Build Your Mountain Structure
Maintenance of Business Basics and Product Development (The Pillars)
Of all the music career warning stories that circulate, some of the ones that motivated the creation of Mountain most are the ones about losses from lack of business basics setup. We're talking cancelled sync deals because the musicians didn’t have proper incorporation (LLCs) for someone to write a check to, business banking accounts, or adequate PRO registrations to make the licensee feel comfortable in the transaction. Or, the musician was physically or mentally too ill to simply email the supervisor back quickly enough. Hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of dollars lost - not because of the music product, but because of logistics, the musicians didn’t have the correct business basics setup to see the opportunity through.
Another heartbreaker for us: not being able to capitalize on momentum from a successful Event (Step 4 explains that Events are releases, shows, etc) because your product development wasn't ready. Imagine the lost opportunity if you get unexpected massive attention, and thousands of potential fans are scrambling online trying to follow you - but there's nothing to follow because your online presence isn't there, and you don't have a music catalogue or an Event coming up (like an upcoming song release) to get them hooked and in the game with you. These moments are the micro-"big breaks" of the current industry, and you missed yours because you rushed a little quickly, or you didn't find your productivity groove and burned out trying to keep up.
Step 3 creates the Structure of your unique Mountain with (1) Setup and (2) Maintenance. First we take you through Setup, then you develop your own process for Maintenance, in the form of consistent daily habits for Product Development, and Process Manuals (PMs) for the Business Basics from your Events in Step 4.
Here are the 3 parts that you'll Set-up and Maintain to support your Mountain.
- Definition of Success - Mountaintop
- Business Basics - Left Pillar
- Product Development - Right Pillar
1. Definition of Success - Mountaintop
You can’t get to a destination that you don’t know exists, so set-up the destination at the top of your Mountain: define success for yourself. Maintain it by shifting it over time as you grow.
Success usually has 3 categories of components: Fun, Fulfillment, and Financial. Use those categories, along with your priorities on lifestyle, values, location, and work style to create a balanced Definition, not a masochistic one that will lead you to burn out and a botched, lost music career dream (or maybe you need a masochistic one for this part of your hero's journey, we're not here to judge).
Also, your unique Definition of Success should have some measures of immediate, as well as long-term success. Meaning: if you dream of headlining arena tours one day in the future, make a point of also enjoying the interim until then - living a musician’s lifestyle every day. Elaborate further and dream up the mid-term, like playing all the bigger venues in your town. The “I’ll be happy at the end of all the hard work” mentality disappoints - without learning how to find contentment along the way, contentment will stay elusive.
2. Business Basics - Left Pillar
A music career is a combination of Money (the Mountain's left side) and Fans (the right side) - and the Business Basics Pillar supports the left Money Side.
Over the years, MIC collected and tested all of the business activities musicians are told they “should” do, and then narrowed down to only the ones you truly need to do - we even included a couple personal items that would directly interfere with your career if left unattended (like your personal financial portfolio). Consider this baseline list of definite needs as our “Less is More” gift to you.
A quick cyber-security tip: get a separate phone # like Google Voice to use for signing up for everything, because our phone #'s are growing to be like our social security numbers for scammers nowadays.
First, do your Setup with this list:
- Brand Essentials:
• Create your Brand Manual folder on the cloud, by writing your Bio, deciding your Fonts and Pantone Color Codes, getting your professional Pictures and Logos, and creating your One Sheet. This Brand Manual will be shared across your team to create your EPK and promotional materials, shared with booking agents and promoters for touring, and shared as a downloadable folder with press.
• Draft your first Target Market Analysis to begin understanding your market - this will evolve as you learn more about your market. Begin by listing your 3-5 sim-to's (artists/bands you're similar to), your market demographics (age, gender, location, etc), and your market's interest identifiers (detailed heavily: favorite movies, tv shows, books/authors/genres, actors, directors, events like festivals, hangout spots, foods, drinks, hobbies like craft beer, D&D/axe-throwing/fencing, brunch, crossword puzzles, etc.)
• Buy your domain name from a place like Godaddy - it's the plot of land you'll build your website-house on. We recommend springing for the security add-on option, because even though it costs an annual fee, you will get less spam and scam risks (unless you already own a domain where you didn't select this option, in which case your info is already out there.)
• Build your website in a place like Squarespace or Wix and link it to that domain - website builders like these usually have options to buy the domain names during their process too, but check the prices against Godaddy and competitors because it's an annual fee.
• Set-up your EPK (Electronic Press Kit) on one password-protected page in website (see Step 4 - Milestones.)
• Set-up your newsletter email list and add signup widget to website, through a service like Mailchimp.
• Set-up your email address. If you’d like, for impressive clout reasons, acquire a domain email (@yourwebsite.com), but it's very normal to not have your domain email address nowadays.
• Write out your auto-fill Email Footers with links/contact info.
• Claim your handles on all social media - even ones you don't want to use, so no one else claims them and pretends to be you.
• Set-up a Google alert for your name and other keywords you might care about.
• Buy Business Cards if you'd like.
• Set-up your free data analytics accounts: Spotify for Artists, Apple Music for Artists, Itunes Connect, Next Big Sound + Pandora Amp Playbook, UnitedMasters, etc.
• Set-up an LLC, Limited Liability Corporation in your state, acquiring your EIN (like a SSN for your business).
• Buy insurance policies for your equipment.
