The music industry is a tough place to succeed today. The professionals you see receiving hits on YouTube, performing before large audiences at festivals, or being streamed by popular playlist providers represent only the tip of an iceberg when it comes down to what types of successful musicians are out there – they’re all working incredibly hard. Why should anyone continue to pursue a career in the music business after knowing all these odds? The love of playing music, tools, and technology for today’s digital age or even hard-working artists who have achieved success. This inspires plenty of people to try their luck as independent musicians with some great odds on your side. The odds might be against you, but why would anyone give up on their passion? If you’re intelligent, hardworking, and talented, you might be one of those lucky ones who achieve tremendous success.
There’s no specific set of rules or guidelines that will guarantee us a successful career, but here are 15 general tips for career success, from visualizing your dreams to being proactive. These tips will be helpful to you, whether you are a rapper, producer, songwriter, independent artist, band, or anyone pursuing a career in music.
Tip #1: Identify and visualize first what your dream really is.
When pursuing a successful career in the music business, the first tip, and most important is to have an idea of what you really want. You need a clear vision and belief. The importance of having a clear vision in pursuing your musical career cannot be overstated. If you can see where success will take shape, and believe that it is possible for this outcome to happen, then subconscious materials are brought into play which makes achieving these goals much more easily attainable.
Somewhere in the early 1990s, in a small club called the Button South in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I heard an unknown artist telling the audience, “One day I’m going to be a pop star who shocks the world.” He truly believed that. His friends told me that he even kept drawings of himself with success mapped out precisely the way it would look like for him. After years worth of hard work, it finally paid off as each album became tour after another tour – all made possible by just one man’s vision that came true at last.
In his best-selling book, “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind”, the author Joseph Murphy defines this as “The mental-movie method.” In his own words, he says, “If I act as though I am… I will be.”
Tip #2: Know what your career motivations are.
Another important tip for career success, is to consider why you want to pursue a music career. Is it for the lifestyle and respect, for money and fame, or artistic satisfaction it offers, or is it because of your passion? Or could there be something else going on here – maybe spiritual fulfillment that’s more important than anything in this world can give. Any of these things might sound like something that describes how you feel about pursuing your music career.
Think of it this way, your mind is like a garden. When you have the right tools and know-how things grow, they will definitely look their best – if these same conditions are not met, then all that work will go to waste because true motivation cannot thrive without proper nourishment or attention from someone who cares about its growth (You). You should surround yourself with people who share similar visions as yours so that together you can achieve great things.
Chris Arnstein, a tour manager-agent-promoter, calls it the approach to self-awareness or the “decision-making tree.” This is a theory that all your career decisions should be based on the core of who you truly are. Without this level of self-awareness, it’s easy for people to go astray in their business endeavors and mistakes may happen more often than not if they don’t stand for something.
So, if you still haven’t thought about what your real motivation for pursuing a music career is, then now is the perfect time to do it.
Tip #3: Ignore the media hype and have a realistic outlook.
As a new artist in the music industry, you’ll come to realize how much media hype and glamour can be misleading. The expensive houses and yachts that artists post on social media are often leases or loans purchased just so they look like successful people, but it’s important not to get caught up with these things because there is more than what meets the eye when looking at your finances. You’ll enter the music business from a much stronger position if you refuse to be blinded by all of the media hype or glamour that is present in videos, magazines, and news shows.
Developing a realistic outlook will help you get through the ups and downs of your career. You’ll be better prepared for what lies ahead if you stay realistic. You should understand that it may take time to hone your professional skills as well as build up a fan base before getting noticed by people in the industry – which can also lead to rejection if they don’t like your work or personality. However, this journey takes its toll on those who dare go after their dreams without backing down from any obstacle put before them; because there’s no other way but through it.
So, instead of daydreaming about your dreams and goals, focus on the reality and the things that will actually help you achieve them.
Tip #4: Pay your dues but always use your head.
One of the most unavoidable realities in the music industry is that pursuing a career will mean paying your dues. For many artists, this means sacrificing time, and hard work for little or no compensation at all.
However, keep in mind that as your experience grows, so will the value of what you offer. The day will arrive when you will be fairly compensated.
Focus on the bigger picture. It’s not always what you earn, but rather what it has taught you.
