Well hello. You finished the 3 Preparation Steps. You've now set up the foundation of your music career, the red slab of earth that your Mountain sits upon. Most musicians, even the famous ones you admire, never build such a foundation - you’re incredibly far ahead right now. You’re ready for the 3 Climbing Steps.
Welcome to your dream career.
Listen very carefully because we mean what we just said: this is it, Step 4 is the dream, because it’s what we call “The Doing of the Thing”. Technically, the 3 Preparation Steps were also part of your dream career, but we get that all that setup wasn’t exactly what you’ve been dreaming of doing. The Doing of the Thing is what you came here for - take a breath of relief, you made it.
Get to Step 4 and you’re successful in our opinion. Period, end of report. Stay on Step 4 forever if you want, and you could be one of the most successful humans in history. You heard us right again: you don’t need to get to Step 5 if it doesn’t fit into your Definition of Success - Step 4 is The Thing that’s dreamed of. At Step 4, you’re Doing the Thing of a music career, which wasn’t possible for 99.99999% of people before - either because music wasn’t recorded yet (so performance was the only front-line career option and it was even more rare and also not very comparable to what we know as front-line careers), or because you needed a record label to turn music from a hobby into a career, which was a double-edged sword because of how risky & detrimental record label deals used to pretty much exclusively be. You’re very lucky to be born at this time in history. You get to Do the Thing.
Step 4 will do the following: get your mind right about how you get to spend your life on this career (Doing the Thing), shed light on where the money comes from (Revenue-Generation), tip you off about keeping an eye open for what we call "Lifts" so you can pounce on them, and then polish off your industry education with a sneak peek at MIC's 5 music industry "Pockets" we conceptualize with our Process Manuals (5 Pockets).
Also, since The Mountain is about balancing your Art, Business and Personal, notice that two of these sections indicate what is The Art and The Business now in your career - there's no section for The Personal because that's simply how you live your life, and only you know what kind of energy/time/money you need for that. When you set up your Planning Structures in your planners/calendars (Step 1), balance all three. This is how you keep perspective and avoid overwhelm and confusion.
CLick the following HEADINGS TO OPEN/CLOSE the SECTIONS:
Remember to upkeep the maintenance on your music career with those Planning Structures you set up in Step 1, add pieces from Step 2, revisit Step 3 if/when you need to (especially if you decide to move to Step 5), and simply enjoy Doing the Thing. We’re going to presume a little bit about your dreams for a moment, but feel free to add to this list the other parts of a front-line music career that inhabited your dreams. Here are a music career’s primary functions, aka The Doing of the Thing.
In case they’re on your mind: the benefits of fame and money aren’t on that list because while they may be part of your Definition of Success, they’re by-products, not career functions.
We’re here to get your mind right about why you want a music career: it’s to do music.
If you proceed to Step 5, what's missing from that list is some sense of structure and direction. That's what your EPK is for - it's like your list of things to acquire on a scavenger hunt, so you can prioritize all your event planning. Here is the list from Step 2, copy/pasted for your convenience. See, we promised everything added up here.
Step 4 musicians don't always need the 5 Pockets or Lifts (section below), those are more for Step 5 - however, these topics are so commonly on the minds of Step 4 musicians that we're going to teach you about them. Our goal here is to either equip you to pursue these Pockets, or give you peace of mind about your choice to not go after them when the world is trying to pressure you to do so. (For example, a lot of Playlisting & PR companies will send you push ads for their services on social media because, think about it: they're trying to sell things to make a living themselves, too. So don't mistake pressure from other entities as the "truth" of what you "should" do in the music industry. Everyone has their own agenda.)
In Step 2’s “Team” section, we mentioned that the bolded roles related directly to MIC’s 5 Industry Pockets. "Pocket" is a fun word we use to pull together all the massive and overwhelming music career elements into 5 specific, easily-digestible areas to study and conquer.
