Music Industry Shop Talk: The Artist Development Process in 8 Steps

By Cari Cole

Artist development in the music industry is pretty non-existent today, leaving the early progress to the artist themselves. The days are pretty much gone when a record label is gonna swoop you up and develops you. The question continuously arises for young, emerging  artists, “where do I start”? Or “how do I do this on my own?”

At CCVM, we’ve been helping artists develop, build their talent, make their records and carve their way in the industry. We’ve worked with big stars, rock legends, finalists on The Voice and American Idol and tens of thousands of independent and emerging artists. Artists working with us have gone on to sign all kinds of contracts from licensing contracts, to major and indie deals — or simply have quadrupled their fanbase evolving their own independent careers.

Here is a glimpse into the process we’ve used and evolved over the years, and continue to use every day at our studio, online and in our programs.

Keep a lookout for our upcoming Step Up to the Spotlight Artist Development Program, where we outline this in detail. Comes with a 52 week Artist Development Plan.

The Ultimate Artist Development Process in 8 Steps


1. Daily Practice & Habits: Developing Talent & Skill: Vocals, Musicianship, Songwriting, Performance Skills.

The first thing is developing the talent and musicianship of the artist. And the core of developing real talent, comes down to a strong practice ~ stellar daily habits & practices. To be a force in music, your musicianship, voice, performance skills have to be in tip top shape. The best way to ensure you’re at your best, or to evolve your skills (a continual process even for stars), is to practice your craft every day (minimum 5 days per week), and to perform regularly. We teach artists the mindsets they need to step into their daily practice and helping them build those habits that help them truly stand on that world stage and stay there. You can’t fool anyone with less, least of all yourself!  

Your Optimal Practice Schedule: Start by practicing voice and your instrument (guitar or piano) 3 days per week. Build to 5. Recommended practice is: 30 – 60 min of voice,  30 – 60 min of instrument practice.

Vocal technique: 30 – 60 min 5x per week. Vocal technique is the routine of singing vocal scales. Start with our Singers Gift Warmups which helps you open and free your voice while strengthening your instrument fast!)

Vocal rehearsal: 45 – 60 min 5x per week. Rehearse a set of songs or work out individual songs during this time.

Instrument practice: 60-90 min 5x per week. Practice your scales and songs during this time. Every singer or music artist needs to be able to accompany themselves. It’s never too late to get started!


2. Signature Songwriting

At CCVM we teach “signature songwriting.” Coined by us, this term means songs that build a signature, that come from the themes in the artist’s life. We have found that when artists write from personal experience it makes their material more authentic and resonates more with artist and audience.

Once you get your vocal technique and rehearsing your songs under your belt, as well as your instrument practice, then you can add songwriting to your daily practice.

Songwriting practice: Journal daily to write down song ideas and lyrics. Then 2-3x per week sit down to write for 90 min – 3 hours. Make sure this time is uninterrupted.

We go more deeply into this process in our Step Up to the Spotlight Artist Development Program which you can join anytime, and you get VIP Lifetime Access to all future runs (we run the program 1-2x per year — it’s an amazing community of thousands of artists worldwide!)


3. Building Your Artist Persona

An artist persona is something that is built over time ~ it’s more authentic that way, or more well thought out. But there are ways to speed it up. Here’s what to pay attention to.

Create a Pinterest or Instagram board of images that appeal to your artist self. What does your stage show look like? Who is coming to see you? What are you wearing? What is your message? Creating a visual experience is one way to help you step into your artist persona.


4. The Making of an Exceptional Record

Even in a singles market, artists still need to think of “the record” as King. If a new artist only has 1 or 2 songs out, that’s not enough for us to really come on board as a fan. It’s enough to peak our interest, but not to become a die-hard fan.

And every artist that breaks through needs “the record.” The one that makes a strong enough statement artistically and musically ~ the kind that garners raving fans and press.

In our programs, we teach artists how to make an exceptional record. From the process of song content and selection (A & R), to choosing the right producer, to the making of that record — this is the art and science of stepping into your genius.

Someone once asked Rick Rubin: “How do you make a hip record?” His response?

When you set out to make the BEST record you can – barring no limitations… (and that means not rushing it) — you just might make something that has enough energy to garner that attention and break you through. And be sure it’s not just your opinion, but the opinion of everyone around you, including industry professionals ;).


5. Develop A Killer “Live Show”

This is the next step in the flow. An artist is only as good as their “live” show. Building a strong live show is an art and science unto itself.

Start by examining your strengths and how to best present them. How are you most comfortable? When you are imagine your Artist Persona — what does the stage look like? Build from there.

Also important is that you are able to translate that Live Show in different settings. Every artist has to be able to perform solo, with 1 musician, 2-3 musicians and a full band. They all require creativity to pull off while making a statement and creating an experience for your fans. Look at Ed Sheeran and you’ll know what I mean. A guy and a loop pedal who took over the world! You’ve GOT THIS.


6. Artist Branding

This is where we see lots of artists struggling, or coming up short. Probably because they’re good at #1-5 — but not as good in this domain.

To help artists we work with, we’ve built a team of vetted industry professionals that we use, along with Mama Cari’s insights and savvy around branding, to create a brand that says something — one that fits the artist like a glove.

Here’s how we do it. We start with a great photographer (someone who shoots in music) — plan out the photo shoot with art direction for that shoot, hire the hair stylist and makeup artist (who also work in music) and get it done! The key here is the right people and the art direction. Art direction gives your team direction #priceless.


7. Music Marketing

Music marketing is the next step. We’ve got the artist, a killer persona and “live” show, an exceptional record and brand — now we’re ready for marketing. To us, there are no “tricks”. News of great music travels fast. It starts with the music. Then — it’s all about the brand and message. The marketing message is huge. We use our team of bio writers who are music journalists and A & R reps (so they KNOW music) and we build a story. This is a HUGE part of the marketing piece.

Then it’s about finding the right people to help market. We always recommend that an artist build a team. Start with a VA (Virtual Assistant) that knows social media and can help build campaigns.

And keep in mind that for independent artists, you want to market each song for 12 weeks (at least.) Start with the video and then the audio. Build each campaign around the songs message and the message of the artist. Let people get to know you and what you are about.


8. Growing Your Career Independently & Within the Music Industry

The most important thing you do is to consistently grow your music career. Build your fanbase as well as attend music conferences and industry events and build your connections. Opportunities to grow your career come from relationships with people inside the industry. Don’t be on the outside looking in. Both are equally important.


Wanna get started or evolve your music career? Contact us. We’d love to help at any point in the artist development process! Whether it’s our free resources (and we’ve got a ton), or working with you in our programs or privately, we can help you move forward faster and with more impact! Don’t hesitate to reach out! We look forward to meeting you!