How to commit to your success as a musician

In the music industry, there is definitely a formula to success that most independent artists work feverishly to figure out.  Becoming popular and profitable in the music industry really depends on more of a philosophy and lifestyle than a “paint by numbers” way of approaching things.


To obtain success in any industry, it is very important to have a sense of patience and commitment.  I am personally obsessed with music and was happy to dive head first into the music industry as an artist and a manager early in my life.  But not everyone is interested in becoming a full time musician.  The truth of the matter is if you want to sign to a major record label, it is so important to commit to music as your main career and lifestyle.

Commitment requires a true sense of endurance and even a bit masochism at times.  Everyone has trials and tribulations.  Everyone loses only to gain, and when you commit to music, you’re giving your life to an industry that can be resistant and very unforgiving.  It can also be fun, rewarding, and exciting; nonetheless, if you are not serious about watching, learning, and listening to people who have experienced success in the industry there is no point in trying to become a huge star.  It’s important to be open and receptive to people who want to help you in your career.

Here are some tips to help you stay true to your goals in becoming a signed musician:


  • Go to school

Studying music will help you in your professional music career for the rest of your life.  It will also teach you discipline when it comes to scheduling and cultivating your social skills.  Many of the musicians you see on MTV have diplomas or have studied music and performance since they were young children.  Believe it or not, there is a big gap in success between educated and uneducated musicians.

  • Always think long term

If you can commit to anything for at least 10 years, you’re going to earn a lot of experience, and experience brings great opportunities.  Think about your music career as an investment; overtime you’ll gain a lot more than you put in.

  • Expect bad days

There are going to be some dark periods of time when you feel like giving up.  Your manager and two band mates could walk out on you at the same time.  Your lover could leave, and you could get evicted in one day, and have a show that same night.  If you say you’re going to make a show, and you’re not dead or injured, don’t let difficult emotional trials keep you from your obligations to a venue and your fans.

  • Accept rejection graciously

Not everyone has to like your music, nor is a label obligated to sign you.  Try not to argue with someone who rejects your art or tries to belittle your hard work (and if you can’t help arguing, be able to back up your talent and competence with your actions).  The more confident and successful you become as an artist, the more some people are going to become jealous and mean spirited.  It’s a part of being a musician.  You must have tough skin!

  • Put your audience first

When you think your music and your career is all about you, people can tell.  Try to stay humble and pay attention to feedback from your fans.  If they request a song that you’re sick of playing, play it just for the crowd if it’s not a huge burden.  Remember, fans are the only people who can really make or break you.

  • Don’t trust anyone who has less experience than you

Never hire an agent or musician who knows less than you do about music, the city you live in, and the music industry.  Don’t even bother with an inexperienced roadie.  Hiring a staff that is immature or less committed than you, will create pitfalls at some point in your career.

  • Be a forward thinker

Try to make decisions based on the big picture.  Look ahead and make choices that will keep you on course for a lifetime.  Taking steps like making sure you have your publishing rights in order, finishing school, having plans to travel over the course of a few years, and setting long term goals for your sound and image are great ways to prepare for a professional career.

  • Never burn bridges

Do your best to stay in contact with everyone you’ve worked with.  It’s important to have discernment about who is a healthy friend or colleague, but you never know when you’re going to need someone to help you with a project.  Social networks like Facebook and Linkedin can help you stay in touch with colleagues easily.  Everyone has disagreements and differences, but it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.  Work on having long and patient relationships with people you meet along the way in your career.

There are things about being a musician that really don’t get explored enough in journalism.  We want to talk about numbers, sex, clothes, and gossip, but there are real choices and situations artists have to make in order to succeed.  There is a serious level of humility and respect that must be upheld.  If you don’t respect major labels and music industry professionals, you’re never going to make it past a certain point.  If you have a hard time communicating in a clear and kind manner, you can still do well, but no one’s going to work to fight for you if you don’t create bonds with others in the industry, and this goes for you fans as well.

Signing to a label takes a lot of commitment.  If you cannot stay with a manager, or band mates for longer than a few months, you should take the time and reevaluate why you’re not getting along with people long enough to get your vision off the ground.  If you’re shy or too sensitive to handle rejection or criticism, you run the risk of losing opportunities.

Here is one of the biggest industry secrets I can share with you:  If an A&R gives you constructive criticism, they really care about your project and they want you to grow.  Signing to a major label is the same as committing to a serious relationship.  You cannot always expect everything to be laid out for you.  Where more is given, more is required.  When you sign to a major label, expect to work harder than you ever have in your prior career.


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