The Importance of Business First vs. Music First
Music First = Right Brain
Most independent music creators only know how to pursue their music from a creative standpoint. Some would say that it’s natural for creatives to be more “right-brained” in their approach to a music career.
The right side of the brain is responsible for most things “art”, including:
- Imagination & Daydreaming
- Visuals & Design
This side of the brain allows musicians to focus primarily on songwriting, recording, creating, and designing.
This results in your music being written, produced, and recorded, as well as the creative thought put into marketing like printed posters, social media, and other creative-focused outlets.
This is the definition of being music first. You are solely focused on being a music artist first, attempting to delegate or push off anything that sounded “business-y” or “corporate-y” and creating a mental divide between artistic things and “uptight” business things.
Business First = Left Brain
As record labels and other key holders who typically handled the logical and business aspects of a musician’s career become less of a factor, independent music creators who stay independent need to become more than just the creative piece of the puzzle. They also need to engage the logical brain, or the “left-brain”, to make things work.
The left side of the brain is responsible for most things “business”, including:
- Strategy planning
- Analytical and linear thinking
- Problem solving
- Having foresight
This side of the brain allows musicians to focus primarily on life planning, goal setting, prioritizing, organization, and seeing the big picture and path you are working towards.
This results in having a clear direction, being able to prioritize and juggle the needle-moving “boring” work with the fun music work, managing and leading your own team (or your own calendar), and managing and using your finances responsibility so you can keep pursuing music tomorrow.
This is the definition of being business first. You are able to recognize the importance of prioritizing your business tasks and managing your music career as a small business owner. You are responsible enough to understand what is going on in your business at all times so your music career will grow.
When you feel like you can efficiently balance both the business work and your artistic and creative processes, you’ve earned the title “music entrepreneur”.
DIY Doesn’t Mean “Do It Alone”
Before I move on, I want to be clear about one more thing. At the beginning of your musical journey, you should expect to do everything yourself, and I mean EVERYTHING:
- Produce and record music
- Design your visuals
- Book your shows
- Manage your social media and marketing channels
- Register your music
- Care for your finances
- Network with industry contacts
- Communicate with your fans
- Build your plan and follow it the best you can
- Go outside your comfort zone all the time
- And everything else!
But just because you are doing it yourself (DIY) now, doesn’t mean it will be that way forever.
Whether you are building a business in music or any other industry, you will always start out wearing all the hats, managing all the tasks, and doing all the work. But over time, you can start to build a team: one hire, two hires, three contractors, etc. You also have the ability to partner with a coach or mentor to help you navigate the path with someone who’s been there before and can help you avoid or reduce common pitfalls and mistakes.
The Conversation is Changing. Fast.
When we started our journey with Eleven a few years ago, there wasn’t a ton of discussion about “music as a small business” or “business first musicians”.
Today, the conversation is changing. No longer is it about pursuing music just as a profitable career. It’s also about putting on your business owner hat and changing your mindset to think more critically about your creative business.
With the help of the Internet and today’s ever-changing music business landscape, pursuing a career in music is equivalent to owning a small clothing store, candy shop, or other small “mom and pop” shop in your local community.
Just like those physical retail examples, you have to think harder about things like:
- Who is your audience and where you can find them
- What makes you unique and stand out from other musicians
- What products and services can I offer that are in demand and profitable
- What am I the best in the world at and how do I lean into that
- What legacy do I want to leave behind with my contributions to the world
There are a ton more of these questions, but you get the idea. Music isn’t just about the music. It’s about what makes you, you: your career, your passion, your life.
What a Business First Music Career Coach Is
Now that I’ve successfully scared you away from music and inspired you to take that corporate job (just kidding I hope), let’s take a look at the options you have to gain clarity and get some guidance on that shiny new music business of yours.
To avoid confusion, you might find a commonly shared definition of a regular career coach as being someone who can help you find a new job by updating your resume or optimizing your LinkedIn profile.
However, since music career coaching is a unique niche of the career coaching arena, we think a business first music career coach can and should provide help that a music creative needs.
They can help you accelerate your career process
Music career coaches can help you with all aspects of your career foundation building. This may include networking and introducing you to their own networks in the industry, sharing resources and content that can help you organize your thoughts and focus on priority items, and help you with compensation negotiations and how to price yourself to ensure you start to give yourself and your music business a raise.
They can help you get unstuck
Are you feeling stuck in your career and need someone to pull you out? A music career coach can help you understand what is getting in the way of progress, identify aspects of your current role that are dissatisfying, what type of change you’re looking for or how to define what a fulfilling music career looks like for you.
They can help you evaluate your options
Sometimes you’re trying to decide on two or more career options. Maybe you’re deciding whether to pivot into music full time or stay on track with your current job and juggle music as a side hustle. Perhaps you’re thinking about taking your skills into a new route in the music industry altogether.
A neutral perspective from a music career coach can help you weigh your options with a clear mind and help you choose a path that aligns with your short-term and long-term goals.
They can help you project manage your career
Your music career will be one of the most important projects you’ll manage in your lifetime. Like other projects, it involves different people who play different roles to allow you to share the work, key milestones to reach that mark your progress and measurable goals to shoot for.
