by Cari Cole
I cut my teeth in this business first by being a musician and artist, and second by being one of the top vocal coaches in the world for almost 3 decades now in New York City.
There’s one thing I know for sure. You can market ‘til you are blue in the face – hire the best PR or radio promotion company in the world – but unless you have what people want you have nothing. No matter whether you’re recording your 4th studio album or your first, you’re always a work-in-progress of becoming your best yet, and quite frankly, you can never dig too deep or work too hard on your music.
Today’s list for 2015 is a result of 3 decades of lessons learned and earned in music, branding and business from your Mama Lion music mentor … I hope it inspires your highest highs yet this year!
101 Things Every Musician Needs to Know in 2015:
1. Practice your craft every day. That’s the only way you’ll exceed expectations (yours included).
2. Sing every day, it takes an unbelievable amount of practice to be great. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – ever.
3. Train your voice. A pro vocal coach will make you sound 100x better and much faster than you could on your own.
4. Think ridiculously positive, you’re going to need every single ounce.
5. Train your brain to beat the odds, not succumb.
6. Expect success and don’t be disappointed when it doesn’t happen overnight. It never does.
7. Create powerful mantras that help you regain your strength, i.e., “I am brave”, “I am resilient.”
8. Have boatloads of patience. You’ll need every milligram.
9. Prioritize. Musicians are not wired for business naturally and are easily overwhelmed by the lengthy to do list. Every Sunday, sit down and prioritize the top 3 things on your list for the week ahead.
10. Don’t fight your musician nature. You are supposed to be highly sensitive, ridiculously creative, and super anxious. It’s part of what it takes to be a “creative”. So you can stop beating yourself up now :).
11. Don’t be permanently knocked down by rejection. If you’re doing your job right, you will be rejected, many, many, many times. It’s a sign you’re on to something (unless you’re not. Sometimes it’s because you’re just not there yet #itsalongjourneyworthtaking).
12. Take more risks with your art. Great artistry often steps outside the norm or is inventive.
13. Stop comparing. Comparisons distract you from your own path.
14. Perform as often as you can. Put in your 10,000 hours. Nothing less will put you on the front lines.
15. Don’t skimp with your musicianship. It shows.
16. Make the best music on the planet and don’t stop until you have it. Period.
17. Make the music you want to hear. Stop trying to please everyone else, and please yourself first – it’s infectious.
18. You can market ‘til you’re blue in the face, but if you don’t have what people want ~ you have nothing. #backtothedrawingboard.
19. Create your music masterpiece. First and foremost you are an artist – not a marketer. Music comes first.
20. Write songs that tell your truth but hit universal truths at the same time. When you write from your truth, it becomes an instant branding tool.
21. Don’t cave in to rhymes. That means focus on content first and rhyming second. Use masterwriter.com.
22. Don’t leave filler lyrics in your songs. Every word of your lyric is precious real estate, choose words carefully – use synonym finders to be more innovative.
23. Study songwriting, don’t take stabs. Songwriting is like golf, you suck most of the time until you don’t.
24. Write melodies that fit your voice and how it wants to move. Nothing is less compelling than an under developed or over-reaching melody that makes a singer sound worse or less than they are.
25. Write songs that fit you as as an artist, not just good songs – there’s a difference. If you don’t know what I mean, check out the links below.
26. Develop your signature sound, one that is instantly recognizable and undeniable.
27. Write songs that are hard won. Stuff that was cathartic for you.
28. Fall in love with why you are different.
29. Write music that offers people something more.
30. Be relevant. Make music that makes sense to the musical climate. You can be vintage but don’t bury yourself in an era without having some modernizing element.
31. Follow music trends but don’t copy them. By the time you release yours it will
32. Put your ear to the ground. What’s happening in rehearsal rooms and on the street is the next wave – not what’s on the radio. That’s already gone…
33. Stand out, don’t fit in. Don’t be a copycat.
34. Become a master of your craft. Your competition is.
35. Make broadcast quality music. Nothing less.
36. Work with top notch producers and that doesn’t always mean top dollar. Their work speaks for itself.
37. Only work with producers who produce the kind of music you can imagine for yourself and nothing less.
38. Want amazing off-the-hook kick ass vocals on your next record? Work with a vocal arranger (links below).
39. Don’t devalue your music with a crappy brand that hurts not helps. Elevate yours.
40. Send out a regular monthly newsletter. That means the same day, same time every month. Consistent marketing builds trust.
41. Have an email opt-in in exchange for something incredibly awesome that your fans will want and please don’t use the phrase “free music.” Come up with a compelling title for your giveaway (maybe the title of your songs).
42. Hire a VA (Virtual Assistant). And if you don’t know what that is or why you need one, check out the links below.
43. Engage with your fans – find out who they are and talk to them. They will love you.
44. Go way out of your way for your fans. Fans are who support your career and pay you.
45. Nurture your dreams, they need your constant watering or they wither and die.
46. Have BIG dreams. Don’t be afraid to dream big, big dreams create momentum.
47. Don’t overlook the details, they’ll nip you in the bud every time.
48. Things take way longer than you think, so plan for that and plan way ahead.
49. Always use strategy. Never ever do anything in the music business without a strategy behind you. Careers are created, orchestrated and manufactured. You want to build on every last move.
