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How To Fail At The Music Business

by Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan
11/14/2016

File Under: Building Your Music Business

There's no one recipe for a music business. As we've covered here at The DIY Advisor, there are a lot of techniques you can use to activate income streams such as free merch. But even if you set up your income the right way, try just one thing at a time, take advantage of new platforms and technology, and go into it with the right mindset, there are no guarantees. But what we've found as we've interviewed successful musicians across the world is there are no two that did it the same way. But there's one thing that they all had in common: they all failed.

A lot.

Each failure eventually led to discovering ideas that worked. Musicians are used to failing from a creative standpoint, although we never call it "failing". When writing music and coming up with ideas, we often experiment and try different things. Sometimes we mix and match song styles or ideas and it works. Other times we stumble on something accidently in the studio by hitting the wrong note, dropping the beat in the wrong place on the timeline, or goofing up something else that sparks something cool we continue to explore.

The thing is, when we fail while creating music, it isn't costly and usually doesn't take up much time. But this can be true with business ideas as well. In fact, a popular book on this subject, Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries tackles this very idea.

By trying things out in small and cheap ways, you can discover what works music business-wise, while minimizing your risk. Just like experimenting in the studio.

Below are three techniques you can use to fail (and eventually succeed) in the music business:

1. Go Small

The best ideas build on smaller ones that worked out. If you make a big bet in terms of money, time, scale, or scope, a failure can ruin your entire music business or even bankrupt you. To avoid making big bets like this, businesses focus on creating the smallest and cheapest viable product. They call this the minimum viable product, or "MVP". Take your idea and test out the smallest part of it.

For example, if you're a musician who's just starting out or tackling a new side project and you haven't created an album, don't! That's too big of a bet. Try just making a song or two. Release those. Promote them and see how they're received. Similar to the best method to sell out your shows, keeping it small can also make success easier to come by.

2. Use Free Options

In today's music business, there are a ton of sites, services, and opportunities out there for musicians that don't cost any money to try out. Between free promotion techniques or starting a music business for $0, even spending one dollar should seem like too big of a bet. Instead, you can keep it small and (very) cheap by using the free options available to you. When you do it this way, it's just your time that you're spending.

3. Drop It When It's Not Working

If something isn't working, abandon it and try the next idea. This isn't always easy to do for some people, but there are techniques that can help. For example, set a time limit to test something out. If it doesn't give you results by a certain date, put your energy into something else. Or use the tripwire technique: before you start, decide of a trigger like bad press, or low sales for a merch item, and if that happens, give up that idea and try something else.

These techniques work even better when you have a team behind you, because you have a bigger pool of people to brainstorm ideas to try and you also don't have to do it all yourself. Even if you have no one on your team yet to help, you can always ask people for ideas.

Finally, don't let these little bets keep you from dreaming big. Your dreams and what you try to bring them into reality are two separate things. You should always imagine the wildest of and biggest of successes with your music business. Just make sure when you try things out, make an MVP to see if it can work. Then, when one MVP takes off, go big.

Challenge: Come up with a "little bet" to try out in your own music business, set a condition to abandon it if it doesn't work out, and give it a try.

Related:

#musicbusiness #failure #success #musicbusinessfor$0 #littlebets #trialanderror

Photo credit: felixtsao


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