Here's why we made the 5 Pockets: Educational materials usually micro-focus on one expert topic at a time, and there's nothing wrong with this, unless it's promising a "music career" in its title, because then it's misleading because a music career is built of many topics, not just one. Good ideas and strategies need a realistic action plan for how someone actually carries them all out in the grand scheme of the tons of other things musicians need to do, too. That being said, no shade, we are actually very grateful for all the resources that we studied over the years to learn all of this info - but we've made the 5 Pockets to simplify things for you.
Our internship program trains our interns in these 5 Pockets, insanely efficiently because we soar through the Critical Few information and give them real-world practice as freelancers (it was always a personal goal to make the kind of all-intensive music business internship I wish I had when I was in school.) Let’s make you just as dangerously smart as those interns now:
At the risk of this website getting overwhelmingly novel-length, we'll now give you the summaries of what each of these Pockets entails, without the nuanced how-to of pursuing them. It's a lot. That's why we have an entire internship program to teach them. We are indeed working on more elaborative videos for you though, as we promised in earlier Steps.
The 5 Pockets exist as MIC Mountain Process Manuals. You may find you'd like a Consulting session with us because our clients get access to our internal Process Manuals, and we customize copies of them to their own goals. Process Manuals are what they sound like: step-by-step manuals so you don't have to waste time & energy recreating the wheel every time you pursue one of the processes within a Pocket. It's like buying a lego set or something from Ikea that you have to assemble yourself, you get the step-by-step directions. The difference is, unlike a coffee table you assemble once, indies repeat a lot of processes (think releasing music, reaching out to playlists, booking shows, etc). Trust us, it stinks so badly to sit at your computer thinking "what did I do last time?" and "did I miss anything?" when you're doing something like releasing music (because yeah you probably did forget something, and you'll have to double back later to do it, and that's a waste of your energy you could be spending on making new music or resting or anything else, etc.) Make your own Process Manuals of to-do lists if you don't plan consulting with us - we completely, totally recommend it.
Publishing = Distribution + Royalty Collection.
The first part of the equation is easy: Distribution is getting your music distributed everywhere possible. It’s pretty simple actually. You’ll pay for an online distributor to get your music on all the major DSPs (Digital Service Providers like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Deezer, etc) and some other services & catalogues (that don’t always matter as an indie because you need gatekeeper access to push them to the top - but don’t let us digress onto a soap box), and then you’ll upload it to any other place fans can access it, like Bandcamp & Soundcloud (some might argue radio should be included in Distribution, but radio is sprinkled across Touring, PR, & Playlisting, too - we’re telling you, the Pockets are our own devices to simplify this amorphous world for us, because it’s a lot of overlap). The big one here for you to remember though is really that online distributor, because the DSPs like Spotify & Apple Music are currently the most trending access points for fan-gathering and clout.
There are plenty of options for distributors nowadays compared to even just a few years ago: CDBaby was pretty much the first mover so it’s the biggest still, but now there’s also Distrokid, Tunecore, and a ton more. Pros & cons abound with each of them, depending on how much music you’re releasing, and for how long. We respect this comparative article about your choices, so go take a look (thanks, Ari!). For what it’s worth (because we’re all about being realistically helpful and not mysteriously vague), most of our Mountain musicians use Distrokid or CDBaby, although we’ve also worked with Tunecore and Spinnup. Distrokid supports musicians who have a lot of music to release and they want to release it effortlessly & quickly, while CDBaby is a little more thorough and better for those musicians with just a handful of releases. Pick whatever seems best for your goals & Definition of Success.
*An important note on a common misconception about royalties from streaming*: it's unlikely that you'll make a significant amount of money from royalties alone, especially from streaming services at the beginning of your career. Eventually royalties become a reliable form of regular, passive income, but that's only after a lot of effort from all the other sides of the career working together to build a fanbase. Try not to see streaming royalties with too high of expectations at the beginning because distributing your music fully on all the DSPs, etc, is more of a marketing funnel to hook and invite fans into your Music World (after stumbling into you online, seeing you play live at a show, hearing about you from a friend, etc.); without music released, your World doesn't exist substantially for a fan to enter and hang out. So, don't get fixated on making money from streaming at the beginning of your career, move to the other revenue-generators instead.
