Being in the music industry isn’t all about creating and writing. You also need to pay attention to the business side to make a career out of your music. Gail Taylor joins Bree Noble in this episode with tips on creating your music business plan. Gail is a songwriter, keyboardist, and inspirational keynote speaker with 25 years of experience in the financial business. She decided to reinvent herself at the age of 60 and become a musician. Now, she uses her music and personal stories to entertain and inspire her audiences to become their best selves and go after their dreams. Join them in this episode as Gail combines her passion for music and love for the business to share valuable advice for aspiring musicians.
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From Finance To Music: How & Why To Create Your Music Business Plan With Gail Taylor
Welcome to the show. I am here with Gail Taylor. We are going to talk about her journey. What is cool about her is that she has a similar background to me. She used to work in finance and now, she is a musician. A lot of people think that is the weirdest combination when they talk to me anyway. They are like, “You are a unicorn. How many people work in finance and they are also a musician?” I am looking forward to hearing about that and how she went from finance to musician and how she runs her business as a musician. It is going to be inspiring to you. Let’s start off, Gail. Let us know about you and your journey and how you went from being in the financial world to deciding to start a musician business.
Thank you very much for having me. I am honored that I get to chat with you and the folks out there. I was in the financial business for 25 years. I was a financial advisor and a successful one. In fact, I define it as my goal was to make my clients financially independent and make myself financially independent. I did socially responsible investment. We were building our wealth while strengthening the world. That was my journey there. I loved it. I loved my work. In my late 50s, I decided to take piano lessons. You can imagine here, I am starting with the scales. I have no music background. At 58, I was taking piano lessons. A couple of years later, I thought, “I love this.” We have more parallels than you think, Bree. I get up at 4:00 AM.
I had played the piano for a couple of hours. I was having so much fun that I thought, “I am going to retire and study music full-time. I can do it. I am financially independent, so why not?” At 61, I retired to study music full-time. Two years later, still having so much fun, I thought, “I am going to reinvent myself as a musician.” At this part of my journey, I tell people that story and they would go, “That is so inspiring. I need to go do something.” I kept hearing this over and over again. I thought, “I got to come out of retirement and monetize this.”
I got to take my music and my public speaking background because when I was in finance, I was a public speaker for 35 years. I am going to become a keynote speaker and try to help folks become their best selves, sharing my stories, sharing my music, and making that a part of the journey. I have been developing the startup version of my music business during COVID.
Did you start your music business during COVID?
Yes. The day my company opened was January 1st, 2020. I have been open since then. When you are as new at it as me, there is a big learning curve. There are a lot of startups. I am a songwriter first and foremost, I am a keyboardist, and I am a keynote speaker. With the world the way it is, I can take my songs, hire studios and musicians, bring them to life, and then distribute them through Distrokid or CD Baby. It is so wonderful to be able to do that in this day and age. You are not dependent on a third party accepting your product. You can take it to life.
I love that perspective because a lot of times, I hear a lot of complaining musicians, “I have to do all this stuff myself. I do not want to do this. I want to make music.” You are like, “No, this is amazing that I have this ability to do this and I have this access.” That is what I am always trying to get across to musicians that have that negative mindset. I love that you said that.
There are no gatekeepers anymore. The sky is the limit. You could do whatever you want to do with your music. It is interesting what you said about the negative. In the beginning of me coming into music, I was asked this. I was interviewed by one of our radio stations. I am in Western Canada. I was being interviewed and they said, “What negative things have you heard so far on this music journey?” I said, “There is only one that I kept hearing. It was that, ‘As long as you love the music because there is no money in it.’” I kept hearing that from people in the music industry, I was thinking, “Do you guys know how big the music industry is? It is billions of dollars.” Even the indie version of it is $18 billion. I am not buying that. There is a niche. There is a place for everyone.There are no gatekeepers anymore. The sky’s the limit. Click To Tweet
We are on the same page on that one for sure. I am curious. What things from your work as a financial advisor did you transfer over into this new business? Were there certain habits or ways of doing things or organizing or anything like that, that you easily transferred over like, “This is what a successful business needs to do and therefore, I need to do that in my music business, too.”?
