TRANSCRIPTION: "Success Beyond The Score" Podcast, S.3, EP. 1

Here is the transcription of episode 1 of season 3 of the podcast "Success Beyond The Score". Happy reading!

- Watch the video of the episode here: YouTube 

- Listen to the audio of the episode here: Kajabi


This is “Success Beyond The Score”, a podcast giving insights and tips to help you learn how to build your music career, from the best in the field, by Millicent Stephenson. Millicent is a multi-award winning saxophonist and endorser of Harry Hartman's Fiberreeds who is currently serving on the executive committee of the Musicians Union. With over 40 years of experience in the creative industry, Millicent has honed her performance and business skills. She provides personal development, training and coaching via her online platform:


Hi! I am Millicent Stephenson and there are three things I absolutely believe in (apart from technology, which would the fourth thing). Number one, I believe every musician, whether you are a singer, an instrumentalist, a rapper, a singer or a songwriter should be paid. You are worth it, full stop. I firmly believe that.

Number two. I believe every musician, again, whether you are a singer, you play an instrument, you are a rapper, a singer or a songwriter should apply business principles to their music for it to level up. It is what I did it, it moved my business forward and I absolutely believe it.

Number three, I believe every musician, irrespective of age, can have their own fan base. The world is big enough for all of us. And I say that because this is all part of my journey. The problem is how to get there. I know you are saying, “I wanna get there, I wanna have that, I wanna have this”. It's doable. Absolutely doable. If you work for it, you can be paid what you are worth. You need to apply business principles and then you can have your own fan base. You can make a living.

Okay, maybe that is not where you are right now. Maybe you are feeling stuck. Maybe you've tried and you've slipped back. Maybe you are thinking of giving up. Perhaps you are just getting started in music and you are unclear on what you need to do to level up to becoming a full-time music business, or even a part-time music business, as not everybody wants to go all in and are happy to have a healthy part-time music job.

Now, this is why I created my website “Success Beyond The Score”, where I've put on a podcast, resources and freebies like “Revealed: 25 Secrets of the Successful Gigging Musician, Singer, Rapper & Spoken Word Artiste”, or “Ten Reasons Why They Will Pay You Before Gig Day”. You can get those through the address They are there to help you!

Right, that said, today I really wanted to talk to you about the seven stages of a musician's journey, because I find it was a journey for me. I did not wake up yesterday being a multi-award winning saxophonist. I did not wake up today being an influencer, podcaster, entrepreneur, activist and educator, I will not wake up tomorrow being something else. I was just a woman who loved the saxophone and who liked playing music, who kind of did it for friends, did it at church and gradually got more and more bookings, until one day, I realized that the guys were doing it and getting paid and I wondered: why weren't I doing it and getting paid

 It wasn't until I was 42 years old that I decided I was going to make a good push and really transition my music, from just being this person who's doing it as a hobby to someone who's probably a headliner and is doing all sorts of things.

However, I was not sure how. I went on a few courses. I spoke to a few people. Through trial and error, I came across some really, really fantastic nuggets. That is why my podcast is here, already on its third season. If you have not listened to season one and season two, please go and check those out. There are lots of stuff in those two seasons because the truth of the matter is there are not courses out there, certainly not when I was studying music that say: “this is how you do music business. This is how you get paid. This is how you grow a fan base”. And you can find some of that on the internet nowadays, but you have to dig around to find them. I just want to put it all in one place to help you, because I believe that the world is big enough for all of us to have a piece of the music pie.

Now, if you are interested in getting signed and going to a label, that is not what I teach or preach about in my podcast. To get that sort of thing, you will have to rely on a manager and people who will look after you, getting you gigs, selling your music and making you look good while travelling all around. It is a possibility, of course, but you have to keep in mind that the money they put into you is a loan, which you have to pay back. You must work hard in your performances and all the things that you do to bring that money back in, to pay off the debt, and comply with the conditions of it. I am not saying that you should not go for it; I just want you to be very aware that many of the stars that we see on TV are doing their music and working hard under those conditions to cover the debts.

You know, the other day I was watching Beyoncé’s Coachella, I think that was how it was called. She was saying that there is a responsibility in knowing that you are the one paying for all these people's salaries. You really have to put in the hard work. If you listen to Tina Turner, one of my idols, it is a similar thing. In her interviews, they talk about that as the individual under the spotlight; you are the one that has to bring in the money to pay for salaries, loans and so on.

By contrast, I am a “do it yourself” independent musician. I have had labels interested in me and it has just not worked out, yet I have been able to make a living through my music like many other artists who have reached very good living conditions by being DIY and just moving along.


