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How to Succeed in the Music Industry Part 1

Israel Sebenzo

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Israel Sebenzo, 21/12/2020

In the previous articles, we have paid a great deal of attention and detail on how to actually get into the music game.

We also touched on understanding aspects that matter as well as aiming for the top and actually sustaining yourself at the top.

Now, it is equally important to look at the qualities that are necessary to guarantee success in the business.

Possessing these skills is not by far enough to ensure success, but it is important to constantly work towards enhancing these qualities in order to meet the needs of the different markets.

I’ve been reiterating how talent alone is never enough since most musicians who try to succeed will fail.

As such, it is important to note that what brings success is your ability to utilize a set of skills, thought processes and values that I will be continually breaking down and clarifying on this platform.

Work Smart

Working hard is important, but the importance of working smart cannot be overemphasized. You can work a lot yes, but you must concentrate on the right things that will actually move your craft and brand forward.

Work hard on the things that will help you meet your set-out objectives and goals as a creative – This speaks to working in the most effective and productive manner as possible.

This work ethic also calls for patience and commitment in understanding that a lot of hard work goes in before returns can be realized.

To develop the right work ethic mindset, work to clearly understand your long-term music career goals and as I have indicated before, find a mentor who will help you determine the steps you must take moving forward.

Don’t Burn Your Bridges

Teamwork goes a long way in ensuring success since no artist has ever reached high levels of success alone.

Music companies, musicians, promoters, managers and other music industry personnel will all act as your business partners at one point or another in your career.

Relations will be built as you work with these different experts and as a result, loyalty will be expected from both parties, they will be expected to be loyal to you and likewise, it will be expected of you.

Loyalty in this music business context refers to not pursuing opportunities that are selectively beneficial, everyone you are working with should benefit. It is however important to be wary of being taken advantage of.

There is a balance here that you must learn as you work in the music industry. Without this balance, you will struggle to sustain your success.

Inevitably, as relations are built, there will be some fall outs. As this happens, never burn your bridges, instead look for amicable ways to come up with solutions that will maintain relations and this will take you far as you may never know who you will need tomorrow.

Create Value Outside Your Talent

Become a multi-dimensional musician by learning new skills.

There is a great deal to be benefited from learning skills such as knowing how to negotiate, book shows, building a fan base, organizing a tour, communicating effectively, strategic thinking in profit generation and many others.

As you work with different experts in different fields, make it a habit to always learn from them.

Of course, learning these skills will pay off. When you can do these things for yourself, you become capable of adding a lot of value to any situation and this will help in reducing the money spent hiring others.

As tempting as it sounds to do everything on your own, I do not advise that you tackle everything on your own as this will result in averagely done work whereas you could have enlisted expert help and achieved great things instead.

In essence, be aware of your strengths and weaknesses as an individual and seek the services of others to complement where you may be lacking.\

A Positive “Everyone Wins” Mindset

Again, here the importance of teamwork is highlighted. Musicians who become the most successful are those that also find ways to create a great outcome for everyone involved.

The gratification that comes with the realization that everyone in the team is unmatched. Don’t be a selfish creative and remember, no one truly wins until we all win.

Israel SEBENZO® is a Singer, Songwriter and Artist & Repertoire (A&R) Executive

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Identifying and Satisfying a Paying Customer, Understanding The Art of Collaboration, As Well As, Mastering The Concept of Effective Sales and Marketing – Chad Mhako

Brian Kazungu

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Chad Mhako

Brian Kazungu, 24/02/2021

Entrepreneurship is being globally accepted and embraced as an effective solution to solving many societal problems including unemployment and poverty but unfortunately, without proper knowledge, most businesses especially SMEs fail even in their first years after inception.

In a book titled The SME Handbook, according to Nico Jacobs, head of Absa Small Business, Small business failure rates are as high as 63% in the first two years of trading, of which some of the reasons for such a failure rate includes lack of skills, lack of funds and poor management.

As such, in its effort to promote entrepreneurship, EAI Virtual Hub (Entrepreneurship, Arts, Innovation), organises virtual meetings with experts from different economic sectors in order to address various challenges faced by entrepreneurs on a daily basis.