What you just said, everything. When you talk about having a business plan, for instance, you need a business plan and you need a strategic plan. A business plan does not matter what your product is. Whether your product is a song that you are going to then produce and release to inspire folks or whether your product is a financial plan that you are going to prepare for a client and then administer to help them with their financial independence, it is still the same thread. You are taking your product or your service and you are bringing it to life. I am very fortunate in that. I did a lot of my studies with Berkeley School because they have that online program that is so amazing. I am very fortunate that because of my business background, I love business.
I embrace it. It was something I love. To be able to take the music side and the business side and combine them, even listening to you on time management, I am a master at time management. All the things you and Michael were saying, it was like, “That is exactly right. You got it.” For me, the two of them fit nicely in a pocket, but what I would like to share with other folks is that I always tell everybody, “It does not matter what industry you are in. You should do something that you love for a living. You should be passionate about whatever it is you are going to do for a living.”
Find something you spend at least a third of your life doing. You should like it. I do have a Type A personality. To work 10, 12 hours a day, to me, it is like, “That is like living 10 or 12 hours a day.” That is important. If you are passionate about the music side, but I am struggling with this business side of it, then partner up, join a band, and find a way. We do not all have the same passions, strengths, weaknesses, and expertise, so find the ones you love doing and outsource the other parts.
It is helpful to outsource the parts that either you do not like to do or you are not good at, but eventually, if your business gets big enough, you cannot possibly do it all anyway. You need to outsource and the goal is to get your business to the point where you are big enough that you absolutely have to outsource.
You are going to love this. Guess who I first outsourced my social media to? My daughter.
We do have so much in common. It is crazy like that and our business background. Also, when I was touring as a musician, I did keynote concerts like stories and songs. We are very similar. We have this Type A personality. It looks like we are the same person, except I am a little bit younger than you, not a lot.
That is one of my messages too. You can reinvent yourself at any age. You played my song, Staying Young, on your radio show. Thank you very much. I appreciate that. One of the things that inspired me to write Staying Young was I found that a lot of the folks I met since I joined the music industry seem to think that if they had not hit a certain level or made it by the time they got out of their twenties, then it was over. I am thinking, “What? That is not how life works.” You do not have to hit whatever it is you want to hit. That is another big thing. What do you want? What are your goals?
Whether you are a financial advisor or a musician or making widgets, you have to be able to get that vision going, figure out what it is that you want in the end, in the 5 years or 10 years down the road, and then work backward towards trying to achieve it. Some folks want to be that top 40 pop star with the fame and the fortune. That is where they want to go. That is great. All the more power to them. Others want to be studio musicians, where they can go home at 4:00 PM and take care of the kids for the rest of the day. That is their passions. I think that is a big key for everyone.
That changes based upon what stage of life you are in. For me, when I was doing the musician thing and I was touring and all of that, that was that stage of life. I had wanted that for a long time. I finally got to do it. I was able to do it because I had younger kids at that point, then I got to the stage where it was not so feasible.
I would have to be gone for a long time and miss out on my kids’ stuff. I could not drag them with me anymore. I had to make a choice. Now I have one that is in college and one that is going into eighth grade, I could then take on another music job again, which I did. I had not been doing a steady music-related performing type job for all these years because of the different life stage that I was in.
You have to base it upon the passion that you have. Do you want to do this thing? The talent that you have to do that. Maybe some people could not be a keynote speaker because they will never be a good speaker in front of people. That is okay. That is not your talent. It is the drive. Do you have enough drive to do it? As you said, some people want to be a top 40 artist. Cool. When you are in your twenties, that is what I wanted.
