What is MIC? And what can you get out of it?
MIC is "Music Industry Connected" because we connect the puzzle pieces of what a music career actually looks like, revealing the industry and human secrets you didn't know that you didn't know. There's a lot to unpack here, so you can visualize your relationship options with MIC like this:
MIC for Free:
· Read the Mountain's 6 Steps on our website - here
· Soak up human insight & industry secrets on Social Media (@theMICmountain)
· Join The Mountain Climber Club for our special newsletters & discounts
· Request what you want to learn about at our "Contact Us" page
· Enjoy the behind-the-scenes of our research in our Sanctuary blog - here
MIC for Purchase:
· Use the same highly optimized Process Manuals we use - here
· Plan One-on-One Consulting or Group Workshops - here
· Sport your body in some Mountain Merch
If you're a timeline kind of person, here's a little gift from us to you:
In 2009, our research began as MIC founder-to-be Emily Plazek attended The University of Pittsburgh for business instead of music, to focus on the "how to start a music career" question that baffled her and fellow aspiring musicians like her. She spent these years developing the plan to start a company upon graduation that could answer that question.
In 2013, MIC's first branch "MIC PGH" was founded by Emily Plazek in one of the quintessential indie music cities in the USA: Pittsburgh, PA. Field experiments with interns and indie musicians in the "MIC MVMT", began.
In 2017, Emily released the first edition of the Mountain, called "The IMBM Pyramid (Indie Music Business Model)." Research and field experiment continued. Then, MIC expanded nationally to Bloomington, IN.
In 2019, after more research polishing, Emily released the "The Mountain" to the public - an update to the earlier business models, now focused as a simplified approach towards front-line music careers (artists & bands). This iteration of The Mountain finally incorporated MIC's unique goal of full-life integration into the business process (balancing the art, the business, and the personal) in a mentally-digestible Mountain visual & simple 6-Step method.
In 2021, the first international Intern Class helped Emily publish the Covid-World Update to the Mountain: helping musicians polish up their "Backpack" (Steps 1, 2, 3) so they could pounce on live music when it returns. This is the first Mountain to offer access to MIC's behind-the-scenes Process Manuals.
Want some recommendations of our favorite resources?
We've gobbled up a ton, so we're happy to list off our favorite reference materials for you - especially because we 100% recommend finding other field experts out there for specific activities you decide to include in your climb. Never stop learning, that's when we humans actually die.
What makes our MIC brains different, you ask?
You're looking at a group of highly educated researchers here at MIC - both from the classroom and the real world. Yet, we'd be fools to only harvest research in order to to regurgitate it back at you - no, we're doing something a little more next level here at MIC:
Below you'll find a list of some of our core Principles, gathered from other non-music-business life arenas (like psychology, philosophy, music theory, neuroscience, fitness, and more). This is one of the ways we use our eyes of discernment to filter our research, experiments, and hypotheses, ensuring that The Mountain is actually as game-changing as we promise it is. It's by no means an exhaustive list - but it gives an indication of the infinite amount of Principles out there for you to collect and apply, too.
Scroll to the bottom for explanations of the Main MIC Principles you'll see sprinkled throughout The Mountain the most.
Main MIC Principles (explained below):
· The First Circle Conundrum
· Power in Every Position
· 80/20 Rule / Law of the Critical Few
· Less is More
· Differentiation - Category of One and Purposeful Copycatting
· 3rd Party Principle - Social Proof
· 1000 True Fans - Risk of Faking Social Media Numbers
Business Principles - Marketing and Strategy
· The Long Game
· The Mainstream, the 2nd Mainstream, and the Original Opinion
· Artistic Integrity Heuristics
· WIIFM - “What’s In It For Me?”
