What To Do
The toughest part of planning is trying to figure out what's important and what needs to be done. There isn't just one way to the top in the music industry; there are many ways of getting there. So what do you need to do? What's your first step? What's your next step? What needs to be done first? Of course the answer to any of these questions has a lot to do with where you are now and what you want to accomplish. You're going to have to do some research and development. Most companies allot a certain amount of time in research and development and as a business, you're going to have to do the same. That means spending time everyday doing some research in figuring out what people in your industry are doing to make it.
Let's look at some specific problems that musicians face and try to find some solutions.
1. "I don't even know where to start"
The Master Plan
The first part is putting together the master plan. The hardest part about this is that there is no clear cut path for musicians. You're going to have to be as creative in your endeavor for success as you are in your art. This means that most of the time you're going to be trying things out and seeing if there are any results. There are times when you know that this is the right step for you but often you won't be absolutely sure. You're going to have to try things and just 'see how they go'. This happens in music a lot so it shouldn't be a brand new paradigm for you. The musicians that go furthest in their careers are the ones that take an active approach in forwarding their career. This means finding out what other people are doing, reading material and taking courses when needed. The biggest part is that there must be some plan to action. That means whatever ideas you come up with, you must implement them. Once you've given the idea some time, you will know if it's worth continuing or just going on to something else.
2. "It's too overwhelming, I don't know how to tackle it all."
The Goals List
Putting a master plan together is great because it gives you a sense of purpose and direction. Looking at a master plan can be overwhelming when you look at all of the things that need to be done. Once you establish a goal, you need to break it down. It needs to be broken down into a list of actionable goals. Once you have these it still needs to be broken down once more into steps that can be done within a short time. The amount of time is always a variable and not always something that can be estimated correctly. Once you've done these a couple of times, it becomes easier to tell what is involved and how long it's going to take. Once you have these steps, then you can add them to your daily list.
3. "What can I do today to get the ball rolling."
The Daily Plan
The daily list is very important. I keep mine on a simple notepad. I carry it around and cross off items when they're done. You may find something else that works for you but try and keep it simple. Don't make the list another item on your list. It's good to only put a couple of items on your list. Be honest with yourself. If it's only a couple of items you're more likely to see how easy it is to complete the list. This increases the odds of getting all of the items done. Make it a habit of making daily lists even if you don't get it done. The discipline will creep in slowly if you work at it.
4. "How to do I find the people who will help my career?"
Everybody in the music business knows the importance of networking. I find that personal relationships is the lifeblood of a lot of industries not just the music business. You have to remember that it's all about personal relationships. It's about making sure that there's something for them as well as yourself. Since the industry runs on relationships it's possible to get a lot help and get a lot done just by your personal skills alone. This includes not only industry contacts but contacts with other musicians and the general public. Networking is one thing that should be on your daily list...everyday. There are always chances to make a connection with somebody be it ever so small. It's all about a number of small contacts more than it is one do or die situation. It's only after a number of contacts with the same person that things usually happen. Therefore, it's important to make those 'small' connections as much as you can without being a pest. That means you have to make a list (yes another list) and get to connecting with those people. There is no short answer for this, you're going to have to do your homework and work at it everyday.
5. "How do I make money from my music?"
When I was putting together the business plan for my music business*, I was thrown for a loop when I had to put together the financial section. The whole idea was completely foreign to me. Not only did I not know how to even put together a financial forecast, I didn't even know how to put together my expense list. I find that a lot of artists are like this. This sort of thing is not the stuff you learn in music theory class. Nowadays the method of making money from your music isn't as straight forward as it was a decade ago. There are many avenues to take. Most of them are DIY, which is great for musicians because it puts them in control of their own music. It's a problem in the fact that there are so many avenues to take and so many details to take care of that it's overwhelming. Like networking, you're going to have to take this one step at a time. Start with releasing your music and putting it on CDBaby. Find a distributor like TuneCore to get it on all of the different outlets. Don't just let it out there though. Find out what works. There are a number of ways that you can track the sales from the different places. See where the money is coming from. Don't forget about touring as this can be the catalyst for most of your sales.
*Every musician should put together a business plan. It invaluable as far as seeing your music career as a viable business.
The hardest thing to deal with when working on your own is keeping motivated. It's one thing to try and figure out which step to take next, it's another to keep yourself motivated when there's no one on the team but you. One of the best ways to keep motivated is to get other people involved. The best is to get others involved in your project. Things get done much more quickly when there's other people helping you out. The other is to have a community. It's important to have others that you can talk to, to seek advice from, and to kick you in the ass when you need it. Other musicians and people in the industry are the best for this since they understand what's involved. Knowing musicians, there's usually some healthy competition involved too.
The Whole Package
As you can see, there's a ton of things to take care of here. Realistically it's too much for one person to do. The launching of a music career takes a team of people to make it successful. This includes a lawyer, PR, management, bookkeepers, agents, etc. When you first start out, you're going to be on your own. The support team won't be coming onboard until there's some momentum and money to be made. You're going to have to do it all initially. That's why it's important to keep organized. You can go crazy with it all if you don't have some organization. There has to be some measure of if you're on the right track and if you're having any success with the route you're taking.
Be the Tortoise
Keep working, keep at it, stay organized, and get something done everyday. Soon enough you'll have a team of professionals to consult and chat with. For now though, you're on your own and nobody will work harder for you than yourself.