What can you do to become highly successful in the music business? It's probably not what you would first think... The ' common sense' approach says you should copy the things that successful musicians are doing. However, this is actually an approach that causes most musicians to fail. The reality is, successful musicians succeed because they both have a success-geared mindset and understand how to use it to take specific actions that will help them reach their unique music career goals. For you to succeed in this business, you must learn how to do the same.
For the rest of this article I am going to make the assumption that you have already invested time into thinking about what you want to do in your music career (if not, study this resource about establishing music career goals first). Now I am going to compare the opposing mindsets of successful and unsuccessful musicians so you can better understand how to move your music career forward.
All highly successful musicians think, believe and act on the following two premises:
Premise #1. It is not in any way 'wrong' to want to make as much money as possible in the music business. Until you adopt this mindset (and act congruently with it), no one in the music industry is going to want to invest the time and money into helping you further your career. The main reason for this is the following: ALL companies in the music industry exist for one purpose only - to make money. If you believe the idea that 'money is the root of all evil' you will never attract the interest (or financial support) of any music companies. All successful companies will immediately know your stance on this issue upon first speaking with you (even if you try to hide your true intentions). This is why you must make all of your thoughts and beliefs 100% congruent with each other as I discussed above.
Premise #2. The world is filled to the brim with value and there is no limitation to the amount of success you can achieve by working with others in win/win, mutually beneficial business relationships. These thoughts and beliefs are fundamental to the actions that successful musicians take to accomplish their goals in the music industry.
Unsuccessful musicians usually believe opposing ideas to the two mentioned above. They believe that money and resources are limited in society and that becoming successful requires 'taking away' these things from others. In addition to these ideas being proven to be non-factual, the actions you will take as a result of this thinking will create a 'scarcity mindset'. This mindset will cause you to make a habit of creating lose/lose outcomes. Result: No one in the music business wanting to work with you.
This is an additional reason why you should not copy the separate tactics of other musicians. On top of lacking a main strategy, if you are missing the correct mindset to support your actions, you will never get the results you desire in your music career.
Musicians who accomplish the most success in the music industry are 100% consistent in making sure that everything they do is congruent with the goals they want to reach. They have an incredible focus on their main goals at all times to ensure that no money, time or energy is wasted on things that don't really matter. Additionally, they are fully aware of how each action they take works to bring them closer to their ultimate objectives. For instance, if you wanted to join a popular touring band, you must make all of your actions line up with this goal by making yourself the number one choice for such a band, rather than also learning how to write songs for hire or become a studio musician.
On the other hand, musicians who do not achieve success try to 'keep their options open' at all times as they are putting together their careers. By spreading themselves too thin (pursuing countless 'conflicting' goals at once), they rarely are able to achieve the big results they desire. In order to become successful, you need to become the absolute greatest at whatever it is that you want to do - this only happens once you are totally congruent in your thoughts, beliefs and actions (including tactics and strategies).
An additional aspect of 'being congruent' is staying true to your deepest desires when it comes to your music career. If your true desire is to tour in a big band but you settle for a job as a session musician because it feels 'safer', you will have a very hard time lining up all your thoughts, beliefs and actions to focus on that which is not what you truly want.
How can you apply this information into your own music career? The easiest way is to ask yourself the following question: "How do my current actions help me reach and accomplish my greatest music career goals?" If you are unclear about this, you are likely on the wrong road with the actions you are taking and need to learn more about how to reach your goal. On top of that, even if you 'are' taking actions that can help you accomplish your ultimate goals, they will often have little effect until you understand how to fully integrate them into an effective music business strategy.
Additionally, sometimes you may take actions that seem to be totally out of line with your ultimate goals, but are actually completely related to them. As a perfect example, a lot of musicians want to be part of a band who tours but have a great resistance to giving musical instruction. They think that teaching music will get in the way of achieving their goals. The truth is, putting together a successful music teaching business is the best way to support yourself financially as a musician in the most flexible manner possible. This will give you much greater freedom to take on opportunities in your music career than what you would have if you were chained down to a full time day job for 40 hours a week.
In the end, you must know why a specific action is important in order to get the most out of it and accomplish your music career goals. Assess your current level of preparedness for achieving success in the music industry with this pro musician assessment.
