Throughout my 10+ years of being a musician, I have come across many opportunities. Some, I excelled in and some I failed, but what has stuck out to me as a lesson is perseverance. There have been countless times where I have been presented with a phenomenal opportunity, I did my best and allowed it to live its life – but I never followed up. I never continued this opportunity for myself once the shelf life had ended.
An example of this: When I was 14/15 I won the ECMA Battle of the Bands in Halifax, NS. From this I won a free photography session (never did it, don’t even remember the photographers name), 10 hours of free studio time at Codapop Studios (ended up using it 5-6 years later for my band, The 7th Mystic), I was featured in a newspaper article in The Chronicle Herald by Stephen Cooke (which spoke highly of me), as well as I was given the title of ECMA Battle of the Bands winner. This was the first time the ECMA’s ever did this, and this was not something the ECMA’s ever did again. This made me the primary title holder.
What did I do with these new found opportunities and credentials? Nothing. What could I have done with these newly-won credentials? I could have immediately gone into the studio and recorded an EP, I could have then used the photography session for album art & promotional materials, I could have then used my contact with Stephen Cooke for promo in The Chronicle Herald in relation to my EP release (which I actually did years later with my band), and I could have stuck with the title of ECMA Battle of the Bands winner for notoriety and recognition in the Halifax music scene as it was a great accomplishment that could have gained me respect. Unfortunately, clout is a thing in the industry. I guess it’s not always unfortunate, but sometimes it can be hard to break into the industry due to the lack of respect or interest you may get because you are “just starting out”. This only creates fire in your gut though (at least it should). So, with that – it’s truly a positive thing if you make it so.
I will give myself a small amount of understanding in saying that at that time in my music life (wont even call it career yet, hah), I was just teaching myself what promotion even was. I was playing bar gigs that I may have gotten myself, or from my mother showing everyone my music and them asking me to perform at their events. That was pretty much the extent of my knowledge at that time in relation to marketing myself — so when I won these prizes, I didn’t understand what to even do with them. Of course, I understood what it meant to go into the studio and record, but I didn’t understand what I was supposed to do after that. Which in turn, I allowed myself to become fearful and didn’t want to waste the studio time.
Though I’m giving myself a small bit of lenient room due to my age and lack of knowledge of the Music Industry at that time – I still use this experience as a reference point in my career to this day. My career would probably look a lot different right now had I utilized the tools I had been given from the ECMA’s. I don’t look back on it in a negative light by any means, but it is definitely an eye opener to really riding the wave, which is a huge part of surviving in this industry.
So, what now? At this time, I am currently executing my five year plan. This is something I have touched on before, but again – never followed through with. This is something I was taught in Music Arts college by Craig Mercer with the utmost importance attached to the topic. This is something that has been drilled into my head for the last 6 years, yet it’s not something I’ve ever implemented or completed for myself, until now.
A five year plan is SO important for artists because it includes these main keys to success:
- Goal Setting (both short term and long term)
- Manifestation (where and how you want to see yourself in the future, near or far)
- Following Through (there is no other way to make it. we’ve gotta follow through)
In a musicians career, these three keys are the almighty. Yes, there are so many other sides and aspects of the Music Industry which you need to educate yourself on as well, but with these three keys – you’re on your way.
What does a five year plan look like? Well, for me – I’ve started with where I’m at right now. I am a 22 year old Soul and Rnb Singer/Songwriter who has been writing, gigging, touring (small tour), promoting, event planning/booking, social media, ect. for over 10 years (a lot more to learn and way more experience to go, but my current experience is still relevant and at a good level). My current short term goal is to find a producer that I actually enjoy working with and create my debut solo EP, finally. I have been waiting a long time to get solo material out but have been struggling to find the right people to work with.
From there, I will move on to of course promo materials, ect. for the EP and a 1 year marketing plan, but I don’t want to get too much into detail on that as I obviously don’t want to give anything away.
The goal after this is to land an opening slot on a Canada-wide tour with an artist on the come up. This is a great way to gain fans and of course, phenomenal experience. This is how a lot of musicians begin their careers, and being on stage/touring is something I love to do, so its a huge part of the plan for me.
From there – I don’t want to share too much more detail at the moment as I am currently still in the works of completing it, but you get the idea. Once you’ve created your 1-3 year goals, that is when manifestation comes into play. Where do you see yourself in five years and WHY? How do you see yourself attaining these goals? A five year plan isn’t just a list of things with five bullet points – it’s a damn novel (jokes, but not jokes) of the next five years of your flourishing career. Make it count.
This a question we can NEVER stop asking ourselves as artists. WHY? What makes you stand out from the rest, what about your craft is unique, ect. You can be the most talented musician on your end of the street, but if you have no reasoning as to why you are doing this, it’s probably not going to last too long. Who knows, you may be the 1% of people that get famous for their talent only, it’s not impossible… but it’s unlikely, as well as it creates an air of pointlessness in your career. This can be hard for some artists as the whole reason why we do what we do in the first place is because we love it, it is who we are… BUT most artists have more of a goal than just getting famous (and they 100% should!). Many artists want to change the world, want to sustain a life living only off of music without fame, they want to use their voice to make a political difference, ect. The list goes on and on, as it should.. and this will create a more rewarding career for you – as well as create a drive like no other. We can all admit that there is a piece of this career that is solely for ourselves. The gratification of having a crowd of 1000+ people scream for you and love you – who doesn’t love that? But it is what we choose to do with that love, that is when we will truly excel. The best part of having something is giving it away.
Today I am writing to express this important topic to myself, but also to anyone who may need to hear it. This industry is based upon RELEVANCE. If you are irrelevant, you are just that – irrelevant. The only person who can change that is YOU. YOU are the one in control of your career. Of course, gaining a fan base is the one of the only ways to sustain a working career in the Industry (unless you are a session musician, ect.) – so if you have no fans, I don’t know what to tell you… (other than to keep setting goals!). But for the most part, if you are already an established artist (no matter the level of establishment, you are a gigging musician/a musician who posts lots of content online, ect.) and want to get things moving, a five year plan is my recommendation to you because it has helped me immensely.
Never hesitate to reach out to me with questions, and of course- if you have experience in any of this, I want to hear about it. I am constantly on the look out for growth and new experiences/lessons.
With much love,