My Music, Inc.: How to Manage the Business of Selling Your Music
Disclaimer: Please note that IXiiV Records, LLC now goes by IXiiV Artist Consulting. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A musician is in essence the owner of a sole proprietorship, a business entity run by one individual. As a recording artist, you wear many hats – you’re the CEO, the secretary, the product manager, the accountant and the salesman, in addition to the talent, all rolled into one. Unless you are signed to a label with substantial resources or have managed to compile and pay a team to do it all for you, you are basically on your own; it’s your passion, your music, your responsibility to make it all work.
While it’s of course preferable to designate others to carry out and handle certain aspects of your music career, sometimes you may find yourself being the one to drive the car up the hill while simultaneously pushing it from behind.
Over the past five months IXiiV Artist Consulting has provided its readers with blog posts related to staying organized and making informed decisions as musicians. We’ve provided most of the information you need to be your own publicist, manager, social media team and more, and now I will show you how to put it altogether. Let us take a tour of your multi-faceted business to better understand what each department entails.
You As The Salesman:
- Business Cards: There are many options available these days when deciding to create a business card. If you are not skilled in the area of graphic design enough to print your own cards, affordable and professional business cards can be printed using sites such as 4Over4. You may even want to use your business cards as coupons or discount cards for others to access your music online by providing a link to where your music can be purchased. As another alternative, using your smart phone you can create an electronic business card that can be swapped with others using the Hashable App. Transferring information between smart phones is a quick and easy, not to mention cost-effective way to make connections.
- Making the Pitch: Having the materials is half the battle. You never know when an opportunity will arise to make a great connection or to promote your music. Having a 30-second elevator pitch for all occasions ready with your business card is crucial. After making connections, make sure to send an introductory email to the contacts reminding them who you are and where you met, attaching your electronic press kit (EPK) for their reference and review with a suggestion to set up a meeting to speak further if needed.
- Bring Your A-Game: Don’t ever assume you can rely on your talent to “wing” it. They say practice makes perfect for a reason; work out a way to find time each day to work on your craft and stay dedicated to your end goal, whatever that may be.
You As The Project Manager:
- Give Yourself Deadlines & Leave Room for Mistakes: It’s easy to say, “My album drops this November, stay tuned!” It’s something quite different to execute. In order to stick to your goals you have to find a way to think your projects through and realize that even if you stick to your deadlines, many of your projects will depend on others to be as timely. Allow yourself some breathing room to take care of possible obstacles that may come your way when trying to execute a project such as an album release.
- Think Long Term: If you plan on making your music your livelihood, you must think about the long-term benefits. Will a big payoff now mean a forfeit on opportunities down the line, such as selling rights to your music to another artist or company? On the opposite end of the spectrum, don’t be quick to discount smaller opportunities before looking at the bigger picture.
- Mark It Down:If you’re in charge of your own business, you’re going to have a lot to juggle that has nothing to do with actually making the music you love. With multiple meetings and project deadlines it is best to set up reminders on your phone and computer to stay prepared. Keeping a calendar that you’ll have constant access to is very important. Google’s calendar allows for tracking multiple projects, scheduling reminders and sending out invites to contacts.
You As The Accountant:
- Set Realistic Pay Goals: When negotiating a door deal with a venue or royalties from a project figure out a baseline amount for yourself by taking into consideration your social media stats (page likes, twitter followers, newsletter subscribers, etc), the press that you’ve received in the past twelve months, the number of albums you’ve sold, and any prominent collaborations or projects in which you’ve participated. Making a list of these bargaining tools and keeping it updated is a great way to track your growth and better analyze what your performance can be worth to someone else.
- Budget For Your Future: This is critical not only for knowing how much money to raise for the project, but it will also help you determine how much to charge people once it is finished. You must determine how much money has to be made back in order to break even, or recoup what you’ve spent, before you consider any profits. This can seem very daunting but it is extremely important when hoping to live off of your talent. Enlist the help of a friend who’s particularly good at math and finance, or someone who has done a similar-sized project and ask for his/her advice.
- Research Funding Sources: After determining what your project(s) will cost, do research on your options for funding your project. If you plan on enlisting the support of the three F’s – friends, fans and family – think first about what you can offer them to make it worth their time and money. Sites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter allow you to set up a project page, a monetary goal and incentives for donors.
You As The Secretary:
- Manage Your Directories: Keep track of the people you meet with either a physical or electronic Rolodex, or with a spreadsheet. In addition to their contact information, designate a placeto store information on the contacts such as how you met, what their latest status is and when you want to follow up with them next. IXiiV Records provides template spreadsheets for such occasions to help artists stay organized and efficient.
- The Notebook: Many musicians keep a notebook with them to jot down song ideas or lyrics. When running a business and keeping track of so many areas of your life, it is just as helpful to keep a notebook handy for taking down information from a new contact, scribbling down business ideas, etc. If you prefer to keep everything in one notebook, it may be best to separate the book into two sections – business and music.
- Staying Organized and Active on Social Media: One thing the Boss Ladies at IXiiV always push is for artists to make sure their social media profiles are completed, updated, and in sync with one another. With all the dos and don’ts of social networking out there I know this can get a bit overwhelming, but it is essential in order to create a transparent and strong connection with your fans. If this becomes too difficult to manage on top of everything else, the best thing to do is enlist help. IXiiV offers a variety of social media services that include setting up and evaluating social media accounts to help the busy artist stay connected.
You As The CEO:
- Protect Your Product: Knowing your rights and what you are entitled to as author of your music is central to ensuring your music and your income from your music are protected. This also requires a bit of research. Luckily we’ve provided our readers with a blog post that goes over the basics of copyrights.
- Keep Good Company: When it becomes necessary to enlist a team to help you get to the next level, make sure you surround yourself with people who specialize in the area in which they are helping you. Putting your best friend in charge of booking shows when he/she has no experience in doing so may not always be the best choice.
- Do You: Don’t be afraid to stray from the middle of the road when marketing yourself and your music. There are no rules, so don’t be afraid to break any. Do CDs make sense for you? Should you release an album, an EP, or just a single? Should you collaborate with an artist outside of your genre? As the decision-maker of your business you have to do what works best for you. Make sure you have all the information you need at your disposal but also trust your gut. Ask yourself, “Is this what my fans would want?” and, most importantly, “Is this what I want?”
I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour of your new company. Keep in mind this is not about corporatizing your music, or “selling out.” Your music is not what needs to change; your way of thinking when it comes to promoting your music, however, may need alterations. Thinking of yourself as a company where many departments have to all work together to put out a successful product – your music – will help ensure you take the necessary steps in getting the most out of doing what you love. IXiiV’s motto is Damn the Man. Play the Music. We in no way suggest you begin wearing a business suit and make your music all about money. However, if you want to make your music your nine-to-five, you must treat it as such. After putting your heart and soul into your music, wouldn’t it make sense to ensure you get the most out of it?