’s almost like you’re a brand new band– with the energy to get out there and share content, engage with your audience, interact on social media, etc.

Which brings us to…

3. Create collaborative content-

If you play a lot of shows, if you spend hours a day on social media, if you record a lot in the studio… maybe it’s time you took a break from those activities and worked with some friends, peers, or professionals on another kind of project: music videos, new T-Shirt designs, a fan-funding campaign and video, paint your touring van, stencil limited-edition posters, etc.

By switching gears a little, you can recharge the batteries, while still putting equal time and effort towards your musical goals. And the creative energy and enthusiasm of the people you’ve enlisted to help with this new endeavor will be infectious. If they’re excited, you’re excited. If you’re excited– then you know you’re doing something right.

4. Interact with fans-

You don’t just want to create a feedback loop of good feeling with your collaborators; you want that  kind of back-and-forth with every fan.

Interaction, both virtual and real, leads to relationships, and relationships lead to word-of-mouth promotion. Whether you use social media or make a point to stay out late after every show to talk with fans, the more willing you are to meet the folks who appreciate your music, the more they’ll appreciate your music– and the more energy and support you’ll get in return.

Remember to step out of the artist role and talk about things outside of your own music, too!

What do you do when you need to put your rally-cap on and get back in the game? How have you jump-started your career? Let us know in the comments section below.

Sell your music on Facebook, the world’s most popular social network.

[Jumper cable and bass player images from Shutterstock.]

  • Thank you very much for sharing this Chris…I appreciate it and the revisions look great…thank you

    • Hey P, glad you saw this. I was just about to email you. Which I will still do,… right…. NOW! (and thanks so much for getting the ball rolling on this).

  • Good stuff, thanks Chris!

  • Nice….

  • As an artist and President of our Entertainment company, I completely understand and couldn't agree more with your assessment of this type of situation. Thankfully, FLYiZ doesn't have these problems. My Business partner and I share a passion for music unparalleled in our surrounding area. Our commitment and dedication to our business and our music has kept us on the treadmill. Although sometimes it feels like we can't stop running, I never seem to get tired. Because there is always new music, new endeavors, new challenges and new goals to accomplish. If you get lazy, you get sloppy. If you're sloppy, you will never understand what it takes to make it in this business. Stay dedicated, be creative, Love what you do, stay focused on your goals, and most importantly, WRITE them down!!!! http://www.FLYiZ.net

    • Writing down your goals is definitely something that everyone should do. Write them down and revisit them consistently.

  • Foxxgregory

    Desire plus Discipline plus Determination equals SUCCESS. Energy-YUP! You gotta be the human vitamin pill as you will realize your dreams by your own efforts!
    2nd Chance Kid

    • Definitely understand the DDD's of success…Desire + Discipline + Determination = Success

  • Tim

    This was useful. Well done, Chris.

  • ian bruce

    you need the energy of great songs above anything else. without the great songs you join that group of mediocre bands called "the wrongs". let's hear some beautiful hot dancin love songs

  • Great stuff Chris, I've recently found that a new song or two in the hopper can bring the excitement back to eveything.

  • Mr. Billy

    I am currently doing an experiment called 12 CDs in 12 MONTHS (http://www.12cdsin12months.com) to see if committing to a deadline increases or diminishes out put quality and creativity. I have released 5 CDs so far and I must say that my fans, friends and peers say I am doing the best work of my caterer. I have opened up the process to anyone that wants to help out. I am co- writing, recording and sharing ideas globally now. I have gotten tracks from Africa and the Netherlands, made new friends and connections. It's been a blast.

    • That is super ambitious! I wonder if that's a world record? Of course we wouldn't expect any less from Mr. Billy.

      • It's funny, when I started this I contacted Guinness and they said songs and CD projects are not categories anymore…bummer. I guess I'll have to record a song sitting on a flagpole!

  • Here's a digital pat on the back. And have fun on that tour!

  • Hannobul

    (www.idicprod.com) get the word out every chance you get, keep your eye on the prize (music) not money,think about it, would you really listen to & buy your own music, let a young kid in the street or mall hear your music get a honest opinion,Larry Fishburn say making it in the game is like stepping in shit, you figure it out, 100

  • Jim Drew

    I have been told for a long time I had great songs. That said, some gigs were great, some terrible and many just kind of mediocre. I liked the audience and I loved singing and am considered to have a really strong voice and guitar playing ability. But I was just standing up and singing the tunes. They all looked the same, felt about the same and sounded the same general level, even though I had dynamics and fingerpicking and all kinds of tools.
    I was turned onto Tom Jackson Productions over a year ago, and those "great" songs have become great moments now. I learned to let the audience feel what I felt, experience things during the show and I learned to look into their eyes as I use the whole stage much more effectively, even when the band can't be there.
    I haven't had anything less than a great concert, great sales and great connection with my audience since. As a matter of fact I threw a party for my first outing with a new set and show after almost six months or more of rehearsal dedicated to this idea. Many friends came that knew me well. They came to me after the show with dropped jaws and asking what happened. I told them I learned something about doing live shows.
    Truth is I learned about taking those songs and making them listenable in a live situation, not just on a CD. I learned to create moments throughout the show that could stick in folks minds and go home with them and be talked about for a long time coming. I didn't want them forgetting the show as soon as they leave the door of the venue.
    Folks loved the stuff on the CDs but I was boring people live.
    There is truly a different production set of skills for a live audience.

  • Hello Lthrboots,

    I know how you feel in regards to being draining. I love to write about the present and the future because I can share this content with people. People crave stories, the audience in general crave information about their favorite artists. We (artists) can supply our lives via recorded media or visual media. Thank you for the comment.

  • Excellent comment Ckaldor…taking the time to witness other talented musicians will provide that extra spark. Plus I believe that every musician presents something unique, learn from the greats and apply small things and grow.

  • Thank you for the comments Gabriele Tosi,

    I have always neglected the power of YouTube, do you think that artists need YouTube and Vimeo to maximize their reach?

    • If I can weigh in, I'd say– while there ain't no hard and fast rules– your odds will be better if you use at least one of the two– and probably the first.