Maybe you’ve even felt a little miffed because you’ve been working at this music thing for a while now and you don’t understand why you’re not doing better. You’ve watched others pass you by – getting better gigs or music placements. They seem to be on a roll. While you’re stuck.
I think we’ve all felt this at some point in our career. And it’s a pretty icky feeling. One that’s hard to shake.
I’ve been on both sides of this. I’ve had times in my career where everything seemed to be handed to me. And times when I definitely felt dissed by music.
The difference comes down to Momentum.
In physics, momentum is the property or tendency of a moving object to continue moving. But figuratively—and in the music business—momentum can refer to the tendency of a person or group to repeat recent success.
I’m going to use both of these definitions as I talk about how YOU can create and build your own momentum with the following 3 ½ steps.
Step 1: Exert Effort
When you’re starting from a virtual standstill, you’re going to have to exert some serious effort. I like to use the example of pushing a car.
If you’ve ever had a car stall out on you or run out of gas and you had to push it to the side of the road on your own, then you know what I’m talking about. At first, it can seem insurmountable. Why even try? I mean, come on! This vehicle literally weighs more than a ton. How are you supposed to move that much metal?
But you love your car and want to keep it, so you convince yourself you must try. So, you plant your feet firmly and grit your teeth as you push against the back of the vehicle. You may even let out a yell as you summon every last ounce of energy you possess in your physical body.
And lo and behold, the car starts to move. Slowly at first. Very slowly. Maybe only inches. But those inches were only made possible because you decided to exert effort.
It took willpower. And courage. And yes, strength – mental and physical.
That’s what I’m talking about with building your own career momentum too. You’ve got to summon the energy to make the first move.
And yes, it might be difficult. Especially in the beginning.
You might have to break through some limiting beliefs. Or venture outside of your house, your studio, and your comfort zone.
You may have to do things you’ve never tried before. Or things that scare you. Or things you don’t particularly LIKE to do.
But the key is that YOU are the only one who can get your career moving. (And keep it moving.) You must be the one to make the effort.
Step 2: Take Action
The next step is that you MUST get out of your head! Stop planning and starting DOING!
Now, I’m the first to admit that planning has a purpose. But it does NOT create momentum. You can talk about your music goals and plan and strategize about them for forever. But absolutely nothing will happen until you take ACTION.
Remember our car? You can plan and analyze all you want about the best way to move it or where exactly to move it to, but it’s not budging until you actually get behind the car and start pushing. Plain and simple.
Now as an aspiring Music Mogul, taking action means making booking calls, rehearsing, contacting music libraries, going to networking events, gigging, recording cues for film/TV, learning new recording skills, responding to inquiries, writing newsletters, sending out press releases, updating your website, doing Facebook Live events for your fans, releasing CDs, and myriad other business activities.
Notice that I did NOT include writing songs in this list. The reason is that most songwriters will stay in songwriting mode indefinitely if left to their own devices. That’s OK if you’re just writing for your own enjoyment or as a hobby. But if you’re looking to have a sustainable (and profitable) music career with those songs, then you’re going to have to take other actions to create the momentum you’re looking for.
Oddly enough, this is where a LOT of creatives get stuck. Because taking action makes you vulnerable. It opens you up to criticism and rejection. And, quite frankly, the list of actions to take can be a little overwhelming.
So, let me give you a bonus tip: Whenever you’re stuck or in doubt of which action to take next, send someone a thank-you note. Being grateful and expressing it openly and personally is an amazing catalyst for all kinds of positive energy. It works like a charm!
Plus, here’s the good news about momentum: the actions get easier as you go. Going back to our car analogy… Once the car is moving, even just a little bit, it takes a lot less effort to keep it going.
So, instead of fretting over which one is the “right” action, just pick one—like sending a thank-you note. And get started. As you get moving, the actions will get easier and fall into place.
Step 3: Maintain Consistency
In order to keep things going, you must do the other steps consistently.
You can’t just get the car rolling and then stop pushing it altogether. Sure, it’ll keep moving on its own for a moment or two, but eventually without the sustained inertia, it’ll come to another stop. And then you’ll have to start all over again with massive amounts of effort.
So, in music terms, while the actions get easier to do, you still have to continue to do them. And regularly. These aren’t one shot deals. You can’t make ten booking calls on one day and then not make a follow up for three months. You can’t send a fan newsletter once every six months and expect them to remember who you are or that they like you.
I know a lot of artists (including myself sometimes) tend to be all-or-nothing types. We get a bee in our bonnet about film/TV placements because we read an article saying THAT’S the new way to make money in the music biz. And we spend an entire month doing nothing but submitting our songs (that we wrote for our own CD project) to music libraries and supervisors. And we do all of this to the detriment of everything else in our career that was already moving along at a fairly decent pace. Then, when we don’t get a placement in that month, or we get what we consider to be negative feedback, we complain that “they don’t get me” or we figure we’re not any good at this, and we stop it altogether. Only to then be disappointed that the momentum we had built in the area of touring has suddenly come to a screeching halt. Yikes!
Does any of that sound even remotely familiar?
Well, to build and maintain momentum in one or multiple areas of your music career, you really need consistency. In fact, doing something for 15 minutes EVERY DAY is better than doing that same task for 2 hours once a week. Making 3 calls a day is better than 15 calls all at once. It’s the repetition that compounds on itself. It helps to create habits which in turn make things easier to do because you’re doing them all the time. You almost don’t have to think about them anymore.
And if you want to get a little woo-woo about it, this consistency helps send a message to the Universe that this is what you are focusing on. And the Universe will respond with opportunities and positive reinforcements.
But even if you don’t buy any of that mumbo-jumbo, the truth is that consistency helps build momentum. In fact, in my opinion, this step is the one that ties it all together and makes true momentum possible.
Step 3 1/2: Allow for “Route Recalculations”
And the final piece of the momentum puzzle is this half-step: you’ve got to make adjustments along the way. Or keeping with our car theme, “route recalculations.”
You can’t just blindly keep doing the same thing over and over again if it’s not working. You are not in a vacuum. You must pay attention to the feedback you are receiving—positive and negative—and make minor or even major adjustments.
For example, you may need to change how you write or what you write about in order to get film/TV placements. You may need to learn new recording and mixing skills to get “broadcast quality” sound from your DAW. You may need to call a venue on the phone if your emails are not getting a response. You might need to update your press kit with live video to show your live performing skills in order to get the bigger and better gigs that you want. And you might need to think bigger and approach different kinds of venues (other than clubs, coffeehouses, and bars) so you can make more money at each gig.
If you don’t make adjustments, you might still have momentum, but where will that momentum take you? Probably not where you want to go!
These steps for building momentum will work for you regardless of your age, gender, or style of music that you do. It’ll work whether you’re just starting out or coming back to your career after a long hiatus.
One last point, YOU are in control of your momentum, but not necessarily the TIMING of it. You can’t control other people’s opinions or reactions. So, don’t try or worry about it. Focus on the things you can control. Make an effort where you haven’t before. Take the actions you know you need to take. And do them consistently. Make adjustments along the way. And watch as your momentum grows.
Enjoy the ride!