When I got to my thirties, I realized that was not what I wanted anymore. I wanted to have a job doing music in some way. I want to spend that one-third of my life that is my job doing music because that is what I love. I was willing to open my mind to other ways that I could do that instead of that one way that I had in my mind in my twenties.
To be able to pivot through your life as the ebb and flows happen with our lives. That is an important part of everybody’s journey, to be able to define, “Where am I now and where do I want to be?”
Let’s talk about business plans because you are big on that. What I want to know is how formal do you think this thing needs to be? Do we need to write up this like thing with an index and it is all in a nice little folder and you can show it to people? Is it for other people? Is it for you to get investors or you to get backers or is it for you to make sure that exactly where you are going?
All of the above. Everything that you said. It depends on where you are in, in your journey and where you want to go. If you are looking at financial backing, even if it is doing crowdfunding or however it is that you want financial backing, both strategic plans and business plans can be very simple documents or they can be very comprehensive with the index. In this world, it is so easy to get access to free templates for $49 or take an 8-week course on how to write a business plan. It is going to take you a total of 2 hours a week and it is $79.95. We are in an information age like we have never been before. Learning how to do these things is quite simple.You can reinvent yourself at any age. Click To Tweet
Due to my business background, I go with, “The bigger, the better,” in the sense that if you have a clear understanding of where you want to go, “This is my business and this is what I am going to do with my business. This is the kind of money I want to make with my business. This is the approach that I am going to take to get there. Here is the financial cost that it is going to be. Here is where I am going to get those funds in order to be able to do it.”
It’s like when you were talking on that earlier summit about time management. If you can take an hour a day for three months and block it off in your calendar and say, “I am going to spend one hour working on my business plan and keep working through it,” the more you spend, the deeper you get, the more rewards you are going to get from it, the more things are going to come to life, the more you are going to be able to make it all a reality.
You can break it out in that way and get it done. The real question that people reading might be having in their mind is, “When is it time to do this?” Maybe they have started dipping their toe in, they have been doing a few performances, but they still have a job. When do they switch from, “I am a freelancer or I am trying this music thing out or I am doing a few gigs,” to, “This is a business?”
It is when they decide that they want to make a career out of their music and not necessarily be an employee. Whether you are an artist, a vocalist, a keyboardist, or a songwriter, there are so many different areas in the music industry. You can go and you can get a full-time job working in somebody else’s business. If that is what you want to do, then you do not have to make a business plan to do that. You can make a little strategic plan on how you are going to manifest your career into happening. You could still plan it out and make it happen.
You have probably read Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. I have been doing personal growth and self-help since the ‘70s. I still have little things pasted to my mirror every morning that I read, “This is what I am going to achieve.” Believing in yourself and figuring out where it is you want to go, I do not think you bring the business plan into play until you decide, “I want my own business. I want this to be my band, me and my band, or me as a solo artist. I want to run this as a business.”
A quick definitional check. What is the difference between a business plan and a strategic plan?
A business plan is a plan on what the business is. It is going to tell you who is in the business, who the key players in the business are, who the people are that are going to be in the business, what it is they are offering, what service or product that they are offering, and how that fits within the industry. If their service is in the music industry, then what is the size of the music industry and where are all the revenues coming out of that music industry so that you know it is viable and that it fits? You will have your marketing plan and how it is that you are going to get this product out to the people that are going to benefit from it. There are going to be financial plans as to how that is going to work. That is the framework of a business plan.
It will have an executive summary at the beginning of it. You will outline all that in a couple of pages and then you will have those different sections to it. When I was a financial advisor, I had a team of assistants and associates. I used to take them off-site for about three days a year and we do the strategic plan for a year.
It would be a plan that was based on, “What do we want to do this year? Where do we want to take our products to? What is the next level? Are we working on R&D? Is there Research and Development here that we have to work on? What are the resources that we have right now that we need to accomplish this? What are the ones we need? What is missing? Where is the gap? What is it that we are missing? Who is going to go fix those and acquire those missing things? Team number one, you will go get this. Number two, you will go get this.” You spend the year working through the strategy. That is how I differentiate it.
