One of my favorite quotes about music, came from Sam Beam, aka Iron & Wine, he said, “When you treat it like a job, they pay you like it’s a job.”. I always loved this quote because I think it really sums up the mindset you need to have to turn your passion for music into a full-time career. If you simply dabble in music, whenever inspiration strikes, and take a half-hearted approach to your music career, chances are your income that you generate from your music is going to reflect that.
If your goal is to make music a full-time job, that you can live from, you need to approach it as such. This entails getting up every day with a strategy and a game plan that you execute on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. I think where a lot of musicians get stuck, is not knowing exactly where to focus their energy and not know what the best plan of action is. Making music is sort of the easy and obvious part. But what do you do once the music is made?
As I’ve often said, music is different from other, more traditional professions, in that there isn’t always a clear and concise path to success. This can be confusing and frustrating. If you’re not sure what to do on a regular basis, that will help get you closer to your goal, how do you know where to best focus your energy? How can you confidently work towards the realization of your goals?
Well, there isn’t one clear answer to this, but in the hundreds of interviews I’ve done over the last decade, and in my experience with all the musicians I’ve connected and collaborated with in a variety of different capacities, there are a few clear commonalities that most success stories share.
For the sake of this article, I’m going to assume you already have music that is amazing and ready to be shared with the world. This is obviously a gigantic subject and one which is ultimately subjective. Which makes it sort of hard to talk about in the context of a “how to” article. How do you make “great” music? How do you know if your music is “great” and ready to be shared with the world? Well, I’ll leave that up to you as an artist to figure out. I personally think you sort of just know. When you write a great song, or complete an amazing composition, you can sense it. If you’re not really sure whether or not you have great music, there’s a pretty good chance you don’t, yet.
Marketing And Connections
Success in the music business, apart from the music itself, comes down to marketing and connections. That’s really it. Look at the music business around you. Look at the acts that have become enormously successful. Start to ask yourself why certain band and artists are successful and you’re not. Start to actually investigate the back stories of what led to successful artists becoming successful. You can often times reverse engineer the relationships and connections that led to an artists’ success.
For example, did you know that Taylor Swift’s Dad was an early investor in Taylor Swift’s record label (until a few days ago), Big Machine Records? Swift’s Father reportedly invested around 120k in Big Machine to help launch the label and Taylor’s career. Does that mean that he bought her career? I don’t see it that way. The public voted a resounding yes on Taylor Swift and I think it’s her music, drive and personality that ultimately cemented her success. But did her Dads connections and money help get her started? Absolutely and I think there’s a good chance you would have never heard of Taylor Swift had her parents not invested in her career early on.
For an artist to become successful in the mainstream, there needs to both be a “product” the mainstream public wants, and it needs to be marketed successfully. Money and connections open certain doors, but the music itself obviously plays a huge role, that really can’t be denied. Whether you like music that becomes popular or not, there is something about popular music that works and results in becoming successful. For example, in the case of Taylor Swift, her Father’s support in launching her career no doubt helped, but it’s undeniable that Taylor Swift is immensely talented as a songwriter and performer and has an incredible work ethic. Money and connections alone don’t create one of the world’s most successful artists. If they did, there would be a lot more Taylor Swifts.
Apart from the actual music itself, the common denominator I see that separates the vast majority of successful artists from those who are not successful, all other things being equal, is how well their music and brand is being marketed. If no one knows you, then you’ll never become “successful” in the public eye. The public needs to know about your music, to know whether or not it likes it in the first place. Part of your job, if you’re an indie artist, is to figure out how to better promote and market yourself to more and more people.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Ok, great, it makes sense and is sort of obvious, but how? How do I get my music noticed and heard in a sea of unknown artists? Well, that’s the 64 Million Dollar question we’re all trying to figure out. If it was as simple as do X, Y and Z and then you’re a rock star, we’d all just do X, Y and Z and be rock stars already.
It might not be simple or easy, but I do think a few conclusions can be drawn. Here’s what I see working among all the success stories I know of, both in terms of mainstream success and success on a smaller scale, among indie artists who are able to make a living from their music.
These are the areas you should be focusing your time, every single day, if you want to make a full time living from music:
The Music – Again, it all starts with the music. Regardless of what your thoughts on contemporary music, whether or not you like it, and whether or not you think the public has “good” taste in music, the music itself still plays a critical role. Public tastes change and trends come and go, but the performance, emotion and feeling you put into your music matter as much as ever. Focus on the music you make, first and foremost. Write great songs and build up a body of work you can license, stream, perform, sell and so on. Without great, marketable music, nothing else you do will really matter. Whenever I’m not quite sure what to focus on, I focus on simply writing the most amazing music I’m capable of.
