I am certainly not the most knowledgeable person in business, but I continue to learn on a daily basis. If you want to make a profitable, sustainable music business or career, you may find it helpful to adopt some of the business mentality mindsets presented here.
Getting the Basics Covered
The first step in creating a profitable business on the side is having a steady source of income that covers your basic needs. Without this in place, you may find it a challenge to focus on building your business. I found it difficult because I was constantly looking for ways to make more money. My work was not coming from a place of creative freedom. It was coming from a place of restricted urgency.
This would imply a job. Obviously there are other ways of covering your expenses, but it’s best to start with something that’s hassle-free and predictable whether 30 hours a week or 50 hours a week. If your lifestyle is streamlined enough, you actually wouldn’t have to spend a lot of time at a day job. A part-time job would do. The more passion and focus you can bring to your musical efforts, the better. Having your needs taken care of would mean less worry and less trouble. Money will take up less mind space.
Consistency & Momentum
Your job is likely going to be during the hours of 9 to 5 or something similar. At least it should be, because you’re going to want your evenings and weekends free. Therefore, this is not a question of what you do with your day, but rather what you do with your 5 to 12. This is the time you should take to build your music career. It doesn’t matter if you start with 30 minutes a night or 3 hours a night, the point is to build consistency. Momentum is a by-product of consistency.
Whether you’re building your website or posting to Facebook, it’s easy to get sidetracked if you don’t know what purpose it serves. You may not have many people interacting with your content to begin with, but remember that over time that will change. The more consistent you are, the more engaged people will be. Create a habit and keep doing it even when you don’t feel like it. A music career will require a fan base, and a fan base needs to be engaged.
If you don’t have a separate bank account for your music finances, it’s time to get on it. The money you earn from your musical endeavors is your seed money. It’s the money you should take to build your music career, whether it’s touring or recording. Music will require money, but it’s not necessary (nor advisable) to go into debt.
It’s all too easy to take the money you earned from a gig and spend it on fried foods or alcohol. Even if your earnings are slim, this is not the best plan. Allow yourself some grace in this area, but not too much. Remember that your music earnings are going to go towards more important things.
For example, if you had a recording studio and earned a total of $2,000 from a year’s work, that’s $2,000 you would not have otherwise. You may not think that this is a lot of money, but that’s $2,000 that could go towards that Neumann mic you’ve been drooling over, or to take out an ad in a local paper (which can cost a hefty sum, but will get your name out there). You could buy a domain name and start a website, or make some business cards. You could also save up for another year.
Tearing Down Your Comfort Zone
As long as you’re trying to grow and create success in your life, you should be looking for ways to get out of your comfort zone more frequently. It’s easier said than done, true, but there are even studies showing that those who frequently get out of their comfort zone have greater incomes. I would even argue that it isn’t so much the act of getting out of your comfort zone as it is the value you add to people when you do so. If you’re not sure how to add value to people, that’s nothing a few good books couldn’t cure. You can check out the resources page for some suggested reading.
If you feel overwhelmed, start small. You don’t have to go jumping out of a plane tomorrow. Call or email those people you’ve been meaning to talk to. Book a show at a venue that is a little outside of your current network and reputation. Strike up more conversations. You know what you need to do.