Tip #5: The worst won’t seem so bad if you already expect it.
That’s right, friends, you’ve got to expect the worst to happen because it will. Don’t worry because being prepared for it will definitely make it feel less terrible than it may seem. Just remember that the good news is, you came prepared.
When pursuing a music career, you must learn to accept the negative aspects of it. Bloggers may write unfavorable reviews and singles can be dropped from streaming playlists without warning! All these events are an inevitable part of your success as well.
Being knocked down is part of being in this crazy business. You can’t control everything, but you do have a choice of how to react when bad things happen – so choose wisely! Be resilient and fight forward with positivity, because it will help change the negative experiences into something positive towards success.
Just like what Jon Kabat-Zinn writes in his book “Wherever You Go”, There You Are, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can surely learn to surf.” This is a perfect example of how one should react in difficult situations.
Tip #6: Let go of all your fears and go for it.
The authors of “No One Here Gets Out Alive,” Danny Sugerman and Jerry Hopkins wrote that Jim Morrison once asked, “If your life was a movie, would anyone want to watch it?” For many artists the answer is often a big ‘no.’ They take on projects with little commitment or interest in diving into their careers deeply.
Jared Leto, of Thirty Seconds to Mars, pursued various opportunities before moving out West to pursue his vision as an actor and rocker. Saving a couple of hundred dollars, he packed his backpack, bought a one-way ticket to LA. He won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor along with over 10 million records sold. And the rest as they say, is history.
What are you waiting for? Are you realistic, smart, and talented? If so then why not give your career the best shot. Don’t let fear hold you back from what can be an amazing experience in many different aspects of life but instead take advantage while it lasts with these positive thoughts! As Boxer Mike Tyson said during his years as world champion, “Fear is like fire. It can either cook for you, or it can burn you. Let it cook for you.”
To put it simply, giving your career the best means being confident in yourself, and what you’re capable of. You might not be successful today or tomorrow – but at least there won’t ever come any regrets about trying! So stop letting fear hold back your progress; learn to go for it even if things don’t turn out as planned – you’ll know that taking risks makes everything better.
Tip #7: Build solid connections.
Networking is both an art and a science. It is vital to establishing a successful career in the music industry. But instead of wasting your precious energy trying to break into an already established clique, you should recognize talented individuals that are ambitious like yourself or local musicians, seek out those with great potential, and form your own “clique.” Get involved early on so you can be part of things from day one. One great idea when establishing your network for the future will be joining other social circles of professionals at similar stages, build solid relationships that you could depend on and could last forever.
Two of my college friends from Berklee College of Music found me after I graduated, they helped get the ball rolling on what would eventually become a career in music recording. I got my first break in music at Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios with the help of them. Because of that studio gig, I was able to move from Boston to New York City and was able to start my career in the majors.
The best way to get a good reputation is by doing excellent work. Build relationships with people who know what you’re capable of and let them tell others about your skills, because word-of-mouth recommendations are powerful tools in building up someone’s professional image.
There are plenty of great places in which you can make new connections and network. Some good examples include college courses, songwriting workshops or jam sessions with other musicians who share your passion for music.
Lastly, if you’re looking for a great read that will improve your ability to form solid relationships, check out Dale Carnegie’s best-selling book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.
Tip #8: Grab and nurture every opportunity you can get.
It’s not just luck that makes you successful, it’s also your ability to find opportunities when they arise. The best way to succeed in your career is by taking advantage of the opportunities that are presented. The key? Connecting the dots, also being clear about what you want from life; then seeking it out whenever they are available.
If you’re currently employed or in a band, use your situation to make new connections. People who see how confident and comfortable you are performing on stage might be able to help get you opportunities down the road for themselves. My friend Mike Inez (now playing with Alice in Chains and Heart) originally played bass alongside Ozzy Osbourne when he opened up for concerts during their days together, because of this connection made through performance alone – it led him into working many gigs over the years.
You know the music industry is super fickle, right? There are tours that get canceled or records getting postponed. Also, your band could be dropped at any time. It’s a tough world out there, so you have to stay on top of things and keep up with what’s going down not just for survival, but also because it never hurts anything either way. The music industry is tough, one wrong move can sink you. Be ready for anything, because nurturing new career opportunities while still working on the job isn’t always easy. But it’s necessary if you want to survive in this competitive environment.