EAI Virtual Hub is a platform that seeks to empower young people in Zimbabwe to become financially independent.

Recently, it organised a virtual presentation under the theme Youth In Entrepreneurship, where business consultant, Chad Mhako, shared valuable business tips in response to questions by various entrepreneurs.

Chad is a seasoned consultant who works with startups and established businesses in helping them to develop concrete, actionable strategies which gives them better access to markets and finance through customer driven entrepreneurship approaches.

Below is a question and answer presentation adapted from Chad’s presentation on the EAI Virtual Hub.

Question: Quite often, there are many concerns on a wide range of issues around entrepreneurship, with some people professing their confusion on what business they should engage in. As such, what is your advice to such people who really believe that entrepreneurship is the way to go and yet they are not sure of the exact kind of business they must pursue?

Chad Mhako: In my experience as an entrepreneur and consultant. My response is always the same. Any business where you can secure a paying customer.

My philosophy is that your business starts the day someone is willing to pay you for what you have to offer.

Now, if you can repeat this profitably to scale, then you have a business. Once your business model is profitable, repeatable and scalable, then you are in business.

This is because paying customers are quite often the difference between a successful entrepreneur and the not so successful entrepreneur. When we start our businesses, we are usually trying to answer basic questions, no matter the jargon you choose to use.

Every business tries to answer the following questions: Who are my customers? Where are they? How do I get to them? Why should they buy from me?

I like to start with the customer in mind. Like I said, you don’t have a business if you don’t have paying customer. So whether you are farming potatoes from a sack, rearing chickens or doing the freshest deal in town. Everything boils down to the customer who pays.

This is why some people make mediocre products that still sell. The reason is that they know their customer, who they are, where they are. Basically, everything there is to know about the customer. They know their customer archetype.

People will ask, what’s selling these days or what’s fresh? These are me too kind of businesses. You can also do a-me-too business as long as you have a customer who will buy.

So, what does it take to know who will buy? The answer is – Customer Discovery!!

The basic building blocks to building a business are: 1) Discovering who your customers will be 2) Validating the existence of those customers 3) Then making sure your value proposition speaks to their needs 4) Then you build your enterprise.

Some people say that we will build it then customers will come. Others say, we will farm and then they will buy. We will manufacture first then customers will buy. Sometimes it works, but most of the times, it doesn’t. Don’t let the clichés fool you.

Question – What is your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs who have the passion for business and yet they do not know where to start?

Chad Mhako: I say start with a familiar problem, but make sure there is a large enough demand for the solution to that problem. Some problems are not worth fixing in terms of viability and profitability.

Question: From your experience, what have you identified as an effective approach of attracting paying customers or converting people in any community into customers who pay for what you have? Is it always about good marketing or it’s about your circle of interaction?

Chad Mhako: Knowing who you are your customers and where they are is a great starting point. My customers may be active on Facebook whilst yours are active in a market with little or no interest in social media. As such, if I recommend you to do a social media campaign which works for me, what you will get are vanity metrics, mere numbers which look wonderful on paper but mean zero to your bottom line,. So customer discovery is key

Question – From your experience in consulting for startups, which mistakes do you think we tend to do as young entrepreneurs and how can we avoid them?

Chad Mhako: The following are some of the mistakes that entrepreneurs make: 1) Hype over substance 2) Copying and pasting without context 3) Listening to clichés 4) Putting the cart before the horse, that is, wanting a quick buck and not being willing to build.

Question – How can one grow their startup with a minimum viable product, how can they attract more funding for growth?

Chad Mhako: Your Maximum Viable Product (MVP) allows you to harness market feedback. It’s not the end product, it’s part of the building process. Businesses are undervalued at inception and the further you are from ideation, the higher the valuation

Question: What’s the role and advantage of collaboration in business?

Chad Mhako: Collaboration is the new competition. However, it must never be collaboration just for the sake of it. If not well thought through, collaboration can lead to business collapse.

As such, all parties must know what are their rights and obligations under the arrangement.

You should never leave anything to interpretation. Collaboration can take many forms and one must know what works for them.

