Honest advice for music artists.

February 21, 2019

Whats up


As the title says, here’s our “55 Power Tips To Win In Music 2020” 

You’ll find short descriptions beneath every tip/advice. You’ll also find pretty self explanatory advice, we left those without a description. 

After researching for exactly 86 days, asking music artists questions, getting answers from them, and hearing their own advice we came back with a ton of knowledge and wanted to make it digestible for you. 

Want more clarification on anything reach out to us here


1. Don’t be a “music artist”


Music artists get a bad rep. They’re known for spamming people, jamming their music down everyone’s throat and just being obnoxious or only caring about themselves. This is a longterm game; you've got to play it like so. Put yourself in the value driven mindset. This is a mindset that puts value in front of prospects as opposed to force feeding them something they don't want. It's not to say that a person won't ever want your music, it's to say that genuine fans are made when they come to realize they like you and nothing forced them to feel that way.

Let's break this down in a perfect world.

First: Prospect doesn't know you or your music.
Second: You offer something of value to them that they appreciate.
Third: They find value in it
Fourth: Because of the value they're more likely to engage with you and like you.
Fifth: They check your music out.
Sixth: They love your music and give it a share not just because of the music, but because you started off the relationship with value.

When you're first starting off as an artist, you must think of every fan as an individual relationship. The second you start to clump everyone up into a small group (even if its 1,000 fans) they will lose their sense of uniqueness amongst everyone else. Think about how an acquaintance you have thinks of you versus your best friend. The relationship you have with your best friend is much stronger and will outlast any other friend.

Keep in mind, it's not about just handing things out to people, or constantly asking if they need help with something. Doing this will immediately make you disingenuous and bothersome. Take this philosophy from Ritz Carlton, one of the greats in customer service; "Anticipate the guest's needs". Being able to read and fully understand your audience to the point in which you can anticipate their needs is key to being able to deliver the value they seek.

This takes time, hence why everyone reading this should start paying more attention to the longterm.

TLDR


2. Don’t sign to a record label


3. Don’t spend money on soundcloud plays


In fact, don’t spend any money on soundcloud period. Why buy SoundCloud plays if you’re not going to get any revenue off of it?

Don’t even bother telling me the classic “my return on investment is getting plays to get more people listening to me”.

Try telling that to the landlord when your rent is due. 


You need to get your finances straight, and one way to do that is to stop making lousy investments like soundcloud plays.

Don’t even think about buying SoundCloud Pro. Why pay a monthly fee just to be able to monetize your plays when you can pay ONCE and get your music up on spotify where you get paid for your streams by default and never have to pay again?


4. Spend money on Spotify Plays


Here’s the only platform I’d suggest paying for more plays. In doing so you ACTUALLY have the potential to get a return on your investment.


I’d suggest looking for and connecting with spotify playlist curators to see if you can get your song on other playlists.  


5. Stop dropping music without release plans


Here’s where every “scumbag” marketer would drop their lousy “free e-book” that includes their lousy marketing strategy templates to real you into their sales sequence so that you buy their stuff. Ridiculous. 


I’m not gonna bother even creating a template for you simply because templates don’t work. Every artist is different, every artist has a different take on marketing. To add to that, I don’t know you.

If I were to give you a template and you were to go out and try it you’d only come back discouraged because you tried something that was created without YOU in mind.


Instead, I’m going to give you the best advice I can give you when it comes to marketing.

Be genuine, be transparent, be authentic, and give value first. 


Try doing those things first before asking someone to check your music out first. I bet you’ll find that you won’t even have to ask anymore, people will start asking you.


6. 2019 absolutely sucked


This year, music releases are dry as ever.


Take advantage of this, this is prime time for artists to come up while the others plot.