The second part of the equation is less easy: Royalty Collection is one of the Revenue-Generation items we listed above. Putting aside all debates about the injustices of royalty amounts simply for times' sake here, royalties & their collection are almost always misunderstood by musicians. Let us crack our knuckles and give you a grin - because we’ve gotten very good at teaching what royalties are all about:
What’s often glossed over is why a royalty exists in the first place. Essentially, music is an intangible product that happens over a period of the time dimension. Let’s make that sound less confusing: it’s not like paying for other products, like a sandwich. You hand over money for a sandwich, you eat that sandwich, then you & the sandwich-maker both move on with your lives. Instead, music isn’t just one sandwich, it’s infinitely reproducible, and it’s usable at anytime, anywhere. This is both objectively incredible and insane. What a world. So, since musicians can’t stand at a counter and ask everyone to pay to listen to their song each time in such a sandwich-selling style, how would they make a living from this use of their music? Radio stations, movies, dentist’s offices, supermarkets, cover bands, gyms, and Spotify can’t just get to use everyone’s music for free, can they? That would suck for musicians - create a product that just happens to be intangible, so everyone gets away with using it for free, and you get nothing for all that work.
To answer this conundrum, many smart people across history devised the method of royalty-generation for musicians (thank. you.) where a little bit of money is generated for the use of music in many uses (i.e., streams, radio plays, live performances, prints onto CDs/vinyl, playing on broadcast television, etc). When that royalty money is generated, it’s sent to some collection entity to wait patiently, piggy-bank-style - and then musicians/publishers must go to those locations to make accounts and “register their catalogues” which is like saying “hey, these are my songs, so those royalties over there are my money, please give me that money”. Hence, the “Royalty Collection” part of how we define Publishing here. You must go collect the royalties.
Here's a reminder of the key details we shared in Step 2 when you set up your Publishing accounts, because they fall into place in our explanation here:
1) You naturally own a song's copyright when you create a song & record its creation somehow (write down the music or record any kind of demo, even like a phone's voice memo). If you'd like additional legal protection in court in case someone claims you stole their song or vice versa, you may register it with the Copyright Office of your country, but it isn't necessary in order to record and release music (there is a cost involved here, with some tricks to save money if you are eligible to batch register because you register before your release, and you own both the PA & the SR).
2) There are 2 sides to every song: the PA (Performance Art, the "Song" itself) and the SR (Sound Recording, the "Master", that particular recording of the "Song"). The PA is owned by the songwriter and the publishing company. The SR is owned by the artist and the record label. Often, indies play all 4 roles, and therefore own "200%" of their songs (which is helpful in the revenue-generator Sync.)
3) The PA and SR both generate different Performance & Mechanical royalties, to be collected from different locations. Independent Musician Royalty Collection will be (essentially) complete when you collect from what we call the"4 Buckets":
2 PA = PRO + Publishing Admin Company
2 SR = Digital PRO + Distributor
So like we said, in Step 2 you set up your Publishing so you already belong to 3 of the 4 Buckets that collect your royalties: your PRO (ASCAP/BMI, etc), your Publishing Admin (Songtrust - it collects certain global things for you), and your Digital PRO (Soundexchange). Your 4th and final bucket is your Distributor (CDBaby, Distrokid, etc.) and it will be created when you release music while Doing the Thing (meaning, you don't have to worry about setting this up ahead of time, it'll be a simple signup/setup at the right moment). Boom. If you have those 4 accounted for, you’re doing your baseline Royalty Collection, and it’s all we incredibly insist upon. Well done.
Why did we say those 4 sources constitute just your baseline? Technically there are tons and tons of other smaller royalties to pursue in this world, but that’s almost a full time job to mine for those opportunities. Here at MIC we constantly develop something called a "Song Infos" tab in our "Masterplan" excel docs that help musicians track everything they need claim future royalties because getting your credits right is insanely important. You could miss out on a lot of money, there are a lot of horror stories of famous musicians, songwriters, and performing/session instrumentalists getting stiffed out of their fair share of royalties over the 1900's simply because credits weren't properly written down.
