4 Things to Prepare for Success in Today's Music Business

Social Networking is simply a phrase. It isn't a plan. It doesn't ensure success. Countless articles will espouse the virtues of social without truly understanding what that means. There's simply too many news deadlines and clicks needed to keep the eyeballs of the public, so inevitably writers jump on whatever new platform exists to keep the board rooms of the world buzzing with new "paradigms."

People with product often want instant gratification and in most cases are happy to write a check for short term gains from gimmicks, rather than in planning a long term strategy for success.

If you asked the average business person today if they wanted a business plan that would keep the doors open for the next 3 months or a plan that would keep them open for the next 5 years, a majority would pick the latter. However, when it comes to a marketing plan, ask the same business person what they want and they will tell you they want attention now, not later. The idea of "viral" has infected the world and its killing off the brain cells of normal people.  

I do not believe in hype. Short term gains lead to long term problems.

As an artist, you cannot afford to think this way, unless your goal is simply to be a flash in the pan. If you just want your 15 minutes, there is certainly a way to get there in a short time, but if you want to be around with a lasting legacy, you need to look further down the road. 

I'm sure most musicians put a lot of thought into who they are and what their music stands for, but do you ever stop to think about the patrons who are supporting you (fans not labels)? I'm not talking about altering art to appeal to more people or listening to labels tell you how to sell more albums by compromising your art. Whether it is your website, social networks, or live performances, you need to have certain things in place to build your audience and a sustainable career. The first three questions are those from patrons...the last is for you. 

1. Why am I here? This is the question your audience is asking themselves, so you best have an answer. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. are all simply platforms. They are methods of communication, so without a message to communicate and a reason to stick around, there's no point in participating in any of these platforms just because someone told you you should. Whatever message you want to convey to people from your art is the structure you need to build around yourself.     

2. Why do I care? One advantage an artist has over just about any other type of business, is that generally if someone is checking you out it is because something you already did (your art) has piqued their interest and now they want to know more about you or get more from you.  

Christina Aguilera has 3 million more Twitter followers than you do and sales of her last album were disappointing. How is that possible? Well one reason is because the attitude of her Twitter feed (and other social platforms) is as if it were simply a marketing firm churning out 140 characters of copy. It feels cold and staged. It's basically 3 million voyeurs. 

Kim Kardashian, Roma Downey, Jennifer Hudson, The Voice, Blake Shelton, CeeLo Green, Adam Levine, and Nichole Richie are amongst the 19 people she follows.  

She's a very talented singer with a lot of passion, but it just doesn't come across online. Instead I get, "check out my new fragrance," and "watch me on TV." She needs to do something about this. 

If you don't understand why people should care about you and how to be a part of that, then you'll find yourself building an audience with no vested interest in what you are doing and one day when you really need them...they won't be there.  

3. Why should I stay? Okay so you've got some people interested in you, but how do you keep them engaged? This is different for every artist and their audience. They are checking out all of your details, so why not spend some time learning about their lives? If they've opened their lives up to you, then maybe take a look and see why you connect. After all, you are a person and they are a person and people share things in common. You can't tell me that if you reach someone with your art, there isn't something else you don't connect over. If you love food and your fans love food, why aren't you talking about food? Don't simply use your platforms to sell product. 

4. Where am I going? Are you looking for global success and the ability to fill stadiums or are you happy for a long career and a comfortable living that allows you to keep making your art? It doesn't matter your ultimate goals if you aren't planning for it. You have to be open, flexible, and nimble to change. I've been working with startups and technology companies for 20 years. When I built hugely profitable animation systems in the 90's, I knew that wouldn't last and at the height of that industry I closed a successful company to join the fledgling Internet economy. I reinvented myself. When I saw signs the first bubble was going to burst, I became an online writer. When I realized that my writing would eventually go from being paid for quality and instead money for hits, I started working with communities. And so on...

You cannot hold fast to preconceived ideas of the past. You cannot afford not to take chances. In my career I have been involved in at least 10 disruptive technologies that have changed our lives in just 20 years, and I'm watching new ones emerge everyday and shift power rapidly in less than 12 months. You cannot afford to wait, thinking that the world will eventually come back to you.  

It doesn't matter if you are an established artist, or just starting out, you really need to think about what success for you looks like in your mind. Then, before you make another move, think about whether or not you can answer the questions above and what you'll have in place when people start showing up asking them.