Nadine’s Music Career Timeline

Music Career TimeLine


Let this timeline be your career bible. It will save you thousands of dollars in seminars fees and bad “advice” from so-called experts.

I think the hardest thing about being a full-time artist is that you never really know how well you’re doing. Sure, if you’re Radiohead or 50 Cent, you can sit back comfortably and say, “I think I’m in the black,” but what about the road towards that goal? How can you be sure if you’re ahead of the curve and can relax a bit, or if you’re lagging behind and need to pick up the pace? Without a yardstick to compare your development you have nothing other than your rock n’ roll fantasy feeding your dream.

Not any longer. Recently I came across what may be the most useful book ever written for an emerging artist. It was overlooked by media sycophants for reasons I can not fathom. I only happened across it because it was put out by the same publishing company that puts out my first book, Confessions of a Record Produce: How To Survive The Scams And Shams of the Music Business.

Hot Hit Cheap Demos by Nadine Condon, is a book you want to own. It’s a polar opposite to my cautionary-styled books. It’s positive and upbeat with great advice and stories from the trenches by someone who’s actually been there. Not a wannabe who couldn’t make it. The most amazing thing in it is this timeline. It clearly marks out the benchmarks you need to hit to move from the garage to the arena. And if you’ve already been at this for a year or two, then simply jump to the year you’re in on the time line and see how you rank.

By special permission of the author, I have reprinted her timeline below. Use it to your advantage. And if you find it useful, buy her book from the author’s website [].

Some of this might seem very “beginner,” but, as someone who has counseled countless artists, I can tell you, it’s simplicity is deceptive! There is a lot of hidden power in this timeline, if you follow it.


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Go to: Year One

Year Two

Year Three

Year Four

Year Five

Year Six

Year Seven

Year Eight



Time Line Basics by Nadine Condon

A time line is a concrete visualization of what you are actually going to do in the next month, three months, six months, and one year. This time line is designed to map out a career in a flexible fashion, using three-month increments. Three-month increments are good for several reasons: In three months you can put a band together…write three songs…record a working demo to send to clubs. In the following six months you can get gigs at out-of-the-way places on bad nights to get your set together…get a small fan base going…work the Internet. Three months after that you can be playing opening slots on weekends…building your crowd…doing better publicity…getting your name around…creating a buzz. In one year’s time, you could be playing on a sold-out Saturday night.

The following general time line is designed to show what might be appropriate for most beginning bands that have big aspirations. Every activity in this time line is dealt with in more detail in later chapters. This example is just one way you might approach your career.



Year One Goal: Get your act together


Months 1–3:

• See lots of bands perform in music clubs.

• Post flyers in rehearsal spaces, guitar stores, coffeehouses, and recording studios.

• Place ads in newspapers, music newsletters, and on Internet music sites.

Months 4–6:

• Start to play and write songs with people who have responded to your ads.

• Discard apparent flakes, crazies, losers, psychos, and drama queens.

• Finalize solid lineup of flakes, crazies, losers, psychos, and drama queens masquerading as solid players.

• Start to write and play together.

• Start to get an image of you as a band.

• Let your daydreams run wild.

• Record bad rehearsal sessions and have fun.

Months 7–9:

• Get more comfortable and confident playing music as you realize no one will laugh at you.

• Begin to meet other bands more confidently.

• Commit to a serious rehearsal schedule.

• Realize that band members come and go as things get more serious.

• Invest in some better equipment.

• Develop the beginning of a 45-minute set.

Months 10–12:

• Play low-key shows in nontraditional venues and small clubs, or on off-nights in larger clubs.

• Understand that a nontraditional venue may not present live music currently but will consider your proposal.

• Remember that audiences in small neighborhood clubs are generally friendlier and less demanding than showcase clubs.

• Realize that showcase clubs may be open to you playing on an off-night just to see how many people you can pull in.

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Year Two Goal: Headline a major club on a weekend night


Months 1–3:

• Put shows together with other bands.

• Create a Web page with basic info: name, picture, gig schedule.

• Begin to create an Internet fan base with e-mail lists.

• Work on building a solid set list of songs.

Months 4–6:

• Record a decent three-song demo using a basic digital audio workstation, or rent an inexpensive digital studio.

• Play more visible shows with increasing attendance.

• Tighten up the pacing of the show and eliminate long breaks between songs and equipment changeovers.

• Engage in more aggressive street marketing to increase your recognition factor with the general public in your area.

Months 7–9:

• Get demo reviewed in local papers and fanzines.

• Get demo reviewed on Internet music sites.

• Put good reviews on Web site.

• Put MP3 of demo songs on Web site.

• Get demo played on a local college radio show.

• Get on weekend shows in opening or middle slot.

Months 10–12:

• Develop an attractive bill of solid bands with consistent draw of fans.

• Give the bill a name/theme/tag line, such as White Punks on Dope, Heavy Metal Blowout, Hot Country Nights, Songbirds Unplugged, Rocking Night of the Year, or Blues Jam Explosion.

• Sell lineup to a local club for a weekend night appearance.

• Make yourself the headliner.

• Use college radio to promote your big weekend show by giving away tickets over the air.