Here’s one example of a random royalty: some musicians who sell CDs can claim a royalty for those CD printings from a fund that CD-R manufacturers have been contributing to for decades. If you're interested in deep-diving more into this with us, consider a Consulting session.
Playlisting matters for a lot of musicians, but not all. It’s important when indies need the clout that numbers bring in this world (like it or not it’s the way the world is now, and we can work with it) like in Touring & PR, or in general for Step 5 - Phase 1: FCBO [First Circle Breakout]). However, Playlisting can pretty much be skipped if you’re only into Sync Licensing your music, because streaming numbers don’t matter to music supervisors (being an indie is such an advantage in Sync, you’ll see.)
Playlisting is somewhat like the new radio, and similar to radio it attracts new forms of payola-esque sketchiness most people never hear about, in the form of secretive backhand deals, tricks, and lies to mislead musicians to get their money. Not to be all doomsday about it, but it is a minefield that often sucks up indies’ budgets of all 3 assets: time, money, and energy. Especially energy, because without gatekeeper access to get to the good playlists (think record labels or friends on the inside of these companies), it’s a very easy way for musicians to get discouraged: spend a lot of money and time to finally get on a playlist, then find out the hard way that you only got a couple streams from that playlist, if any at all. We sit beside indies in this pain and say “yep, it’s rough, it sucks” while also saying “there is a way to game the system though.”
Wouldn’t going after those amazing playlists with massive, active, followings - like Spotify’s “Rap Caviar” - be a way to game the system? Why not focus a ton of energy and time into trying to get one of them? Wouldn’t that be a Lift?
Yes, but no. We focus on reaching out to playlist creators here in The Mountain, as opposed to pitching to DSP’s playlists. Why? Although there is a world of playlisting where you submit directly to DSPs within the backends (think Spotify’s “Spotify for Artists” pre-release submission feature, emailing marketing plans to Deezer, or Amazon Music’s new submission process), or through secret URLS passed between managers & insiders, it’s like buying a lottery ticket for an indie to submit to those channels without a massive budget to brag about (because in their eyes you’ll be spending it pushing people to their platforms), or gatekeeper connections on the inside. Do it anyway when it’s easy to, of course! Submit to Spotify 4 weeks ahead of your release date and fill out that form! But otherwise, move forward.
To truly game this system, you’ll need to put in some consistent work to either (1) play the numbers game of reaching out to a lot playlists, but doing so with incredibly genuine pitches and following up tactfully, and/or (2) schedule in daily time to submit your songs to free & easy-submission locations across the internet. Our interns-turned-freelancers now practice these two methods and find a lot of success in our Step 5 FCBO experiments.
Perhaps you'll also want to coordinate some indie community projects to boost each other's numbers - we love that. Beware that Spotify has set up a bunch of details in their streaming system that cancel out royalties if certain things don't happen (if a song is on mute, if a song is skipped over in the first 30 seconds, if a song if played too much in general from one computer - that's a new one, etc). We wrote an article about one type of experiment, the Inner Circle, with a lot of tips on this topic - read it by clicking here, hope it helps!
“PR” stands for Public Relations, and it’s our simple, catch-all phrase for a Publicist’s role: building exposure/hype through getting journalists to write about you in the news (online or printed), booking interviews like Podcasts or Public Appearances, and pursuing some Adjacencies that fall into the PR category (see Step 5), etc.
This is another example of MIC grouping together activities whose defined borders are hot topics of debate in our industry - for example, some people could debate that we could choose a different word than PR, or that PR includes other activities. But we sometimes simply need to land on one term, and exclude what falls into other Pockets (i.e. some Publicists also pursue Playlists because that’s technically exposure - we consider it its own massive Pocket project) or doesn’t quite fit into a musician's needs or time budget in our experience (like social media/internet monitoring, crisis management, paparazzi & tabloid communication, etc.). So here’s how we suggest mentally conceptualizing and pursuing it in your Mountain climb:
Similar to effective Playlisting, this is a numbers game of reaching out to a lot of sources, but with incredibly genuine pitches. Incredibly genuine means you research Sim-tos (Step 3) to find authors/tastemakers who are interested in those artists, then you study those peoples’ work and reach out to them with a pitch that you genuinely believe matches what they’re looking for. Then you’ll also do follow-up emails, tactfully and politely, because a squeaky wheel gets the grease, and it proves you’re the real deal with gumption, not a passerby of a short-lived flame.