50. Plan out your year. Start with your goal and reverse engineer.
51. Don’t release your whole album at once. It’s a waste of marketing potential. Use each video or song release as an opportunity to shout out and grow your list.
52. Find where you fit and then chart a course to make it happen.
53. Grow a pair of balls, women included. You’ll really need them.
54. Don’t ask permission… just do it.
55. Don’t change with the flavor of the moment, stay on your course and it will pay off when the pendulum swings back your way.
56. Give graciously, people applaud generous natures.
57. Be outrageously bold and true.
58. Speak your truth, it’s what people really want from you – the rawer the better.
59. Share in other peoples success, it will attract more to you.
60. Praise others publicly, you’ll win instant friends (and possibly real ones and not just cyber friends).
61. Stop chasing big names in the business. Find the people that resonate with you and rise up with them.
62. Research anyone you meet and everyone you want to meet in the industry down to their picture so you can recognize them when you meet them.
63. Shout out about people who help you. It’s really, really, really good karma and will come back tenfold (it’s a small world.)
64. Share your knowledge, don’t be stingy. You could change someone’s life.
65. Share your successes small and tall. Sometimes the smaller stuff makes a bigger difference.
66. Work with people smarter than you (that includes everyone on your team.)
67. Be generous with praise and short on criticism.
68. Learn the difference between good and great, criticism and discernment.
69. Elevate your brand. Have a killer pic and image that visually nails the sound of your music. Your music isn’t enough to speak for you – it’s a visual world.
70. Make your website an experience for your fans.
71. Be a trendsetter, not a follower.
72. Pay attention to marketing trends.
73. White is in, black is out. Lose the white type over black backgrounds. Follow the leaders www.rihanna.com, www.allenstone.com.
74. Don’t use basic marketing tactics that you learn from online marketers, music marketing is a little more fickle than that. While there are similarities, music marketing follows slightly different rules ;)). Study the right stuff ~ check out the links below.
75. Name your fans and have a #hashtag page title on your site just for them.
76. Stop thinking there is a one-size-fits-all plan for success in music. There isn’t.
77. There are many artist paths, knowing yours is a key to helping your carve your unique path.
78. Find your next destination and then plan the route.
79. You don’t need a manager. Not until you are making at least $50K a year from your music. Build your career first. Everyone else does. Except Justin Bieber and he doesn’t count.
80. Work with people who believe in great music and who will tell you the truth, even when it’s hard to hear.
81. Not every music industry person is created equal. Don’t give the same weight to what everyone says.
82. Filter advice, but listen to everything worthy.
83. Stay clear of negative people, they’re not good for you, no matter how important they are.
84. If there are holes in your artistry or business acumen, get the highest level of help you can find. Not doing so will gravely keep you from your success.
85. Know how the music industry works. As Mary J. Blige says “the music industry is no place for people that don’t know things.”
86. Keep your head up – high, even when you don’t feel like it.
87. Don’t be pretentious, or name drop. It’s compensating for your lack of faith in yourself. Develop more self-esteem. You can do it.
88. Practice being exactly where you are for one week (not projecting into the future) and see what happens.
89. Don’t push the river. The river can’t be pushed and there is a reason it’s flowing at the pace it is.
90. Read the subtext. It’s not what’s being said, it’s how it’s being said that matters.
91. Don’t put your faith in people, put your faith in yourself.
92. Develop a stronger relationship with yourself. It’s the only one you really have.
93. Forgive easily. Everyone is doing the best they can given who they are.
94. Have big goals but low expectations.
95. Honor your impulsive nature (it helps you move forward), but never make hasty decisions that you’ll pay for later.
96. Don’t release music just because you have a deadline or you’ll release stuff that is under par. But always operate under deadlines, just move them back without a second thought. Music first over everything else.
97. Don’t worry if you’ve promised a release date you’ve missed, things always take way longer than you think. Just quickly apologize and talk about the improvements /progress/ journey!
98. Follow every artist you can find that you believe in and then shout out about them. This creates a rich community of support when you need it. And don’t fool yourself, you’ll need it.
99. Don’t vie for attention or adoration from others. Give it to yourself. You’ll stand way taller and shine brighter.
100. Believe in yourself more than your mother, family or friends do or did.
101. Always fight hard for your music and don’t make anyone wrong in the process.
If any of that speaks to you – it’s what I teach and preach. To turn up the volume with your music and brand in 2015, I invite you to come work with me. From free to VIP ~ check out the links below.
1. FREE STUFF: Get free vocal training on my Howcast “How to Sing” Videos.
2. VOCAL WARMUPS: The best vocal warmup exercises on the planet! Warm up don’t wear out. Eliminate strain + transform your vocal prowess.
And get on our list to get your free Gift: My Vocal Road Warrior 3-part audio Series: How to Keep Your Voice Healthy While You’re Out Conquering Your Tour!