My favorite thing about running my website and doing my podcast are all the great people I get to meet and network with working in the music business. I’ve often said that there isn’t really a one size fits all formula for success in the music business. If you want to become a doctor or lawyer, you go to school, study, take out loans and if all goes well, when you get your degree, you are a doctor or lawyer.
The music business doesn’t really have the same, direct line to success. Sometimes it isn’t really clear how to move forward. It’s much easier to get somewhere if you have directions, or a map. If you want to drive from Chicago to Los Angeles, it’s pretty easy. You pull up the directions on Google or GPS, you get in the car and you go. If you’re following the speed limit and didn’t stop to sleep or eat, you’d make the drive in about 28 hours and 31 minutes. It’s a straightforward and predictable drive.
Arriving at success in the music industry isn’t quite as straightforward or predictable. However, like Tony Robbins often says, “success leaves clues”. One of the best ways to understand how success happens in the music business is to look to others that are succeeding. Look to others that are experiencing the success you want to experience, and see how many of the steps they took to get there you can reverse engineer. Now of course, everyone’s path is different, and you’ll never be able to replicate someone else’s experience completely. Sometimes it’s a matter of meeting just the right person at just the right time. These sorts of serendipitous moments can’t really be duplicated. But what can be duplicated are the behaviors and actions that led to those moments.
If there’s one common theme that runs through all of the success stories of people I’ve interviewed over the years it’s this: hard work and effort pay off. In the music business, hard work doesn’t always pay off in predictable ways, but it almost always pays off one way or another. Whether it’s winning two Emmy awards as in the case of composer Lars Deutsch, or writing songs for Grammy award winning artists like songwriter Lorenzo Johnson has done, or playing festivals along-side artists like Bob Weir and Jakob Dylan like artist Mike Mizwinski has done, or touring with John Mayer and Ed Sheeran like artist SJ has done, or getting your music on 200 TV shows like Paul Glover has done. In every case the common denominator that led to success was simply working hard towards the goals each artist set for themselves.
When you’re not sure what to do next, remember that the only way to succeed in this business is to be in it, fully engaged and taking action every day. I’ve yet to talk to someone or interview someone that had success just fall in their lap. The most successful artists I know have all made a very deliberate and conscious decision to pursue success in music. It’s not all going to be fun. Some of the work required to make it in the music business is sort of boring and tedious. Things like contacting music supervisors, promoting yourself on social media and so on aren’t exactly the most glamorous things to do. But if you’re pursuing music as a business it’s imperative that either you or someone working on your behalf does these things.
One of the most important things you should be doing every day, apart from creating music, is networking with people in the industry. The music industry is comprised of a vast network of people working in different roles that make the whole business go round. I know so many extremely talented musicians that seem to stay in the same place year after year, simply because they're not connecting with the right people. They're not connecting with the people that could help them get to the next level and move forward.
I recently interviewed Taylor Swift’s former manager about Taylor Swift's ascent to success in the music business. Swift worked hard for four years before most people had ever heard of her. She had a team of people she worked with that included managers, booking agents, publicists and so on, that helped her get to where she is today. Getting to this level of success in the music business CAN'T be done alone. There are too many roles that need to be fulfilled.
If you do nothing else today, network with someone. Reach out and connect with a supervisor or publisher. Send your music to a booking agent or bar owner. Connect with other musicians. Success in the music business doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Make music. Connect. Rinse, wash, repeat.