• Advertise your show with flyers and postcards.

• Decide what makes this show special, concentrating on attention-getting facts: rare occasion to see a certain band; special guests; reputations of the other bands including sold-out shows or better-than-average record sales; drink specials; ticket discounts for fans who meet certain criteria (arriving early, sisters who show I.D., or men dressed as Deborah Harry).

• Use special aspects of the show to interest the press in mentioning it as a noteworthy, exciting entertainment event.

• Highlight the show on your Web site and give tickets away via the site.

• E-mail your fan list and give tickets away via e-mail.

• Headline your weekend show and sell out, having to turn fans away at the door.

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Year Three, Goal A: Record a CD with a professional producer


Months 1–3:

• Ask your band friends for producer recommendations.

• Look on the back of your favorite CDs for studios, producers, and engineers who have worked with bands in your area.

• Pick five in each category of producers, engineers, studios.

• Contact these people (if you contact 15 people, you will most likely hear back from five, and one to three of them will be interested in working with you).

Months 4–6:

• Record a CD (or EP) with one of the contacts who responded favorably.

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Year Three, Goal B: Sell your recording independently


Months 7–9:

• Release the CD by placing it on consignment in local music stores.

• Post it for sale on your Web site and online music sites so you can track your sales and fan interest.

• Get the CD reviewed in your local press, fanzines, and Webzines to coincide with its release.

• Play a CD release party—big show that coincides with release, with attendant publicity and focus on the CD’s availability.

• Get one cut played in regular rotation on your local college station (this means writing and recording one really good song that gets consistent reaction no matter who is listening—girlfriend, producer, club manager, or other band).

Months 10–12:

• Play area gigs regularly in and around towns within an evening’s drive, selling the CD at shows.

• Put the CD in local music stores in each gig location.

• Perform live at record stores to promote CD sales—these are called “in-stores.” (While many people think brick-and-mortar record stores are a thing of the past, they remain the most important link for building a fan base and getting exposure. Record stores—especially the independents—are the new town halls of music and should be used as fully as possible.)

• Continue to promote and sell on your Web site.

• Coordinate with each college radio station in each college town to help promote your show; offer to give away tickets or the CD so they can announce when and where you are performing and which record stores carry the disc.

• E-mail your fan list to call these stations and request a specific song from the record; call the music director every week and tell him or her more and more good news about people’s reactions to that specific song (press, sales, etc.).

• Get song added to play list of college station.

• Publicize this fact in your press releases and on your Web site.

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Buy the book: Hot Hits Cheap Demos

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Year Four Goal: Sign with an indie label


Months 1–3:

• Expand your scope regionally, picking another three towns to conquer, so your reach has a ripple effect through a region.

• Use the same steps, local music stores, college radio, the power of the Web.

• Keep Web site very current with up-to-date gig, radio, and press info: names of stations playing the CD, pull quotes from good reviews, fan response.

• Create a sense of happening around your endeavors—airplay, shows, and reviews—so people feel they can’t miss one of your gigs (if you treat your show as just another ho-hum gig, so will your fans).

• Track your CD sales and emphasize them (if they are good) on your site and in your press releases.

• When you reach 1,000 in sales, throw a party—that’s a big accomplishment and should get you some attention!

Months 4–6:

• Research indie labels by examining CD covers, browsing record stores, talking to your friends and other bands and club bookers, reading music magazines, and surfing the Internet.

• Find like-minded labels who are doing business the way you are doing business; pick 15 of them.

• Contact those labels and ask how they accept submissions.

• Contact managers who deal with those labels.

• Contact producers who deal with those labels.

• Contact other artists on those labels.

• Gather the facts about why you are right for that signing: record sales of 1,000 or more, proven fan base, regional touring experience, college airplay, and good press (all evidence that your music gets noticed and you are serious about your career).

Months 7–9:

• Sign deal with indie label.

• Make new record with that label.

Months 10–12:

• Strategize a one-year marketing plan with your label (that is about the life span of an indie record).

• Make sure the record is “set up” before release through coordination with record stores, artwork, radio stations, advertising, marketing.

• Think regionally first, and don’t waste money on a national campaign that will spread your resources too thin.

• Think outside the box.

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Year Five Goal: Sell over 10,000 indie records


Months 1–3:

• Employ traditional and nontraditional marketing tools like the Internet, late-night TV spots, neighborhood direct mail, trade magazines, fanzines, touring opportunities, sponsorships, and other creative tie-ins to market your record.

• Know what you want to achieve every month for the next year and set monthly goals to help you stay focused.

• Consider using industry events (radio softball games for charity or local awards shows) or college activities (free concerts, dorm parties) as focal points of high-profile activity.

• Use the year to build momentum, like a set list that is well paced—don’t forget the ripple effect of activity.

• Create a big picture that audiences want to be a part of, using sustainable, dynamic, talked-about shows, visible record sales, and consistent music presence.

Months 4–12:

• Implement these strategies wisely, always making sure one activity leads to the next, and revamp strategies that are not effective. (Example: if your label has limited distribution, resist paying for radio promotion in regions that don’t carry your record. Instead, concentrate on performing and selling your record where you are getting airplay and there are clubs to support you.)

