How to build the core for a music career in 2020

February 7, 2020

Lately, I got asked a lot about how I would plan a music career in 2020. Problem is, there’s not the ONE answer to this question. You have to consider too many factors and variables.

So, instead of giving an advanced guideline nobody can use, I’d rather focus on what you can do today: How to build the core for a music career in 2020.

The music industry, as you may still know it from the past decade, is changing quickly. In consequence, many artists and producers struggle with keeping up. But in the end, running a successful music career is like running any business: income minus expenses results in profit or loss.

And since starting a career doesn’t involve that much of an income, you have to welcome the thought of losing before you gain anything. Thinking long term will help you.

First, brainstorm what you need for your living expenses per month. To do this, map out all the things you’re paying in one year. Rent, mortgage, insurances, car, transportation, food, essentials, subscriptions, etc. Don’t be too obsessive about this but try to be as realistic as possible. Once you’re ready, add 10-20% (multiply by 1.1 or 1.2) on top of these expenses and divide them by 12 months.

For example, if you have yearly costs of 25k, adding 20% would result in 30k. Your monthly expenses would be 2.5k. If you think this is too high, go back to your map and find ways to rid anything that’s not necessary to live, e.g. you don’t need Spotify Premium, Apple Music, and Amazon Prime. Pick one.

Once you have a monthly ballpark number you can think of ways to earn enough to get even. Everything that exceeds your essential living expenses can go to your artist account. The less you need for your personal life, the better for your music career.

Just for comparison. Living in Germany, I used to spend 400-600 euros per month before we had kids. That’s considered below the breadline, but I felt wonderful and enjoyed life.

It is crucial that you have enough per month to break even. Because as long as you have not enough income your mind will constantly wander around thinking of ways of how to get money. That’s not nice. If you’re afraid, it will reflect in everything you say and do.

Whether it’s talking to your fans and trying to sell them something, or reaching out to venues and getting angry about the fees. Without a clear vision, you’re lost.

So, instead of going all-in full-time, look for a job that’s bringing in the money to acquire the essential monthly needs. Without distracting your creative side of the brain from producing great music, creating amazing content, and building a fantastic fanbase. Your day job is just for earning money. You should not aim for any promotion. I talked about this a few weeks ago. And then you can focus on what you really want to do – your music career. 

Let’s say you need 1k per month. If you had a minimum wage job of $10 per hour (I have no clue if that’s correct for your country), you had to work 100 hours per month. In four weeks, we end up with 25 hours per week. The week has 168 hours. Since we assume you spent quite some time sleeping, eating, resting, and doing other essential stuff, this leaves you with around 80 hours per week for work – or Netflix. Your choice!

If you subtract the 25 hours for your minimum wage job a week and also five hours for getting there and back home, you would still have 50 hours per week to work on your music business. Imagine this. 50 hours!

That is so much time!

Even if you used 1/4 of these 50 hours, you would still end up with 13 hours per week to work on your music career. This is almost 2 hours per day. Structuring these days so that you batch your work on your music career could help you even more. Days for songwriting, production, networking, marketing, and all that stuff.

Once you did all this, you just built a system that guides you to become the musician you want to be.

Of course, I haven’t paid attention to your local taxes. Or if you have kids. Or if you have other obligations. Or if you have a higher education. Or if you have capital or investments. Or anything else that changes our example. But even if you had only 5 hours per week that you constantly and meticulously use to build your music career, you would eventually grow bigger. Who knows where this ends.

And imagine managing your week so that you only work on three or four days tops. Wouldn’t it be awesome to have 3 to 4 days completely free to work on your music career?

This all is up to you. 

If you wanna stay at your day job, go for that promotion and enjoy life as you can without having a music career. That’s ok. Be honest to yourself (and your peers). 

But if you want to build a music career that surpasses all of your expectations, you have to work. Not only hard but also smart. Don’t just jump in without a plan.

First of all, what does success mean to you? If you haven’t figured it out, you have no chance in the long haul. It matters where you see yourself in many years from today. Without knowing your current position on the map and no destination, you can only get the right direction by chance. And that’s a very small chance.

Over the past decade, I’ve seen too many artists fail. If you have so much time for your music career and still fail to achieve something big (for you) out of it, you simply didn’t do the right stuff at the right time. Don’t call it on bad luck or that fate was on your side.

So stop distracting yourself or being lazy and start doing sh-t that matters!

Get your numbers straight, get a day job, stop worrying, invest your time and money into your future, and become the musician you want to be. It may take some time – a year, two years, five years… – but in the end, you won’t have any regrets if a successful music career is your goal. You are the only person in the world who can build this music career for you.

Start with the core. Then build your roadmap with a clear plan for songwriting, production, content creation, releases, marketing and everything else that you need to start building your music career effectively and efficiently in 2020. And if you’re eager to get my feedback on your plan, reach out to me and let me know.

Once you laid out your plan, follow it step-by-step. Don’t give a sh-t about anything else. Leave the fear of missing out and that ugly shiny objects syndrome in the past. 

Focus, execute, win.

If you don’t, you’re like me in the past. I’ve been there many times before I realized what I wanted and how my life has to be in order to get there. But even though I regret a lot of my decisions in the past, it’s the past. I’m pushing forward and focusing on the most important stuff. 

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