Want to know how to become a successful full-time musician in the music business? First, you should forget about all the ‘conventional wisdom’ you’ve been told by those who have NEVER been highly successful in the music industry.
It’s a fact that most musicians who try to succeed in the music business will actually fail… but YOU do not need to be one of them!
On the other hand, musicians who build and sustain successful music careers utilize an entirely different set of skills, thought processes and values that help them achieve music business success. These things are not music business secrets that are only available to rock stars and music industry executives – anyone can learn and utilize them (this includes you). Throughout the rest of this article, I will discuss these various qualities and help you understand how you can use them to benefit your personal music career.
Contrary to what you might first think, learning to play your instrument at a ‘professional’ level isn’t included in the list below. Why? Because it is a ‘given’ that you must be working towards that goal already every day. In addition, your musical abilities (on their own) will not be enough to guarantee your success in the music business. Fact is, there are countless musicians who can play extremely well, but nevertheless do not build a successful music career… so it is clear that musical talent alone can only take you so far.
Most of the qualities have to do with the way you ‘think’ rather than the specific actions you take. It is rare to find someone who has the right mindset that contains all of these qualities. However, you can get ‘trained’ to develop a success-oriented mindset and thus massively increase your chances of making it in the music industry.
Here are the most important qualities to develop for yourself in order to build a highly successful music career:
The Right Work Ethic Mentality
Of course, it is obvious that you will need to work hard to build a successful music career. However, most musicians do not understand what ‘kind’ of working mentality is required to truly ‘make it’. The type of dedication needed requires more than just working a lot on your career. It requires:
1. Understanding the ‘correct’ course of action to take in order to make progress. This means not just ‘working a lot’, but working on the ‘right things’ that will lead you to where you want to go.
2. Working in the most effective and productive manner possible. Tons of people stay busy throughout the day, but never actually accomplish anything important. You don’t want to become one of these people.
3. Being aware of how everything you do factors into the growth of your music career in the long term.
4. Having the patience and commitment to do all the hard work ‘up front’, long before you get a payoff of any kind. A common example of this would be recording a full-length album in the studio before actually making any profit from it.
To develop the right work ethic mindset, work to clearly understand your long-term music career goals and find a mentor who will help you determine the steps you must take to reach them.
In the music industry, you will not reach a high level of success alone. Music companies, musicians, promoters, managers and other music industry types will all act as your business partners at one point or another in your music career. These people will all invest their time, energy and resources into you and because of this, they will expect your loyalty (as you will likewise expect it from them). Musicians who are not loyal are frequently banned from future business ventures and music career opportunities. The majority of musicians take loyalty for granted and only ‘pretend’ to be loyal until they can take advantage of an opportunity at the expense of their partners.
Although there exist many definitions for what ‘loyalty’ is – as a general concept it refers to not pursuing opportunities that will benefit you while bringing down those who work together with you. Of course, being loyal does not mean letting others take advantage of you either. There is a balance here that you must learn as you work in the music industry. Without this balance, you will struggle to achieve great success for an extended period of time.
The Ability To Create Value Outside Of Skills Related To Playing An Instrument
No matter if you are working as an independent musician or together with a music company, you will greatly benefit by knowing how to negotiate, book shows, build a following of fans, put together a tour, communicate effectively, think of profitable business ideas and much more.
Certainly, you do not need to be the ‘best’ at all of these things (you should find others who are strong in the areas that you are weak in) and it isn’t always good to attempt to do everything on your own. That said, when you can do these things yourself, you become capable of adding a lot of value to any situation. This gives you the ability to:
1. Become the ‘best choice’ for any bands looking for a new member
2. Determine different ways to earn a living in the music business
3. Reduce the amount of money you need to spend on hiring others to do the tasks you can’t do
4. Make a lot more money due to the additional value you offer
5. Greatly increase the chances for success in any musical project you pursue
The main idea is that highly successful professional musicians are multi-dimensional, and do not merely ‘play an instrument’. This is why other musicians and music industry professionals always want to work with them (increasing their chances for success).
A Positive -‘Everyone Wins’ – Mindset
The majority of musicians are always looking out for themselves without thinking about the effect their actions have on others. Of course, you will need to get your own needs met, but you do not need to do so while bringing others down at the same time. The musicians who become the most successful and gain access to the greatest opportunities in this business are always getting what they want while ALSO finding a way to help the people they work with do the same. In nearly all scenarios, you can find a way to create a great outcome for everyone involved. To do this, you will need to think from a totally different perspective than most musicians (and people in general).
Being Able To Work Well In Situations Of High Stress
In the music business, you will need to do things like a tour, complete recording sessions and work on several projects at once – while at the same time working together with musicians who all have different personalities, desires and ways of thinking than you. This will create a lot of stress but is an inevitable and unavoidable aspect of working as a professional musician. Being able to move a project forward without becoming overwhelmed by everyday causes of stress is something most musicians struggle with.
Musicians who achieve the greatest success in the music business have an uncanny ability to stay calm in situations of high stress. When I mentor musicians on how to succeed in music, I help them develop and utilize this ability while working to create new music projects with others. This helps most musicians gain a whole new insight into their personality that allows them to eliminate any weaknesses that would limit their music career success.
Being Able To See The ‘Big Picture’
The music industry contains tons of opportunities and challenges no matter which path you decide to take in your career. Additionally, no matter what path you go down, you will always have limited time and resources to use. To make things even more challenging, you will often have to do most of your work well before seeing any of the benefits of your efforts.
If you do not have a perfect vision of where you want to go in the music business, it will be very difficult not to become torn in different directions that take you far away from your original goals.
The musicians who become successful in the music business are always focusing to align their actions up with the end goals they desire most. This gives them the ability to judge what is best for their music career and make the right choice whenever a potential opportunity comes their way. By doing this, they are able to achieve their goals quickly and effectively.
Now that you have read about the crucial qualities needed for success in the music business, here are 4 things you should do to start building a successful long-term music career:
1. Learn about becoming a successful pro musician and avoid the things that will hold you back from developing the successful music career you desire.
2. Get professional insight on how the music industry works and prepare yourself to succeed in the music business.
3. Using the results from step 2 above, put together a plan for how you will improve your weaknesses and make progress in your music career.
4. Get trained by a mentor who has already achieved the things you want to do in the music industry to reach your music career goals faster.
Tom Hess is a recording artist, online guitar teacher and music career mentor.
Visit his musician development website to become a better musician, get free advice on how the music industry works, music career tips and professional music industry advice.