Oh, I have just seen a message on the chat: “is it harder for women to make it in the music industry?” Thank you for the question. Let me answer it before I get into the seven stages of being a musician. My goodness, yes! It is harder for women. There have been lots of research demonstrating the problems faced by women in the industry. Many women are speaking up too. Last week, I listened an interview on Radio 4 to a person called Bebe whose last name I just forgot. She had a fantastic voice; in fact, she worked as a backing voice for Tina Turner (yay!). She was saying that, as a female, you are always controlled. When she was 17 and working with Tina Turner, it was all about control and the whole gender thing. Nowadays, we have many equality laws in place, which is really, really good, but you still find on a one-to-one basis that we have hurdles that we have to cross.

For example, a lot of female pop stars talk about what they wear, the image they have to portray, while men do not. If you look in the top 10 or the top 20, there are very few women whose music have hit the charts. All is very much male-dominated and yeah, it is difficult, it is harder, but it is not impossible. I think it is just about having scruples and set your limits. You must have boundaries about what it is you want and find people to work with who will like you for your music and not for your sexuality or how you look. Again, it is harder, but not impossible. Thank you for the question!


Now, let me come back into the seven stages of being a musician. In my experience, the seven stages go as follows:

First, you are on ground zero with your instrument, saying, “I want to play”. Somehow, you find an opportunity to play as a warmer act, and you are really the one who is proving yourself. You are the one who will have to work for free, the one deciding what genre you are going to play for (again, this is for DIY, not for labels) You are still developing your voice or your instrument. You are the one that is probably doing open mic. That is your full first stage and most of us do not want to stay there for too long, although some of us stay there for a while.

Then we get to like the second stage, where you are the featured artist. This is where your name appears on a flyer, which is great. I remember when mine appeared on a flyer for the first time, how excited I was. In this stage, I am the support act, not a warm-up. I am actually there in my own sort of, um, a “hundred percent” standing firm position. At this point, you're being paid. You might not be getting a lot of money, but you're getting paid, and you're now starting to think about growing a fan base. It is so important to have that fan base, to have people who love what you do, and also growing that group.

The third stage is the recording artist, when you have a recording. What I found is that, when I created my first EP, I was told that it would get me more work, and in fact, it did, because when people knew I had music, they went, “Oh! I want to listen to that. Oh, you recorded? Oh, you are in the studio! Oh, I heard you on the radio”. Yes, a recording takes you to the radio and to interviews. So, at this recording artist stage, you get regular gigs, you can change your payment points. You can also get other work related to music, like teaching, maybe writing music, going into sync licensing…

Then, the stage four is the headliner. This is when people come to see you. You put on your show and bring an audience. Your name is on the bill. People are turning up, not because you are supporting someone but because you are the main artist. You are getting better pay. You're getting green room treatment. You can select the gigs you want. You are maybe a role model. You are getting awards.

The fifth stage is legacy. You are now thinking about what you will leave for the next generation. “What am I doing to help people around me?” So you are now at the backstage. You are probably getting speaking engagements. You are being a voice on a particular issue. You are mentoring; you are becoming the “go-to” person.

Then, we have stage six. This is pre-retirement. If you can imagine a hill that you push yourself all the way up to headlining and legacy, then the slope down comes next and, you know, pre-retirement is a stage that we all decide on. I have met musicians who have done the world and they get to a point where they say, “I have had enough of hotel rooms. I have had enough of living out of a suitcase. I have had enough of traveling up and down the M1, the M6 or the M-whatever.” All they want is to have a quiet life and do something else. This is pre-retirement. So now the question is, “When I retire, will I have a pension?” Maybe that is something we should think about earlier!

“When I retire, what will I do?” I know people who still dive into music, but off stage, with jobs off stage. I know someone who went into nursing. Other people have gone into gardening. At this point, you only gig in when you want to gig, and that is kind of a nice luxury to have. You know, I met an individual who has written number one music, and he lives off the royalties of that music. He performed when he wanted to perform.

Stage seven, then is, retirement. This is when you say, “Actually, this is it. I do not want to do this anymore. I am maybe just going to serve on some committees. I might be recognized. I might be invited to speak at events. I might just be happy to just be teaching.”

So, for me, those are the seven stages that a musician goes through, as far as I have observed. They have been part of my own journey too. While I am not quite at stage six or seven yet, I have certainly been a warmup act, then a featured artist, then a recording artist and a headliner.

Currently, I am a legacy artist. At this stage, I am challenging myself and giving back. If you came here because of an e-mail or a WhatsApp message or a text message about my season three being on YouTube. Thank you, thank you very much for coming and checking it out. I'm challenging myself to eleven days of being on YouTube to give you some great information that will help you move forward in your music in.


What is going to happen as part of season three? Well, today I mentioned the seven stages of a beginning musician and I am happy to take questions on that, even after the recording has finished. Please leave them in the comments below because I will go back and answer them.

