How To Start a Music Career With a Plan

Photo Credit: Lorri Lang
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Photo Credit: Lorri Lang
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Photo Credit: Lorri Lang

You might be considering a career in music. Or maybe you’re well on your way.

Whatever your situation, creating a plan needs to be at the center of your music career. And in this post, you’ll learn exactly how to make one.

Why You Need a Plan

It’s a little embarrassing, but it took me 9-10 years to finally make substantial progress in my music career. And the turning point was when I created my long-term plan.

I learned success is subjective. And after I defined my success, good things started happening for me, and now I’m pumped about where I’m headed.

A plan is like using the maps app on your phone. You have to know where you’re going before you head out on your trip.

Without a map, you’ll get lost. And if you’ve ever gotten lost on a road trip, you know how frustrating, time-wasting, and overwhelming it can feel.

So here are a couple of reasons why every indie musician needs their own plan…

A Plan Guides You

Instead of blindly following the path that successful artists took, you need to choose your adventure wisely.

There are so many promising opportunities for musicians, it can be hard to choose just one or two.

Should you try to go viral on TikTok? Or go on tour? Or dive into sync licensing? Maybe make and sell beats?

But it’s also exciting how many opportunities indie musicians have nowadays. You just have to find a couple that work for you.

And when you create a plan, you’ll learn what your “hell yes’s” are and what to say no to. Then you have a guide that keeps you on course.

A Plan Keeps You From Quitting

When you have directions for where to go and what to do for your music career, you stay encouraged.

Any time you’re feeling discouraged, you can zoom out and remind yourself, “No, I am definitely walking down the right path.”

So if you’ve ever felt overwhelmed or downtrodden, a plan is what will pick you up and send you on your way.

How To Start a Music Career With a Plan

Here are the basic steps to create a plan for your music career. Spend a little time following these tips and you’ll quickly see how useful a plan is.

Find Your Big Picture

The first step is to define your success. In other words, figure out what your “big picture” is.

To find your big picture, ask yourself, “If money were no concern and I could get up tomorrow morning and do whatever I wanted as a musician…what would I do?”

Answering this question will tell you what your success is. Then you can more easily verbalize what that looks like.

Find Your Income Streams

how to start a music career
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how to start a music career
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Photo credit: Amin Asbaghipour

Once you know what type of musician you want to be (i.e. your success), you can quickly find related streams of income.

Here are some resources for pursuing income streams related to your big picture…

Writing and recording songs:


Playing your instrument:

Making beats:

Focus On Your Avenues of Income

Okay, now that you’ve got your big picture and you’ve chosen your income streams, it’s time to figure out and focus on your avenues of income. In other words, the sources of your income.

These income sources need to be directly related to your big picture.

For example, if you want to make a living from sync licensing, find 2-3 licensing companies, libraries, and/or music supervisors to focus on ‒ these are your avenues of income. Then build solid relationships with these companies/people and submit all your music to them.

Focus on the platforms and people who can provide your chosen streams of revenue.

Do Something Small Today

Once you’ve got your avenues of income, you have to figure out small tasks you can do on any given day that will move you forward.

So, using the sync licensing example, your tasks could be:

  • Submit music to ABC licensing company
  • Work on producing a song
  • Email a fellow musician in sync licensing to pick their brain (offer to treat them to coffee)

Once you have several tasks, add them to your calendar. Just skip the to-do list and schedule these tasks when you know you’ll have free time. Successful people use calendars, not to-do lists.

And you don’t have to block out two hours to do these things. It can be as little as 15 minutes if that’s all the time you have.

Small, consistent steps are better than infrequent leaps.

Start Today

Now you know how to start a music career. You have a plan, a system that will move you toward a career that fits your personality and preferences.

The last step is to just start. Do something today, however small, and you’ll at least be moving forward.