Chad Mhako is an Entrepreneur and Business Development Consultant who helps startups and established business develop concrete actionable strategies that improve their bottom lines. He is a Managing Consultant at Abiyedu Kin and a Country Manager at Energyneering EPCM.

consult@abiyedu.co.zw / chad@abiyedu.co.zw / @ChadMhako on twitter

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How To Succeed In The Music Industry Part 3: Releasing New Music

Israel Sebenzo

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Israel Sebenzo, 13/02/2021

Is It More Than Just a Song/Songs?

Releasing music should be done against a checklist that will help you determine whether you are ready to release. This checklist consists of questions, is it more than just a song? Is this the best I can do?

Am I releasing with the right attitude? These are some of the questions you should ask yourself.

Putting music out there and hoping people will listen is not enough. The first question perhaps you should ask yourself is, is it more than just a song/songs?

For people to be drawn to your new music, it must be more than a mere song. Tell a story through your music, show your process and most importantly, diversify your creativity beyond just music.

Create an experience for your fan base that goes beyond the music.

The idea is to coordinate a creative plan before releasing new music that will artistically generate hype around your project before launching. This however is not the only way to do it.

Times have changed and strategies likewise; more and more artists are now taking risks of releasing music announced as a surprise element, just the same way I did with my EP.

What is important is to understand your market and come up with strategies that will help you meet your goals.

Is My Music The Best it Could Be?

Feedback before releasing is the way to make sure your music is perfect. Get a second opinion, take this as a test drive!

It’s easy to be convinced that the music you have made is good, obviously it will be perfect to you, you are the one who made it after all.

Instead, share your music with people you trust before you release. Take the feedback and use it to make your music even better.

Valuable feedback before you release is pure gold. Don’t skip this process.

Am I Finished?

Another critical question to ask yourself before releasing new music is, am I finished?

Being finished means different things to different artists. Sometimes you will never be convinced you are finished with a project and probably work on it further one too many times.

Only release music when you’ve reached YOUR definition of finished. It is better to push a release date and head back to the drawing board that to put out half-baked music.

Is My Album/Single Art Appealing?

The music artwork has always been pivotal to any project’s success. Since the days of vinyl, it is the art that would draw buyers to a certain record. It is the first impression you make in essence; it does the talking for you.

With streaming, the artwork is even more important as you don’t get to choose the font or the size of the interface on streaming sites. It is what sets you apart from the millions of songs that are on Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play and other sites.

Your artwork is your chance to shine so make a beautifully captivating cover that will catch people’s eyes even in a small square on a screen.

Am I Releasing With The Right Attitude?

Releasing music can be super stressful, make the moment of release a positive one. Attitudes prior releasing are usually indicators of what can be expected. If you are feeling anxious, the release is most likely to be a stressful one.

The first step towards a good release is the right attitude so work on your attitude, get prepared, be confident and make your release a memorable and joyous one!

Releasing Singles In An Age of Singles

As a new artist, release a single first

Singles have taken center stage in the music industry; we are living in an age of singles and 2020 just took things to even extreme heights.

It all starts with a song, if you have never put out any music under your current artist name, release that single first.

Most streaming services don’t let you claim a profile or use their promotional tools if you don’t have any music on their platform and you don’t want to miss the chance to use these powerful tools to advance your craft.

Put out that single first, claim your accounts and be ready to go full throttle!

Time Your Releases Strategically

Release your singles tactically before and after the bigger releases (EPs or LPs). The lead-up singles create fan excitement and buzz for the upcoming project, and then the follow-up singles, or the songs that come out between larger projects, keep you from falling into “out of sight, out of mind” territory with fans.

Release All Sorts of Singles

There are several different kinds of tracks that you can release as singles, all to help you stay relevant and make sure your sound is not muffled under the million songs that are out there.

•The lead single- this essentially is the first song you release from an upcoming project and it sets the tone for the rest of the album, it is the announcement to your fanbase that something is coming.

•The deeper dive- this is the follow up single that comes between the lead single and the album to give more context of the album.

•The B-side- once the album is out, you can drop other singles that did not make the cut into the album.

