Over the last few years, I’ve worked with hundreds of musicians. I’ve interviewed successful musicians and publishers throughout the US, Canada and Europe. I’ve consulted even more musicians via my training programs. I’ve seen what works, I’ve seen what sort of works and I’ve seen what doesn’t work at all.
When you speak with enough musicians that are reaching their goals and finding success, you start to see a pattern. A common denominator emerges that ties all of their stories together. Although everyone has a different path and no two paths in the music business are identical, there are places where almost all success stories overlap. In this post, I’m going to explore these overlapping places.
If you’re aren’t as successful as you’d like to be in your music career, or really any business endeavor, there are really only two reasons why. Your lack of success, 99% of the time, is probably related to either one or both of these reasons:
Now let me be clear, when I talk about success in the music business, I’m not necessarily talking about Justin Bieber or Rihanna level success. I think there is an element of luck involved in those who become extraordinarily successful in the music business. Either luck in terms of innate talent or looks (which unfortunately is a factor in mainstream success). Or they are lucky in terms of being discovered by the right person at the right time.
I’m not interested in luck. I can’t teach luck and luck can’t really be learned. So when I talk about success in the music business, I’m talking about musicians who have deliberately set out to create a viable career in the music business. I’m talking about musicians who wake up every day and make a full time income from their music that they live comfortably from. I’m talking about musicians who are supporting themselves through licensing, through composing jobs, as performers and so on.
I’m talking about a level of success within all our reach, if we work hard enough. I’m talking about a level of success that’s attainable to anyone with the right work ethic and the right skills, both of which can be developed, irrespective of how lucky or unlucky you are.
So think about it. Success in the music business can obviously be attained. If someone else has done it, you can do it too. I’ve eliminated the wild card factor of extreme luck. Although to be fair, I do subscribe to the adage “the harder I work, the luckier I become”. Either way, we’ve removed extreme luck from the equation and we’ve arrived at a definition of success in the music business that all musicians can achieve through hard work and determination.
Hopefully you’re with me so far.
Are you? Great.
So, here comes the inevitable question…
Why aren’t you as successful as you’d like to be? If you are, great, keep doing what you've been doing. But assuming you'd like to be more successful, what can you do to change that? Well, back to my original premise, you probably either haven’t been pursuing this long enough, or you simply haven’t worked hard enough. It’s most likely one of, or both of these reasons.
Let’s break it down.
Let’s say you write a batch of songs and you start shopping them around trying to land a licensing deal. You send your songs to 200 publishers. You get rejected by all of them. Why? Well your songs probably simply aren’t what the market wants or needs. Or, your production isn't good enough. Either way, you probably haven’t been at this long enough, or you haven’t been working hard enough to get your music where it needs to be.
Or, alternatively, maybe you’ve just finished an amazing CD that has a ton of licensing potential. You’ve just spent all your money and effort getting it recorded. So you take a month or two off to relax. Then you decide to send it to a few of your contacts. You wait a couple months. Nothing happens. So you decided to send it to a few more places. A couple people are interested, but months later nothing has happened and you feel no further down the road than when you first finished your CD. In this case, you have the material, but you just aren’t putting in the effort needed to get it off the ground.
I know, I know. It’s a lot of work. It’s exhausting just thinking about how much works is involved. You probably feel like just hanging out with your friends or having a drink after a long day at work. Achieving success is hard. It takes a lot of sacrifice and it takes looking at how you spend your time, differently than perhaps most other people. It takes a sort of dogged determination that most musicians lack. Hence the reasons why most musicians aren’t that successful.
A couple weeks ago I interviewed one of my former clients, Eddie Grey, about his massive success in the music licensing world. Since starting to work with me and my producer, Gary Gray, he’s gone on to license over 500 of his tracks in film and tv and he’s currently a full time composer for A & E. He’s doing very well. In our interview, Eddie said, sometimes you have to “get a little crazy’ when pursuing your goals. He was alluding to the fact that you have to get really intense with what it is you’re pursuing.
Eddie would frequently contact as many as 200 potential clients a day while he was getting started. In two and a half short years he’s accumulated hundreds of placements and has been hired as a staff composer for A & E. It seems like his work is paying off.
I could tell you at least a dozen other very similar stories, of people I've worked with or know who are doing equally as well. Although their paths and stories are different, they're all the same in that the common denominator they share that led them to success was that they put in both a considerable amount of time and effort.
Time + hard work = success.
I think a lot of people say they want this or that, but at the end of the day they’d rather spend time checking Facebook or hanging out with the same group of friends talking about the same insignificant topics, instead of making their dreams a reality.
If you really want this, shut down facebook, turn off your cell phone, quit chasing pokemon and go for it. Really go for it. Every day.
The blog of musician and thinker of deep thoughts, Aaron Davison.