You’re standing at the bottom of a Mountain, looking up. You don't know everything about that Mountain, but you want to climb it. You’ve never climbed a Mountain before, so you decide you’ll learn how. You begin to understand it will take some discipline, education, planning, and patience - but you know deep down that you want to climb this Mountain. You will climb it.
When you begin the climb, you notice that some days it all seems to flow. Other days it drags. Sometimes you consider giving up like some of the climbers you see on the other Mountains all around you, but you know better. You know the fog covering the top of the Mountain is only an illusion - the top is still there waiting for you, today was just a foggier day. You know this fact, and you remind yourself when you forget it.
Your Mountain is tailor-made for you. You picked this one, and you chose the pathways up - no one else had a say in this matter. When you stepped back and looked up, you felt peace and excitement. During your climb, you close your eyes from time to time to see that big picture again. You know that your climb up will not be a dangerous, grasping, guessing game like some of those descending climbers played. You might have forgettable, discouraging days, but overall you know what to do and how to get there, you trust in the process and keep coming back to it.
You start to learn more about yourself, this vehicle taking you up your Mountain. You notice that your thoughts have an effect on your body’s ability to climb. You pay attention closely, curiously, and test out some new thoughts. You ask your brain kindly to see those “drag” days for what they are: still progress up the Mountain. Your brain likes that simple thought and after a while it thinks more thoughts like it on its own - you’re training it well. Your body also becomes stronger as this happens, and you notice.
Your Mountain is your Music Career, and this is all in your head - hasn’t anyone told you yet?
In Step 1, you step back and look at the big picture of what’s driving your desire for a music career. Why do you want to climb this Mountain? It’s the most important question to start with, because it foreshadows how the entire climb will go. Will you make it to the top? Is there a top for you to climb to? If not, will you climb sideways for a very long, discouraging time? Have you chosen a Mountain that endlessly reaches to the sky a little too much? All of those are metaphors, if you haven't quite landed on that overall theme yet.
Why do you want to climb this Mountain? If it’s because you have a Music World you want to live in, and invite others into, then that is the strongest foundation of a Mountain you could ask for. A Music World is like the thickest slab of highest quality concrete as the steadfast base for this structure. It will serve you well forever as an endless source of sustainable energy, and warm, patient, undeniable arms to welcome you back home in your foggiest days, reminding you of your big picture purpose.
Your Music World is already inside you, completely unique to you, and no one can describe it but you for that reason: it’s the musical reflection of your unique eyes in this human experience. Some might say The Music World is you. You probably get glimpses of the World’s pieces regularly, and with a little self-awareness you can step outside of yourself completely and see it all - or at least the sketched lines of its structure. You’ll spend your whole life exploring your World, whether you gather the business means to create a career of it or not. Being a musician in this way is a truly purposeful and artistic way to spend your life (business and career, or not), learning about yourself.
Your Music World is made of 4 components: The Music, The Gestalt, The Vehicle, and The Belief.
The Music itself exists before the recorded or live performance versions of it. Music is art, so it cannot be easily defined - but we know it is a combination of sound and feeling, created systematically by combining theory and noise, and organically within a musician as she/he lives a life.
Your music has a purpose, and it sounds a certain way, and it doesn’t sound other ways. It is riffs that play over in your head, demos recorded on your phone, an overall attitude that comes to life in the studio, your style of the songwriting process, or something else. It is a lot of things. Artists have an instinct about this.
The Music itself exists in your Music World before you record or perform it.
The Gestalt is the feeling of the World you’re inviting people into. Gestalt is a German word for “an organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts,” like how when you walk into a doctor’s office, or into Times Square, you know both of those carry totally different overall feelings through all the five senses. It is this Gestalt that we crave as listeners when we choose our music.
As an example, some people could go from binging on Billie Eilish, to Aretha Franklin, to the Foo Fighters all during the course of one day. All of these have different Gestalts that are desired in different moods. It’s a fluid concept, because musicians’ catalogues range emotions, but overall, listeners seek feeling and know how to get it by pressing play on a specific artist or song. Understanding and exploring the Gestalt of your World (which takes a strong muscle of objectivity, cultivated over time) allows you to lean into it and let it unfold to its most effortless, strongest peak. Since humans have endless cravings for nuances of moods and novelties of feelings, there is a market for every type of Music World Gestalt.
The Gestalt is the feeling of the World that attracts people inside.
The Human Vehicle
Your human body is The Vehicle that connects the distance between the Music World in your mind with the invitations to welcome people into it. Without your body’s ability to play, perform, market, and represent your music, your Music World would stay exclusively inside you. For this reason, a body’s health factors into a successful music career - because as a broken-down or gas-empty car cannot take you to your destination, a hurting or sick body cannot take you to the places that allow you to invite people into your Music World.
Your brain is part of your body, by the way, it's in there. Poor mental health is often less visible but equally as damaging, time-draining, and distracting to your endeavors as poor physical health.
Your human body is The Vehicle that brings your Music World out of your mind to share with people.
Very, very few people who believe it’s impossible to have a music career actually end up magically inside a music career. The Belief of the Music World is what powers the lights in the world to stay on. It is a form of self-fulfilling prophecy, and a generator of energy - if The Belief hums at a negative doubting level, the World dims and the energy is drained out. This concept can get more complex than this, but the idea that if you don't dream it up, you can't pursue it because you're not looking for it/creating it, is much like if you don't dream of making chocolate chip cookies, you're not going to somehow surprisingly bake a few trays of cookies.
Belief is the foundation of this foundation.
This Step 1 is about acknowledging that the Music World exists so you can see it for what it is. Not having a Music World doesn't mean you can't have a music career, in fact you actually inherently do have a Music World already - your inability to see it right now is part of your journey, most likely. Until you prioritize trying to see it and letting it show itself to you, you may face different hardships along the way that diminish your potential and longevity logistically.
So much of a music career is conceptualizing yourself in your head, seeing yourself from the outside in, and that comes with time and intention.
Please do not try to completely summarize your Music World before you begin, it may only bring you strain - and it turns your music career into a checkmark on a list instead of the adventure of your life. Earnestly pose the questions about target markets, press stories, and persona, but don't force the answers. The answers will come, if you keep asking. They will reveal themselves to you during assimilations of your subconscious and conscious as you learn to see yourself for who you are, utilizing the neuroscience of how our brains and bodies reward us when we pursue self-realization (which entails enjoyment, satisfaction, and all other words in this general category).
Continue to Step 2, here.