A music career coach can help you look at your music career holistically, design a plan that leads to the big ambition and vision you envision for yourself, and keep you accountable toward achieving that vision.
They can help you with your personal brand
Your personal brand encompasses everything about you, including how and what people think about you.
It can involve words that come to mind when someone thinks about you, how you show up in different circles or communities, how you are presented or how visible you are, your interactions with others, and the music and work that you produce.
A music career coach may be hired by an artist as they look to develop or update their personal brand.
They can help you update and develop your career advancing skills
As your music career evolves and grows, you may find yourself in a position where you’ll need to learn new or replace existing skills or music business knowledge in order to keep your career path on the right trajectory. A music career coach can provide you with resources and tools to develop a plan to build those skills, put them into practice, and keep you moving with little friction.
They can help you navigate your new owner position
In corporate culture, it is said that what you do or don’t do in the first 90 days of a new position or career move can shape your long-term success or failure. Building a solid foundation is key no matter how many days you give your music career early on.
To increase your chances of succeeding, it’s important to partner with a music career coach to help you develop a roadmap that defines what to prioritize, what you will need to educate yourself on, how to wear many different hats as a business owner, and what goals you need to set to work toward in those early transition period days.
Building a music career doesn’t have to be something you do on your own. Having a music career coach by your side can help you more efficiently navigate the waters ahead and help you reach your goals as a small business owner.
What a Business First Music Career Coach is Not
It’s true that having a music career coach can prove to be very beneficial for musicians and producers who struggle with being entrepreneurial and having the knowledge, skills, and confidence to build a business and continuously improve themselves.
However, music creators can sometimes find themselves disappointed after hiring a music career coach because they weren’t able to produce the exact results they envisioned.
This is mainly due to three reasons:
- The artist expects the music career coach to be a magic bullet for success
- The artist is not willing to work on themselves or they lack a growth mindset
- The artist chooses an under-qualified coach
While all reasons are equally important, the first is the most common. When an artist hires a music career coach, they have unrealistic expectations that cannot be satisfied overnight, thus leading to disappointment and frustration.
In order to be better prepared when considering a music career coach, it’s best to address some of the more common myths and misconceptions about the role a music career coach can play in the success of a music creator’s career:
A music career coach is not your therapist
While a career coach and a therapist share many of the same qualities, they can play very different roles in your career. A therapist is equipped to help you deal with problems in your past to help your current situation. On the flip side, a music career coach is there to help you improve your current situation so that you can influence a better future.
A music career coach can help you in identifying strengths and weaknesses so you can develop and turn them into opportunities for your future music career. A coach can also help you navigate and build a plan to overcome obstacles.
Effective music career coaching takes time
When you hire a music career coach, you need to keep in mind that their assistance and guidance is meant to be long-term and comprehensive, not short-term and an easy quick fix.
The primary job of a music career coach is to help the musical artist identify and evaluate their skills and talents, and then develop them further in order to meet the requirements of interacting with the music industry. This process can be quite lengthy and results will never be achieved overnight, or even a few weeks or months.
The music creator (musician, producer, artist, songwriter, DJ, etc.) also needs to be aware that they will need to be open to working on themselves and put in a great deal of effort if they are to have a chance of succeeding in their endeavor.
A music career coach is not your mentor
By definition, a mentor is someone that you look up to and try to follow in their footsteps because you believe that is the way you will also achieve success.
This is definitely not the case with your music career coach.
A music career coach is there to help you in your own situation, but their story and personal struggles have nothing to do with you. You are following your own path and that requires having your own strategy to guide you.
The Newest Member of Your Artist Team
In the past, a music career coach has not been a typical role most music creators have considered to add to their artist team. Usually, their first priority is to either find a business manager or contract with freelancers or virtual assistants in order to help them delegate the workload so they can try and focus more on their music and big picture career goals.
However, we’d almost prefer to argue that any independent music creator consider adding a music career coach to their team before anyone else because it can be easy to be “too close” to your business and develop a clouded or biased perspective on what you think you need versus what you really need to make progress.
Music career coaches are valuable artist team members in that they help creatives in music become better logical thinkers and become profitable business owners.
What coaching options does Eleven provide?
Our team of coaches have varying backgrounds and levels of experience in the music industry, production, recording, touring, marketing, business strategy, and entrepreneurship.
Here are just a few of the roles we’ve played to help musicians feel better while pursuing music as a more prominent career option:
- Life Coach
- Music Career Coach
- Business Owner Coach
- Music Production Coach
- Sync Publishing Coach
- Marketing & Sales Coach
- Music Therapist
- Networker and Connector
- Music Resource Librarian
Some of the projects we’ve worked with clients on in the past include:
- Building a life plan to align their personal goals with their business goals and helping them find a purpose and meaning
- Developing a plan to record music and promote it via an overseas tour
- Overcoming frustration and brain fog to find clarity in starting from scratch in music
- Planning a financial plan and system for organizing and processing income and expenses to maximize revenue
- Learning how to use a digital audio workstation (DAW) to produce music more efficiently and professionally
Whatever your reason or need to get help with your music career, consider talking with Eleven or any music career coach to help you achieve your music career dreams faster.