How to market your music the personal way

Why daydreaming about someone ELSE handling your career tomorrow could be holding you back from succeeding today.

Okay, I don’t know for a fact that you’re not ready for a manager. I needed a catchy headline.

But most musicians aren’t ready; that IS a fact.

A manager gets paid 10-20% of what you make in your music career. So even if you’re paying the bills with your music income, will a manager be able to pay THEIR bills on a small percentage of your earnings? If not, what’s their incentive? Why would they want to take on all the tasks you so desperately want to offload: Email marketing, online advertising, booking, pitching to playlists, blogs, supervisors, or labels?

Now here’s the real punchline: Lots of managers don’t even DO those things!

At this point you have two choices: start dreaming even bigger and imagine the day you’ll have a manager, an agent, a lawyer, a publicist, a promoter, and a label…

… OR… get smart and get to work. Right now.

Do It Yourself doesn’t have to be as lonely as it sounds. Put together a team of peers.

Artists that have managers aren’t less busy than you are. They’re MORE busy. Those artists have grown their career to a point where a manager can step in and open up more opportunities, creating more work, more things to juggle, more balls to drop.

Most of us are dropping the ball somewhere in our musical pursuits already. There’s not enough time to ________ (fill in the blank). What we need isn’t a manager, it’s knowledge and accountability so we can accomplish things ourselves.

Building your “accountability team”

We need people we can learn from, people who will follow up to make sure we’re working towards our stated goals, and you can find them today.

I’m not talking about mentors. I’m talking about peers. They can teach you things and you can teach them things. It’s not one-sided. And that’s why it works. As long as everyone is okay with being “intentional.” That might sound like a given, but it’s weird; lots of musicians are reluctant to seem… ambitious. Heaven forbid you have an actual plan!!!

One night at the 2018 DIY Musician Conference, I went to a friend’s house who lives in Nashville, along with a handful of other attendees, and we talked through the day’s lessons. Everyone had gone to different sessions and we all had highlights to share. They were tackling the conference with a divide-and-conquer approach.

The best part though was that as we got further into the discussion, we all got to share our own knowledge and experience. The host had amazing advice on booking (he played 200+ shows last year); I got to share some technical stuff I’ve picked up along the way doing online marketing for CD Baby; another songwriter explained the complicated but effective way she manages her mailing list. And so forth.

We decided to make this group… a thing.

5 ways to get the most out of your accountability team

In order for you to get the most out of your team of peers, you should:

1. Pick a name

Names make things feel official. Just like a band. Name your group!

2. Schedule regular meetings

Once a quarter. Once a month. Once a week. Whatever you think appropriate, but just get it in writing at the end of the previous meeting.

3. Set one goal in advance for each meeting

The other thing you need to do at the end of your meeting is choose the topic for the next meeting: Facebook ads? email marketing? Booking? Choose a subject, then have everyone set a personal goal they will try to accomplish in time for the next meeting. When that meeting arrives, everyone will have new experiences to share.

4. Check your ego at the door

You need to find people who are driven and responsible (at least responsible enough to show up to a scheduled meeting), but you don’t want people who can’t be transparent about their struggles and their individual place in the larger music scene or industry. If you’re having a booking discussion, you need to be honest about your draw (to yourself, and to everyone in the group). That’s how things move forward. Not by pretending you have all the answers.

5. Iron out the tech

Skype. Zoom. FaceTime. Dropbox. Google Drive. Whatever you’re using to make these meetings efficient, dial it in beforehand! Don’t waste everyone’s time troubleshooting AT the meeting.

The result of all this is (hopefully) that you have sufficient pressure on yourself to actually get the work done. It’s like taking lessons or going to school. Part of the reason you study is to not let down the teacher. Only in this case, the teacher is a small community of your musical peers.

When you’re accountable only to yourself, you can watch Netflix whenever you want. When you’re accountable to yourself in the eyes of a larger team, you might be amazed at how much time you’ve been wasting.