There’s a phrase in the music industry that bothers “industry people” – and the phrase is up and coming.

It’s a little unfair, but I understand the annoyance. Because the phrase doesn’t really mean anything – are you saying you’re new?

Are you saying you’re new? Then say you’re new.
Are you saying you’re relatively new but have made some waves? Then say that and define the waves.

I get it – but I try to be an understanding human, so I really don’t mind. But the phrase has got me thinking – how can an artist go from “up and coming” to just.. up?

Here are some key ways to step up your game this year.

Stop having vague goals.

I see this more in the music industry than anywhere else – I find that some artists feel like putting out their music is enough. But, contrary to popular belief, your music won’t “speak for itself”.

Your music will speak – but there are thousands of other artists who are speaking – so, how can your voice be heard?

That’s the better question.

Here are some common goals – and here’s why they don’t work.

The Goal: I want to sign a record deal.
The Issue: The term “record deal” could mean hundreds of different things.

A record deal is great! Many of my clients have them – indie and major. But here’s the issue with that goal.

For starters, the term “record deal” doesn’t mean anything. It could mean a distro deal, a 360 deal, a publishing deal… Researching and choosing one of those would be a better goal.

But secondly, while naming the “type” of deal is less vague – why do you want a record deal? Understand the pros and cons of having one. Because I can guarantee you this – you likely have fans you aren’t monetizing. 

Even if you only have 500 Twitter followers – how about we find a way to sell each of them a $20 t-shirt – before we try to sign a record deal? We often get so caught up on the “artist stuff” that we overlook unique and fun ways to bring in income.

The Goal: I want to play X amount of shows this year.
The Issue: This should be refined into quality and outcome – over a number of shows.

Hey! This one is better than the record deal goal. However, I don’t care if you’ve played 200 shows – if they aren’t propelling you forward, then what’s the point?

Here’s a better example: I want to sell X amount of merch at my shows this year. Or – when I tour, I want to do X amount of local interviews. This way – yes you’re performing, but you have a tangible outcome that helps you in your financial and professional career as an artist.

When creating goals – it’s better to have some that give you control. You don’t have all the control when pitching a label, media or a venue. So – how about making a goal that you’ll clean up your EPK and pitch X venues in 6 months? Or – like I said before – monetize the fans you already have.


Forge Genuine Relationships.

The music industry is notorious for folks who want to ride coattails. Individuals that want to hop on someones team for financial or societal gain. This is business, it’s life, but it’s so blatantly obvious.

I had a very skilled manager reach out to a band I was working with. His intentions were very pure – I know the guy, amazing human. But his message to my artist was something along the lines of: “Hi, my name is Bill, I’ve been talking to Tyler and I’m confident I can take your work to the next level.”

The phrase, take your work to the next level was a slight turn-off for my artists. This guy was sincere, in actuality, he wanted to introduce my client to a few writers and a few brand managers that could land us some deals. He did, and now he’s close to the team. However, his phrasing just made it seem like he wanted something. It was very salesperson – rather than genuine.

Now – switch this around.

Imagine you’re a writer for a large music publication (blog, magazine, etc..). What sounds better?


Option A) 

“Hot Fire Alert! Sam Skillz just released the club banger, Artisotrap, which is sure to take the spring by storm! Get on us know while the track is still hot!

[Link] [Link].”


Option B)

Hey Chris,

Really dug your article on Childish Gambino’s last release. I also love the funk turn he’s taken – some of my songs have a similar style. I’d love if you checked them out. This summer I will be playing my first festival – Hangout Music Festival in Gulfshores, AL. It’s being headlined by Chance The Rapper and a few other great names. 

Would love a bit of love as I head into my first festival run. I’m linking the tracks below, and feel free to learn more of me from my EPK below. 

Thank you!

[Track Links]

[EPK Links]

[Festival Poster Link].

Obviously it’s B.. even though Aristotrap is an amazing song title, it’s Option B.

That’s the thing – we don’t forge personal partnerships. Same thing with folks on Twitter. I’m much more apt to remember an artist who follows me and genuinely introduces themselves, than someone who just @’s my handle and sends me a link without saying hi.

Being a real person online (..and in person..) goes far. I’ve garnered licensing deals with HBO and MTV just by introducing myself to a music supervisor, and having my materials ready.

Same goes for opening slots on tours and some great press write-ups, too. I simple asked and forged real relationships. Talk to people, follow-up with them. Be respectful of their time.. and also their intellect, too.


Establish an ROI & Sales Funnels.

I was recently asked a few questions about investing:

Should I buy onto a Soundcloud playlist?
Should I buy onto a show? 

I answered their question with a question – what’s your ROI – your return on investment.

For every dollar you spend or invest in your career – you need a way to recoup that expense and turn a profit. I never think you should buy onto a performance. I think that perpetuates a toxic culture in the industry – but let’s say you have a chance to perform a few states over, and you have to pay $500 in travel expenses.

Before you agree you have to ask myself – will I be breaking even and/or profiting? Am I getting paid enough for it to be worth it? Will I sell enough merch to recoup that $500?

I think buying onto anything – shows, sketchy blog services – isn’t good. But it’s especially bad if you cannot identify a proper ROI for your work.

The same can be said for sales funnels.

Sales funnels are tactics set-up that should lead to a sale:

For instance:

You tweet a link to a video blog on website >> Your users click are met with a newsletter pop-up >> They sign up and are given a 15% off merch coupon >> They get reminder emails until they use the coupon. This results in a sale.

That’s a very basic sales funnel. We can make this more complicated by introducing Twitter ads, or other automated email tactics, too. However the point is – what’s your sales funnel?

I find that many artist have funnels that are “Tweet about it. Hope someone clicks”. This isn’t a funnel, but instead just crossing your fingers that people will click.

I go into sales funnels extensively in my book which can be found here:

Point is – have a business edge. There’s a difference between having a campaign – and just tweeting about it.

These are just a few quick goals – think about it – meditate on ’em – and keep enjoying being an artist.