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YOU INC. - Think like a CEO and take charge of your music career

Part 1 – The Artist & the CEO

For the independent musician who seeks to take the charge of their own musical career, there exists a dilemma. How do I focus on my craft and me, as a business, at the same time? Afterall, the business side of it all is enough to require full-time focus. Unfortunaley, we are faced with the daunting task of having to be the creative force, the passionate performer, and the other facets of being “the Artist”, while taking the business aspects in a serious context.

It boils down to paying out of pocket to have the business aspects managed effectively or doing it yourself until you reach the point where outsourcing is feasible. Even in the event you can outsource the business aspects, it benefits you to know what to expect from them. Educating yourself is never for naught. The purpose of this article is to offer some food-for-thought with the “Do-It-Yourself” DIY model. Part of the mission of TMM is to empower artists with the knowledge and tools needed to make solid decisions regarding your career, especially in the context of DIY vs. using a service provider.


This is a brief instruction to the concept of creating distinct and separate roles for you that aid in the holistic fulfillment of your dreams and aspirations. At this point, you no doubt have a handle on being the Artist. This is the natural state we’ve embraced since first being drawn to music. However, for many independent musicians and artists the objective is to be both the artist and the business-savvy entrepreneur. The traits and habits of one are often polar opposites of the other. What we have to do in order accomplish being sufficient at both roles is to create separation of focus and ego. Your natural ego as the Artist will benefit from the skills you adopt and hone as the other role, the CEO. To help convey this concept we will be using the analogy of wearing different “hats”. Earlier in my career I worked for a Chief Financial Officer who always used this analogy to illustrate different focal points and roles. I’ve found it to be very effective when coaching others.


One hat we wear is the Artist hat. While wearing the Artist hat we approach life within the framework we’ve established as that person. This typically includes our general outlook and lifestyle. One important consideration is the fact your role of CEO of You Inc. doesn’t necessarily have to abandon the outlook or the lifestyle or your role as the Artist, in order to wear that hat effectively. However, with that said, when the outlook or the lifestyle impedes the results or focus of that role, decisions have to be made. Some of those decisions can be tough and life altering. I will expand on that thought in a moment. First let’s take a look at why this is important.


Why should you care, let alone commit yourself to this concept? I would offer these reasons:


  • Leave nothing to luck. The majority of successful people will tell that luck played a very minor role in their overall fruition. Most people make it happen through will, determination and a plan.

  • Becoming business-savvy in your endeavors can yield life-long benefits, regardless of if you pursue a music career or not.

  • Investing in yourself, your education and your own empowerment will allow you to navigate the path to success with a greater degree of confidence and assurance of meeting your objectives.


Separation of ego is not as foreign a concept for musical artists as it may be for some other professions. We naturally do this to extent. For example, when I perform onstage as a headliner, I take on more of the natural intimate performer where my aim is to create an emotional connection with my audience. However, when I perform as a member of a local cover band, my disposition is clearly centered on creating “rock star” moments and putting on a more elaborate show. We all tend to have slightly different personalities depending on how we are engaged. The trick here is invest time to develop the multiple sides of you into two distinct roles. These roles or hats you must wear are “The Artist Hat” and “The CEO of You Inc. Hat” Over time the traits become intermingled into a single “Super You”.


Before we dive into expanding on these ideas, I need to emphasize two important things:


  1. This is not a Music Business Course or Curriculum. You can easily pursue a business degree and apply it to music or leverage one of many different resources in the industry that know much more about it that I do.

  2. This is a course on how to position you mentally to tackle the difficult aspects of running a business.

Part 2 – The Different Dynamics

Between my time in the military, as a corporate executive, and as an entrepreneur, I can share with you that learning the intricacies and subtleties of being a good businessperson will not happen overnight. Now with that said, the music business is quite literally in a perpetual state of change. All of the old rules are out the window and the new rules are being written and rewritten right now. What I’ve done is condense some solid “common-sense” items with some proven methodologies to create series of immersion techniques that will allow you to take control of your ambitions and wear that CEO hat with confidence and enthusiasm. Depending on your aspirations, you should seek a formal business education. What we need to accomplish now is to explore the differences in dynamics when wearing the Artist hat versus the CEO hat. There are three core elements that we will examine: The Message, The Image and The Bank.