7. If you’re releasing music, here’s a basic list of things you should have prepared. 

  1. Final master
  2. Cover art
  3. Marketing plan
  4. Premier lined up 
  5. Distribution scheduled
  6. Exclusive/lease bought


8. Make your own damn site (mention webflow)


9. Become the digital marketer (give links to install all the trackers)


10. Don’t let a blog rejection, or any for that matter, get to you. 


11. Your manager doesn’t have to be your best friend - Take time to find a good manager


12. Stop making stupid investments.

If you spent you rmusic video budget on marketing, you’d be getting a way nigger return on investment. But artists would rather rent an Airbnb and care to try to impress everyone BUT their fans. 


13. No one cares…AKA MAKE BETTER MUSIC FIRST


Touching up on the last point. If your music sucks, no one cares about what foreign you rented, what girls you have in the video, or what house you’re in.
Make better music FIRST

13. Tell your fans to text you...but do it right


The mainstream artists who are telling fans to text them are geniuses, but the real ones know they’re only doing it to collect data to target fans for shows, merch, etc.

Sorry for bursting the bubble. They don't want to talk to you, nor will they reply. It’s all DATA.

But do it right, and you’ll claim the status of marketing genius similar to Chance The Rapper and Lil Nas.

14. Do things yourself. (not only is a badass but puts you ahead of EVERYONE)


15. Social media and the internet have the leverage. 


You can stay independent and grow without a co-sign or label backing you. Yeah it’s harder; don’t be a bitch. 


16. You said what? 


Yes I said it’s harder. It’s too easy to go into debt. It’s too easy to sign a paper and get yourself signed. It’s too easy to be under a record label. It teaches you nothing and you won’t build character or respect the game. Without those things you’ll be eaten alive and drown in your debt. Don’t be a bitch. Grind. 


17. Learn how to upload your music to streaming platforms. 


In 2019 it’s so fucking sad to see that half the artists i’ve talked to don’t even know how to upload their music to streaming platforms. 


Go to tunecore.com and thank me later. 


Music artists that are seriously interested in marketing their new single or project, message me now > emilio@blkboxrecord.com


18. Make music you want to make.


Don’t put yourself in a box where you can’t be fully creative because you’re scared of the response.

Listeners just listen, fans will change everything. 


19. Pitch better


Learn how to pitch your music better than just spamming it in replies to tweets, facebook posts, dms on instagram etc. 


That’s a lazy way of building a connection. If you’re proud of your music, you’d have something more to say. 


20. Wake up….


I’ve helped tons of artists over the years, and the one thing I drill into their heads is this; realize that people are genuinely not going to like your music.


Everyone has different tastes, don’t get caught up on other’s opinion. It’s crazy that we value critics opinions over fans right?

You will start to advance when you realize all this. 


21. Take this action now


Do this right now. Take your finished song, beat, lyrics, whatever. Send it to three different people (in the way we discussed); a random person, another artist/producer. And someone you trust.

Ask for critique and see if any answers align.

Perfect your craft. 



Can’t find a random person? You can always shoot music over to me and i’ll critique away emilio@blkboxrecord.com


22. Someone is always listening and watching


Don’t be discouraged by your view count. One of those plays could be an A&R or your future label. 


Content should always remain first. 


23. It’s all about action.


Encourage someone today. Shoot them a message. Reconnect with someone. Reach out to someone that you’ve been waiting to work with. 


Like the title of this tip says…


24. Stay grounded


No one will ever understand the effect music has on people.


If you’re an artist, understand that the music you’re putting out is affecting people, getting them through rough patches, and could be saving their life.


25. Come to terms with this..


The best thing to come to terms with as an artist or producer is that no one will ever understand you. 


You’re an artist, people see and hear things differently. People will call you crazy, people will doubt your vision, but please hold onto what you think is right. 


26. Over saturated


Right now, the accessibility to become an artist or producer is the highest it’s ever been. 


People can literally record or make beats from home. 


With that luxury, the community has gotten overpopulated. You have to find your sound


There is good news with oversaturation, and it’s the number of people not getting it and doing it wrong actually makes it feel like a breath of fresh air when you come at a potential fan the right way and genuinely treat them with respect and deliver value first. 


