Ten Things You’re Doing Wrong: Advice for Minnesota Musicians

It’s been over one week since the Minnesota Music Coalition’s Annual Summit in the beautiful city of St. Paul and I’m still reveling over all the great workshops, panels, conversations and evening events that took place during the 3-day festival!

The MMC’s annual event is like no other for artists and music industry professionals to come together for learning and networking.

In one of my favorite sessions of Minnesota music event, Artist Jonatha Brooke, Tom Loftus of Modern Radio Record Label and Ellen Stanley, Executive Director of the MN Music Coalition, each gave insight on what they believe keeps artists from achieving music industry success and how to avoid some of the most common pitfalls.

Here are their ten:

  1. “Don’t be a dick”. Respect is extremely important in the music industry. Especially in the Minnesota music industry, it’s so important to make connections and network. But when schedules get busy, artists and musicians often forget to be gracious. This advice comes in two parts: first, forgive someone if they’ve made a bad first impression. Think, how does this person genuinely (overall) act? And if it was you that was in the wrong, apologize. “If you respect [the person you are working with], they will respect you… have some self-awareness of where you may have said or done wrong and simply say ‘sorry’.”
  2. “Communication, communication”. This one bares repeating twice, as “being creative does not typically relate well with being good at responding to emails and working with human beings.” First, with each new partnership established, be direct about what you are looking for. Then, as the partnership progresses, use tools to keep yourself accountable. Use a Google calendar or phone app to set reminders to follow up. And remember that everyone is different and has their own communication style and preferences. “While digital tools are helpful, be aware of the multiple avenues to communicating with someone [who may be a bit] overwhelmed. Find ways to interact with people that are not the norm.”
  3. “Understand people’s position”. There are so many facets and roles within the music industry. Musicians don’t often have a concrete idea as to what each new person they come in contact along their music journey does on a day-to-day basis within their role. With each new person you begin working with, try to understand exactly what they are bringing to the table and also, what their limitations are, so you don’t over-ask or over-expect. Take the time to ask questions and gain clarity.
  4. “Plan and research”. Each time you delve into a new project, release a new album, book a new venue, or work with someone new, do your due diligence and research. If it’s a new project you are working on, take the time up front to determine what your overall time commitment to the project might be and any roadblocks you may hit along the way. Before releasing a new album or booking a new venue, assess whether your target audience has changed and consider how you could adapt your merchandising strategy and performance style to build your fan base. “A little research goes a long way.”
  5. “Be generous”. All panelists agreed: there is simply not enough credit given within the music industry. In such a collaborative industry, it’s essential to be as generous and gracious as you can. If you’re a seasoned musician, be a mentor to new musicians who may be just getting on their feet. If you’re newer to the craft, jump in and help those you meet, whenever you can. And don’t forget to say “thank you” when someone helps you out. Perhaps a good old “thank you” card?
  6. “Take advantage of opportunities”. Network, network, network! In the Minnesota music industry, it’s all about who you know. Become a member of great organizations like the Mn Music Coalition and volunteer, wherever you can. Nonprofit Minnesota music venues like The Warming House and The Cedar Cultural Center are great places to volunteer your time. You’ll meet people along the way. And when opportunities arise within organizations or groups you belong to, or at venues that you are an active part of, your name will come to mind first.
  7. “Don’t spend too much money”. What is a mistake the panelists said they see far too often? New musicians spending too much money, on the wrong things and at the wrong times. What does that really mean? “Know what you have and what you can reasonably spend and do [the project] as cheap as you can without ruining what you have … people don’t care how much money has been spent on something when they’re listening to it.” Make sure you know your brand and what you’re going for when building your marketing plan as a musician.
  8. “Don’t forget about self-care”. While productivity and commitment is important as you’re building your career as an independent musician, you are setting yourself up for burnout when you don’t give yourself time to rest and recuperate. After all, “everybody needs sleep.” Know why you are agreeing to be involved in each opportunity you commit to and be sure it aligns with your music goals. For each new opportunity that presents itself, ask yourself, why am I saying ‘yes’ or why am I saying ‘no’? “It’s not sustainable if you are not enjoying it.”
  9. “Don’t expect others to do the work”. The idea that someone else will do the work for you is a general myth within the music industry. Whether you need help with music publicity and promotions, resources for a music video or studio project, or something else, don’t expect that paying someone to help you will take all of the work off your plate. “Even if you are paying the money, you are often still doing the work.” Remain communicative and be available to provide feedback and input along the way. You are paying someone for help, not a handout. If you want to be successful in the music industry, you have to be committed to doing the work.
  10. “Limit fear”. Last but by far not least, to be successful in the the music industry you have got to be confident in your work. As one panelist stated: “don’t worry so much about the level of perfectionism in your work that it limits you from putting stuff out there… it’s never a be-all end-all [and] if you’re not willing to share it… then you’re not in the conversation of music.”

And there you have it! Follow these ten tips from Minnesota’s music industry experts and you’ll be well on your way to success!

More music marketing tips can be found in the articles below:


With over 6 years of music industry and marketing experience, Jenna Marie is an independent music marketing and promotions consultant for new and up-and-coming musicians in Minnesota.

Need tips on developing your personal brand for your music career or help with promoting your music? Contact her at info@jennamariepr.com for more information.

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