Money/Connections/Networking – Money and connections help, as they always have. Knowing the right people or connecting with the right person, can make a huge difference in your career. We might not all have rich fathers that are willing to invest six figures in the launch of our careers, but all of us can do things like attend industry events, network, shake hands, make phone calls and so forth, in order to connect with more people in the business. Don’t come from a place of trying to use people or get something from them. This is almost always the wrong approach. Instead aim to make connections with people that are genuine and authentic.
Money, as in the case of Taylor Swift, can buy promotion and attention. Money buys things like recording time, promotion, advertising and on and on. Of course, if we all had an unlimited supply of money, we could simply buy our way onto the public’s radar. But, do your best with the resources and money you have.
Things like Facebook advertising, google ads, Youtube, Reddit and more, can all be great ways to promote your music on a small budget. Of course, it will be harder with a smaller budget in many ways. But the good news is that you won’t be able to simply waste money on a product that isn’t ready to be promoted. Hone your music and your marketing skills and make every dollar count, winning over new fans, one at a time. As your success in music grows, you can increase your marketing budget accordingly. Working on shoe string budget will force you to really focus on what works. (Yes, my glass is half full.)
Outside The Box Thinking (Branding) – This is probably my favorite part of the conversation in terms of marketing and branding. It’s what I call “outside the box” thinking. This is my favorite part of the discussion, because it’s something we all have access to. We don’t get to choose our parents or what kind of wealth and connections we’re born into, but we can all choose to look at the world in a more creative, “outside the box” sort of way.
For an artist or brand to become talked about in the press, there needs to be something extremely compelling to discuss. Again, clearly the music you make needs to be great. But, the problem is that there is so much music out there, that even if your music is amazing, it can be hard to break through the barrage of music that exists, if you’re not doing something unique and original and branding yourself properly.
Having an interesting and compelling story and brand, will make it easier for people to remember you and make it more likely that you’ll get featured in the press, on people’s blogs, playlists and so on. Don’t just release your music and hope that’s enough. It won’t be. Tell people why you’re creating music. Reach out to bloggers, playlist curators, press outlets and more and tell them what makes you different and unique. Be creative not just in terms of the music you make, but how you present yourself and your music to the world.
I find that often times adding fairly minor details in terms of what inspired you to write specific songs and release specific albums goes a long way in getting bloggers and play-listers to pay attention. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a super elaborate back story.
For example, I’m going to be releasing a new EP of all instrumental, ambient guitar music soon, and I’ve been contacting blogs and playlists to get some help in promoting my new release. In the last few days alone my first single, Rays, was picked up by two new blogs and is going to be added to a pretty large playlist (several hundred thousand followers) next week! I simply reached out to a few different places and told them about my new release and how I’m inspired and driven to create music that is positive and uplifting, in order to combat all the darkness and craziness in the world. Which is entirely true, but I had never really taken the time to articulate that until recently.
What’s your story? Why is making music so important to you? How can you better convey what inspires you and motivates you in your branding? Improving your branding and marketing can actually be a really fun and insightful process. It forces you to really get in touch with what motivates you and drives you.
Check out the first single from my upcoming, instrumental, ambient guitar release, called “Rays”.
I was talking to a client a few weeks ago, who was trying to figure out how to make more money from his music via licensing his tracks in tv, films, etc. This particular client informed me that he had made about $2,000.00 from ten of his tracks over the last five years or so. The problem though, was that these particular tracks were signed exclusively to a publisher and for many years he couldn’t get the rights to these tracks back.
He hired an attorney and spent several years fighting to get out of the contract he had signed. Eventually, after what I can only imagine was quite a bit of money, time and frustration, the publisher representing these tracks agreed to give him the ability to sign these tracks to other companies and license them elsewhere. In the end, he was able to make a little extra money with these ten tracks, but he still wasn’t thrilled with his results.
This particular client came to me, mainly looking for advice on how to improve his success in music licensing and figure out how to make more money with his music.
One of the things I love about working with clients like this, is that I often have epiphanies and realizations as a result of listening to someone else express their challenges and frustrations. I’m sometimes able to express ideas in new ways, that lead to greater clarity for both myself and my clients. I often have “aha” moments that help both myself and my clients better understand this crazy business of ours.
