1. Every time you question why you are making music, ask yourself this: Is it because you want to make a living from it, or is it because you love it? If you want to make music seriously, music that you love and you want to make a living from it, then you should start planning everything out. After all, a serious music career is about the same thing as setting up your own company.
2. Making the music that you like is not the same, mostly, as making music that other will like to hear from you. There are no hard and fast answers to this conundrum, because the line in the sand that you must draw between being true to yourself, and accepting that you want people listening to you and buying into your music (literally, as in they will pay you) will be up to you. Sorry, there are no easy answers for this one.
3. Building a fan base is just about as difficult a process as making music you want. That's because you have to choose, in a way, what sort of fans you want to have. There's a delicate balance in between “being true to yourself” and “I will be attractive to a larger fanbase than my friends.” And yes, it takes time and effort, on the same level or near to making the music that got you into all this in the first place. If you want to remain reclusive and just known for your music, then you have to accept that you won't have that big a fanbase, or you better be sure you are a songwriting genius.
4. The question of becoming part of a musical movement, be it based on the music itself, on a generational surge, or a visual look, will always be one of how long you're willing to ride the proverbial wave. In this sense, you have to be as savvy as Madonna at her peak: being able to ride successive trends while retaining a basic identity. Conversely, you can also choose to be independent of any trend – but you have to make sure your individuality is such that your practically an icon waiting to be enshrined.
5. Forget the physical proof of music – in other words, say goodbye to CDs. In fact, the idea of a long-playing album is also suspect. What is important now is to have a regular presence in the online world, be it with a personal blog they can follow, singles that are released regtularly, or with a merchandising plan that keeps people aware of you. These days, you are selling you, aside from your music. People want to buy into you and your music.
6. Gigging is not everything. And the same holds true for writing songs in the studio, as it is for merchandising efforts as well. In other words, balance everything. Yes, this can be very difficult if you have band members to worry about. Again... time management is the key.
7. Do make sure that you have a strategy for using as many social media platforms and communication sites. E-mail lists are important, since you can use them across multiple platforms and mass-emailing services. The same goes for making sure that you maximize your content in two ways: for a general feed, and with some tweaks to maximize for the specific social media platform you will use.
Finally, and this is the #8: HAVE FUN. If you are not having fun, then what the hell are you doing spending so much time on all this in the first place???
*Photograph by Garon Honasan of Cog.