What It Really Takes to Survive the Music Industry

What separates the musicians who make it from those who don’t?

We can tell you. We’ve been coaching independent musicians since 2009 and managing artists at our sister company since 2010.

During that time, we’ve noticed that, aside from talent, the musicians who succeed have a few things in common.

So what’s really required to survive — and thrive — in this industry?

Read on to find out.

What It Really Takes

Talent is necessary to make it in the music industry, but talent alone isn’t enough. There are a few behaviors, mindsets, and practices you should cultivate if you want to make it in this industry.

Take action and responsibility for your success

The artists who succeed are the ones who see it as their job to create the career they want.

Much of what happens in this industry is beyond your control (like winning an audition, being cast, or getting booked).

Many artists focus on and lament their lack of control. But if you seek empowerment and autonomy, you’ll be poised to succeed. If you take action you’ll get results, No action, no results.

Granted, it may take time to see your hard work pay off, but if you make it a regular practice to engage with the outside world and see that as a core part of your job, you will thrive.

Maintain your sense of humor

Keep a light heart, especially when it comes to the mistakes that you’re bound to make, because mistakes are inevitable.

While coaching musicians, I’ve heard about lots of mistakes. Many regret not taking advantage of their network when they were younger. Others talk about projects that didn’t pan out. Some wish they had said or done something different along the way.

Have compassion for yourself when you make mistakes. We all mess up, and it’s how we respond to those fumbles that matter.

Respond to emails

As part of a management company, I’m often surprised by how unresponsive some artists can be.

If you can show that you’re easy to work with, that you follow through on your end of the bargain, and that you are engaged and invested in your career, it will pay off. Start by responding to your emails and doing what you say you’re going to do in a timely manner.

Don’t take things personally

This industry is crazy and people do crazy things. You might feel like you’ve been unjustly dismissed or maybe even disrespected. That’s because some industry leaders behave as if this is a life-or-death industry. It’s not.

If you’re able to let other people’s behavior roll off you and realize that what they do isn’t about you, you’ll be better off.

The same rule applies when receiving feedback. Sometimes, the way someone delivers feedback can sting. If you’re willing, try not to focus on the tone of the feedback and instead, use their words as a tool.

Always be learning

Be willing to improve yourself, whether that’s artistically or business-wise (or both). Accept the fact that you’re a work in progress and there’s so much to learn.

Release your perfectionism

As a musician, you pride yourself on perfection. But there are moments when “done” is better than “perfect.” Learn how to understand where perfection serves you and where it might hold you back.

Nurture your network

No one can make it in this industry alone. You need people on your side to support you and collaborate with you.

Understand that people come in and out of your life in different ways so take a long-term approach to relationship building and relate to people in the right way.

Believe in what you do

Maintain a deep belief in and passion for the work you are doing. If you’re feeling stuck and lost in your career, think about your mission and the work that’s most important to you. Keep focusing on why you’re doing what you’re doing, and it will help you overcome resistance.

Take care of your body

If your body isn’t healthy, it will not function properly. This will also affect your mindset and focus. Musicians are athletes of the small muscles. If you’re tired all the time, let tendinitis go untreated, or get sick frequently, you won’t be able to practice and perform effectively. Take care of yourself!

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