In our modern world, it’s easy for young musicians to get caught up in the idea that their current band or musical relationships will always be there. However, just like what Miyamoto Musashi wisely points out in “The Book of Five Rings”: “The best time to prepare for adversity is when all appears calm.”
Tip #9: When doors aren’t open, find a window.
We all know the old saying that says, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting different results.” So, keep in mind that when the doors aren’t opening, then find a window and climb through it. You can only have a different result if you do something different too.
When you’re looking for a way to make your voice heard, it’s important that the people who need hearing from are receptive. To really show off your skills, instead of trying to get your recording into the hands of the high-ups, try something different such as – making friends with them. Get to know these people in higher-ups personally. This way when you are trying for a meeting or an interview with them, it will seem more natural and casual instead of difficult.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re driving an equipment truck or sweeping studio floors; get yourself into the music business any way you can,” said Jeff Baxter of the classic group the Doobie Brothers
Working as an intern or writing for music magazines can provide the perfect opportunity to meet people in your area. You’ll have ample opportunities where people can get more acquainted with your skills and personality without going into desperate situations that make you look so needy.
When you’re looking at your goals, consider a variety of approaches. Because sometimes the simplest solutions are overlooked. Sometimes a change in perspective can lead to an entirely new outcome and sometimes all that’s needed is some encouragement from those around us. Be tenacious and don’t abandon the plan that got you this far – but be open to trying other things too.
Tip #10: Be proactive and create your own destiny.
Proactivity is the key to success, and it’s time you started taking control of your own career. You need a plan that will set things in motion for yourself; don’t wait around while others do all this work! To be proactive in your career, it’s not enough to just do well. You need to take control of the situation, create opportunities for yourself by first taking care of what you can handle on your own before looking for outside sources like employers or other people who may have influence over where your careers go to next.
Try considering the following:
- If you are a musician and your goal is to be a dynamic live playing performer, form up a band, perform, record it and post the videos online showing off your covers – YouTube never goes out of style. This worked for Arnel Pineda, he bypassed millions and got himself a gig with the Journey.
- If you are a songwriter and your goal is to get your music placed with successful artists, commercials, tv shows, and films – then start composing for student films. This worked for the indie artist Jonathan Coulton and is now working steadily.
- If you are a solo artist or band and your goal is to attract a manager, or a record label, or a major distributor – then try releasing your own record first. This worked for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. They even won four Grammy awards.
Setting up a DIY movement in the music marketing campaign can be daunting, but it’s worth the effort. You’ll learn how to produce and market your own recordings so that you’re not dependent on someone else for success. Check out the book, “Music Marketing for the DIY Musician”, if you want to learn more about this strategy.
Tip #11: Diversify and adapt to change.
Your success in the music business depends on how much you’re willing to take risks and adapt to change. Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of species that tend to survive; it is those that are most adaptable to change.” This quote has never been more important than now as we see an ever-changing music industry being faced with many challenges.
The drummer for the rock sensation Nirvana, now the lead singer of Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl, was able to transform his career after Kurt Cobain (Nirvana’s lead guitarist) took his own life. He formed a new band and assumed different roles from what we thought he would be able to do best. He became both the vocalist for Foo Fighters, as well as the guitarist, and the songwriter with several hit albums under his belt since then. If it weren’t for this occurrence that changed everything, we might not have these fantastic rockers today.
The question of how to diversify is something that every entrepreneur struggles with. However, there are some great ideas out in the world for entrepreneurs on this topic – from independent rapper J-Riv who operates his own production studio and entertainment company as well as running a clothing retail store (6th Ave Stylez). He says it simply but very accurate, “I had to find a hustle that was legit, but at the same time relevant.”
Tip #12: Be practical, keep the money and make it grow.
The life of a professional musician can be difficult, remember that when you make money in the music industry, it’s important to learn how to save and grow your earnings. Too often successful artists find themselves penniless after achieving their dreams largely because they were unprepared for what came next; not properly managing expenses or investing wisely left them struggling financially when fame finally caught up with them.
