Month: January 2012

Learning the ropes of the music business… at my day job

One of the things that has helped me survive in Nashville has been my day job. I have always felt extremely lucky to have an income that puts a roof over my head and food in my cabinets, and although there are days that I wish I had more daylight hours to devote to music, I know that time will come soon enough. While I expected to work hard and learn a lot at my position, I never expected to find so many connections between the insurance industry and the music industry.

Lesson 1: Know Your Product 

Seems simple right? You can’t sell something unless you know the product inside and out. If people have questions, you need to be the expert. Your confidence will instill confidence in others as they decide to buy from you instead of the competition. I think the same thing applies to being an independent artist, musician, or songwriter. Knowing your own style and your strengths, and being confident in what you do is essential to getting anyone to buy what you are selling, whether it be recordings, live performances, or songs.

Lesson 2: Learn to overcome rejection 

Any sales person will tell you that “low-hanging fruit,” or the easiest sales tend to be more sparse than those that are more of a challenge. In insurance sales, there are always plenty of reasons that people don’t want to buy, whether it be price, coverage, service, payment options, public opinion, and any other number of things that are largely out of the salesperson’s hands. Success comes when you learn to overcome rejection, whether it be by using another tactic to make the sale, or at least learning from the rejection and  moving forward. The same applies to being an independent artist; it is unlikely that you will book every venue that you want to play, or get a publishing deal from every meeting you take- especially as you are starting out. Instead of getting discouraged or giving up, assess the things you can do better, dump the techniques that aren’t working for you, and move on! Doing so will eventually find you more success, and each self-evaluation will get you one step closer to landing the next gig, or deal, that you are trying for!

Lesson 3: Set goals, track your progress. 

It’s one thing to feel like you are reaching your goals, but numbers don’t lie. Obviously, creative goals may not be as easy to track as numerical sales, but the simple act of setting goals with a timeline attached to them helps keep you constantly working towards something, and not just floating along without a destination in mind. Even if you don’t hit your goals by the deadline, you have a realistic view of what is possible, and something to work towards for your next goal-setting timeframe!

Lesson 4: Find a need and fulfill it. 

You can talk to hundreds of people in a day, but if you don’t identify what they actually need, you probably won’t make a sale. You may be the greatest new artist out there, with amazing songs, stage presence, and artistry, but if you can’t identify what a potential fan or industry connection are looking for, they probably won’t take what you have to offer. Whether it’s finding the venues that book your style of music or reaching out to fans who enjoy your genre of music, you can save yourself from a lot of unnecessary struggle by identifying your high-propensity prospects, or those that are more likely to buy what you are selling.

 

I certainly don’t claim to be an expert in sales, but these are some of the best lessons I’ve taken away from the time at my “day job.” Like I said before, I never expected that so many of the basic principles I learned to succeed at my job would help me so much in my music career. I was pleasantly surprised in the past year to find that not only is the whole sales process is getting easier, but I’m more confident when it comes to the business of me. Although that may sound funny, being an independent artist truly is like running a business, and I for one am glad to have at least a little experience in the business world to help me along the way!

 

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The Big Move

I’ve been talking to a lot of people lately about my journey to Nashville, and how I knew I was ready to move here, and how someone else might know that they are ready to move here. The easy answer is that there really is no easy answer; timing is different for everyone. I had dreamed of moving to Nashville since I was young, and always had the idea that once I graduated, off I would go!

In reality, it took a little more planning than that. I spent the summer before my senior year of college in Nashville with an internship, so I got a feel for the city. Like I had predicted, I fell in love with it and decided that I would definitely be back after graduation.

My senior year, I finished all my classes, and really focused on writing, recording, and practicing to get myself in the best vocal shape I could. I also kept working at my part-time job, which turned out to be a big stepping stone for my move to Music City.

As graduation drew nearer, I really started to plan the big move. I apartment-hunted with my soon-to-be roommate, researched different ways to get your foot in the door in Nashville, and looked for the oh so elusive big-girl job that I knew I needed in order to pay the bills that were sure to come. The part-time job I held throughout college was with a national company, and I was lucky to land a position at a local office in Nashville before graduation.

So there I was, cap and gown on, diploma in hand, and car packed. I thought I had everything I would need to start my fabulous adventures in my new home!

Let’s fast forward 2 and a half years, which takes us right up to today. I feel like it was just during the last year that I really centered in on a sound and style that I can call my own, and I have a very clear vision of where I want to take that sound. I have specific goals, much more focused than “I want to be a singer and songwriter,” which is what I was saying as I pulled into the parking lot of my very first Nashville apartment. I know I am at a spot now where I am finally ready to conquer the music industry… or at least a small corner of it!

Does that mean I wish I had waited longer to make my move to Music city? Definitely not! The experiences I had and lessons I learned my first couple years here are what brought me to the point where I am today, and have made me a better writer, musician, and business-woman. Whatever I was lacking when I started my journey, I believe was made up for with passion, drive, and curiosity. I knew that making music was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and I was willing to work hard and persevere through whatever unknown challenges were lying ahead of me to realize my dream. I also couldn’t wait (and still can’t, for that matter) to learn more about singing and writing music, and fine tuning the craft of songwriting, and figuring out how to navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of this industry.

I know earlier I said that the time to move, or start your career, was different for everyone- which is true. But I think that no matter what your goals, anyone that wants to make the pilgrimage to Nashville to try their hand in this industry needs to have at least those 3 things if they want to succeed. Talent is everywhere in this town, and knowledge can be gleaned from experience, but a love for your art, desire to keep improving your craft, and the spirit to keep pushing forward despite setbacks can’t really be learned or replaced, and will set you on a path for long term success… that’s my hope anyway!