The music industry is extremely complex. Just like in any industry, having innovative ideas and thinking outside of the box are important to having a successful career. On its own, talent is rarely enough to make an unsigned artist into a superstar. As an unsigned artist, having talent is good, but it takes a strong work ethic and character to make it to the next level. Many popular artists today spent many years working very hard, taking the right opportunities, and meeting the right people to get to where they are today.
Just Be Yourself
It might sound corny, but staying true to yourself is the first thing unsigned musicians have to do before you do anything else. You can be proud of yourself, but be humbled by what it took to get to where you are. The last thing you want to become is come off as arrogant. It's also very rewarding to work as an independent artist, since you don't have a bunch of other people telling you what to do. Being your own boss isn't for everyone, though. If you do work in a company, don't let them try to change who you are. Being different may seem to make it harder, but in the long run, knowing you did things your way is its own reward.
Don't Forget Where You Came From
As you move up in the music industry, it can be easy to forget where you came from. It's important to keep your friends from outside music, too. Be respectful to those who end up looking up to you and seeking your advice and guidance. Helping with promoting musicians still at the bottom work their way up is the best thing you can do. Always make time for those important to you and those that deserve your attention. Not only will this make your own music promotion easier, but it will grow your network in ways that you can only now imagine.
Surround Yourself with Positive People
The best thing to have around you in any endeavor is to have people that support and encourage you on a regular basis. Surround yourself with positive individuals with similar interests to your own. There will always be those trying to tear you down, sometimes out of envy or jealousy. Be optimistic, as in the end, the good times will overcome the bad times. Nothing worth fighting for comes easily, and the struggles are worthwhile. Keeping the hope alive from one day to the next will make success that much sweeter. Having your own support network makes that success much easier to come by in the long run.
Never Burn Bridges On Purpose
Not everyone is going to be on your side. That's just a fact of life. But do your best to keep lines open with everyone you can. Sometimes you have to apologize for situations that weren't even your fault. If your apology isn't accepted, recognize that it's not your problem and just move on. Kindness and honesty are golden. If you have those two things, you'll find the right people to work with, people that are actually passionate and serious about promoting music artists.
Professionalism Is Everything
Like in any other industry, networking is a major key to success. That means professionalism is everything. Taking a mature, professional attitude is the way to gaining respect. While eventually it's fine to be casual, be sure to develop close relationships first. It doesn't matter how young or old you are. It's still the same when it comes to networking. It's more than just song promotion. Networking is about people.
Help Others. It's Not All About the Money
Money isn't everything. Especially in music, the best way to make it is to help others succeed with their own craft. Almost no one makes a lot of money right away. Follow your passion and the money will come. If you put others before yourself and solve their problems, you'll be a happier and satisfied person. Just make sure you're happy and satisfied yourself, and you'll be able to help people more effectively.
Be open to everything music. You may be surprised how genres of music you never before considered can inspire you. Consider the ideas and constructive feedback that people give you carefully. Embracing the diversity of the music industry is critical. Don't do favors for people just to expect something back. Do it because you care and actually want to see that person succeed. Being selfless and not selfish will help you in the long run by making connections you otherwise would never have had.
Sacrifice, Ambition, and Dedication
While it is "all about the music," having lots of talent and making awesome music isn't going to promise you success. It takes a lot of ambition and dedication, and you will have to make many sacrifices along the way.
Having lofty, seemingly unrealistic goals is actually a good thing, as long as you don't get carried away. Setting goals is about always having something to reach for, not necessarily for something you have to achieve. It helps you keep your expectations high. It's actually a good thing for people to question and doubt your goals. This provides motivation. It's good to have lofty visions, because even if you fall short of those, you're still going to achieve something meaningful.
You also have to know your level of dedication to music. Is it a true passion for you or just a hobby? If you can live without it, you won't have the drive you need to truly succeed in a music career. While music starts out as a hobby for many people, you have to find a true passion for it before you can expect to take it anywhere.
The reason you need so much dedication is because there are many sacrifices that you'll have to make. Music has to be your number one priority in life, and nothing else can get in the way. It's like creating a start-up business. Not only is there a lot to do that needs your constant attention, but you need to network to find people that you can delegate some of those responsibilities to so that you can focus mostly on the creative, performance, and production aspects of music.
You have to sacrifice parts of your social and recreational life to make it all work. You're not entitled to breaks until you've made it work. In fact, your shows can eventually become your breaks, as packed houses who can't wait for you to play are the best motivation there is.
If you follow these points, chasing success in the music industry will become much more than a dream. Somewhere along the way, you'll find some sort of success you can be happy with.
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