With this particular client, I had a realization that I guess you could say was a twist on something I’ve known for quite some time but had never quite been able to articulate as succinctly as I did with this particular client, during this particular coaching session.
What was the realization?
Well, to put it very simply, your musical output will determine your income. In other words, the more tracks you create, the more money you’ll make. Pretty obvious right? It should be, but I think a lot of us have blind spots and get stuck on our musical journey, getting bogged down in worrying about things like getting out of bad deals we’ve signed, worrying about our rights and how to best monetize our individual tracks.
And these are all valid concerns. We should think about these things, at least to a point. We should be careful about signing bad deals and not getting locked into deals we can’t get out of. I’m sure we’ve all probably signed a few contracts along the way that we wish we hadn’t. I know I have. If you’ve been in the licensing game long enough, you’re going to learn along the way, and sometimes we have to learn the hard way, by making mistakes, or by making what seem like mistakes in retrospect.
With this particular client I was talking to though, he had spent a lot of money and time trying to undo a deal he had signed. He got sort of stuck on trying to undo this deal he had signed an in his mind, right a wrong. These tracks were his and he wanted them back. In my estimation though, his energy and effort would have been much better spent had he focused it elsewhere, on more productive things, like writing and creating new music for example and developing new contacts in the business and generating new revenue streams with his music. It's better to look forward, than look behind.
I broke it down for this particular client, like this:
If you’re able to make $2,000.00 from ten tracks, (which isn’t a bad return in the grand scheme of things) what if you had a catalog of 100 tracks? Assuming the same rate of return, you’d make about $20,000.00.
Now extrapolate that even further. What if you had 500 tracks earning the same amount of money? This would net you $100,000. What if you had 1,000 tracks that brought in the same amount of money per tracks? This would earn you about $200,000.00 and so on.
I think you can see where I’m going with this. To a large extent, our income in the music business, and in particular for things like music licensing and music streaming, will be determined by how many tracks we have in our catalog.
Now of course, there are a lot of other variables. The size of your catalog isn’t the only determining factor in licensing. There are other things, like the tracks themselves, how “license-able” and accessible they are, the connections you make and so on. There are a lot of different factors that will contribute to your success.
But, the size of your catalog and how many tracks you have available to be licensed is a key factor. One of the things you should be focusing on, at all times, is creating more music, so you have more music to license into more opportunities. It’s also one of the few things in this business, YOU have complete control over.
A few years ago, on my podcast, I interviewed a musician who made a full time living, based solely on this realization alone. His name is Matt Farley and his entire strategy is to make a ridiculous amount of music based around every imaginable, silly theme and idea he can think of. He has songs about poop, pee, UFOs, singing random people’s names over and over, writing songs about specific cities based on Wikipedia posts and much more. Thousands and thousands of tracks. His focus is more on making from streaming on platforms like Youtube and Spotify, as opposed to licensing. He doesn’t make much per track, but he makes so much music that, when I interviewed him in 2016 he was averaging about 2k a month in revenue.
That was a couple years ago.
I googled him to see what he’s been up to since and discovered he’s up to about 19,000 tracks and records under 17 different aliases, such as:
He’s also up to making about 65k a year from his massive catalog of almost 20,000 tracks, according to this article in INC magazine:
Matt is an extreme example, and it’s debatable whether or not much of his music would be considered great works of “art”. But, he’s paying his bills with music alone. Are you?
If you’re trying to make more money from your music, a great thought experiment is to simply look at how much money you’re making per year from your music, divided by the number of tracks in your catalog. This way, you can get a per song average of what your tracks earn. Then just extrapolate out.
So, for example, if you made $1,000.00 from your tracks last year and you have ten songs in you catalog, each song is earning on average about 100 dollars. Want to increase your income to $10,000? You’d need 100 songs, based on this rate of return. To get to $100,000.00, you’d need 1,000 tracks. Like I said, there are obviously other factors, but one of the easiest and most straightforward ways to grow your revenue from your music, is to simply make more of it.
This was the exact epiphany that Matt Farley had. He noticed one of his tracks earned almost 74 cents on Spotify, so he thought to himself, that’s not a lot of money, but what if I had thousands of tracks each earning tiny amounts of money. Eventually it would add up.
Of course, in something like licensing, there’s the potential to earn much more than 74 cents per track. I’ve made as much as 5k per placement and there are placements that earn much more than that. The problem though, with focusing on how much you earn per particular placement, is that you don’t entirely control when and where your tracks are used. You can influence this by more actively pitching your tracks, making new connections and so forth. But you can’t directly control it.
