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Objective Conference Talk: Moving Your Career Forward

extreme tour trevecca nazarene university May 24, 2021

On Friday, May 21, 2021, I was honored to share what I’ve learned about preparing for a career in music with more than 500 attendees at the Objective Conference held on the campus of Trevecca Nazarene University. These singers, songwriters, and musicians paid their own way to Nashville to learn how they could better use their music to transform their world as part of a national/international event called The Extreme Tour (theextremetour.com).

Here are some of the key points from my talk which was entitled BUILDING A PLAN & GOING FORWARD:

  • A HOBBY is something you do for fun.
  • A CALLING is something you do because it’s who you are.
  • A CAREER is the way you make your living.

Nobody OWES you a career in music. It’s not an inalienable right in the Constitution. To have a successful CAREER as an artist/musician means that you generate sufficient value that people are willing to:

  • Pay you to perform onstage or in studio
  • Buy or license your songs or performances physically or digitally
  • Support your career through merch sales, sponsorships, and/or patronage. 

A CAREER AS AN ARTIST/MUSICIAN REQUIRES “4 E’s & a T”: 

  1. EXPERTISE (knowledge & understanding)
  2. EXPERIENCE (fearless familiarity)
  3. EXCELLENCE (undeniable quality)
  4. EXCEPTIONALITY (unique Wow! factor)
  5. TENACITY (tireless self-discipline)

None of the above happens by accident, it requires a plan, and YOUR PLAN BEGINS WITH A MISSION STATEMENT.  A mission statement is a clear and concise internal statement of one or more sentences that defines your WHO, WHAT, and HOW and guides the choices and opportunities that come your way.

1. Your Message (the WHAT?)

  • The difference between being an artist and simply being a musician is message.
  • Is there a theme that threads through your songs?
  • When you perform, are you intentional about what you want your audience to think, feel or do because of that experience?
    • U2 sings about intimacy and community.
    • Beyoncé sings about empowerment.
    • Springsteen sings about the struggles of the human condition.

Yes, their music is entertaining, but it’s also persuasive, inspiring, and transformative.

2. Your Audience (the WHO?)

  • If you have a message, then you are a messenger who is sent to a specific audience.
  • Example: If you were a missionary to France, you’d have to learn how to speak French.
  • You’d study their values and culture.
  • Your task is to identify your audience and learn their language.

Understanding your audience will—by definition—cause you to turn down some opportunities that come your way so that you can focus on your core audience.

3. Your Medium (the HOW?)

  • When you understand your message and your audience, you align your presentation with your message and audience.
  • How does each song, each arrangement, each word spoken from the stage, each tweet and blog post align with your goal?
  • Your task is to consider how everything you do serves your overall message and specific audience and then shape your music and concert accordingly.

Examples of ARTIST MISSION Statements:

  • “To create distinctive, high-energy hip-hop music that resonates with today’s teens in such a way as to move them toward health and wholeness and away from despair and destruction.”
  • “To entertain children with original memorable & singable songs that teach self-worth and encourage mutual respect to others.”
  • “To write and co-write commercial country songs with positive values that can be published, recorded, and monetized so that I can make a full-time income within five years.”
  • “To be a musical missionary to non-believing college students with a ministry is underwritten by individual Christians and congregations using culturally relevant pop/rock songs with spiritual implications.”
  • “To become a working studio guitarist in the pop, country, and faith-based music fields within four years.”

Once you have a clear mission statement, you can begin working on a SELF-MANAGEMENT PLAN:

  • A good plan takes you from where you are to where you want to be.
  • Therefore, you need to assess your current situation and then set clear goals for what you want to achieve.
  • What you may lack in inherent talent you can make up for in having a simple written plan and the self-discipline to systematically achieve those goals.
  • Elements of SMART goals:
    Specific
    Measurable
    Actionable
    Realistic
    Time-Bound
  • It would be tempting to simply make a list, prioritize the items, allocate the necessary resources, recruit the right team members, and measure progress toward goals.
  • That’s all well and good, but these are EXTERNAL tasks. The real work is done INTERNALLY as you become the artist and person you aspire to be.
  • So instead of a traditional “To Do” list, I’m suggesting you create a short “To Be” list using the 4 E’s & a T list:
    • What specific EXPERTISE (knowledge & understanding) do I lack? How can I garner it?
    • What EXPERIENCE do I need more of? How can I get it?
    • In what essential area of EXCELLENCE do I need to move from good to great?
    • What is my unique EXCEPTIONALITY? How can I refine and enhance this Wow! Factor?
    • In what key area can I exercise more TENACITY (tireless self-discipline) to help me make progress toward my goals.

Thanks again for the privilege of sharing my journey with you. For more resources, check out www.musicbusinessbasics.com, sign up for the free newsletter, and get a 24-hour FREE preview of my “How to Make a Living in the Music Business” online course.

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