The business plan is more of the overarching thing like, “This is what this business is, and this is how we are going to make money.” The strategic plan is a time-based thing, “These are the projects we are going to do to achieve the goals that we had in the business plan. Here is how we are going to get it done.” If it is just you in the business, if you are a solopreneur, then you are going to do all the things or you are going to be like, “I do not want to do some of these things. I need to outsource some of these things.” That helps you figure out where you need to spend your money and where you need to spend your time and where you need to bring people into to have their time.
The goal-setting that I love talking about is even the further breakdown of the strategic plan. The strategic plan might be like, “Over the next year, this is where we are going,” then are going to break it down into quarters and, “How are we going to get that done? What are the goals going to be for this first quarter, second quarter in order to reach those final goals?” That makes a lot of sense to me.
Also, who is going to do it? In the business plan, I might say that I am going to use social media a lot to do my marketing and focus specifically on Facebook and Instagram because of the demographics. When I get down to the strategic plan, I am talking about who I am going to outsource the social media to. Am I hiring a third-party company? Are we doing three posts a week? Do we do videos on our posts? What media are we using? Once you get that all blocked down, then you take it into, “What are the goals for this week? What three things do I have to pull out of my strategic plan and put into my time? What are the three things I got to get done today in order to make sure that I do not drop the ball?”
I want to share one other thing, too, because I have noticed this a lot and people in the music industry, as well as other industries. I do not like crisis management. It is not a place that I like to be at. I wrote a song on this called Time is on My Side on time management. What I strategically do is if I have a deadline to have something done, depending on the size of the project, I change that deadline to anywhere from 3 to 7 days prior to when the deadline is.
I give myself a false deadline that is real because that way, I am always working on something important, but it is never time-sensitive. Stephen Covey talked about this in that book, First Things First. You are doing your priority tasks, but they are not due for another week, so you are not scrambling and if all of a sudden you got a phone call and, “Somebody canceled and we got a big opportunity for you. Are you free for the next three days?” I could say, “Absolutely.”
I was thinking about this when I got COVID. What if I would be like, “I got plenty of time to get this done. My calendar is clear that week. I can get it done,” and then I get COVID and I am completely out. No energy, cannot do a single thing, and cannot even get myself to sit in front of the computer. If I had not given myself extra time for X, Y, and Z, I would be out of luck. You cannot assume that even though you have got this time on your calendar, that you will necessarily, for sure, be able to do it at that time.
Something could happen. Your child could get sick. Your pet could get sick. You could get sick. Some cool opportunity could come up and someone could say, “We want to fly you to New York to speak at this conference. All expenses paid, but it is in three days because the person that was going to do it dropped out and we want to have you do it.” You want to be able to take advantage of that.It doesn’t matter what your industry is. It takes a lot of time to learn that industry. Click To Tweet
I call them curve balls, when life throws curve balls at you. I do not know if I had COVID, but I am getting better. I am heading to Nashville to record an EP. There are six songs and I am going to be the keyboardist. This is the first time I am going to be a musician in my own music. I got to that level, but before that, I got a flu that was so bad that I was in bed for seven days.
I tested every day and I kept testing negative. I have no clue if I had COVID or not. I know that I was sick for a week. When I was talking to some people, they were like, “Are you going to have to postpone your Nashville trip to get ready?” I thought, “Heck, no. Time management.” It does not matter. I was planning to be ready a week before I was going.
I did want to ask you. Are you experiencing business in a different way in the music industry or do you feel like it is not that different than the other industries?
I am not finding it different than other industries, except for every industry is different. There was a lot of education that I had to take to be a financial advisor. To me, you have to learn a product inside out. You have to put your sales hat on and you have to talk people into experiencing your product. It does not matter what your industry is. It takes a lot of time to learn that industry. That is why I say, “Go for your passions.” I am studying music and I am always taking courses. I have taken a few of yours. I have taken all these online things that are available. They are awesome. I am constantly getting in on these things, but I am also taking them with the universities. I mentioned Berkeley. I have done U of A and MacEwan up here.