What you can control is the music you make. How much of it you make. What you make music about. Where you make it available and so on.
To a very large extent, your musical output = your income.
I’ll never quit music. Ever. This is a path I’m on for life. My entire life. I’m firmly committed to the path, for better or worse, in sickness and health. My commitment gives me a sense of clarity and calm. It also give me a sense of direction. I have my life purpose figured out, or at least one of them. Whereas many people struggle their whole lives to “figure themselves out” and “find their calling” and discover their purpose, I got that shit all figured out.
However, it hasn’t always been easy. It’s still not easy. Figuring out my life purpose hasn’t translated to a life of ease and leisure. To the contrary, I sometimes feel like figuring out my life purpose has brought with it an enormous weight and an added sense of stress and responsibility. After all, now that I know what my purpose is, I feel an obligation and pressure to pursue it, to make progress towards my goals, to not rest on my laurels and to keep advancing. This extra pressure is, in my view, a net positive. There is extra work and stress involved, but it’s worth it in the end, because of the meaning and depth music provide. I could just skip all the work and effort and not be bothered with any of it, but I would be missing out on something that also brings with it an enormous sense of reward and satisfaction.
But, there is a clear price to pay for being a professional musician and a career in music is filled with challenges, obstacles and typically, many setbacks along the way. If you’re pursuing a career in music or are thinking about going into the music industry, I don’t think this reality should be glossed over. I’ve seen multiple studies that show that musicians, on average, have much higher rates of things like depression, anxiety and substance abuse than the general population. I even saw a recent study of over 12,000 musicians that concluded that professional musicians, on average, die a full 25 years year younger than the rest of the population. That’s a significant difference and this reality of the music business shouldn’t be ignored.
Ok, so being a musician is hard, or at least it can be. Now what? Why on earth would anyone go into a business that’s fraught with so many challenges? Is there a way to mitigate the risks involved with pursuing a career in music? Well, that’s what this article is going to explore.
So, let’s get to it…
Let’s start with talking about the upside of being a musician and why a career in music is, at least potentially, so rewarding. First of all though, let me preface all of this by stating that what works for me, might not work for you, and vice versa. We all have different things that drive us and motivate us. Some people are quite content and happy to lead very simple, somewhat mundane and conventional lives. Nothing wrong that. Who am I or anyone else to tell you or anyone how to live? We all get to figure out what works for ourselves and ultimately, we’re the ones most qualified to decide how we live our lives. After all, no one knows you better than you. With that said, if you’re also drawn to making music and share that passion with me, it’s probably safe to assume we’re at least somewhat alike.
So, why pursue something that is so difficult and risky? Well, doing something that is difficult isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I would suggest that what plagues many people living in modern, western society, isn’t that their lives are too difficult, it’s that they’re too boring and lack meaning and depth. Many people spend their time, or much of it, doing things they don’t find inherently meaningful or interesting, but that they feel they have to do in order to survive. A life spent simply working to pay bills, with occasional periods of relaxation mixed in, probably isn’t that fulfilling for most people. As Thoreau said, “most men live lives of quiet desperation”.
Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs
Abraham Maslow, the American psychologist who came up with the idea of the “hierarchy of needs”, aka Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs, observed that “the healthiest and most motivated among us, are those that are motivated by trends of self-actualization”. This was Maslow’s conclusion after decades of studying the psychology of those who excelled in life, in a variety of fields. Notice that he didn’t say anything about money or one’s net worth in relation to their well-being, although I’m sure many of the people he studied did quite well financially.
Maslow defined self-actualization as “an ongoing actualization of potentials, capacities and talents, as fulfillment of a mission”. Does this sound like something that could apply to musicians? Way before I had ever even heard of Abraham Maslow or his theories and research, it was self-evident to me that this was true. From a very young age, I sensed a deep sense of satisfaction from the process of struggling to get better at the guitar, putting in hours of practice and eventually progressing to higher and higher levels. It just seemed obvious to me that this process was somehow connected to my happiness and sense of fulfillment in life. By directing my energy towards something concrete and tangible, like progressing as a guitarist and musician, I grew as a person, which brought a deep sense of fulfillment and helped shaped my identity and path in life.
Maslow was so convinced of the importance of self-actualization in life, that he boldly stated, “If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life”. This idea resonates deeply within me. When I go through periods where, for whatever reason, I’m not working on and progressing with music, I feel a gnawing sense of dissatisfaction and restlessness, that becomes more pronounced over time. It’s a feeling that grows and grows, until eventually, I’m motivated to pick up my guitar and get back to the process of exploring new song ideas, finishing existing songs, writing new music, and so on. I can’t go too long without returning to my love of writing songs and playing the guitar.