Scott Storch had $70 million dollars by 2006, but he spent it all on living an extravagant lifestyle. It didn’t take long for him to go bankrupt in 2009, that’s unfortunate.
Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, the richest man in America drives a humble Volkswagen Hatchback. He says that he wants to keep his life simple so he can think about how best to serve others with it while not being distracted by material things by what other people might find distracting them from their goals.
The right financial planning can help you avoid unnecessary debt, provide for your loved ones in case of an emergency or when the time comes to retire. It’s important that we invest wisely so our money isn’t lost on bad investments and instead used as a safety net should something happen unexpectedly tomorrow morning.
There are many ways to get smarter about finances. Try books such as “Think & Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill, “Little Book Of Common Sense Investing” by Jack Bogle, or “The Wealthy Barber” by David Chilton if you want some inspiration on what’s possible. You can also check out magazines such as “The Wall Street and Businessweek Entrepreneur” before making any decisions with your investments in this volatile economic time period that we’re currently experiencing.
Tip #13: Beware of alcohol and drugs.
The problem of addiction is a serious issue in the music industry. Many artists have been destroyed by drugs and alcohol, leading to their downfall. One might begin drinking or taking substances casually, but end up spiraling out-of-control if not addressed immediately.
It can start with something small such as having one drink too many at parties then progress quickly from there – ending your career (for some, even life) before you even know what happened.
It’s important to keep yourself and others in check before things get out of control. If you don’t know what this means, consider the professional responsibilities that come with being a member of an established band or other collaborative acts; as well as how people have invested their time into your career by funding it financially. You need to be responsible for your actions. It’s not always easy, but the consequences of a train wreck can knock some sense into you.
The entertainment industry is becoming less tolerant of substance abusers in the workplace with other professionals waiting to take your place. The industry believes it’s not worth wasting time on personal issues when there are so many talented artists who need their attention.
So, if you or your bandmates think that they may have a problem with drugs and/or alcohol then it is worth looking into both Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) as well as Narcotics Anonymous(NA). Each group offers free meetings in the nearest city to anywhere that people live! Search online today for a nearby location near you so that you can get started on getting better before it’s too late.
Tip #14: Remember that you can’t find passion anywhere else but within you.
As we draw near to the end of our list, it’s a great opportunity for an inspirational tip that will have lasting effects on your journey towards success. I encourage you all to take time from what’s going well, and consider this: Love can be found in many places; the purpose is something each person must find themselves before they’re truly happy or fulfilled at work (or any other area,) allow me to reflect on how much more fulfilling life can be when we have love in our hearts as well as purpose from above! I’m serious, continue reading.
In my younger days, I knew exactly what to do with myself. Every morning when the sun rose and evening fell – I was on a mission: practice, write or promote something; learning something new. And so here we are now – my whole lifelong adventure has been nothing but one big effort towards fulfilling this destiny of mine; there’s no wasted time or sadness for someone who knows what they want out of their life. I could never want my life in any other way.
So take heart, you are not alone. You have something that moves and gives your life a meaning. It might be a song idea or an unshakeable belief in yourself – it doesn’t matter as long as these things make up who we really want to become on the inside! And remember: In all of our endeavors there will always come a time when we feel lost, but don’t let those moments stop you, because this too shall pass eventually leading back into something new again with more strength than before.
Tip #15: Do not forget the basics.
The music business is tough enough without having to worry about all the little details. However, it’s important for up-and-coming artists and bands to not only remember these basics, but also use them in their overall strategy so they can make sure you’re focused on what really matters – your talent.
Try to focus on your craft first—put in some hours. Be great at what you do, from songwriting to performing live shows with a passion that will make fans love you, and kids want to be like you. Having self-doubt? Practice makes perfect, so keep going until those performances become flawless.
You know that feeling when you get a sense things are about to change? It might sound cliche, but it’s true. In fact, there really isn’t anything more important than getting aligned with the universe and your own soul on this journey of life. If we can learn how in order for those big changes we want so badly to happen- well then I say let patience be our guide, because everything will fall into place much easier than anyone could’ve expected.
Your future is in your hands, you can do anything! You have nothing to lose, except for all of those things that are holding back what’s possible. Hopefully, after all these tips, the rest, just like they say, will be history. Good luck on your journey!