10 Things

10 things to help start a successful career in music

Although it may seem strange, you are not just a great musician, you are also a business. When starting a career as a musician it is often easy to overlook many of the essential things you need to do to ensure you get your business off on the right foot and running like the well oiled machine it should be.

Here is a list of 10 basic things you will need to know to start a successful career as a musician and a business person.

1. Make a website

Building a good, easy to navigate website is a must. This will be the platform from which you ultimately sell yourself. Choose a good domain name that fits with you. If your name is Bruno Mars for example then www.brunomars.com would be a good one. Make sure the design fits in with the image you are trying to portray. The content should be clear and easy to find. Your site does not need to be too complicated. It could be as simple as a bio with some photos, music, dates and videos. Make sure that you link to all of your social media and the big big one, make sure that you spell and grammar check your site.

There are many great website building platforms that require no knowledge of coding these days where you can do it yourself. Some of them include, WordPress, Moonfruit, and Wix.

2. Create some promo material

A website is not much use if you don’t have anything to show people what you do. You will need some music or videos or both to put on your site and share with people. Even if it is just a video of you in your house playing your instrument, you should have something to give people an idea of what you do. It is very easy with YouTube these days to create a video, embed it to your site, and share it.

If you have some music to share, SoundCloud is an excellent platform for sharing and embedding on your site.

3. Start a blog

A great way to sell yourself and your amazing personality is with a blog. Your blog should be part of your website and you should update it regularly. Keep your content interesting and relevant to you. For example, if you are a DJ you would not want to be posting about cats.

Blogs are also a great way to build your SEO (Explained in No. 5)

4. Get on Social Media

No longer do we need to pay thousands in advertising or pay PR people to shop our music to record companies. All the tools you need to reach your audience is right here on the World Wide Web. Make sure you set up the big ones first. Create a Facebook page, open a twitter account, create a YouTube account. Google plus is also a good one to use and will help with your SEO ranking.

Be sure to post regularly with updates and news. Each social media platform works slightly different too so you will want to post in the right way for each one. For example, on twitter it’s all about short sound bites and communicating with your followers. On Facebook you should make your text a bit more in depth and personal. Photos are also the most shared thing on Facebook so if you have good photos that are compelling make sure to post them. You can read more about how social media works here.

5. Build your SEO

SEO is short for search engine optimization. Learning about this and working on it can help you get top ranking on Google and other search engines. Posting regular, relevant, and good content on your blog and on social media is a key factor in SEO.

Making sure that your site follows SEO guidelines is also key. You will need to set up a Google web masters account and create a site map. There are step by step guides on how to do this and many of the website building platforms will guide you through it.

There are also some good books and online resources out there where you can learn more about SEO. Mashable, Yoast, and Search Engine Land are some of them.

6. Register your business

Eventually you will need to register your business with the relevant governing body. For example my companies legal name is Paul Jennings Music LLC. This means I am a limited liability company.  Among other things it means that if I were to be sued, the people suing me could only get what assets are in my company and not everything I have, my house, car, dog ect.

How you register is also an important part of the way your taxes are filed. Make sure you choose the right option for your business. If you are in the U.S you can find more information on how to register your company here. If you are not in the U.S you should do a web search for how to do it the right way in your country.

7. Set up a business bank account

You should set up a separate bank account and savings account for your business. Everything you make from your business as a musician should go into that account and all of your expenses should be payed for using that account. You should also set up a business savings account where you should save a portion of everything you make for taxes, equipment and other things. A good percentage to save is 30%. You can then deposit your money for bills, living expenses, and having fun into your personal account.

This system is pretty simple and keeping this separation is good practice and will also help keep track of your business expenses.

8. Keep good financial records

This is one of the most important things you can do as a business owner and it is often overlooked. Make sure you keep track of how much you earn for each gig, CD, download, royalty ect. Keep track of your expenses. This is very important as there is so much you can right off as a self employed musician. Keep all of your receipts for your expenses too. A good way to file them is to make an envelope for each month with the year written on it. Put all the receipts in the envelop and file it away in a box at the end of each month.

Your system could be just a simple spreadsheet at first. There are also some great accounting platforms out there too like Quickbooks, FreshBooks, Sage, and Kashoo…. I use Quickbooks Online and I find that it works great for me. You may find that something else is right for you.

9. Find a good accountant

It is important to have a good relationship with your accountant as this is the person who will guide you in keeping good records and helping you save money during tax season. Make sure your accountant is experienced in your area. If there experience is mostly in doing accounts for farmers then they will most likely not be a good fit for a musician.

Check to see if they are a CPA. This is important and shows that they are properly qualified.

Feel them out and get a good feeling from them. If it does not feel right then it probably will not be a good relationship.

10. Practice good customer service

Your customers are the people who hire you, the people who come to your shows, and the people who buy your products. It is essential that you are on the ball with your customer service. Be prompt in your responses. If someone is inquiring about your availability to do a gig, even if you can’t do it, respond to tell them you can’t. This will make them much more likely to hire you in the future. If there is a problem someone has with a product they bought from you make sure that you address the issue as best as you can and communicate with them as you try to resolve it.

Good customer service no matter what industry you are in is vital and should become second nature to you. If you lack good customer service it could be the end of your business as a musician and with more competition out there today than ever before, having good business practice can mean the difference between success and failure.

Enjoy creating and building your business from every angle from writing a hit song or making sure your books are in order. If you do these things and work harder than everyone else you are sure to be a success.

– PJ


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