27. Take time to focus on your weaknesses each day. 


Whether it’s for a whole hour or 5 minutes.

I would agree that it’s not healthy to dwell on your weaknesses if its not with purpose. So add purpose to it. Take time to understand your weaknesses so that you can identify what your strengths are and augment your natural talent. Or take time to understand what your weaknesses are so that you know what qualities to look for in a team member to fill in those gaps.


28. Take time to learn something new. 


Of course there’s WAY too much cheesy and generic information out there; however, when it comes to basic things like learning how to distribute your music, how to create a music video, or how to determine splits, there’s TONS of free information out there. 


Make YouTube your friend and take some time to learn new things. Even if you’re the artist, watch videos on mixing/mastering. Even if you’re not the marketer, learn how to send out proper emails and branding. 


You get the picture.


29. Listen to this…


This might not apply to most of you, but I've heard it enough from people that I need to address.

I don’t understand the narrative that depression or bad mental health makes “good music.” You don’t need something bad to happen to you, to make better music.

That mindset is super toxic. 


30. This is a marathon, not a sprint. 


This is for anyone out there in the music industry. 


While it seems like you’re just getting by or the numbers are moving slow, just keep creating. This is a marathon, not a sprint. There’s no better time but now to stay focused on the goals set in place. 


31. Set goals...no scratch that… Set GREAT goals. 


Here’s a neat trick. Write your goals on sticky notes. Write 5 for this week. Write 5 for this month and write 5 for this year. Doesn’t matter if they’re similar. In fact, its good if they’re similar so that they align with each other. 


Now, multiply those goals by 10. 


For example: Have 1000 streams on X song by month 10


Multiply that goal by 10 and you get this: Have 10,000 on X song by month 10


Why do this?

- The goals we first set are always too low. 

- Which goal would you rather fall short of? Think about it...
Falling short of earning 10,000 - lets call it 8,503 plays -  is a hell of a lot better than falling short of 1,000 - 850 plays.


Stick em on your bedroom door.

Not only will you see your goals every morning when you go out of your room, but sticky notes don’t last long and will eventually fall off. This forces you to have to pick them up and look at them.

Memorize your goals so that you can say them by heart. Once you’ve memorized them, set reminders on your phone every 2-5 hours to remind you to recite your goals and think about whether what you’re doing now is helping you achieve them. 




32. Don’t underestimate the work


It’s easy to multiply your goals by 10 and call it a day. But you’re only leading yourself astray if you stop there. 


Try to picture the amount of effort it would take to complete your new 10X goal.

Sounds like a lot right?

Well I have bad news.

Bad news is we always underestimate the amount of effort we think something takes to be completed.

Now again, picture the amount of effort it would take to complete you new 10X goal.

Now multiple THAT level of effort by 10 and now you have your “real” amount of effort needed.

Get where I’m going here? 


This will ensure that you NEVER underestimate the amount of effort and execution needed to complete your goal

Back to our streams goal.

If we originally think that all we have to do to reach 10,000 streams in 10 months is share your song with 5000 people - assuming each person plays your song at least twice. 


Then, to make sure you don’t underestimate the effort, you should really say you need a minimum of 50,000 people to see your song so that there’s literally no way in hell you won’t reach your goal.


I know what you’re asking...read on.


33. Break it down


Now that we have the amount of effort correctly calculated we have to break it down in chunks so that it isn't overwhelming. 


It’s simple, let's do the math here. 


Goal: 10,000 streams in 10 months


Effort: share to 50,000 new people (in 10 months) 


50,000/10 = have 5,000 new people see your song per month


5,000/4 = have 1,250 new people see your song per week


1,250/7 = have 178.57 (180) new people see your song per day 


180/24 = have 7.5 new people see your song per hour 


Still seems hard?

You can pay for a simple instagram shoutout and put your account that has your spotify link in front of 100k new eyes, if you reach out to the right account, in less than an hour.

You can can make an ad on YouTube and get in front of hundreds of thousands of new audience members in a matter of minutes with a click of a button. 


