Going Pro: 6 Essential Steps of Artist Development for All Musicians

By Cari Cole:

Transitioning from the dream to the reality can be a daunting proposition no matter how much you want it. Seal himself said in an interview on Sirius FM that “No one can prepare you for fame,” no matter how bad you want it. And desire alone will not manifest it for you. It’s vision, determination, blind faith, a sh**ton of cash, and 10,000+ hours of hard work.

But don’t let that scare you, just get to work.

“Being a musician is never going to go away. So, you might as well do it well before you die.”

And stop thinking that artist development is just for beginners. It’s an ongoing part of the fabric of being an artist all throughout your career. If you’re on your game you’re always pushing the boundaries. We just recently lost a legend who never stopped reinventing himself. David Bowie just released his 25th studio album of his career, Blackstar, that continues to obliterate boundaries just days after his death.

Here are my 6 Steps for all musicians who sit at the altar of creation. You can’t do this enough.
1. Daily Habits & Practices.
Practice is not for sissies. It’s for those who want to have exceptional artistry. Like the artists you admire. The ones you pay homage to. Practice your craft every day, develop the discipline to strengthen your voice, your instrument and your songwriting. Don’t fool yourself. The quote by famous classical guitarist Andres Segovia says “If I don’t practice one day, I can tell… If I don’t practice for two days, my guitar can tell… If I don’t practice for three days, my audience can tell. Truth. Besides, if you aren’t working your craft, it screws with your mindset. THIS is the key to artist development.

2. Master an Unshakable Mindset.
Being a musician is a tough road to climb. As I mentioned at the top of this article, it takes blind determination and faith to get there. There will be many temptations to bail. That’s why it’s so admirable. That’s why you need a stronger than a mountain kind of mindset. Confidence doesn’t come naturally, it takes time and nurturing. Grow it with constant watering like you would a plant. Reminders like “I can do this”, or “if _____ (fill in the blank) can do it, so can I” … inspire yourself and never give up, ever. That’s how you get there.

3. Love What Makes You Different.
The industry will tell you to be like everyone else. Wrong. Brilliant minds in the industry will tell you to be yourself more than you think you can. Everyone who’s achieved artistic brilliance in music knows that nothing great comes from being a “copycat.” Plus, authenticity is key to growing your fan base. Don’t be afraid to stand out, but find a way to make it relatable and relevant.

4. Artist Development.
What’s the next phase in your artist development? What do you have to do that you are not doing, or haven’t thought of yet? What are you afraid of doing but wish you had the guts to? Do that. Do you need to plan a sabbatical for your next album? Find a producer who will be innovative with you or take you higher? Stop working with that local guy and go for a big gun with a track record? What about writing with co-writers who are better than you? Just because you don’t know how to make it happen doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish it. Make a plan. Reach out to get help. Artists don’t develop in a vacuum.

5. Get a Gameplan.
You can’t drive from Austin to LA without a map. You can’t get to the next level in your career without a gameplan. What’s on the next page for you? Most independent artists say they want a manager or a booking agent. Yeah, but are you manager worthy? Make a plan to become manager worthy (start with making $50K a year). Higher level artists I work with want their next album to sell 10 million copies instead of 2. I help them make a plan to seriously uplevel their songwriting and vocal craft and find the next innovative producer who “gets them.” The way to manifest your goal is to make a rock-solid gameplan to get there. The great thing about planning is that it works. It creates the steps to get to your destination. If you don’t know where you’re going how can you get there? If you know where you’re going, you’ll need a plan to get there.

6. Follow Your North Star.
The one that knows exactly where to go. Never let anyone trump your own instinct. And if you’re not in touch with it, dive deeper into your artistry. It’s there waiting for you.

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