• Understand Music Licenses and Samples, and Rights for Images.
• Set-up your Personal Financial Portfolio: Bills, Savings, Retirement, Life Insurance, and Disability - so you don't suffer from financial-mental stress, you're wealthy when you retire, your take care of your loved ones, and you have a paycheck one day if you can't physically do your music career due to an accident or something out of your control.
• Open a Business Bank Account and Credit Card; you can also create a Business Paypal for future invoices.
• Create a simple Accounting Spreadsheet (Google docs on the cloud is a good one) and understand your Budgets - start your habit of filing away both Email and Physical Receipt Folders from all business-related expenses (this can even mean some coffees and restaurant visits among many other things like supplies and travel expenses - here is one of many good articles on the topic.)
• For touring and selling merch, open a POS (Point of Sale) System and a Venmo, create a Merch Spreadsheet and System.
• Suggestion: Create Tip Jars on Paypal.me, Venmo, or elsewhere, and add to your website, merch display, etc (this is an easy monetization method that leaves open a door for fans to support you).
• Determine your team, because nobody does everything alone in a music career. Here are some of the roles that will definitely need to be covered, so you can begin to think of allocation of duties.
Note: Oftentimes we'll take on multiple roles, and that is okay - remember that often Less is More, and avoiding burn out is essential. Also, sometimes these roles naturally fill as you need them, you don't necessarily need to force them immediately.
• • • Creative: Songwriters, Performers/Instrumentalists, Music Engineers/Producers, Videomakers/Photographers, Graphic Designers, Social Media Managers
• • • Business: Manager, Lawyer, Booking Agent, Publicist, Interns/Street Teams
• Create and file away Contracts and other more informally crafted, yet still binding agreements (screenshots of text message conversations or emails), determining your team’s copacetic relationships with Timeline, $, and Ownership %’s.
• Decide your team’s Communication and Organization Methods (group text, official workplace softwares like Slack or Trello, other apps).
• Set-up, subscribe, and update all your files onto Cloud Backups (better safe than sorry, trust us, we lost a MacBook Pro to a cup of coffee once).
• Determine your style of Email Organization System. This is everything from filing your email folders, making your inbox "go to zero", and checking/deleting habits. In fact, a tip: Gmail has an "Archive" button that takes away an email as if it was "Deleted" but it's still search-able in the top bar because it's not actually deleted - this is a good habit to switch to in case you accidentally delete an email you need one day.
Great job. Next, use this list as a weekly check-in to make sure everything you just Set-up is Maintained:
- Tracking Progress
• Update whatever your PM's require
• Update your entire personal online presence, to understand and shift your brand perception on your personal Website, Social Media accounts, and other sites like LinkedIn - also Google yourself every once in a while to monitor it (sometimes people decide to work on their SEO - Search Engine Optimization due to this monitoring).
• Manage that Accounting Spreadsheet and your Budgets, by filing away both email and physical Receipt Folders (to fully organize later on if you’re audited).
• Manage that Personal Financial Portfolio.
• File your taxes annually, via a Tax Software like Turbotax or an accountant, and file 1099s for any independent contractor you paid more than $600 that year.
• Check your Tip Jars for money, and cash them out (remember to add this to your Accounting doc).
• Manage your files' Cloud Backups.
• Manage your emails in your personal Email Organization System.
• Update your Passwords with some sort of regularity (monthly, yearly, whatever keeps you safe).
Nice. Finally, all the other loose edges of your Business Basics (ones you haven't even touched yet, like Publishing and Royalties) will be Maintained along the way as you develop and use your own unique "Process Manuals" (PM's) for your Events in Step 4. Most musicians require these 4 Process Manuals.
- Process Manuals (PM's)
• Sync Licensing
3. Product Development - Right Pillar
Like we said earlier, a music career is a combination of Money (the Mountain's left side) and Fans (the right side) - and the Product Development Pillar holds up the right Fans Side.
Also, it's the lifestyle that most people are aiming for when they pursue music.
Product Development means developing your Music World - which is both your music and yourself. Without you there is no Music World to cultivate and share. Set-up these items by growing a daily schedule (your lifestyle) that works on all of these, and then Maintain that schedule of Health, Craft, Music, Live Show, Fan Communication, and Life.
- Fuel your Music World by Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle, because this is where both music products and sustainable energy derive.
• Mental upkeep: rest, mind strength (mindfulness, meditation, etc.), any healing from Trauma/trauma ("big T or little t")
• Physical upkeep: balanced activity and rest based on self-awareness of your body and goals
- Develop your Music World by Honing your Craft. Practicing and going deeper into your musicianship and artistry is part of the game because it evolves your World as you evolve. Profoundly great music careers are made from both skills developed across your lifetime, and initial lucky talent - and both require crafting to grow.
- Develop your Music World's Music by Writing, Recording, and Producing. Set goals for Events in Step 4, with the Release PM.
- Develop your Music World's Live Show. Set goals for Events in Step 4, with the Touring PM.
- Welcome fans continuously into your Music World through Fan Communication. Build habits on social media and in real life (like live shows) to engage with them naturally, according to your brand's style, so they feel a part of your World.
- Develop your Music World's You by Living your Life, because from life you gain experiences worth interpreting and sharing.
Now, get used to upkeeping your Maintenance, with your own style, continue to Step 4 to begin your climb, using the music products you're creating in your Music World during your daily Product Development lifestyle.