Writers have a job, too, and they need new acts to write about - so it really is a win/win if you send a genuine, well-educated pitch. Also, if you can make it fun & bend/break the rules of typical business jargon, you’ll really get far because people like to work with someone they like - however, be respectful and appropriate for the vibe of that person or source.
If you really get into Step 5, PR will incorporate your Positioning & Expansion locations to really target your audience. But before that even comes, PR will help you with the following situations: make you easy to find via a google search if you have a common name (this is a form of SEO - Search Engine Optimization), and build excitement for Releases and Touring.
You know what Touring is. We consider it a whole Pocket project for musicians because of how much work goes into it, and how much there is to learn about how to start it up. There are a lot of options:
You can start local and grow to nearby markets. You can network or ask your local venues to let you open for acts, and try to meet an incrementally bigger act to open for and go on tour with them. You can pursue festivals. Lifts come in the form of connections with other musicians, and how they lead to opening act slots or in’s with booking agents who can book you on tours and festivals within your market, and then book tours for you. You can book tours yourself and go on the road; yes this really is in your wheelhouse, it just takes a some education about how to reach out and book shows, etc. Also, Merch is a massive Revenue-Generator for most musicians, and Touring is a key place to sell it.
At the end of the day, this may be the Pocket with the most need for Lifts to break out of a local scene, or with the most need to keep budgets smart so you can continue playing shows in a profitable and personally fulfilling way. Either way, if Touring doesn’t align with your Definition of Success, beware: it uses up a lot more time & energy & money than most other activities.
There are a lot of details to track while planning touring and then actually doing the touring, like promotion, preparation, set-up, post-show activities, etc. We recommend that you make yourself a Process Manual for Touring. What we mean is that you should write down some checklists at the very least so you don't have to recreate the wheel every time you plan a show. It'll help free up space for you to do the art.
Sync is our shorthand for Synchronization Licensing, or Sync Licensing. It’s when you get your music placed in a TV show, movie, commercial, etc. When it’s placed in a Youtube video it’s often called a Microsync.
This is similar to Playlisting and PR in the sense that you’ll play the numbers game by reaching out to a lot of leads (after researching online for upcoming shows/movies or Supe’s projects) with incredibly genuine pitches that you believe will help make a Supe’s job easier (Supes are Music Supervisors, the people who pick music for all of those things). Unlike the others, you won’t usually do followup emails (like a lot of other outreach activities). We suggest using the DISCO (disco.ac) software to share songs in those pitches, because that’s what a lot of music supervisors use. Be specific about your vision for their project, but also open-minded because you don’t know their job as well as they do. Remember to metadata-tag your music properly so if it’s added to their own collections, they can find it when searching for certain purposes; include tags like artist/band name, year, album/EP title, Songwriter & Publisher / Artist & Record Label with their PRO affiliations, hashtag-able category words for moods, types of music, and other purposes of songs.
There is a lot to learn about Sync, like different types of sync placements (think someone listening to a boombox on screen vs. general background music), and what kind of music works best (universal themes are more helpful that specific lyrics that pop out).
Also, indies have a big advantage in this arena because Supes need the right emotion and usually don’t care about the fame of a musician - in fact fame might make the song way more expensive, so indie music is more budget-conscious for Supes. They also need quick turnaround, and a lot of indies own 100% of their music (both the PA and SR copyright, the songwriter/publisher and the artist/label roles, respectively, are all played by the same person), and so they can give permission and sign deals super quickly. That comes in handy when a Supe is working last minute to replace another song whose permission got lost in waiting for paperwork signatures.