· Expectation Management
· The Fall of the Household Name & Rise of the Complex Human Character
· Reverse Engineering to Arenas or Clubs
· Push vs. Pull Marketing
· MVP/MVQ (Minimum Viable Product/Quality)
· Sunk Cost
· Diminishing Marginal Returns
· Marketing Funnels
· “Coach Purse” Premium Pricing Valuation
· Music as a Virtually Competition-less Industry - Endless Mental Library · Shelves
· Competitive Arena Choice
· Easy Monetization - Money saved is earned
· Parkinson’s Law for Deadlines
· Urgency and Call to Action
· Law of Large Numbers
· The Universal Sports Press Conference 3 - Process, Focus, Inch by Inch
Understanding Principles - Psychology, Performance, and Music Product
· Learned Depth: Cognitive Overlap of Music & Sexuality
· Mind War: Brain & Freudian Thought Players
· The Cemented Establishment of Music Figure History (20th Century leadership) & the Insurmountable Lead across the dimensions of Brand Associations & Time
· Salience High
· Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation
· Dualistic Thinking - The Initial Id and The Simultaneous Wise
· Philosophical, Ideological, and Religious Interpretative Lenses
· Effortless Mastery - Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 Hour Rule
· Mental/Physical Health & the Creation Process
· Neuroscience of Belief - Epigenetics
· Neuroscience of Trauma/trauma - Neural-Synapse Wiring
· Active vs. Passive Leisure and Flow State ("In the Zone")
· Polyvagal Theory
· The Rule of 7 - Repetition
· Theory - Perfects, Minors, Flow
· Ear Fatigue
· The Current Ear
· Adolescent Brain Development - Frontal Lobe Formation and Lifetime Fanism
· Wallpaper and Associations
· Entry Points - Back Door
· Audience Brain/Motive
· Frequency Magnetics - Teaching the Audience How to See You
· Underlying Energy Effects - Authenticity and Motive
· Product “True Greatness” Measures
· Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
· “The Boxer” Selective Interpretation
· Audience of One
· Zone Meditation - Flow State
· Performance Goals - Energy Leading/Harnessing (Moment-Creation) balanced with Audience Expectation
(formerly known in previous Mountains as "Home Runs")
Lifts (imagine a Mountain's Ski Lifts) are influenced by the wisdom of the previous Principle, the 80/20 rule - they come from a forward-thinking mentality of understanding that since your resources (time, energy, money) are limited, you need to choose strategies with the biggest ROI (Return on Investment).
Lifts are specific strategic moves that boost you up the Mountain way more quickly & easily, like a Ski Lift. We list examples in Step 4, but here is the gist: It might’ve taken three months of intense work to get some majorly influential cultural tastemaker (insert Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, etc.) to feature your music, but it’s incredibly more valuable in terms of fan base exposure and EPK clout than spending those three months getting coverage from even 30+ micro blogs. Another hypothetical example: you could spend years building your Music World and then land one sync deal that pays off all your student debt and covers a down payment on your first home.
Every strategy portfolio needs a mix of activities, not simply putting all your eggs in one basket - but when you have limited time, energy, and budgets like most musicians do, Lifts are vital to look for and prioritize.
The First Circle Conundrum
MIC's goal is to identify and defeat the major blockages that hold musicians back. We put a name to a beast that we repeatedly found plagues most musicians (and many people in other professions, especially performance/entertainment): the disappointment that the people in your life don't (usually/often) give adequate reactions to your music products and efforts. We studied this uncannily common occurrence psychologically and called it out for what it is: The First Circle Conundrum.
Here's what's going on: Anyone who is only 1 degree of separation away from you (in your First Circle) has already labeled you ("Niece", "Cousin", "Classmate", "Brother", etc), and they cannot mentally relabel you in the way they'd need to in order to become your fan ("Cool Musician I want to follow"). This sentiment is also expressed in the saying: "A prophet has no honor in his own country."
We say this to encourage a lens of acceptance, because fighting it is a losing battle. Understanding this natural law (and perhaps chuckling at its predictability) relieves the scars of discouragement leftover from all those social media posts and invitations to shows that were "ignored" by family and friends. If you don't take it personally, you save a lot of time and energy from going down the rabbit hole of self-doubt along the way - and you shouldn't take it personally, it is simply how first impressions and relationships work. The First Circle Conundrum's discovery motivates musicians to accept this reality and forge through that circle (Phase 1) to get to people that have the potential to become fans: those people that don’t already know you.
Also though: appreciate when some of your First Circle is very supportive, even if they don't technically act like drooling "fans". The Inner Circle strategy in Step 4's Release Process Manual works with this.
Power in Every Position
High fame, anonymity, and everywhere in between has its own perks. Anonymity grants you a level of freedom for experimentation that might harm and energy-drain a very high-profile musician due to fan backlash or expectation management. Very famous careers can wield significant financial and team resources to execute Events (Step 4) that smaller niche artists couldn't. There are many more examples of this, suffice it to say that embracing and taking full advantage of wherever you are on the spectrum is a secret weapon.
80/20 Rule / Law of the Critical Few
(other similar titles like Pareto Principle, Law of the Vital Few, Minimum Effective Dose [MED])
There are an overwhelming amount of potential activities you could include in your music career, aside from the necessary music production, performance, publishing, and press. You could go after collaborations, contests, festivals, soundtracks, creative commons, for-hire songwriting and performance, the list is almost endless. The good news is that you don't have to do absolutely everything (because that is impossible anyway), you only need to identify and nail the handful of activities that will produce the biggest results aligned with your Definition of Success.
There are a lot of names for this backwards-looking observation of a natural phenomenon, and we listed some of them above. The Pareto Principle is one of those names - Italian Economist Vilfredo Pareto observed that only 20% of the planted bean pods created 80% of the yield. He applied this observation to his other research and found that, in a similar uneven distribution manner, 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the people.
