The Mental Fundamentals.
Boots, backpack, sunglasses, hat, compass, sunblock, rain jacket, first aid kit, snacks on snacks, a google search history of tips and hacks, hours logged at the rock climbing studio, notice submitted at work, bills paid in advance, emergency plans configured - the preparation for an actual Mountain climb is undeniably necessary. As a literal Mountain is risky to climb without education, so is your music career Mountain. You put your well-being and dream goals at risk if you rush in without any preparation.
Step 2 is the training that prepares you for your climb: collecting Principles to guide your decision-making along the way. These Principles are your business fundamentals, and other understandings of the way the world works. No one can predict exactly how a Mountain climb will go, and you’ll end up learning a ton along the way - but if you don’t have years of experience or a business degree to start, Step 2 helps you catch up.
“Principles” is an umbrella term for different beliefs, natural laws, and heuristics that guide your decision-making. You’ve been picking these up your whole life already; they’re both strategic shortcuts and structures for establishing personal identity. Internalizing greater overarching lessons that can apply to many different scenarios will save you time and mental energy.
Here are some of the most important Principles to get you started:
80/20 Rule - Pareto Principle - Law of the Vital Few - Critical Few (CF)
You don’t need to learn everything, do everything, or be excellent at everything - you just need to identify and nail the 20% of the activities that yield 80% of the results.
The Pareto Principle is a natural phenomenon that was identified by Italian Economist Vilfredo Pareto when he observed that 20% of bean pods create 80% of the yield. He applied this observation to his own research and found that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the people.
This helpful principle about uneven distribution is translated into many industries to understand where to focus: 20% of customers yield 80% of sales (hence customer loyalty programs), 20% of employees cause 80% of an organization’s success, 20% of criminals commit 80% of crimes, fixing the correct 20% of computer bugs eliminates 80% of related errors, etc.
In a music career, 20% of the activities you do (releasing music, touring, social media, etc) account for 80% of your progress (fans, income, feelings of personal fulfillment) - the rest are distractions, or necessary Infrastructure upkeep (Step 3). Ultimately, it will provide a beacon for you to decide where to allocate your scarce resources.
Home Runs are a corollary of the 80/20 Rule: strategies of big gain. Since your resources are limited (time, energy, money), you need to choose strategies with the biggest ROI (Return on Investment). Spending three hours a day, everyday, on social media and push ads that don’t build a fanbase is not a high-ROI strategy - those resources could be used on something more productive.
Home Runs are strategic moves that boost you up the Mountain, like path shortcuts. It might’ve taken three months of intense, clever networking to get Pitchfork 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 with few impressions. 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 just putting all your eggs in one basket - but when you have limited time, energy, and budgets like most musicians do, Home Runs are vital to prioritize.
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
Challenging the listener’s ability to label you (in psychology this is called “chunking”) engages a deeper level of experiencing your music. Creating something worth talking about, some truly unique music, creates a new competitive “Category of One” where that music dominates.
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. If someone 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.
The First Circle Conundrum
As not only the creator of MIC and The Mountain, but also an active commercial musician myself (Millaze), I put a name to a beast that I used to suffer, and I repeatedly found plagues almost every single musician: the disappointment that the people in your life don't (usually) give adequate reactions to your music. I studied this uncannily common occurrence psychologically and called it out for what it is: The First Circle Conundrum.
Anyone who is only 1 degree of separation away from you (in your First Circle) has already labeled you, and they cannot easily relabel you. A prophet has no honor in his own country.
Understanding this natural law 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. The First Circle Conundrum's discovery motivates musicians to accept this reality and forge through that circle to get to people that have the potential to become fans, those people that don’t already know you.
Those are only some of the major overarching Principles that give your Mountain climb strength and business savvy. Here’s a list of some of the Principles our Music Career Diagnostics bring to the table, too. 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.
Business Principles - Marketing and Strategy
WIIFM - “What’s In It For Me?”
Push vs. Pull Marketing
MVP/MVQ (Minimum Viable Product/Quality)
Diminishing Marginal Returns
The Long Game - “Last One Standing”
“Coach Purse” Premium Pricing Valuation
Music as a Virtually Competition-less Industry - Value of Humanity
Competitive Arena Choice
Easy Monetization - Money saved is earned
Urgency and Call to Action
Malcolm Gladwell Tipping Point - 1000 True Fans and Faking Social Media Numbers
Law of Large Numbers
The Universal Sports Press Conference 3 - Process, Focus, Inch by Inch
Understanding Principles - Psychology and Music Product
Dualistic Thinking - The Initial Id and The Simultaneous Wise
Philosophical and Religious Interpretative Lenses - Taoism, Buddhism, Patanjali’s 8-Fold Path, Christianity, et al.
Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 Hour Rule - Effortless Mastery
Neuroscience of Trauma - Neuro-Synapse Wiring
The Rule of 7
Theory - Perfects, Minors, Flow
The Current Ear
Adolescent Brain Development - Frontal Lobe Formation and Lifetime Fanism
Wallpaper and Associations
Entry Points - Back Door
Frequency Magnetics - Teaching the Audience How to See You
Underlying Energy Effects - Authenticity and Motive
Product “True Greatness” Measures
“The Boxer” Selective Interpretation and Reflecting
Audience of One
Performance Goal - Energy Leading and Harnessing
Continue collecting your own Principles that you believe will wisely inform your decision-making, and continue to Step 3, here.