Payment here can be massive: there’s an upfront Sync Fee (for the PA side of the song) and a Master Use Fee (for the SR), and then also royalties sometimes in perpetuity and/or when a show goes into syndication, like with network television playing a show on repeat, or streaming services bargaining their own deals. You'll often get paid a royalty every single time, anywhere in the world, a TV/computer screen plays a scene when your song is played. People who write popular TV show theme songs or jingles roll in the passive income dough of their PRO quarterly checks because of that syndication rule - every time the show airs or someone watches it on a streaming service, they’re paid. There are other ways to get paid from Sync placements too, like getting included on soundtracks or more royalties from getting the song included on the trailer.
Suffice it to say, this Pocket takes up a lot of time by researching for leads and reaching out tactfully, but this has the most direct money to gain than all other Pockets.
So the question becomes: how do you make money with the "5 Pockets" while "Doing the Thing"? The big question. We can answer it for you.
Firstly, remember that revenue is money coming in, before costs. After you subtract costs from that, you get profit. So ultimately your costs dictate what you’ll be left with as profit, as income. That’s why Step 2 simplified down your to-dos and needs to get costs as low as possible - we care about you getting as much income as possible from your careers, and both education about the big picture of music careers, and discipline on your own part, will take you very far towards building wealth.
Secondly, remember that you're pursuing a music career not a hobby - neither are better or worse than the other, but career means you want to do it as your primary work, for an income you can live off of. That means you'll have to get equally serious about prioritizing Revenue-Generation alongside prioritizing the hunt of those EPK elements. (If you don't want/need music to be your primary work and income, then The Mountain can still apply to you, but maybe with a little less pressure, we'd imagine.)
Within the parameters of what constitutes a front-line music career (not side hustles), these are the ways revenue is generated in a music career:
In the "5 Pockets", Royalty Collection is in Publishing, and Touring & Sync Licensing are their own Pockets. A virtual Merch store was already created in Step 2 as you set up your website, and you'll also sell it physically while Touring. All the other Pockets are more for promotion than Revenue-Generation, but promotion is necessary for sharing your Music World, which then increases Royalty Generation, sales of Tour tickets and Merch, and Adjacency profits. So, even though some music career functions are not direct Revenue-Generators, they play their own role in the overall profit strategy - it's just a little more abstract.
Halt! Before you start living the lifestyle of bouncing around the activities of "Doing the Thing" of a music career (section below) you absolutely need to make sure that your very first event is releasing a music project (album, EP, single) if you haven't done it yet. We really aren't in the business of pressuring you to do things here in The Mountain, but we feel obligated to emphasize this Critical Few detail because you risk a lot if you don't do it: namely, all the fans that come across you are incredibly less likely to remain fans, because they have nothing to hold onto, so your efforts for exposure are inefficient and in vain.
That said, we completely understand that playing live is the first step for some bands - and it'd be stupid for us to tell you to sit on your couches instead of playing a sick basement show, simply because you "need to release music first". That's not what we're getting at here: we're saying that every time you make an appearance in the physical world (like playing a live show), you will miss out on inviting new potential fans into your Music World if you don't have a music project released & your Digital World set up, because they can't go home and follow/listen to you later, which is how you cement relationships inside fans' minds.
That said, we completely understand that playing live is the first step for some bands - and it'd be stupid for us to tell you to sit on your couches instead of playing a sick basement show, simply because you "need to release music first". That's not what we're getting at here: we're saying that every time you make an appearance in the Physical World (like playing a live show) without a music project released for them to mentally hold onto after the show, you will very likely miss out on inviting those new potential fans to come and stay in your Music World because you didn't have your Digital World set up (with that release they can go home and listen to later, cementing you in their minds).
Such significant cementing of a fan mentally, rarely happens with one touchpoint (only seeing you live at the show). There's another MIC principle we follow that's a psychological natural law used in Marketing called The Rule of 7 that explains that the human brain needs about 7 touch-points of something before it's made significant and pocketed away in long-term memory (this is why push marketing like billboards works very well for some products to get inside peoples' heads, and why even toddlers can recognize logos of fast food and tech companies, etc).