Assuming 10% of 50,000 people play your song you’re STILL beating your original goal of 1,000 streams


Assuming 20% of 50,000 people play your song, congrats, you’ve reached your 10X goal.

Any percentage above 20 is now pure profit.

Note this is not taking into account any shares people might make or the effect the algorithm will have on your song with all the people playing it. 



34. Fans will always be more important than your listeners. 


35. Find a mentor


What would you do if you had to start from zero? Zero experience. Zero network. Zero money. I was asked this question the other day, and my answer is simple.

Find someone who has done what you want to do. 


The value of mentorship cannot be overstated. One of my own mentors IPO’d at age 19. That means he owned and ran a startup and issued stock at age 19…

Another one of my mentors is a marketing genius, the CMO of a design and development agency who’s levels of innate creativity cannot be matched.


My third mentor is a COO and leads by example of calm and collected actions, proper focus, and fierce diligence.


Without this influence in my life I would likely not be doing what I am now in my career. 


The great thing about having a mentor is that it’s proven expertise-- they’ve achieved what you want to do. A mentor can provide you with the money, connections and experience that you would otherwise have to gain through many years of failure and painful lessons. 


If you find yourself struggling-- maybe it’s because you’re working too hard, relying upon your own knowledge and your own network, your own ability to keep things going-- then I would highly suggest seeking after a mentor. 


You may be surprised at the growth and opportunities that will present themselves much sooner as a result of having one. 


36. “Trolling”


Artists turn to trolling to sell records and build media hype. Those are the people who’s music doesn’t speak for itself. 


It’s all short lived. Don’t be that person. 


37. 1 of 1


Have you ever noticed the bests artists aren’t similar to each other?


Just like athletes. They’re 1 of 1. They stood out and appealed. 


There are just too many upcoming artists that are trying to model a sound that isn’t them.

There’s a difference between being inspired by something and losing yourself to be something. Learn to realize and control the two things. 


38. Treat your music like a startup


The old saying goes like this “Build it and they will come.”

It’s a LIE. No one will come. I promise you that. Not if you don’t treat you artistry like a business.

Startups build Minimum Viable Products (MVPs)

An MVP is a less heavily involved version of what would be the final product.

For example: Make a 30 second track versus finishing out the whole song. Don’t even bother mixing or levels or any of that. Efficiency is the name of the game.

Why would you do this?

Time is your most important asset, your talents and money come second and third respectively. 


Why would you waste your assets on building out a full version of a product you haven't even tested to see whether the market likes or not? 


Just because you build it doesn’t mean they’ll like it.


Startup make MVPs listen to their feedback and iterate based on that.

This is called the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop. The faster you can get through this loop the better it will be for you. 


Here’s the dictionary definition of it - The Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop is a technique that helps you to realize when you've got things wrong, before it's too late to turn initial failure into eventual success.


A great book to read up on is Lean Startup by Eric Reis. There’s just too many similarities of being a music artist and building a startup from scratch with no funding and just an idea.

39. Own your masters


This is one of those “no-duh” tips but never really gets defined. In short it just means you have ownership of what you create. At Blk Box Record you’ll own everything, we follow your vision, you keep the lion’s share of profits, you see what we see, you’re never locked long-term, you have the final say. 


More things Artists need to strive to own:

Own your beats.

Own your own equipment.

Own your percentages/royalties.


All the other artists want to own jewelry, cars, and designer clothing. 


Stack your chips.


40. There’s no template to “make it”


Most people making music aren’t good at it, we are only seeing a small percentage of people who are talented and got popular.


Artists see these mainstream artists and think it’s easy... There’s no cookie cutter way to blow up, but your goal should be to make *good* music.


41. Social media is your key


Artists will either die trying to get their hometown’s support or die chasing the *dream* of blowing up in a major city.


We forget that we have access to 195 countries through social media. 


If your small town doesn’t like the music, I promise you someone on social media will.


Artists, I understand the eagerness to move out of your small town. I came from 14k population and lived in 2 major cities before I turned 20.