The Message –


What is your message? By message, I’m referring to a singular concept that you convey through your art. I realize that this could be difficult to deduce. For some artists their message is anti-establishment or anger for society’s woes. For others it may be materialism, wealth and sex. Still for others it may be a single positive message. The point is your message is your message. Only you can determine what “it’ is. There is no right or wrong answer as to what your message should be. A message can change over time. Madonna, John Mayer and Cat Stevens are examples of artists who have altered their message overtime. Dave Matthews, Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) and Robert Smith (the Cure) are examples of artists whose message has remained predominantly stable over many years.


Here are some of the dynamics we must consider between roles:

Wearing your CEO hat does not mean you divorce yourself of your message. Rather, it means your focus isn’t the message; it’s selling that message and your tie to the message. Before moving on, it is imperative to emphasize the importance having a concise and direct message. One of the exercises you should undertake is the formulation of this concise message. To do this yourself, you should ask four of your closest friends to write a sentence or two describing what they believe your message is. Of course, you should do the same as well. Next you synthesize the results based key words like “Fun-Loving” or “Happy Go-Lucky” or “the World is Screwed” or “I Hate Men”, etc. Lastly, you should condense this down to a simple and exact phrase that summarizes you. “Optimistic Daydreamer” is an example of concise phrase entails a wide array of musical and personality options.


The Image –


What is your image? As much as your message conveys “what you are about”, your image conveys “who you are”. You message may be “Be Sexy”, but your image is probably more in-line with “Sex Symbol”. Your image embodies how the rest of the world perceives you. Often times a person’s image is impacted by their actions, e.g. Amy Winehouse or Chris Brown. Other times image is contrived mechanism for marketing purposes, e.g. Marilyn Manson or the Pussycat Dolls. Your image delivers your message to the public masses. There is a wide array of considerations with respect to image that we cannot cover here. The objective is to understand how image will vary depending on which hat you are wearing.


Here are some of the dynamic differences between the roles:

Again, wearing your CEO Hat doesn’t mean you divorce yourself from your image. Instead, this is about gaining valuable insight into yourself and being able to discern how your image is either working for you or working against you, from a “business” context. Keep in mind that old saying, “there is no such thing as bad press.”  To a large degree this is very true. However, you should keep in mind that the public is fickle. What they love today, they may hate tomorrow. Your CEO role is who is responsible for weathering the storms.


The danger with image is when we become fully immersed in blind disregard for introspective analysis. In other words, your image may embody the whole “party like a rock star” mantra. There is nothing wrong with that… with boundaries and limits. If all you do is party and don’t have the discipline to stop and keep your business in order, then maintaining your image will undermine your business. I encourage you to seek a sense of balance. For every hour you spend recreationally, you should spend equal time building your business. When you have reached some of your financial goals, then you can start tipping the scale more the recreational direction.

The Bank –


When I refer to “the bank” I’m really talking about all of the dimensions associated with our finances. There are some important differences in how we view and manage the financial aspects of our lives depending on which hat we are wearing. Your bank is both your freedom and your prison. In context, your message may reflect your view of your bank (or lack of) and your image may have a dependence on your bank for sustainability. Regardless, we have to have a firm understanding of the cause and effect these other attributes impose on our finances.


Here are some of the dynamic differences between the roles:


Part 3 – The Recipe for You Inc.


How do you get your arms around becoming an effective businessperson? Everyone reading this will have different starting points. Some will be much better versed in business etiquette than others. Here is the general recipe I follow for instructing and coaching artists in this space:


Once you’ve completed those six steps, you’ve basically accomplished the groundwork for ensuring your self-guided career has the best chance of success. This recipe shows you what to do. How to accomplish these things is much more complex. Concepts are great, but without the ability to get ideas out of the clouds and on the road, they are virtually worthless. Because everyone is different, the path to implement can vary in degrees of difficulty and effort. I will offer you this promise… whatever you put into making this happen for yourself, you will get double in benefits.


There are two things you always be educating yourself on: 1) conceptual approaches to problem solving; and 2) the tools needed to do solve those problems. Although it is recommended that artists participate in the available workshops, it is possible to achieve good results on your own. The key is commitment and discipline to stick to your commitment. I cannot understate that the difference between “should-a, could-a, would-a” and “done that” is will, determination and a plan.