Artists & Bands get the amazing chance nowadays to achieve that average of 7 touch-points through live shows, social media, and released music (on streaming services, most efficiently). You're shooting yourself in the foot if you don't capitalize on all 3, especially that last one of released music on streaming services, because that's the element most in controlled by potential fans through personal playlists and the conscious decision to listen to that artist/band - it creates a very special relationship in the mind, which often leads to the creation of a True Fan (someone who is here for the long haul, and is willing to invest time, money, and energy to get to your shows, sport your merch, and share you through word of mouth to other fans.)
True Fans/Stans are important because of another MIC Principle, the Tipping Point, a Malcolm Gladwell concept that observes a Critical Few adjacent phenomenon wherein it only takes about 1000 True Fans of something (in our case, a musician) to constitute the necessary proportions of types of fans that then naturally "tip" that thing into its potential mainstream awareness/consciousness; but they have to be True Fans, not passive ones.
Bottom line: It would be silly of any musician not to take full advantage of every tool in their arsenal, and this is a massive, Critical Few one.
Also, fan-gathering aside, we mentioned two money-making activities already, Royalty Collection and Publishing, and when you release music you're distributing it, which fulfills the 4th and final of the 4 Buckets of Publishing (the Distributor) that you began setting up in Step 2. There's no reason to not finish what you started and starting generating royalties from all this fan-inviting if you're very serious about your music career (which you obviously are, you made it this far.)
If you already released music, cool cool, continue onwards.
Ok, strap in - ready to hear one of the most important things that everybody talks about, yet no one talks about in a coherent, reproducible way? "Break" is the word you'll hear most, but it's used rather vaguely like it's a minimum requirement for a career, regardless of how elusive and luck-based it is. We've taken the heart of the concept and deemed it as “Lifts”, because it’s the equivalent of climbing a Mountain and stumbling into an unexpected ski lift, then fist-pumping the air, running to jump on it, and shooting up the Mountain way more quickly and efficiently, zooming above the heads of all the other climbing indies below.
It's pretty much an example of the economic principle "Increasing Marginal Returns", where you hit a point that you start gaining massive speed/production instead of crawling up inch by inch. Since life is short and budgets of time and energy have limits, crawling an entire music career inch by inch will not always get you to a milestone you're aiming for within your Definition of Success - hence with you need to look for Lifts.
We say look for them, because lifts can't really be manufactured. They are stumbled into. You need to set yourself up for them, near them, open for them, and get ready to pounce when one comes close. Study the careers of the greats like we do here at MIC, and you’ll see a common trend: there is always, always a something, or a couple choice somethings, that added up way more effectively and efficiently than everything else that boosted that artist/band’s music career.
Lifts aren't clearly defined, but you know them when you see them. They're everything from the aftershock of winning a radio contest that's massively popular in certain parts of the world (like Amy Shark and Australia's Vanda and Young Songwriting Competition) to winning American Idol (like Kelly Clarkson in America.) Other examples include opening for / touring with a bigger headlining band, getting signed to a label with an impressive reputation, getting your music on a high-traffic playlist, getting a good review in a prominent music publication like Rolling Stone, and making / having a connection in the industry that gets your music in front of someone important like a label executive / influential playlister / tastemaking journalist.
There are more examples, but that last one is especially important because so much of the music industry is about who you know, so making connections is an important strategy. (In Step 5 we'll talk about how Phase 1: FCBO sets you up to help make connections more easily.)
Most importantly though, Lifts must be leveraged afterwards, or they were simply events. For example, if you are a finalist on American Idol but don't have the foundation of your music career set up (like The Mountain's 3 Preparation Steps), you can't grab that opportunity and use it to boost you up your Mountain in a magical way.
That's the very shortened explanation of Lifts because Step 5 takes this concept and runs with it, weaving its tapestry around the topic of how to leverage your efforts, your EPK, and your markets, to pursue Lifts with full force. All you need to know right now is to keep your eyes peeled: if you see a potential Lift, drop everything and run for it.
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