I love it, though. It is not like when I am, “I have to go study for two hours.” It is, “I got to go study for two hours and learn some more about this music stuff.” I told my grandson that he should go into the industry of gaming because he loves that so much, I was like, “Why do you not make it a career? You are having so much fun with it. Learn how to make a game.” You have to learn the industry, but they are all going to be identical and totally the same and totally different at the same time.
There are so many opportunities, like you were saying about someone that loves gaming. There are people that make a living with people watching them play a game on video. I think it is crazy. Their whole audience is watching them play a game. It is like, “That is a thing now.” You can monetize your passion in so many different ways. What I love about you is, I think it is partly because you came to this later in life, you have so much joy and excitement around music and sharing it with other people and making it fun. Have you made that part of your brand?
Yes. It is part of my brand, but it is also part of my personality. It is who I am. When people are saying like, “I have trouble self-promoting,” I am thinking, “If you believe in yourself and in your music and you feel that people are going to benefit from hearing it, why would you not be standing on the rooftop saying, ‘I have a new song?’” None of us are going to be all things to all people. If you want to get into the entertainment business, you got to have thick skin. People are going to love you.
They are going to be the right fan base and the radio audience for what you are producing. People are not going to like what you are doing. They are either going ignore you all together or they are going to say something mean because that is who they are. It is what it is. That is the reality. When I release a new song and we go to the restaurant, I make sure everybody in the restaurant knows that, “I released a new song today.” Be proud of yourself. Be proud of who you are.
I turned 50 and I feel like that is some of the gifts of getting older. Not taking yourself so seriously, not being, not being worried like, “What will people think if I tell these random strangers that I have a new song out?” That is a big gift of life experience and maturity. I certainly would never have done in my twenties so many of the things I am now doing. I would have been scared to death.
For a lot of young people, too, it is even more challenging. I got interviewed by a couple of university students for their university newspaper. It is like they think they cannot miss a beat. You do not have to know what you want to do now. Do what you think you want to do and then when you want to change to something else, pivot and change to something else. Life is not walking a straight line. You are going to make mistakes. Sometimes you cause them. Sometimes life threw curve balls at you. It does not matter.
Enjoy the journey because that is what it is about. You can have these beautiful end goals, but you better enjoy going towards them. If you do not, when you get there, it is going to be a little anti-climatic. That is what I always tell young people. Do not worry about 5 years, 20 years from now. Enjoy the journey you are on and go for what it is that is important to you at this juncture.
You do not know what that step 4 or 5 for you is going to be because you cannot see it now. That is okay. You are going to enjoy getting there. As I was working as a director of finance, I certainly did not know that I was going to have a music career. I did not know that from there, I was going to be a music educator. I did not know I was going to become a director of worship at a church. That was never on my list. It happened because it was the next logical step from where I was based on the way the circumstances played out. I made choices like, “I do like this thing. I want to try going down this path to see how it goes.” That is very true. I have a daughter who is nineteen.
I feel like from even eighth grade, they were told, “You have got to figure out what you want to do. You need to know this now. You need to know what your major is.” I did not even discover that I wanted to be a Business major until my second year of college, but my daughter was like, “They want you to know. They want you to declare when you are a freshman.” That is not fair. It is not giving you a chance to like explore and figure out what aligns with you.
I tell them, “It is okay that they want that. You declare what it is that is in your head at this moment and understand that it might be different in 12 months or 24 months from now.”
Do not feel like you cannot change your mind and everyone is going to hate you. Just because you said it, you got to keep going down that path, even though you have taken some classes and you cannot stand it. You have control over your own life. This has been so awesome. Do you have any last bits of wisdom that you think are important for our readers to learn from someone who has a ton of experience in all areas of life and has come to music later on? You have so much passion for music. I would love to hear if you have any specific advice for people that we did not cover yet.
