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Music Business

How to Stand Out in the Music Industry

The Lottery Musician vs. Opportunist Musician

How to Stand Out in the Music Industry

Some people make music to make it big. Their vision of success is defined by artists they admire who’s life is filled with endless adoration and attention, deep money pockets, exotic vacations, and a luxury lifestyle. The pursuit of a music career is often associated with this end goal. Why wouldn’t it be? It seems like a fun lifestyle.

Unfortunately, this kind of dream is like trying to win the lottery. I call these musicians the “Lottery Musicians.” With so much sonic competition, artists are frequently asking, “How do I stand out?” And then, they feel overwhelmed by the competition, tirelessly promoting their music without strategy hoping for a stroke of luck and random discovery.

However, the ever changing music industry demands a change in our own strategy and how we promote our music. The Lottery Musician has little odds of succeeding like the big name artists today. With an oversaturated sonic space, finding the Lottery Musician is like a needle in a haystack. Viral music is not the solution; and frankly, this method hardly ever works.

But earning a career in the music industry is still very possible. It just looks different. Instead of being the Lottery Musician, you’ll need to be the Opportunist Musician.

how to make it in the music industry

Success is About Planning and Deliberation

Truly standing out in the music industry requires a paradigm shift in the way you think about and share your music. With how easy it is to create and share music, it is also becoming easy to develop your own career online without deep ad budgets and a record label.

The key is to create digestible goals one step at a time without becoming overwhelmed. This means being deliberate and specific with your planning. Even with who you reach will need to be very specific.

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The key difference is that instead of trying to reach the masses with a “Build it and they will come” mentality, think about specific market you’d like to reach. The truth is, you don’t need millions of fans to make a 6 figure income.

First, let’s say you have $50 worth of product that an average adoring fan could purchase. If you want to start generating $50,000 in revenue, you’ll need 1,000 super fans. With millions congregating on social media platforms, 1,000 seems doable, right? Musicians that see this potential and strategize it well to their advantage are called “Opportunist Musicians.”

Introducing the Opportunist Musician

how to make it in the music industry

The difference between a Lottery Musician and a Opportunist musician is that the opportunist musician understands exactly who they’re reaching and how. For example, a lottery musician might want to be a country pop musician, performing everywhere they possible can, but hardly gain any traction while losing money on touring and no promotion plan.

A opportunist musician might specifically market themselves as a new-age indie-pop singer-songwriter based in Seattle, who sounds like other speciality artists like Julian Baker, Sharon Van Etten or even Bon Iver.

Do you see the difference? The opportunist musician has specificity in genre, location and even musicians they may relate to. This helps you understand who to target, where and how. The lottery musician gets lost in the overwhelm of competition and planning. As a result, there’s no strategy, and requires deep pockets in order to garner any significant exposure.

The opportunist musician in our example, on the other hand, might start with independent blogs to get featured. They might exclusively choose specific coffee shops to perform where their target fan might hang out in.

The reason this works is because they’ve developed an understanding of their specific fan and know how to make it easy to earn guaranteed buy-in, while the lottery musician chooses a random venue to perform to random people to earn just a possibility of buy-in.

Defining a specific niche to maximize your opportunity not only helps with growing your fanbase, but it allows you to create profitable merchandise, organize successful tours, and help you engage better with your fans.

For your own music, consider how you can continue to define your fans. When you do this, also consider how your music, brand and social media caters to your fans. This not only improves your content for your specific fan, but it also helps them feel more connected with you.

To get started, here is a 5 step checklist to help define your niche and improve your marketing strategies!

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