One of the tools I use on an ongoing basis helps identify where you are and where you are going. Additionally, this is helpful in formulating many of the deliverables needed in the recipe above.


This is a repeatable change management process. The steps are:


  1. Measure

  2. Set Objective

  3. Define Plan

  4. Monitor

  5. Measure



1. Measure –


In order to have a path, you need a point of origin and a destination. Growth and improvement have to be measured against a baseline. In this capacity, we must define where we are with respect to the components we’ve discussed. The table below outlines the general approach to establishing a baseline.

 2. Setting Objectives –


Setting good objectives is not some lofty idea like a hit record or becoming a millionaire. Although those goals suit another purpose, the objectives I’m describing are much more granular and tie back to the measurements you’ve already completed. All objectives contain a verb, such as: lower; increase; establish; produce; develop; etc. The secret to setting good objectives is: 1) know where you are starting from; and 2) understand your baseline from four (4) dimensions. Those dimensions are strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.


The general rule is that you should create objectives that accomplish the following:


  • Maintain your strengths.

  • Address your weaknesses.

  • Identify and seize opportunities.

  • Mitigate threats that could derail your plan.




3. Defining the Plan –


Planning is hard for most of us. The trick is developing habits that facilitate planning being incorporated into daily routine. Why? I believe a plan is only as good as the discipline shown to keep it . Some people have as many plans as they do ideas, and none ever see fruition. Any good plan will be based on the elements we’ve discussed. It will transform those deliverables from the exercises on measuring and setting objectives into tangible milestones. For example if I have a weakness I want to overcome, my objective may involve doing something new to introduce a new skill. My plan has to have a “ramp up” period tied to my schedule in order to be successful. Plans should be measurable, executable and realistic.



4. Monitoring Progress –


No plan, no matter how well conceived, will go forth and do itself. Success is dependent on formalizing a method of monitoring your results and instituting a contingency plan should your plan start to go awry. Baby step milestones and larger milestones are great monitoring points. Please keep in mind that building and executing a plan is not easy, even for trained individuals. I’ve been managing projects for a long time and it is never easy, but the results are usually worth the pain and effort.



5. Measuring Again –


If there is a point of origin that requires measurement, then there is a destination that requires measurement. One purpose for measuring again is to find out if you landed where you thought you would. The other purpose has the do estimating. When you build a plan you have to sometime make some wild guesses at how long something will take to accomplish or how much is will cost. Estimating is an art all in itself. The better you are at estimating time, effort and money, the better you will be in all aspects of your life.


The third reason for measuring again is the most important. You have to answer the question, “What’s Next?” Once you’ve rang the bell and accomplished an objective, based on your plan, its time to find out where you are at and either set the bar higher or do something different.



Part 4 – What’s next?


Now that you’ve been exposed to these concepts and tools, you will have to chart your next steps. These measures are part of a concept I refer to as “Your Success Path”. We all know that talent alone will not make your dreams come true. It will require either an enormous amount of luck or a well-devised plan coupled with will, determination and effort.


If you are serious about being your own boss and taking control of the outcome of your career then you are now armed with some good information for accomplishing that task. I would encourage you to do some or all of these things that follow:


  • Buy Quicken, Quicken Books or similar tool – The efficiency and effectiveness gains are enormous and your taxes become much easier.

  • Define a Web Strategy – Have a purpose for each online presence and have a plan for those community sites that drives fans to your site. You can control the experience from there.

  • Use a calendar – An app that you can access via mobile device or computer is a must. You should be able to check and commit to dates wherever you are in a matter of minutes not days.

  • Book down time – Using your calendar, ensure you booking time for mental health breaks.

  • Book business time – All of the business creation and maintenance takes time to accomplish. Book time for business activities on your calendar or chances are you might not get around to them.

  • Get business stationary – You need to have business cards and a good email template that serves as stationary for your communications to other businesses and fans.

  • Form a network of business partners – Even though you may be able to design your own graphical elements, you still need to find and build relationships with other businesses that perform that service. The more successful you are, the more valuable your time becomes. Eventually, you have to let go of the smaller and lower value tasks to focus on the higher value items. As you progress down your path you will relinquish the worker tasks, but always retain some control over the thinking tasks.




I wish each of you the greatest of success in your endeavors. Feel free to contact me at anytime with questions or comments regarding these topics.




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