THe Welcome Letter
From our Founder / CEO Emily Plazek & Millaze.
MIC is “Music Industry Connected” because we connect the puzzle pieces of what a music career actually looks like,
revealing the industry & human secrets you didn’t know that you didn’t know.
Founder Emily Plazek here. I wrote this letter for those of you that want a little more than our "less is more" style - so let me answer some of the extra questions I'm guessing you're asking:
Let's ask the real first question: What is MIC trying to sell you?
- Yup, we'd want to know, too.
Look, when you read the rest of this letter, you'll better understand why we're not lying when we say we're different from the other "how to be a musician" companies -- that also means that our product offerings are different, too: we share The Mountain as 6 simplified articles for free on our website (see the 6 Step buttons here), and for sale, we only offer Consulting. (Well, our merch is also pretty sweet.)
Before explaining Consulting, let's address that F word, since transparency is one of our core values here at MIC: we give The Mountain away for free here on our website because (1) many of the musicians we want to help have realistically small budgets and can't afford our consulting, yet reading the 6 Steps is definitely enough to help them, (2) publishing a book instead of website pages risks roadblocking our progress by outdating our material when the industry changes (hello COVID-19), and (3) it's impossible for our team to meet and train every musician - we're only human, and there are only so many of us (I'm picky about who we train as MIC Consultants). We've got an international intern team & conduct worldwide research for a reason: we want to help every musician in the world re-see what a music career actually looks like and find success. This is how we do it.
- Consulting is what we've found to be most effective way to walk aspiring musicians through the most specialized parts of The Mountain - and we take our effectiveness very seriously. Imagine consulting/workshops like training or coaching through virtual meetings: we build a relationship with our musician clients by learning about their specific scenarios and Definitions of Success, then we craft an actionable plan custom-made to fit their needs, and finally we train them so they can go off on their own and hypothetically never pay us another cent (unless they'd like to). We get in and get out - we educate and set you free, instead of asking for a percentage of your product or revenue.
We believe success is built, not binged - so while we're efficient in our usage of hourly consulting sessions, we're also very dead-set on ensuring every musician is ready to set off on their own by educating them fully on the pieces of the industry they need to know, training them with the necessary skills to sustainably upkeep their custom plan, and setting realistic expectations (this part is crucial for conceptualizing what success really means). If you're interested in becoming one of our consulting clients, click here.
- + In the future, we may decide to offer our Process Manuals and Masterplan templates, too - these documents are usually only given out to our consulting clients, but I'm currently making the decision with the interns whether to release them for purchase to the public or not, as well. Check back later!
Ok, now that that's out of the way, let's move forward.
Next question: I want a successful music career, am I in the right place?
- The Mountain will appeal to you whether you’re a new or veteran front-line musician (artist or band), a manager, or a label. Why are we so sure of this? Because all of these people are aiming for the same thing: success within music careers. What is success? Well you landed the nail right on the head quickly there, well done - success is different for everyone in general, but if you're pursuing a music career, that means a part of your personal Definition of Success will include what we refer to as "the doing of the thing" in Step 4: Climb. That is, the functions of a music career: playing music, writing music, recording music, sharing music, performing music, etc. This is the common thread between us all. This is what people dream of when they dream of a music career, right?
And here's the lucky part: at this point in history, "the doing of the thing" in a music career is possible for pretty much everybody thanks to technology, and anyone who pursues this is incredibly successful in our books - because most people don't go after their dreams at all. The gatekeepers that used to rule the land are still out there - but they don't rule the entire kingdom anymore. Thanks for beginning to carve that path, indie musical predecessors across history (we salute you, punk rock!). Now, anyone who dreams of playing, writing, recording, sharing, performing music, etc, can do it, with a worldwide reach, without a label or anyone else.
This is big. Big time stuff.
Yet, a lot of musicians haven't grasped this profound truth yet, because they're distracted by the illusions and tricks rampant in our industry due to low levels of self-awareness, abused mental health, and the general drug of ego that all humans suffer and the entertainment industry exacerbates extremely with outdated belief cultures. We at MIC are human too, so we relate to this struggle - but we work together to live in this world but not of it. And we offer The Mountain to bring others with us togethers this cool, bright, transformed future.