I can tell you it’s not better on this side. In these cities, everyone is an “artist.”


Social media is your outlet. Not LA or NYC.


Don’t be convinced that moving to LA or NYC is going to further your career as an artist. 


If you’re blaming your current environment, you’ll hate your life more when you’re 10x more broke struggling to compete against people who thought the same as you.


I’ve seen too many indie artists go to LA to just shoot a music video. Palm trees aren’t going to change the view count.


Don’t be convinced that flying somewhere is beneficial just because everyone else is doing it.


Get more creative. Save that flight money, invest it.


42. Athletes are the new A&R’s.


 LeBron playing the A&R role for 2 Chainz album is crazy.


This music game boils down to influence. Music and sports go hand and hand.


Let that sink in.



43. Lets be real...


If you don’t want to pay for beats, make your own. 


If you don’t want to pay for artwork, do it yourself.


If you don’t want to invest in marketing or promotion, research your own ways.


People’s time comes with a price and nothing is owed in this industry.


44. Convert


Artists, listens and streams don’t mean anything if you aren’t converting those listeners into fans or follows.


The best way to do that is interacting  with and targeting your demographic.


45. The bad news/The reality


Sadly in this day in age, accolades, credentials, followers and streams determine artist’s talent. 


You need an award to be a “good artist.” You don’t need 1 million plays either. 


Just keep creating.


46. Prediction

Music streaming is already so revolutionary and has evolved so quickly. 


It’s not going to be long before social media platforms partner or launch their own streaming services.


Spotify and Apple Music won’t be the only top dogs in the game in the next few years.


47. Start your own trend 


Biggest reason why Blueface is huge right now is because he’s bringing a different wave to hip hop.


Half of the artists complaining about this “trend,” are diet-Drake or Travis Scott’s. 


Start your own wave, it clearly works.


48. Soundcloud? Still?


Remember when fans used to pay 10$ per CD? Now we have a plethora of music at our fingertips for $10.


Streaming wasn’t supposed to be beneficial for artists, it’s made to be “convenient” for fans.


Yet, half of artists are still dropping music for free on SoundCloud. For what?


49. Artists - make it a goal to upload your content on streaming platforms before 2020. 


A lot of changes are going to be happening in the music streaming world. It’s best you get ahead now before anything.


50. Don’t be a bitch


The key to win in the music industry is to stop making excuses and blaming your resources.


I’ve seen Platinum producers still making beats with their first laptop ever or with a broken screen.


You don’t need much, you just need the drive to win.


51. The game in 2019 going into 2020


The music game is 40% networking and marketing. If you aren’t shaking hands, sending emails, or meeting people, you already lost.

Do a google search of local events. Start your own meetup and become an authority in your local area. Go on LinkedIn and connect with the right people. Do something, anything, just dont stop networking and marketing. 


52. Read the Soundcloud bible. But don’t care about soundcloud.


As the title says. Read this book but apply everything you learn to every streaming site BUT soundcloud. Like I said before. Soundcloud isn't worth your time. 


53. No need to stick around.


Instead of paying SoundCloud $10 monthly for advanced stats, invest that $10 back into distributing new singles and get yourself paid across all platforms. 


Did I mention SoundCloud isn’t worth your time?


54. The secret to getting into more Spotify playlists is utilizing the pre-save feature.


The artists who use this tool boost their engagement between listeners which triggers Spotify's playlists algorithm.


Additionally - A fan of your music has to stream your content 1,716 times or over 110 hours to make you an average hourly wage.


1,716/110 = 15.6 times an hour


That’s just for one fan...think about it. 


PS. Aim to make great music such that you’ll really only need 100 diehard fans. 



55. Keep creating Don’t Settle



Please. Whatever you do, please don’t stop believing in yourself. Stop caring about how others perceive you. Your parents will never understand, your friends won’t understand, no one will ever understand...until you make it...So please, from the bottom of my heart. I’m telling; you don’t quit,keep creating, and don’t settle. 



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