His principle has been translated into many industries to understand where to focus effort: 20% of customers yield 80% of sales (hence customer loyalty programs), 20% of employees cause 80% of an organization’s success (reward those employees with raises), 20% of computer bugs cause 80% of related errors (identify those specific bugs), etc. This rule of thumb is less about specific statistics/numbers, and more about understanding the general idea that a small amount of something often affects/produces a large amount of something else.
It might be hard to see when you're in the thick of it (it is a backwards-looking principle), so studying other musicians' stories will help you see that usually it is one or two key activities they nailed that brought them "success". This is usually Lifts (Step 5). While you build your mountain foundations, keep an eye out for the other activities you're engaging in that will/won't yield big results, and allocate your resources (time, energy, money) wisely.
Less is More - K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid)
Another extension of the 80/20 Rule, Less is More sheds light on the equal importance of both Action and Non-Action. The activities you choose to *not* do are just as important as the activities you choose to do, because of your limited resources. Less is, very often, More because you are also able to effectively execute strategies to completion if you choose a select handful of them - if you overwhelm yourself with too many, you’ll burn out and not accomplish any of them particularly well.
Differentiation - Category of One and Purposeful Copycatting
In psychology there's a term called “chunking” to explain how people categorize new objects they encounter, to simplify reality and conserve energy. It's like when you hear a song on the radio and think "Oh there's another song like _____" and stop the thought right there, filing it away as "Solved" in the filing cabinets of the mind. Creating something different and challenging the listener’s ability to "chunk" you engages a deeper level of experiencing your music ("I've never heard anything like this before.... what the?").
This strategy will attract, confuse, annoy, delight, turn off, or win over new listeners, which is a stronger and more lasting strategy than offering another commodity to the market that maybe initially grabs attention but builds up little staying power. Through being yourself in your music, something truly different, you increase fan potential to become a long-term True Fan (see 1000 True Fans, below).
Differentiating your music makes the ear perk up, because it can't immediately label and toss your music into one expected, categorized box with other similar musicians. Creating something worth talking about, some truly unique music, creates a new competitive “Category of One” where that music dominates. One often-mentioned strategy to achieve differentiation is to "be yourself", a small phrase that points to a very deep observation that everyone is unique, despite our similarities.
On the flipside, Copycatting (creating music that jumps in with current music trends to attract "The Current Ear" with specific vocal nuances, music theory tricks, trendy instrument palettes, and image) is its own competitive arena via Hollywood's predictable appeals - and it's not inherently bad (few things are). However, if you want to leapfrog-skip-over the Mountain's suggested career path so you can immediately play in that arena, know that you'll need a seriously significant amount of money and some sort of connective Lifts to the industry - and the cutthroat competition that awaits you there often does not value Music Worlds, artistry, differentiation, or the health that supports a personally successful music career. In this way, these types of careers are extremely difficult, especially longterm.
Purposeful Copycatting is when you mindfully notice what's attracting The Current Ear, and apply any of it to your music when it's naturally aligned with your Music World. This can be a very wise strategy to help you connect with listeners and grow your music.
3rd Party Principle - Social Proof
If someone you respect (your friend, crush, big brother, NPR, etc) recommends a musician, you listen. Social Proof diminishes the barriers of entry for you to walk into that musician’s World, because you don't have spend energy conducting the decision-making process of "do I care?". You do care, because someone you like gave it the stamp of approval. On the flip side, this is important to understand as a musician marketing your own music. Think about it, with your feet in someone else's boots: if a musician pushes their own music on you, you’re more likely to put up a wall of defense because “you can’t tell me what to do” is a natural Id reaction. Therefore, having someone else talk up your music is more valuable than you pushing it yourself - Social Proof settles down the defensive Id, it's a workaround.
1000 True Fans - Risk of Faking Social Media Numbers
Malcolm Gladwell's book "The Tipping Point" brings a calming concept to the table: you technically only need 1000 True Fans in order to tip into your full potential fanbase. "True" means they're not passive - they would spend their resources (time, energy, and especially money) on your music and your live show.
Gladwell explains that this 1000 will naturally include 3 types of fans that create the tip-over by spreading the word about you in different ways (Connectors, Mavens, Salesmen). The goal of this entire concept is to remind you that don't need to panic trying to win over every fan (that's impossible anyway, not everyone is going to like your music, and that is a good thing). Instead, focus on gaining True Fans consistently and it will build up and tip over.
While high Social Media follower numbers may help you hit Milestones (Step 4), faking them by hiring bots or doing too many "like"/hashtag tricks kills your potential to see your natural rise towards 1000 True Fans. This doesn't mean that when you hit 1000 followers your tipping point will arrive - but it does mean that the more naturally you allow your social media to grow, the more you can use your followers as a barometer for how much closer you're actually getting to your True Fan tipping point.