Reconciling Art & Commerce
So, if pursuing a craft like music can be so deeply satisfying, why does pursuing a career in music often times feel so frustrating and uninspiring? Well, this is a big question, and there are a lot of variables. But let me try to unpack this conflict by sharing a few things I’ve learned on my journey.
I think the biggest and most obvious conflict is that learning to play music, learning to write songs and so on, and progressing in these endeavors, is very different than learning to make money from music and learning to excel in the business of music. They are obviously related. You need a certain amount of talent to make money from performing and writing music. But getting good at an instrument or getting good at songwriting, is not the same as getting good at marketing and monetizing your music. They are completely different skill-sets.
So, one way of reconciling this conflict is simply seeing this dichotomy for what it is. If you’re struggling to make it in the music business, don’t allow this to take away the joy you get from craft of writing and/or performing music. Realize that your lack of success in the music business might not have anything to do with your lack of success as a musician and the talent you possess. This should be rather obvious, but it can be easy to forget. You might be an amazing musician whose time simply hasn’t come. You might be doing everything right but for whatever reason things just haven’t lined up for you. There are countless examples of this having happened in the music business. I’m sure you probably know plenty of musicians that fit this description yourself, right now.
This is why I think the most important barometer for success should really be your own internal sense of whether or not you’re getting better as a vocalist, guitarists, songwriter, etc. Are you getting better at your craft? Are you writing better songs today than you were a year or two years ago? Self-actualization involves realizing your full potential. How much money you make may or may not be connected to that. For many it will be, especially if you go far enough and excel enough. But it shouldn’t be the primary thing you focus on, especially when you’re first starting out. After all, I’m sure we all know plenty of well-off people, financially, who are far from self-actualized. Financial well-being and self-actualization don’t necessarily go hand in hand.
One way a lot of musicians come to terms with this reality of the music business is by simply not going into the music business. It’s hard to fail at something you’re not really even trying to be successful at doing. There are plenty of musicians who are actively performing and writing music who aren’t really trying to “make it” in the music business. Yet, they still get a deep sense of satisfaction from playing music on a regular basis. Maybe they have a completely different career or day job, but yet music remains an important and consistent part of their lives. This is one way to deal with the conflict, and for those that are happy and content to approach music this way, I think it’s completely valid.
But what if, like me, you do want to make a career out of playing and writing music? How can you focus on the benefits of reaching your full potential as a musician without letting the struggle and the grind weigh you down? Is there a way to reconcile the conflict between and art and commerce?
Well, no two paths are alike, but my general suggestion, if you do want to make a living out of music, is to keep your day job and consistently chip away at creating revenue streams from your music until they reach a point that allow you to sustain yourself. Then, make the leap to doing music full time and devote even more energy to it and keep building the revenue streams you’ve created.
This will obviously take a sustained effort to achieve, but the good news is that in many ways this is becoming more and more possible and easier to attain. I think that in the near future we’ll see a rise of more and more indie musicians who are able to make a respectable living from their music. I really believe that. In many ways, it’s already started. I might be a little biased, because I work in the music industry, but I’m meeting more and more musicians who have figured out how to create a career out of writing and performing music. Most of them you’ve probably never even heard of, but they’re quietly building sustainable and growing careers in the music business, doing what they love.
To me, this is the ideal scenario for musicians and is really the best of both worlds. It’s what I feel most musicians are shooting for; the ability to make a living doing what they love. When you can combine the benefits of self-actualization and striving for and reaching your potential as an artist and musician, and also figure out how to make enough money to sustain yourself, well, it doesn’t get much better than that, now does it?
Yesterday I interviewed Swedish based “Chillstep” artist Christoffer Hylander, aka “Killigrew” for my podcast, about how he’s been able to generate over 20 million streams on Spotify and has created an income stream from streaming alone that he’s able to live off of.
If you haven’t checked out that podcast yet, you can do so here: https://musicmoneyandlife.podbean.com/e/how-one-artist-generated-20-million-streams-on-spotify-and-makes-a-full-time-living-from-his-music/
In the beginning of the podcast, Christoffer said that his success on Spotify basically was a result of good timing and luck. He said that he wasn’t actively trying to get on Spotify playlists, but that a curator that runs a gigantic playlist just happened to discover his music and featured Christoffer’s musical project, “Killigrew” on his playlist and as a result, Killigrew’s music blew up, and to date has had over 20 million streams on Spotify. Christoffer has been living off the royalties he makes on Spotify alone, for over four years now, in Sweden.
