MINDSET & SKILLS
Commentary from Arber Kodra, Label Manager
#1: MARKETING WILL NOT FIX BAD MUSIC
Sam Gilbert, Founder of Music Crowns, once told me that “good music will market itself after it’s been exposed to X amount of people.”
In other words, marketing builds the momentum, but great music keeps that momentum shift going. Marketing is not going to make a bad song good. It’s not going to make a poorly written song a hit. Sure, it might be able to take a below average song from zero plays to 100,000 (or even more)… but it’s not going to change the fact that people want to listen to music that makes them feel alive, feel good and songs that touch their emotions. Bad songs don’t do that.
Marketing is not a magic tablet you can swallow and benefit from. If your music isn’t yet good, it’s not going have a great effect on growing your streams and fanbase. You need to put in the time and effort to grow your songwriting and production skills first.
If you’re just beginning your journey as an artist or producer, get your head down and focus on your craft. Master the fundamentals. Get good at songwriting. Produce as much music as you can. Collaborate. You’ll know when the time is right.
If you’re already making good music, don’t neglect your craft as soon as you taste success. You haven’t “made it”, you are just getting started.
#2: BUSINESS-MINDED vs. ARTIST-MINDED
In my experience, one of the most arduous things for artists and producers to do is shift from the artist mindset to the business mindset (and back again, because you need both). As an artist, you prefer making music to focusing on the business and marketing side of the picture. It’s hard for you to switch out of “music” mode into “marketing” mode. And so you fall into one of two traps… You completely neglect the marketing and business side of your project and just continue to make music, ultimately failing to grow your fanbase. People who do this are usually the ones who end up complaining about how the industry is unfair.
You completely separate the marketing and business side of your project from your music and artistry. It becomes completely disconnected. As a result, the marketing and business work becomes dry, boring, and uninspiring. You end up hating it. The solution is to be both artist-minded and business-minded. You want to make music that you enjoy. You want to spend the majority of your time on your craft. But you also want to grow your career, so you need to be conscious of what is happening in the industry. You need to think about your brand. And to do this, you need to take a holistic approach. Branding choices will affect your creative, musical decisions. If a certain song of yours does really well, and it’s in a different style to what you usually make, then it’s smart to shift your style towards what the market wants.
Resources for building your business and marketing mindset:
- The Entrepreneur Mind by Kevin D Johnson
- Relentless by Tim Grover
- How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams
- How to Fight a Hydra by Josh Kaufman
- Resources for building your artist mindset:
- Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield
- Mastery by Robert Greene
- The Producer’s Guide to Workflow & Creativity
#3: BE HUNGRY AND LEARN
I’ve been in the music industry for 10+ years. The artists who I have seen do well are those who have the following traits:
– They are driven and have a solid work ethic. They don’t make excuses.
– They have a long-term perspective (more on that in the next tip)
– They learn as much as they can
You need to have a solid work ethic if you want to grow a career in this industry. I have never come across a lazy successful artist. I’m sure there is one, I’ve just never met one—which tells me it’s rare. If you don’t have a solid work ethic, start developing one. Read some of the books I listed at the end of the last tip. Read about how to set goals and crush them. Do not sell yourself short and make excuses like everyone else does.
But you also need to be constantly learning, especially when it comes to marketing. Not only do you need to learn the fundamentals of business and marketing (which most artists don’t do, by the way. They just go straight for the tactics), but you also need to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape. Things change quickly in this industry, and if you are not on top of it, you will fall behind.
Resources for learning business and marketing skills:
- The Best Music Business, Industry, and Marketing Books
- The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing
- All You Need to Know About the Music Business
- The New Rockstar Philosophy
- The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman
- Influence by Robert Cialdini
- All You Need to Know About the Music Business (10th Edition)
- Real Artists Don’t Starve
- Your Band Is A Virus – Expanded Edition (Volume 2)
- Get More Fans: The DIY Guide to the New Music Business (2019 Edition)
- How To Make It in the New Music Business (2nd Edition)
- Start Your Music Business (Volume 1 and Volume 2)
- This Business of Music (10th Edition)
- Streaming, Sharing, Stealing: Big Data and the Future of Entertainment
- The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory
- How Music Works
- Six-Figure Musician
- Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out
- Spotify Teardown: Inside the Black Box of Streaming Music
- Music Marketing for the DIY Musician
- How Music Got Free: A Story of Obsession and Invention
- Show Your Work!
- The Realist’s Guide to a Successful Music Career
- Artist Management for the Music Business (4th Edition)
- The Plain and Simple Guide to Music Publishing (3rd Edition)
- The Essential Guide to Music Entrepreneurship (2018 Edition)
#4: TAKE THE LONG-TERM PERSPECTIVE
#5: DON’T TRY AND DO EVERYTHING
“Long hours spent checking off a to-do list and ending the day with a full rubbish bin and a clean desk are not virtuous and have nothing to do with success. Instead of a to-do list, you need a success list — a list that is purposefully created around extraordinary results. To-do lists tend to be long; success lists are short. One pulls you in all directions; the other aims you in a specific direction. One is a disorganised directory and the other is an organised directive. If a list is not built around success, then that’s not where it takes you. If your to-do list contains everything, then it’s probably taking you everywhere but where you really want to go.” — Gary Keller, The One Thing
It’s tempting to try and do everything and be everywhere. One blog tells you to do email marketing, a podcaster says you need to be using Instagram stories, an artist tells you that if you’re not doing vlogs on YouTube — you’re falling behind. But you can’t do everything at once expect to get results. Your resources will be spread thin and you’ll sabotage yourself. Instead, focus on the key marketing channels, the force multipliers, that will get you results. And if you really need to do more but don’t have the time, outsource it.
#6:DON’T RELY ON YOUR MANAGER (IF YOU HAVE ONE)
This should go without saying, but I’ve seen many artists fall into this trap… They hustle for years and learn to make great music. Then they market themselves and start to gain traction. An ambitious manager comes along, picks them up, and they cut a deal. “Finally!” The artist thinks, “I can go back to just focusing on music again.” Ah, no buddy. This is where it begins. If you’re in a position where you have a manager or PR person, or you’re about to be, then realise that while these team members can and will help you with marketing and the business side of everything — YOU are ultimately responsible. And like I’ve said many times, you want to know enough about the business side of the industry to know who is a good manager and who is not. If you can manage yourself better than they can, then you don’t need them.