You Want To Bring Me In Later? Thanks, But No Thanks.

I hear it again and again. "I really love what you do and I think it would be great. Once we get a little further down the line, I'd love to talk to you again about working together." Would you tell an architect that you "want to go ahead and get the foundation and framing done" and then bring her in? Nope. Because all she's going to do is tell you that you built a crappy foundation and you need to start over. Same with building a career. If you're getting strategy and planning help, get it up front.

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Doing A Whole Lot Of Nothing

Twitter, Facebook and all these other outlets are great ways to reach your audience. But there are limitations. And without a smart strategy, they can become black holes, sucking up all your time and energy. I know people who seem to spend hours a day on Twitter and Facebook, responding to followers, trying to be witty and desperately trying to hit 1,000 or 10,000 or even 100,000 followers. Bless their hearts, they think they're working. And, in a sense, they are. But, in most cases, they are just treading water -- working their asses off and getting nowhere. Like good press, a Twitter or Facebook or email following is not an end in itself. It's a means, an opportunity. And if you don't have a plan for how to activate those followers in some way, then you are just wasting your time. That's why you need a healthy balance of content and promotions.

It's easy to get wrapped up in all the crap. To feel like you're doing something when you aren't actually getting anything accomplished. But eventually that futility will end up killing your good intentions because you can only do something for so long with nothing to show for it. You give up. I understand that not everything has a direct, obvious and measurable return. Ultimately, however, it is a business. And that means that - AT SOME POINT - you need to sell records or tickets or something. With that in mind, here five guidelines for smarter use of your time online:

1. Have reasonable expectations, but ALWAYS have expectations and goals. 2. Create a balance of content and promotions. 3. Set guidelines for what and how often you post. 4. Keep perspective. Don't become a slave to the numbers. 5. Don't ever forget that making music/art is the first priority.

The Difference Between Content And Promotions

When you look at content and promotions on your website, Facebook, Twitter or through other media outlets, they would seem to be pretty similar. But there is one huge distinction: Content is something you give to people with no expectation of anything in return – a photo, blog post, video or a link to an interesting article. Promotions, on the other hand, are built around a specific call to action – sign up for this, buy a record, download a song, come to my show. A good marketing plan has a balanced mix. Content grabs their attention and promotions convert that attention into something worthwhile. Not enough promotions and you spend a lot of time and effort for nothing. Not enough content and people will get sick of you asking them for stuff. It's like all healthy relationships, it has give and take. And when that balance gets out of whack, someone is going to leave.

Compromise On Quantity, Not Quality

Unless you are the exception to the rule, you have limited time, energy and money to invest in your project -- whether that be music or a product or service. That means you'll have to do something none of us enjoys: You'll have to prioritize. Make tough decisions. And when you do, the rule of thumb you should keep in mind: Make an amazing version of something simple, not a half-ass version of something big. Compromise on quantity, not quality. If you have to chose between three great players or five good ones, three is always the better choice. Always.

Don't Give Other People Veto Power

It's so easy to unconsciously put yourself in a position where you are reliant on someone else – or worse, a lot of other people – in order to get your project or your career off the ground. Don't do it. Don't. What happens if that person gets fired? Or that project's budget gets cut? Or your champion can't sell it to their boss? The answer is simple: you are screwed.

If you believe you need the sign-off from the head of a major label before you can even get started, you may as well quit now. Hell, buy a Powerball ticket. The odds are similar. You are setting yourself up for a lot of frustration and disappointment. And perhaps even more importantly, you are showing an incredible lack of creativity and determination – two things you will need deep reserves of if you ever hope to make a mark in the music industry.

Don't wait for someone to make it happen for you. Start doing it on your own. Start a Kickstarter project to fund an album. Start your own YouTube channel. MAKE SOMETHING WONDERFUL. Then go and find good outlets and partners for it. Now you actually have something to talk to labels about. And, trust me, that label president is going to love it if you've built it yourself. Even if he gives you a budget and asks you to rebuild it on a larger scale. Why? Because he knows how tough the road ahead is even with a major label behind you. Because he knows they can find great songs for you. And they can get you a stylist and a trainer. But they can't make you do the work. And they can't make you want it so badly that giving up just isn't an option.

So what should you do? Have a plan. And a back-up plan. Actually, have 3 back-up plans. And work the crap out of all of them. Chances are you'll need them. Pursue multiple avenues knowing that most of them won't work out. And that is absolutely fine as long as you don't let it kill your momentum. Or your spirit. You can always scale it up if the opportunity comes along. But if you wait around for someone to tell you it's okay to get started, you're going to be waiting forever. Relying too much on one person or outlet gives them veto power. And the only person who should have that is you.