- Curveball time: what about the musicians who do appreciate "the doing of the thing", but they also want to "compete" and get more listeners, book the big shows, etc? Well done, you're interested in Step 5: Data Climb.
The music industry isn't all that old in the first place, and this current era completely transformed the record-label-talent-hunt that used to be the norm: now virtually every musician starts indie (meaning independent, not the genre), whether they sign to a label later or not. Yes, even if you want to sign with a label, you have to start indie first, then pitch your product to them, much like an entrepreneur pitching their business plan to investors (record labels are truly financial institutions). Although there are some examples out there of nepotism and big money creating music careers, they're incredibly rare outliers and/or unsustainable & tend to die out quickly, flash in the pan. The high majority of the hundreds of thousands of musicians in the world start on their own, with realistic average-person budgets of time & money to spend creating their dream. All of this means that those who get a firm grip on “how” to run a music career, win.
How do you get that firm grip? The Mountain trains the thorough set up of a music career at the beginning (in the Prep Steps: Step 1, Step 2, & Step 3), making sure you’re not missing anything that you’ll need later on. Then you set up structured, simple ways to upkeep this foundation. It’s your only shot at warding off personal blockages like the illusion of failure, burnout, and lost expectation management, while protecting yourself from business blockages that you don’t even know about (and hopefully never need to.)
This is ultimately what makes The Mountain most unique - it uses a zoomed-out, eagle's eye view to create a systematic method, spacing out what to do, at what times, across the time dimension that's laid out in front of you like a yellow brick road (you have time, see that, use it wisely!). The Mountain balances the Art, the Business, and the Personal of what it's actually like to run a music career (a small business) while pacing the marathon and hitting whatever goals you set for Step 4 and/or Step 5, all while enjoying the process (Step 6: Success).
- And trust us, The Mountain is the only method in the world that nails this because it’s made by successful indies & indie managers around the world, in real time - and we made it ourselves because while we incredibly appreciate & respect the plentiful advice of our peers, we never found something quite as holistic as what we needed. Hence, The Mountain. (Meet our team here, and learn about our history here.)
Let's back it up a little, to something you just said above: Is getting a "firm grip" really that rare in the music industry?
- Yes. Look, music careers are tools that can be used or abused, like most things in life. Being successful isn’t about being “good enough” or getting “lucky enough", those are illusions created by gaps in mental health. Music careers can be tools to improve your quality of life, on a daily basis, if only they're used as such. What insane potential. First, you create your vision of a truly great music product, through increasing self-awareness. Then, business is applied to share that product with the public, and support your efforts financially. That’s it. That’s all a music career is.
- Unbelievably, in one of the most ironic and saddest life plot twists, a majority of musicians suffer their music careers instead of enjoying the dream that’s come true right in front of them - and this applies for all stages of a music career across the spectrum, from anonymity to fame. Consider how many celebrities lament the woes of stardom - they live the dream so many dream of, and aside from reasonable human-life struggles, so many of them still aren’t satisfied.
- Not just celebrities though - many indie musicians feel undue pressure because a lot of the "how to be a musician" materials out there carry an implied message of what a music career "should" look like. Clickbait about how to "go viral", "get your big break", "write the next big hit song!", or "get thousands of streams now!" are misleading and theoretical myths without realistic context. They not only imply that these things are the things musicians "should" pursue - but also, they're usually empty promises because they don't address the actual how of how to do them. Meaning, they don't consider (1) an indie's limited resources (time/energy/money) to spend on their music careers, (2) the confusion of which actions to take in what order, with what kind of priority, (3) the big picture strategy goals that are different for every musician, and (4) the fact that we've all got human lives to spend those resources on living , too, and indies don't always have teams to cover their workloads - it's all on them. A music career is a big ask of anyone, it's a fully immersive lifestyle, it's running a small business - and unfortunately many indies are nailing this lifestyle successfully, but not appreciating the fact they're doing so because of outside pressure like this.