In regards of tomorrow, my title is, “Does your music have the juice to pull a crowd?” and I will talk about your fan base. The day after, the title is “Why musicians get killed by sound?” That is all about the technical sound and PA.  Day four is going to be, “I'm a musician. Do I need a business plan?” You know that I am very big on business, so I am going to tell you why and how that.

On day five, I am going to give you three reasons why you should charge for your music starting today. Remember one of the things I said, I believe everyone should be paid their worth. That is why I am going to tell you why you should start charging, because not all of us charge, but all of us should. On day six, which starts next week Monday, I will discuss if it is a contradiction to play for free as a musician. Then, I am going to analyse the whole element of playing for free. On day seven, we will check if you have a music hobby or a music business. I am going to make the distinction between those two. On day eight, the title is, “This is why you should video record your gigs”.

By the way, today I had a bit of technical problems. This is a livestream so not quite the same as a video recording, but yeah, you need to video record your gigs.

On day nine, the title is “Stop! Do not record music, EP, mp3, etc., until you have done this,” Day ten, “three essentials for putting on your show,” which are three things you must definitely have in place to put on your own show. Finally, on day eleven, which would be the week after that, we will check three reasons why you should contact your sound engineer before your gig.

I am looking forward to discussing all of these with you.


Now, I notice I have another question. Remember, if you have a question right now, please put it in the chat. I will give you some time to do that because there will be a delay, obviously. So I will have a little drink to wait, I am getting a bit thirsty, but I do notice that there is one question which says: do you have to follow these stages exactly as you have mentioned?

Well, yes and no. I feel that stage one and two, where you are sort of going through the warm-up to features, can blend into one thing. I mean, today you might just be asked to come to a concert and they do not put your name on the bill, but tomorrow they do. As for the recording artist one, I would say, be very careful about when you start with that. I know many people who do recordings first and then see if they are ready to sell them. However, I will answer that question on episode nine. I will explain why you should not go off recording straight away going into a studio. There are good reasons why you should not do it straight away.

You cannot really become a headliner without doing stage one and stage two. However, even if you do not have a recording, even if you do not have something to sell, if people really, really, really love what you do and they want you to be the name on the thing, it can happen. So, you know, stage three can be skipped.

Um, stage five… it is very difficult to become a legacy artist without putting some skin in the game. You really must have a performance level that people respect, love, admire or want to copy. You really have to have people wanting to know more through you of your experience and you cannot do that by being a warmer-up. So, in a sense, you have to do that groundwork.

In regards of retirement, I guess that could happen at any stage. You might become a featured artist today and then decide music is not for you, then skip the other stages to retire.

It would be nice to work through them one after the other. You know, “I am going to work up being a warm-up act, get my music right for the next six, nine months. Then, after that, I want to get gigs where I get more pay and I am on the flyer, to maybe next year become a recording artist and then, in a couple more years, a headliner.”

It makes sense to do that and build up because then you get credibility. You have experience. You want to have that so that, when you become a legacy artist, people know that you know what you are talking about. I hope that helps you.

Um, just checking questions over here… Let me just get a sip of water. Hope you like my cup! It was a present.

Right, so there will be eleven sessions starting today. Tomorrow, I am going to be looking at your fan base, and to whether your music has the juice to pull a crowd. We are going to be looking at that, and then at the reason why many musicians are killed by sound.

I have been to so many gigs where people do not bring the right equipment and they do not speak to the sound guy either! I am going to go through all of that on day three. Later, we will see why you need a business plan, and oh, you so need that plan, you so need to plan forward. It does not have to be anything extensive, but I will dive into the details only until then.

On Friday, it is going to be about that charging. You need to charge starting today, and I am going to give you three reasons why. Then, next week, I will be looking up playing for free, whether your music is a hobby or a business, why you should video record your gig. Why you should not go into the recording studio straight away and three central points for putting on your own show. At last, the week after, we will see three wise reasons why you should contact your sound engineer before your gig.


I am about to wrap up. Thank you so much for coming today. As I have mentioned, I have some free gifts for you. My first free gift is called “Revealed: 25 Secrets of the Successful Gigging Musician, Singer, Rapper & Spoken Word Artiste” and the second, if you do not like that one, is “Ten Reasons Why They Will Pay You Before Gig Day”. If you go over to, you can download one or both of them. This is a bit of a thank you for coming today, but it is also aimed at helping you start moving in the direction you want to.

Please like the episode, and if you already liked it, share it to other musicians who could not make it today. In addition, please subscribe to my YouTube channel so you get notifications of when I am going live. I hope that tomorrow it goes smoothly and I can start right away. Today there were some technical difficulties; I really do apologize about that.

If you are watching or listening to this later, or you have just come and have any questions about anything I have said, please put them in the chat or comments. I will look back and reply to you.

Okay. That is it from me. Thank you very much and I will see you tomorrow at one o'clock, British summertime. Bye!