Before you can hope to achieve any success with a career in music, you need to determine your medium and long-term goals. For instance, you may want to obtain a recording contract, get accepted into a great band, go on an international tour or gain the freedom to write your own songs without worrying about lacking the money to make ends meet. In order to accomplish these goals, you must develop an effectively organized combination of tactics that work as the glue to hold together an overall strategy.
A 'tactic' is an action you take that achieves a specific result in the short-term. Examples of this include: playing a show, trying to get your album reviewed or creating a new website for your band. Any single action you make is a tactic.
A 'strategy', generally speaking is when you combine together many individual tactics and organize them as a whole in a way that will accomplish a specific long term goal.
An easy way to understand this is to think of the board game chess. In chess, tactics refer to each individual move you make on the board. On the other hand, a 'strategy' refers to your understanding of how each and every move you make works together in unison to help you win the game.
Musicians who do not achieve success 'only' think with a mindset based around tactics. A lot of these musicians really try to 'take action' to move their careers forward, but struggle to make any progress because their actions are not part of an overall strategy. This is exactly why merely copying others does not help you achieve success (you are only copying the tactics without knowing the real strategy they are a part of).
Truth is, most musicians are not good at creating effective strategies to advance their careers (just like me when I first began). Because of this, it is essential to locate a mentor who will help you design a strategy to reach your music career goals.
Unsuccessful musicians assume that they need to beg people in the music industry for 'a chance' to get their big break (by sending off promo packs or demos for example). Whenever this doesn't work, they complain that there is simply 'too much competition' and that making it in the music business is only for those who are privileged.
In contrast, people who go on to build successful music careers do not sit around waiting for someone to give them an opportunity just because they have written music or can play an instrument well. They are fully aware that they must 'earn' their success.
Doing this requires them to:
1. Fully be aware of the needs of long term goals of the music companies or musicians they want to do business with (find out what these things are by filling out this music industry survey.
2. Create a well thought out plan for how they will meet the other side's needs.
3. Make the other side 'fully aware' of the fact that working with them will bring great benefit for everyone involved.
4. Come through big in order to provide all the value they claimed to offer and prove themselves to be trustworthy and loyal.
Musicians who complete these steps put themselves miles ahead of the overwhelming majority of musicians who are just waiting for a 'big break' to fall into their lap. To find out how you can accomplish big things in your music career, complete this mini course about making it in the music industry.
You understand that companies in the music business are highly selective of the people they choose to work with. All professional musicians are the same way and you should be this way as well.
Here is a common example of how you can cause great harm to your music career by not being selective of the people you associate with:
In most cases, people who form bands (and desire to make it big someday) rarely consider anything about each band member other than musical skill. No one ever talks about each other's long term goals, forms a strategy together or discusses a specific business plan for how the band will make money and advance in the industry. No one in these bands offers any real value to a music company, making the likeliness of the band becoming successful close to zero. These types of bands usually do not stay together for more than a couple of months.
Musicians who succeed know that there is much more to consider than musical skill alone. They look to find musicians who have the 'complete package' in terms of their mindset (made from the principles discussed in this article). To learn how to locate the right band members with the total package, study this free resource about how to find the best band members.
Even if you have no desire to play in a band, you must still create a network full of success-minded musicians who offer mutually beneficial value to you and your music career. These musicians all should possess (or be on their way to developing) the same mental elements discussed throughout this article.
After training and mentoring many musicians in my Music Careers Mentoring Program, I have truly seen the incredible value of building a network full of success-minded musicians who help each other earn money in their music careers, have joined bands together and toured internationally and constructed business relationships based on the principles of this article.
Now you should have a detailed perspective on the difference between the mindset of successful and unsuccessful musicians. This should make it totally obvious why so few musicians actually 'make it' and achieve great success. Your mindset is your greatest asset or your greatest liability. Once you have taken on all the mental characteristics of successful musicians, every action you take will bring you much more value in your music career than ever before.
Take this free mini course about how to build a successful career in music to more effectively apply the ideas of this article into your music career.
Tom Hess is a professional touring guitarist and recording artist. He teaches, trains and mentors musicians from around the world.
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