You’re standing at the bottom of a Mountain, looking up for the first time. Or this isn't your first time - you’re here because you've been an active musician for a while, but you've paused your Mountain climb and headed back to basecamp to make sure you didn't miss anything in your setup. Either way: Welcome to The Mountain.
You're about to set up a business, using you & primarily you as both the factory and the product that pops out. This is very strange! The Preparation Steps 1-3 set up your for The Climb Steps 4-6, ensuring you set up this infrastructure properly. Why is this so important? This is how you protect your well-being and music career goals from risks like the illusion of failure, unprepared "Expectation Management", overwhelm/burnout, and business failures like one-sided contracts, getting shelved, etc. These are only some of the many reasons we’ve found across our Mountain research as to why music careers erode the quality of many musicians’ lives, instead of improving them -- but they’re avoidable or manageable when you set everything up properly, as The Preparation Steps will help you do.
Let's double check we're on the same page and you're also convinced of the value of The Preparation Steps. Here's a pretty common music business failure anecdote about missed opportunity, because this could potentially be a story about you if you skip ahead: Imagine you luck into a successful, unexpected event that gives you massive, viral attention, like maybe a celebrity added you to their playlist, or tweeted about you (this would be called a "Lift", more on that in Step 4), and thousands of potential fans scramble online trying to follow you - but there's not enough to follow, so they just give up and move on. Your Digital World wasn't an accurate representation of your Music World, it wasn't easy to find you, and you didn't have a music catalogue or an upcoming release or show to get them to stick around. You just plain old lose these potential fans. These moments are the micro-"big breaks" of the current industry, and you missed yours (we don't like the term "break" though, as you'll see.) All of that is to say, let's move forward with The Preparation Steps so nothing like this ever happens to you.
Step 1 begins by conceptualizing that a music career is the creation of a "Music World": a place to invite listeners into, to hang out and stay a while. This conceptualization will help you get a grip on the essence of what your product is, what role it will play in others' lives, and how to prioritize your time and energy to support the Product Development of your ultimate product (and factory, like we said): You.
Think about how you consume music. It changes based on how you're feeling or want to feel some days - or it's about feeling closer to something you want to associate more with - or it's about a connection through that music or musician to someone important to you in your real life - or it's something else, the list is endless. Thinking about how you do something will inform you of how others do it, too. So imagine: now you're about to make a Music World for others to use, like you use other music. This is a massive privilege with high potential, and it's super cool.
Now that you're presumably stoked about making a Music World, let's break it down into pieces: close your eyes, zoom out to the bigger picture, fly up and over with an eagle's eye view, and look down at the crossroads of where your realistic daily life, the career you dream, the artistic vision in your head, and the real world full of people ready to be welcomed into your world, await to all meet. These 4 elements make up Music Worlds:
∆ The Music - we will not patronize you by explaining what this is.
∆ The Gestalt - a German word for “an organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts,” meaning: you know it feels completely different across all 5 senses to walk into a doctor’s office versus Times Square, yes? It is this overall-sensation "gestalt" that we crave as listeners when we choose our music - it’s the feeling of your Music World that invites people inside and makes them want to stay. Music is a lot about feeling.
∆ The Vehicle - your Music World depends on the vehicle of your human body’s ability to play, perform, market, and represent your music - otherwise it will stay exclusively inside you. For this reason, it’s critical to prioritize both your body’s physical and mental health, because a broken-down or gas-empty car can’t take anyone anywhere. We lose time when we're sick, right? Mental health is the quality of how you’re interpreting the world around you - and if ignored, it can be equally as damaging, time-draining, and distracting to your endeavors as poor physical health.
∆ The Belief - very, very few people who believe it’s impossible to have a music career actually end up magically inside a music career, just like if you don't dream of making chocolate chip cookies, you're not going to somehow surprisingly bake a few trays of cookies. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy thing. The Belief of the Music World is your generator of energy, powering the lights in the world to stay on. It's also what fans are inspired by. You absolutely need Belief for its energy. The Mountain aims to give you the perspective and education you need to keep this pilot light lit.
Hold onto whatever vision of your Music World you have in your head now after reading that, because that's the end goal here - The Mountain wants you to create that Music World. There is a lot to do in the coming steps, we will not mislead you - it's simple, but it's not easy. But it's going to be worth it because once your Business is setup, all you'll have to do is some simple low-level Business maintenance incorporated into your Personal life, and then you can spend the rest of your time and energy on the Art of creating that Music World. Just wait, it's going to feel great.
Here are the 3 parts of Step 1 - unlike other Steps where you'll have checklists of activities to complete, Step 1 is about conceptualizing, asking yourself some difficult questions and conceptualizing the real estate you're about to manage, so you set off on the right foot forever.
CLick the following HEADINGS TO OPEN/CLOSE the SECTIONS:
That's our very simplified, bare-bones list of what is risky to forget or avoid - we hope it helps you avoid common pitfalls that hamper indies' progress, and gives you peace of mind to avoid that common "did I forget anything" panic. As you add your own items, we suggest keeping it simple because there is a lot of other work to be done in the coming Steps.