Christoffer’s story is great, but I was a little disappointed at first, to learn that Christoffer basically concluded his success just boiled down to luck. That’s the way he described it at least. I wasn’t disappointed because I don’t like it when people are lucky and have good things happen to them, for no apparent reason. I love stories like that. It’s just that, from the standpoint of my podcast and website, I’m always looking for the takeaway. I’m looking for specific tactics and techniques that can be replicated by other artists, myself included. I want to know what the lesson is in each success story I hear so that we can applies these lessons to our own lives and careers. I almost always find at least one nugget of wisdom in each interview I do. There’s almost always something to learn from everyone I talk to. Sometimes I have to keep digging though before I strike gold.
As Christoffer and I kept talking, he eluded to his being lucky several times. I continued to question him about his success and what led up to it though, determined to find some practical advice and ideas that would apply to all musicians. Although I appreciate Christoffer’s humility about his success, I eventually found, as I suspected I would, three key things Christoffer did that led to his Spotify success.
Here they are…
Big Fish In A Small Pond – What’s Your Niche?
Christoffer told me that one of the keys to his success,was being one of the first “Chillstep” artists. Full disclosure: I knew more or less nothing about “Chillstep” until connecting with Christoffer. Christoffer discovered this genre in its infancy and according to Christoffer, he was one of the first dozen or so artists making this genre of music early on.
We might not all be in a position to be pioneers in a new genre of music, but the takeaway for me here is that it’s much easier to stand out when you’re a “big fish in a small pond’. If you’re making a style of music that there is a ton of, it doesn’t mean you won’t succeed, but you’re going to have much more noise to cut through. If you’re doing music that is more niche oriented, you’re going to have less competition and a greater chance of succeeding. What’s unique and truly original about your music? Is there an abundance of very similar music? These are important questions to ask yourself if you’re trying to promote your music on platforms like Spotify.
This is the part of Christoffer’s story that was really an “aha” moment for me. Although Christoffer chalked his Spotify success up to luck, he told me that prior to getting featured on the Spotify Playlist that catapulted his success, he spent weeks emailing thousands of people on Youtube his music. His strategy was finding other artists in his genre, Chillstep, and reaching out to fans of other artists who were making music similar to his. Christoffer said that although a few people would get upset and accuse him of being “spammy”, the vast majority of people were positive and receptive and he gained thousands of new fans using this method.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Christoffer said that it was a connection he made on Youtube that led to him inadvertently being featured on the Spotify Playlist that ultimately led to millions of streams. Someone who discovered his music first on Youtube, was the curator of the playlist that Christoffer was featured on that led to his Spotify success. So although he wasn’t actively trying to promote his music on Spotify, he was on Youtube, and the work and effort he put into promoting his music on Youtube, led indirectly to his success on Spotify.
Although I can appreciate Christoffer’s sentiment that luck played a role in his Spotify success, it’s also clear to me, after hearing his story, that had he not exerted so much effort in promoting his music on Youtube and in general, he never would have had the success he ultimately found on Spotify.
Finally, the last thing that Christoffer pointed to that led to his success was that deliberately created very distinct imagery and branding around his music. Christoffer’s project “Killiigrew” features an emphasis on nature and the beauty of nature and the outdoors. Like his music, his branding and the imagery he uses illicit a very calming, and relaxing feeling.
Here’s an example of some of the artwork he uses to promote his music:
It’s important that you have clear and consistent branding. Think about the kind of images, artwork and story would best fit your music and the message you’re trying to convey with your music. Good branding will help you stand out and make it easier for people to remember you and the music you create. There’s a reason major corporations work with ad agencies to help promote their products; because it works. Advertising and branding are a huge part of success in any industry, including of course the music industry.
So, what’s the ultimate takeaway? Does success in the music business simply come down to luck and being in the right place at the right time? I don’t think so. It’s clear in hearing Christoffer’s story and the countless other success stories I’ve heard over the years, that success in the music business is usually the result of both hard work and often times, what seems and feels like luck. Perhaps it’s better to say that success in the music business often arrives in unexpected ways, but if you re-trace the steps that led to most artists becoming successful, you’ll find that a lot of hard work was done along the way.
The blog of musician and thinker of deep thoughts, Aaron Davison.