When you're getting started as a musician, there are endless options on how to get started and what the best path to take is. There's no surefire way to guarantee success, and even those already making a living in the industry are constantly refining what they do and trying to learn from their experiences. Jordan and I were recently invited to speak on a panel at GMA's Immerse in Nashville and the topic was "Building a Touring Business". Other panel guests were artists at varying points in their careers, a manager, and a booking agent. It was enlightening to think through our own answers, but also to hear everyone else's advice about touring and business. One thing stuck out as a pretty strong consensus, and that little snippet is today's beginner tip #5.
The thing everyone seemed to agree on, and something I hear Jordan routinely telling people who ask questions about how he handles our business is to keep it as simple as you can for as long as you can. This sounds easy, but keeping it "simple" often means you are the one handling much of the work, and that can be challenging. Some people really struggle with the business angle of making a living, and it can be tempting to hand everything over to other people from the get-go. Making phone calls gets passed on to a booking agent, a manager handles the vision and deals with venues, a business manager knows the ins-and-outs of your financial situation..all while you focus on the art. Sounds great right?
I would encourage you as a new artist to take ownership of your career. By all means, seek advice from others—especially when it comes to vital decisions and legal issues (like how to handle taxes)—but don't bury your head in the sand. When you take the time to gain experience and understand each facet of what makes you successful, it helps you to better understand your business and make wise choices. It helps you find the best people for you to work with and to know what questions to ask them and what to keep an eye out for. It helps you learn and grow as a person and become even more invested in your future.
Another point that came up more than once was that when artists are getting started, the line between making a living and working a second job can be pretty thin. Handing over 10% to a booking agent, 15% to a manager, etc.. could be what makes or breaks your ability to pay your bills and break into the industry as a full-time musician. Keep in mind that the sooner you take the hit, the more it hurts. The longer you wait, the more established you are, and the more power you have to make decisions that will truly benefit everyone and keep you doing what you love!