The one thing that is jumping in my head, because I am seeing it in the music industry, there is a little bit of a defeatist attitude or a negative attitude when things go wrong or the fact that things change so quickly in this industry, “We were making money off a CD and albums and now they do not exist.” My word of advice would be to find a way to flip the negative into a positive. You love it. It is your passion. Work on the positive sides of it. Happiness, to me, is every day has to be fun. That is how I live. I have to be happy. I learned many years ago that if a negative thought jumps in my head, then I have to immediately give it the boot.None of us are going to be all things to all people. Click To Tweet
I am not doing that. I am not doing the negative stuff. I remember reading a book years ago. Her name was Gayle Olinekova. She was an Olympic runner. This was in the ‘70s or ‘80s that I read this. Whenever she found a negative thought in her, she would trigger it out and then start thinking of something positive. I stole her trigger and I still remember it decades later. It was, “Garbage in, garbage out.”
If I found myself whining to myself or whining to someone else, I would catch it. I would go, “Garbage in, garbage out.” I immediately changed my thought pattern towards something that I was trying to create or that was positive. Get rid of the negative thinking. Consciously work on it. It does not happen in a day. It does not happen in a week. It is a lifestyle change, but it will make things so much easier for you if you can find your way through that.
It is about being aware, like you said, the consciousness. Sometimes, we do not even realize that we are being negative. We think that that is a fact or it is a way of the world and it is not just our perception of it. One of my mentors says, “Catch, cancel and correct.” It is similar to what you said. She goes, “Cancel,” and she will do a movement and say it out loud because she is retraining her brain to like, “This is what we are going to think instead.”
If you are around a lot of negative people, it becomes a little bit more of a challenge to find the way out. It is still doable. They say that you are a result of the five people that you spend the most time with. I spent a lot of time with Paul McCartney. I look him up on YouTube and I watch the interviews. I am pretending I am in a room with him. You can pick who you are spending your time with and you can suck up the energy from them.
That is the gift of the virtual world. We can pretend that Paul McCartney is one of our top five friends.
Also, Elton John and Billy Joel, I got them all.
This is a great way to end this episode. I knew we would be ending on an up note. Thank you so much. Your career journey is so inspiring and I appreciate all of your solid business advice and I know our readers will as well. How can people who are reading go check out your music and connect with you online?
My website is GailTaylorMusic.com. My moniker is “Gail T as Charged.” I am everywhere. I am on Spotify, Apple, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Everything is under Gail Taylor Music. If anyone enjoyed this and wants to hear more about my journey, I would be so honored if you went and signed up on my mailing list.
Are you creating on TikTok? I could see you being super popular on TikTok.
There is the daughter again. I only pay her for ten hours a week. TikTok doesn’t not always get it, but we have put some stuff out on TikTok.
My daughter has been working with me on TikTok. I am going to definitely go check out your TikTok. You have one of those personalities that I am like, “She is going to be popular on TikTok. I can tell.”
Thank you so much, Gail. I hope everybody goes and checks out your website and connects with you on social media. I appreciate everything that you shared with us.
Thanks again for having me.
- Gail Taylor
- Think and Grow Rich
- First Things First
- Spotify – Gail T as Charged
- Apple – Gail T as Charged
- Facebook – Gail Taylor Music
- Instagram – @GailTaylorMusic
- TikTok – @GailTaylorMusic
About Gail Taylor
Gail Taylor decided to reinvented herself as a musician in her mid 60s. She is a songwriter, keyboardist, and an inspirational keynote speaker. She started her journey as a high school dropout and became a self made millionaire. Her philosophy is that everyday should be fun and full of activities she enjoys including giving back every step of the way. She uses her music and personal stories to entertain and inspire her audiences to become their best selves and go after their dreams.