Life as a Full-Time Musician: Q&A with Lindsey Kirkendall
Living Music by Justine | September Edition
We’re welcoming another guest on the blog this month.
As an artist development and business consultant, Lindsey has a wealth of music industry knowledge and experience. She’s worked with big labels and independent artists, helping them build careers in music by rocking the online world.
I spoke with Lindsey about her full-time music career, and how YOU can get there too. Let’s jump right in!
Tell us about yourself and your work. What does an average day look like?
I don't know if I ever have an average day! HA! I'm a mom to two awesome little boys and we home-school part-time. My husband is a music producer, videographer and photographer so our days are always exciting! On Mondays, I'm all in with my boys and home-school and on Fridays, my husband is. Tues-Thurs they're in school so we both get four days to work per week. When I'm not with my kids, I'm working with my female artist-clients, helping them to build their custom music business plans, meeting new potential clients through my free Music Monetization Roadmap, on consult calls, or connecting with the women inside my community for female artists and musicians: TRIBE.
When I'm not interacting one-on-one with my clients or TRIBE girls, I'm usually veering back and forth with my amazing biz partner, Leigh, and working on developing more opportunities, resources and educational materials for the women we serve. Right now, we are in the process of launching a group coaching program where we are teaching women how to explode their audience growth online. I'll be kicking off a monthly in-person workshop series in Nashville in Sept and we are hosting our first writers round in Nashville this month!
Occasionally, I'll travel to host live workshops and meet-ups for the women in our community... I'm currently in NYC as I write this!
Did you build your income (from music) gradually whilst working another job, or did you pursue music full-time with little guaranteed income?
I have never pursued music without some other form of guaranteed income. Mostly that was due to circumstance simply because I got married very young, so there was always at least one income coming in.
How many streams of income do you have? Which of these are the most profitable?
Right now, I have three main streams of revenue: My one-to-one consulting practice, my membership community and our VIP group coaching program, with our live workshop series launching in September being the fourth. In 2020, we will also launch our first-ever artist retreat and that will be the fifth. Currently, my most profitable stream of revenue is my consulting practice.
How do you promote your work? What works best? Are there any forms of promotion musicians prioritise that you think is a waste of time and money?
I promote my work on social media. Instagram is my primary focus, but I also use Facebook as well. Facebook groups are a great place to fish and we do run paid ad campaigns from time to time. The thing that works best is showing up as my most authentic self and creating content from a place of desiring to serve others well. People don't care about how much you know, but they do know how much you care and that is evident in how we show up in our social marketing. Connecting one on one as much as I can, being of help, making myself available to answer questions and creating resources that actually HELP PEOPLE accomplish their goals is the singular most important factor in growing an engaged fan base.
The biggest waste of time and money is BY FAR Spotify. I see so many artists throwing money at these "gurus" who can get them playlisted or have gamed the algorithms to help get their streaming numbers up and it's just such a joke... an artist throws $500 at said 'guru' to get their numbers up and then makes $15 in return, because HELLOOOO... Spotify only pays out 0.00038 per stream! I always ask artists: "Do streams pay your bills?" And the answer is always no. So, it's always in the artists' best interest to be investing their time in activities that put them in direct contact with their fans, learning who they are and nurturing those relationships. It will be a much quicker point A to point PAY, if you're doing that instead of chasing streams.
Lindsey's face when people say they're going to spend money on Spotify campaigns
Many musicians aspire to full-time musicianship but earn very little. What could they change or do differently to potentially generate more income from their music?
They need to have really clear answers to these three questions: Who are they? What is their message? Who do they want to impact with their music? It all starts with a very clear brand and clear understanding of their motivation for pursuing music. Because it can be a hard road and if we don't have a really good WHY, it's easy to walk away when the going gets rough.
The other important factor is to do more of what I said above: get to know your fans, create content that adds value to their lives. Constantly beating them over the head with "Go like my page! Go listen to my song! Go watch my video!" is annoying and doesn't SERVE your listener... it only serves yourself and people don't get excited about you when you're constantly asking for them to go out of their way for you. Always put your fans first. What can you do for THEM? Start there.
That could look like a new line of outside-the-box merch, a digital course, a VIP experience... the sky's the limit.
You’ve worked with big artists and indie musicians starting out. How is the process different? Is it more similar than people would think?
The process is different because we're talking about two completely different models of doing business. One is an artist who has built their career in the dying model of the "traditional" industry. The other is an artist building their career in the NEW music industry. The old model is make records, push them to radio, tour the record all while jumping through COUNTLESS hoops and dealing with COUNTLESS middlemen that slow down the process. The new model is connecting directly to your fans. Invite them into your process, learn what they respond to most in the art you’re creating and do more of that. Learn what they love and then create it for them. It’s really easy to sell art and music when you know what people want.
In the new model, it’s more lean, more direct and more effective. And the best part? The artist is in complete control.
On your website, you talk about the Internet being a powerful tool for musicians. Do you have any advice for people experiencing the negative side of the online world? (Negative comments, trolling, etc.)
If you're getting trolls, you're doing something right!!! Congratulate yourself and then let it roll off your back. In the digital world, you'll hear it said: "The riches are in the niches" so the more you can niche down to find your ideal audience of superfans, the better. Often, artists are too scared to say what they REALLY think, or to boldly be who they REALLY are... trying to maintain some sense of appeal to the masses... but that doesn't work in the digital space. That's the OLD model: "Appeal to the largest audience possible so your odds are better in being able to monetize them."
It was a quantity over quality mentality.
In the digital space it's the complete opposite. It's quality over quantity, and you need to go back to Q5 to know how to do this well... knowing who you are and what your message is, helps an artist refine who they are speaking to, to such a fine point that it will in fact polarize people... and that's a good thing! I'm not saying you need to be polarizing about huge social issues or come out and say where you stand politically, but the more you can talk about the unique aspects of who you are, the more it will serve as a filter. Which is what you want. You want to filter out the people who AREN'T ever going to be your superfans. So, if you're getting trolled, it means you're doing something right. Give yourself a high five, block 'em and move on.
If you could only give one piece of advice to someone aspiring towards full-time musicianship, what would it be?
Know who you are, what your message is and who you want to impact with your music. If you really don't have these clearly answered for yourself, you will never be able to clearly communicate them to attract your superfans and create a fan base that is engaged and pays for the content you create.
Here’s a HUGE THANK YOU to Lindsey for taking the time to be part of the blog. Lindsey has a Superfan Avatar Worksheet. This gives you prompts to help you identify your superfans. To get this free worksheet, DM Lindsey on Instagram, or contact her via her website.
Please subscribe to this blog to be notified when new articles are posted. I have another Q&A with a full-time musician scheduled for November, and Halloween content is around the corner!
This was the second post in the 'Life as a Full-Time Musician' series. Check out the first: Life as a Full-Time Musician: Q&A with Mella Barnes.