Scaling Up

Tonight, I’m doing a new presentation in Nashville, TN about scaling up in the music business. It’s based on an idea I’ve been developing for a new book. I believe that many artists get stuck in a rut and find themselves unable to achieve more (in terms of income, new fans, opportunities, or otherwise) because they haven’t built a music business that is scalable. Of course, this isn’t just something that musicians struggle with.

Whether it is a nonprofit trying to expand its services, a business thinking about opening new locations, or a parent deciding whether if it is feasible to have more children, these are all questions of scale. Despite the philosophy of meritocracy being so prominent in our culture, I think many people believe that they are working as hard as they can. So advice of “you just gotta hustle more” isn’t that useful (unless, of course, one does have capacity to increase their workload). Helping people understand how to scale is far more useful.

How can someone scale? Here are some ways to do that in any area of life:

  • Do a resource audit: How is the time, money, and energy being used at the moment? Create a budget for all three of these areas. Find out what should get the priority and invest in that first. Remember, “rich people invest first and spend what’s left. Poor people spend first and invest what’s left” (John Rohn). When you invest your time, money, and energy in what actually brings you the greatest return, you’ll often find more of those things.
  • Think about the big picture: Your goals should be SMARTER. They should ultimately guide your decisions. Think of your goal as a mountain: with each decision, are you getting closer to that mountain or getting further from it?
  • Think smaller: When thinking about your responsibilities and obligations, ask yourself: how can you do more with less? Perhaps its delegation and figuring out that it is best to hire out because your time is more valuable than the savings of not getting a professional. Or maybe it is dropping what isn’t effective at all.
  • Get fast: Don’t waste time trying to perfect your product when it should go to market because imperfection won’t make or break you but speed will. Show up early and show up often, fixing things as you move along because you’ll need momentum, early feedback, and the ability to be flexible more than a perfect plan or a perfect release. Facebook’s early motto was “move fast and break things.” Seemed to work for them.

More than anything else, it’s important to start thinking about areas of your life in terms of scale. How can you grow it in a way that is sustainable? Remember, you’ll never conquer that mountain of a goal if you’re too busy dealing with small hills.

2 thoughts on “Scaling Up

  1. This article and your book idea about scaling up are so timely. I’ve had recent conversations about the need to scale my music business. One specific way for me to scale up is to increase the number of songs that I create and get pitch ready. One of the key ways for me to do this is to routinely collaborate with a group of producers, musicians, singers, and songwriters to lower production costs. After several years of searching, I feel that I’ve found a group to do this with. I was surprised that it would take as long as it did for me to make this quality connection because the music industry is perceived as this naturally collaborative environment. I soon realized how we can be so focused on reaching our own goals and getting that “big break” we often overlook opportunities that are staring us right in the face, or sitting in our inbox.

    1. There’s never a “big break” – success, as you allude to here, is the combination of many, many small efforts that compound. It’s a journey, not a destination. Collaborations and building teams is definitely one of those efforts!

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