• Tour regionally three times to make a noticeable impact (go into the market regularly—every three months).

• Use independent record stores, in-stores performances, promotional giveaways, college radio stations, fanzines, the press, the Web, and your fan base in every market to keep the momentum going.

• Engage people with your marketing campaign and compel them to buy the record, call the radio station, go to the Web site, and see you perform live.

• Give the people want they want: to have fun at live shows, to be part of a happening scene, and to hear something they can’t find on TV, radio, or the Internet.

• Create touring scenarios with other genre-specific bands to co-promote your tours and share the promotional efforts.

[ back to index ]



Buy the book: Hot Hits Cheap Demos

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Year Six Goal: Sign with a major label


Months 1–3:

• Use the authentic success of your recent year-long campaign to secure the services of a “name” producer.

Months 4–6:

• Record demo with three to five songs including one to three radio-friendly songs (songs that people feel commercial radio would play on the air in continual rotation); have three to five more songs waiting in the wings that have “radio” potential.

Months 7–9:

• Using the punch of your past success and your new producer, secure the services of a manager or an attorney to represent you to labels.

• Have one or the other actively shop the produced record.

• Prepare shows to give labels an opportunity to see you in settings you control—with your fans.

• Have past radio airplay and record sales stats available and substantiated.

Months 10–12:

• Knock ’em dead with blistering showcases.

• Get the deal!


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Year Seven Goal: Record an album with a major label


Months 1–3:

• Buy drinks for all your friends to celebrate.

• Daydream about fast cars and MTV success.

• Look for producers and write songs.

• Hire a business manager to help budget your money, pay your taxes, and buy insurance.

Months 4–6:

• Get to know your label personnel.

• Start collaborating with them on the dimensions and follow-through of your project.

• Discuss other producers and studios.

• Have more budget discussions.

• Write more songs.

• Fret about the time it takes to work with a major label.

• Start preproduction, finally.

Months 7–9:

• Fall into despair about the slowness of a major label.

• Devise strategies to deal with your frustration and don’t give your power away by letting the label take care of things.

• Keep playing and writing, focusing on potentially commercial songs.

• Search out new collaborations to keep challenging yourself.

• Experiment in your home with new sounds and new equipment to stay fresh.

• Demo your new songs on your desktop recording setup.

• Handle a lot of preproduction chores in your home studio.

Months 10–12:

• Record the “major-label record” with the producer and label as collaborators.

• Do overdubs and mixing.

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Buy the book: Hot Hits Cheap Demos

Send a thank you note to Moses & Nadine

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Year Eight Goal: Release an album on a major label


Months 1–3:

• Continue working on overdubs.

• Work on CD artwork and credits.

• Begin planning CD release strategy—first single to be released and radio set up.

Months 4–6:

• Take new promo photos; plan image of the band.

• Record “can’t miss” hit song at the eleventh hour.

• Have discussion with label regarding marketing strategy, touring possibilities, and CD rollout by the different label departments.

• Put record on hold while new promotion head takes over.

Months 7–9:

• Wait while mastering and manufacturing is completed.

• Monitor single’s release 6 to 12 weeks before album’s release.

• Participate in promotional campaign to major market radio stations and record stores in support of the first single.

• Appear at industry conventions, trade shows, and company meetings.

Months 10–12:

• Celebrate: Record released!!


Monitor your plan for effectiveness

It doesn’t do any good to make a time line if you do not monitor it for effectiveness. If something is not working, face the fact that you may have to change your strategy, band members, or sound. Although it may be unpleasant, it may be your only option if you are serious about what you want to achieve.

Since this is a relationship-based business, personnel changes can be particularly difficult. Everyone thinks it’s a joke when you say, “It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.” But more often than not, it’s true. Creating a plan is one thing, putting the team together to execute it is another.

Accountability must be included in your time line so problems are assessed and dealt with immediately as they arise. If the bass player keeps neglecting his flyer duties, maybe he is not as dedicated as you and is dragging you down. If the guitar player has a drug problem, acknowledging the situation will help you assess the problem and choose a solution.

Decide what things must happen before you can headline that club on a Saturday night! If the booker will not return your calls, maybe your draw is not substantial enough for that club and your headlining ambitions need more time to develop.

Continue to monitor the plan so it’s moving you closer to your goals while reflecting your current situation. A business plan for music is different than a business plan to sell shoes. Hits, fads, and opportunities come and go more quickly than the norm. You need to be realistic about the changeable nature of things. This is a wacky business, life is wacky, and anything can happen. The rehearsal studio can close down, your car can break down, a band member may lose a day job, move away, or get sick. If you start as a heavy-metal band and somehow end up indie acoustic, then the plan you made will need readjustment. You cannot send a folk song to hard-rock stations.

Flexibility is key. If you get offered a short tour with a national headliner but you were planning on recording during that time period, reassess the benefits of both. Be prepared to jump on the bandwagon when it arrives. This is a very quick-moving business, and you don’t want to be left behind!

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Nadine Condon



Buy the book: Hot Hits Cheap Demos

Send a thank you note to Moses & Nadine

Ask Moses A Question