How to Breakthrough and Thrive in Today’s Music Industry (Part 1)

Let’s be honest, it’s super depressing when we talk about today’s music industry. Every article you read or interview you watch is filled with negative dialog. It makes you to believe Armageddon has descended upon us and we are stuck in the ashes it left behind. Where is the hope? The excitement? Well, even if I’m the only one who is going to say it, I will, but I truly believe that it is the best time to be in the music industry. I would even go as far to say that I believe you can make a good living creating music today. Here’s how…

I can remember the feeling I had after my first real band rehearsal. I stood there with my guitar in hand, my ears ringing, the smell of pure passion (and seventh grader’s sweat) in the air. It was like I was alive for the first time. It was in that moment I knew creating music was something I wanted, no, had to do with the rest of my life.

As I stood there I pictured myself signing the million dollar record deal. I saw my band mates and I as we toured the world to play to thousands of our screaming fans. Our music videos playing everywhere. My name in lights. I wanted to be a Rock Star.

Then life happens. Have you been there?

You learn your band mates don’t share in the same vision you do for their life. The record deal you sign isn’t a deal at all, but an invoice for studio time you can’t afford. You have screaming fans, but does your mom really count?

All of the sudden we are confronted with what feels like the death of a dream, the death of the Rock Star. 

One thing the music industry has taught me is to manage my expectations. -Q-Tip Click To Tweet

What if I were to tell you that I don’t believe the Rock Star is dead, he just looks a little different now? What if I told you that you didn’t have to struggle and beg and claw your way to success in order to create your music? I know it may sound crazy, and I can’t say it won’t take hard work, but I want to show you a few ways to guarantee success in the music industry of today.

This week I want to talk more from a personal standpoint. Ideas on ways you should view yourself and those around you in order to make an impact. Next week, in Part 2, I will talk more practicals and how to start being a 21st Century Rock Star.

How does that sound? Alright, here are the first five ways to “make it” in today’s music industry.

  1. Stop waiting for the stars to align

I know as kids when we thought about making it in music we saw all of these high-end, executive type people drooling over our music and putting us in the hands of all the right people who will lead us straight to the top. We saw our only job as writing songs, playing shows, and having a blast. Well, you can’t do that today. Does it happen, maybe, but that’s like waiting to win the lottery.

In today’s industry you can’t wait and wish for someone to come down “from above” and hand you everything that you need and want. The stars will not align and that’s okay, you can still make it with out that happening. Yes, it puts more pressure on you, but that also means you are able to control your own destiny. So see this as opportunity, not devastation.

Which leads me to point number 2…

  1. Understand that you are a business owner

As creatives this is probably the one thing we don’t want to hear, but it’s true, you are an entrepreneur and business owner. Once you are able to come to grips with this reality it will set you up to see what you do completely different. It changes the game.

Once you can see this it makes your decision process so much different. All of the sudden you know that moving forward is going to take hard work and personal education to flourish. You stop looking at yourself as a struggling artist and start seeing yourself as a leader. This is a scary place, but it’s also necessary in order to make it.

  1. Add value to your fans.

As the music industry becomes more and more saturated with artists, I have sensed a trend that I believe to be detrimental to us all. This trend is applying pressure to your fans to show up and do something for you. The artist becomes the focus instead of the audience.

How I see this being played out is when artist beg fans to come to shows and purchase their albums and do everything for them. Each and ever Facebook post is filled with “do this” or “do that” and no thought of how that type of constant pressure is a turn off.

“People will forget what you said, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Click To Tweet

Consider this as you move forward. How can you add value to your fans? What can you give them or let them know that isn’t filled with shameless self promotion? Give them a reason they have to talk about you instead of making them feel obligated to do so. Flip the script and watch what happens.

  1. Stop thinking one-dimensional

This is a pretty huge concept but go with me for a minute… In order to make it today you have to see yourself as a creative, not just a musician. What I mean by that is you can’t be one-dimensional.

To help illustrate this point let me tell you about my friend Jake. Jake is an artist who has a few albums out, but he is also a brilliant music teacher. At first Jake thought he needed a personal website, a site for his music, and a site for teaching. He compartmentalized himself which only caused confusion and lack of traction.

Once Jake realized he needed to stop thinking one dimensionally things started to take shape. Now he can sell his music, his ideas, and his services all as apart of his artistry. Think about it, now when he plays a show he’s not just selling his music he’s selling all of his creative power. His books, his video series, and his music lessons. It’s all part of him and his creative expression.

This is how you are going to make it in today’s industry.

  1. Help other artists

We rise by lifting others. -Robert Ingersoll Click To Tweet

This is crazy, backwards, and often a hard thing to do, but when you begin to help others out of the goodness of your heart, things begin to happen for you.

Spend some time promoting other artists. Show up at their shows, talk about their albums, maybe even help them with ideas that you have seen work for yourself. It’s a proven idea; the more you give the more you are able to receive in return.

If you want to be successful today, help others more than yourself. 

So, maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I don’t see it the way you do, but I truly believe that being an artist today gives you the most flexibly and the greatest chance to make an impact creating your art.

Yes, it’s difficult and doesn’t come easy, but by taking a few of these ideas and acting on them you will be able to become the Rock Star you always dreamed of being, a 21st Century Rock Star!

Question: What do you think? Any ways you have found helping in making it in the 21st Century music industry?


P.S. Next week we’ll dive into some more particles on how to make these ideas come to life. Can’t wait to share them with you. Stay tuned. 


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