•The bonus content- these are bonus tracks to keep the momentum of the album going, making sure it’s not forgotten. These include remixes, alternate mixes, acoustic renditions and so on. You can bring in different artists to work on the remixes to bring in that dash of diversity to the album.

•The featured artist track- do a guest appearance on someone else’s work, this brings extra attention as it exposes you to audiences you wouldn’t normally be exposed to.

•The live cut- cater for those that enjoy live offerings. Not every song has to be studio-quality so put out those live cuts.

•The cover song- doing covers of existing songs has always been a strategic way of attracting new listeners, you can also take the song, spin it and give it your signature.

Make Your Music Playlist Friendly

Playlists can generate a ton of streaming activities and it is critical to get this right. In getting your music playlist friendly, you should be aware of a few factors and these are some of them:

•Short and precise intros and outros – people are impatient and can skip songs very easily so get this right

•Putting your hook first- consider leading with the chorus to grab your listener’s attention right away

•Keep your songs under 4 minutes- this varies from genre to genre, but it is best to keep the songs short, remember its attention economics!

Update Your Press Kit

The press can take you and your music far and wide so always make sure your press kit is up to date after each release.

Update kit to include relevant information about the single, edit your artist bio to include these details, take new photos, update your website. Get out those press releases to the relevant media houses and provide relevant streaming and purchase links.

Readily available information makes it easy for journalists and bloggers to write about you and your music.

Israel SEBENZO® is a Singer, Songwriter and Artist & Repertoire (A&R) Executive

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How To Succeed In The Music Industry Part 2

Israel Sebenzo

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Israel Sebenzo, 10/02/20214

Working Well Under Pressure and Stress

The nature of the industry is such that the ability to multitask is a must. As a musician/creative, you will need to go on tours, complete demanding recording sessions and be able to work on several other projects.

Time management in the business goes a long way, if you manage your time well, you will be able to avoid stress situations.

Working with other creatives who are different from you, who think and do things differently will create a lot of tension.

To be a successful in the industry, you will then need to be able to move projects forward without letting feelings of being overwhelmed get the best of you. Stay calm in situations of high stress.

Be aware of your shortcomings as a creative and how you cope in situations of pressure. This helps you develop and utilize the ability to work well with others and in turn translate to improved insights on how weaknesses may be eliminated to increase chances of successful music careers.

Always See the Bigger Picture

The music industry, just like any other industry, comes with its fair share of opportunities and challenges. The biggest challenge perhaps is having to put in most of the work for a long time with no benefits in sight. It is at these points that your vision should pull through.

If your vision is not clear enough, you will stray from your objectives and at the end of the day lose focus of your set out goals.

Always aim to align your actions with the desired end goal. This is a quick and effective way of achieving the goal.

Remain steadfast in your vision, never be distracted by the small picture, always see the bigger picture.

Take risks

If you don’t embrace risk taking, you might as well forget about success. Nothing great has ever come from comfort zones. Leave you comfort zone!

Don’t be afraid to try new ideas, to reach new audiences or change your image. Risks can be very uncomfortable and controversial, but the more calculated they are, the more likely they are to take you to greater heights in your career.

Taking risks however does not mean going into business blindly and then expecting great results. Take calculated risks.

Competitive Drive

Create a culture of healthy competition with others and this will propel you to make significant progress.

It does not necessarily have to be a competition with other players in the industry, you can alternatively get yourself an accountability partner that you will be checking in with at certain intervals to give you that push to get things done and less of procrastinating.

Always be vigilant not to be consumed into unhealthy competition that is very counter-productive. Also, be careful not to lose your authenticity in the process.

Compete but stay in your lane!

Effective Communication and Networking Skills

I cannot over-emphasize the importance of communication skills in the industry, effective ones at that. The whole business is hinged around people- the fans, live audiences, collaborators, song writers and so on, these are all people you must effectively communicate with frequently.

Once the communication is defective, the end goal is compromised.

If you are not a good communicator naturally, seek help and improve on this shortcoming.

You must confidently champion your ideas and products for them to be meaningful to the next person.

Israel SEBENZO® is a Singer, Songwriter and Artist & Repertoire (A&R) Executive

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