- It doesn’t have to be this way. Music careers can improve quality of life, not detract from it - it comes down to the musician’s perspective. Like we mentioned above, objectively, it’s amazing that you’re in a music career at all in the first place - few people get to, can, or are brave enough to pursue dreams. It really comes down to the appreciation of doing it, because "the doing of the thing" is the thing itself. Vague trophies like "blowing up" or "getting rich & famous" miss the whole point: A music career is a venture, not a mere end-goal. Being present in the moment and conceptualizing that you’re already successful because you’re enjoying the “how” is the meta secret to all of this. It’s all in our heads, hasn’t anyone told you yet?
(Also though, this is an important moment to mention again that if you've got that game-changing mentality down pat, and you want to also get competitive, The Mountain nods to you with Step 5: Data Climb.)
Okay, then why & how does MIC think it can help me? Do you offer anything other than The Mountain?
- MIC is "Music Industry Connected" because we connect the puzzle pieces of what a music career actually looks like, revealing the industry and human secrets you didn't know that you didn't know. There's a lot to unpack here, so you can visualize your relationship options with MIC like this:
MIC for Free:
· Read The Mountain's 6 Steps on our website
· Soak up human insight & industry secrets on our Social Media, @theMICmountain
· Join our email list, "The Mountain Climber Club"
· Enjoy the behind-the-scenes of our research in our Sanctuary blog
MIC for Purchase:
· Plan some specialized One-on-One Consulting
· Sport your body in some Mountain Merch
- Travel through those Free & Purchase MIC options to suit your needs, but definitely start by reading The Mountain's 6 Steps. Here's why: The Mountain itself structures the actual "how" of how to go about approaching a music career into 3 Prep Steps & 3 Climbing Steps, so you can zoom out to see the Big Picture & gain peace of mind knowing where you currently stand. This industry/self-awareness will be your competitive advantage, big time.
(Also, some game-changing Principles are sprinkled throughout The Mountain - like the theory of the “First Circle Conundrum” which sheds light on why the people already in your life often can't be your fans - and how that makes sense, and is okay.)
- This is a good moment to also mention that musicians choose different Mountain Routes: Career, Hobby, and Dead-ends. Careers are Hobbies that want to use business goals to go full-time, and Dead-ends are shortcuts that result in the “15 mins of fame” phenomenon (which is getting increasingly more common nowadays). The Mountain’s specialty is Careers, and helping Dead-ends turn around into Careers - but we often consult on Hobbies, especially those musicians who simply want to record & release an album, not the full-time business of a Career. Although we talk a lot about music careers, both Hobbies & Careers are considered super successful in our books.
Now I want to know what’s MIC’s deal? Who are you people?
- I'm Emily Plazek, dreamhop piano artist Millaze, and I founded MIC in 2013; now I lead our international intern teams, while managing some of our indies. I started creating The Mountain in 2009 because I believed the world lacked and needed a simple way to visually conceptualize both the realistic human timeline, and the industry truths about music careers.
Keyword: realistic. I knew this because I couldn't find this simple, visual conceptualization out there. I tried really hard to. I nerded out on all the books and resources I could, and still felt perpetually overwhelmed and empty when trying to implement everything. It's too much scattered advice and too little actionable ways to tackle it all - what first, when do I do this, how can I make this happen, does any of this overlap, should I bother with this or this, am I allowed to skip this part, crap I didn't even know I didn't know this thing so what else am I missing, what am I forgetting, on and on indies ask these questions. All of this is what we call the Business.
Plus, none of these resources addressed what it's like to integrate being a human being into a music career - it's unrealistic to believe musicians can go after every single possible strategy, life is an either/or, so how do we choose? And what about the psychological tricks of the human ego that sideline so many musicians with illusions of low self esteem? What about the human body that's part of the athleticism of performing music? What about the downtime between events, what about when you can't see the big picture of your purpose? All of this is what we call the Personal.
Since I desperately needed peace of mind through this kind of structure, I knew other musicians needed it, too. I wasn't the only one out there - all of us artists already know the Art, we simply need some support to get it out of us.
In that spirit, I gathered interns & musician case studies over the years and set out to create a business model balancing the Art, the Business, and the Personal. Also, I always focus our research experiments on the forgotten ones in our industry: the true indie musicians with day jobs & small/non-existent teams, not massive budgets & ample gatekeeper resources. For this reason, it made sense for me to start MIC as MIC PGH back in 2013, in a true indie music city, Pittsburgh, PA. (Yes, that's why the domain name is www.micpgh.com - that's still our homebase.)
Fast-forward to now in 2021, MIC is international. I lead our 19-intern team spanning the globe from California to the Philippines, from my current Bloomington, IN, USA office.
- What makes The Mountain so unique? It starts with the fact that every intern, musician, & manager developing The Mountain is setting up, practicing, and actively working through conceptualizing how to allow ourselves to enjoy our music careers and pace the marathon, on a daily basis. You’d be surprised how rare this is in our “how to be a musician” education industry - at the very least, how rare satisfaction is. Satisfaction matters, it’s a serious neuroscience secret - enjoying the journey along the way creates surprising physical rewards, not just mental ones. Also, both the body & brain absolutely need satisfaction, and they won't rest till they get it - they'll haunt.
So, since dishing out advice that we don’t also follow ourselves makes no sense to us, I practice my music career as Millaze, and our interns, intern managers, and clients pursue their careers, all with this goal of satisfaction - because satisfaction fuels a Mountain climb, leading efficiently to more and more success. It's also a self-fulfilling prophecy thing. Our thoughts, and therefore the health of our minds, is quite the game-changer.
- Along the way, we’re tracking what we do, optimizing how we do it, and then always asking why we’re doing it, to connect it to our personal Definitions of Success. To accompany The Mountain's 6 Step Method, we create Masterplan templates and “Process Manuals” of best practices for optimizing our time/energy/money between the different activities and music industry fields, like Music Releases & Promotion, Touring, Sync Licensing, and PR & Press. Our Process Manuals get consistently updated in real time as the industry & world changes - in the future we may offer these to the public, as I mentioned earlier.
Final question: Okay, I'm on board! What are my next steps?
Step 1) Read The 6 Step Mountain Theory on our website, here.
This is The Mountain, at its core. It’s a simple 6 Step theory that helps you conceptualize the zoomed-out big picture of your career, and how to “climb” your music career Mountain. Simply reading the 6 Steps helps most musicians get a firmer mental grip on how to tackle some of their deeper issues and troubles, so we keep The Mountain here in our Sanctuary blog for free. Our goal is to make success possible in every music career, worldwide, so offering the theory for free on our site is how we’re helping the most musicians we can across the world.
Also, we know what it’s like to operate without the luxury of a big budget, so offering it for free is how we ensure that The Mountain remains in the realistic parameters of what true indie musicians actually have at their disposal (we make sure all our research stays in these realistic parameters, as well).
Step 2) Enjoy our other free educational products, and interact with us - request what you want to learn more about!
Follow @theMICMountain on social media,
Sign up for our Emails,
and Explore the Sanctuary Blog.
We have fun with this: our social media and blog is where we share the secrets of the industry that we sneak around like secret agents/scientists to find and reveal to indies. In fact, we take requests! If something about the music industry or your career is baffling you, send us your burning questions through DMs or here on our "Contact Us" page - then keep an eye out for us to address it.
Step 3) When you want more personal help, plan One-on-One Consulting - here.
As The Mountain’s Creator & Lead Strategy Expert, I train the next league of MIC Consultants from our rising intern teams, and together we personally work with musicians, managers, and labels. Consulting isn’t for everyone, so we’ll help us both understand if it makes sense for you, and then offer some other solutions. I’m pretty hell-bent on not making indies dependent on us through contracts and percentage deals - so I get creative on how we step in to help, then step out and let you go free.
Thank you, all my interns, freelancers, and musician friends over the years. We did what no one else has done. We created a holistic approach to conceptualizing a dream that helps improve the quality of peoples' lives, instead of the pocket-digging the way a lot of our industry unfortunately does. We are the living proof, "doing the thing" of a music career on the regular, and living our best lives while working with the realities of our human bodies & brains.
We stand in the next music world that's already begun: the amount of true indie musicians out there will only continue to rise, at the benefit of all of us (hello, more music to listen to & artist friends to make!). So many humans across history dreamed of this day, and we're the lucky ones who get to live it.
And to whoever you are, fellow musician, welcome to The Mountain, too - begin, or continue, your adventure here.
- Emily Plazek
Creator of The Mountain
Founder/Lead Strategy Expert
MIC: Music Industry Connected
June 5, 2021