10 Tips For A Successful Music Career
I go by Rosendale, and I've been making music for over 10 years as a singer and songwriter.
I recently hit 600,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. It was a pretty tough endeavor for me to get to where I am today. For the first 8 years of my musical career, I wasn't even making enough money to cover my own living expenses (and I never told anyone until now). I wrote over 100 songs during this time, most of which have been lost in the void of the internet. I spent countless hours trying to find opportunities to make money. I battled depression.
After several years of struggle, one of my songs finally took off and it changed my career. I currently make a living almost completely off of music royalties. It's a life that I'm very grateful to have, because it doesn't happen for everyone.
Today, I'm going to share with you 10 tips that I think are helpful in becoming a successful musician. I'll be focusing on tips for a healthy mindset, as opposed to marketing tips or revenue-generating tips. These are tips that I discovered them along the way during my journey as a singer-songwriter, and that I wish I knew from the very beginning. My hope is that you'll be more likely to find your own success in the music industry through this blog post. Whether you're a singer, songwriter, producer, or independent artist, I'm sure some of the tips below (if not all) will be useful to you.
Before we jump into my tips, be sure to check out my other blog posts below:
Learn where to submit your music to Spotify music curators HERE!
Learn how to become a recording artist right from your bedroom HERE!
Without further ado, here are my top 10 tips for a successful music career.
1. Don’t put All your eggs in one musical basket
To make a living as a musician, you'll need to earn more money from your music than you spend on it. I'm sure you, just like everyone else, have bills to pay for rent, food, and other living expenses. Don't forget that you'll need to pay for your music-related expenses as well, such as marketing fees, distribution fees, software subscriptions, and equipment fees.
"You'll need to spend money to earn money." That's a saying that we've all heard, and it's true to an extent. It's not always possible to anticipate how much money you'll earn from a project, and sometimes you'll need to spend some money upfront for a musical project without knowing how much you'll recoup.
My advice is this: avoid making huge monetary expenditures on single projects. If you're just starting out as a musician, spending $10,000 on a music video for one song is probably not a wise choice. Pursue cheaper alternatives that rely on your own time and effort so that your money can go towards creating more music or paying your living expenses.
Learn more about how I earned 2 million streams from one song I wrote HERE.
2. Don’t work hard, work SMART
Many musicians are self-employed; they're responsible for finding ways to make money on their own without anyone telling them what to do. As a result, musicians need to spend a lot of time looking for work opportunities and brainstorming new ideas that will bring them income.
There's a big difference between working hard and working smart. You might think that working hard will ultimately bring you the riches that you're hoping for. In reality, this isn't the case because success is never guaranteed. Spending hundreds of hours a month trying to market a song that not many people want to listen to is hard work, but it's not smart work. Working hard might make you feel good, but ask yourself this: can your time could be used in a more efficient manner?
Work smart by analyzing your income sources and focusing on the activities that bring in the most income. If you're just starting out as a musician, try a shotgun approach and see what sticks first (whether it's performing/touring, writing music, making YouTube videos, etc). Afterwards, cut out activities and projects that you know you're not good at doing, or have no interest in.
3. be gentle with yourself
Let's face it: not everyone who wants to be a musician can be one. The entertainment industry is one of the most competitive industries out there, and it's easy to feel discouraged.
Actively avoiding negative thoughts is helpful in maintaining a positive attitude about being a musician. Imagine going around thinking that you'll fail all the time. You'll likely loop yourself into a self-fulfilling prophecy; you won't take on the opportunities you're presented with due to your fear of failing.
Focus on achieving reasonable daily goals instead of trying to predict your future. Don't try to compare yourself with other artists who are more successful than you. Every musician has their own journey, and none of them are the same. Reward yourself for accomplishments, because only you know how important they are.
4. Meet new friends, especially other musicians
I'm naturally an introvert, so this habit is actually quite tough for me to implement.
Don't be afraid of looking for ways to network and to meet other musicians. It's a great way to find new opportunities and new collaborative partners. It's also a great way to build a community of musicians who can support and encourage one another. Do a search on music industry events in your city and see if you can make time to attend one.
If anything, don't be afraid to "stalk" other musicians on social media. You might find new opportunities for yourself by researching the projects that they are working on and the people that they are working with.
5. Research and listen to music
For the longest time, I tried not to listen to any music because I didn't want to be subconsciously inspired by other people's work. This strategy wasn't effective because I rarely felt inspiration to write music. Music, after all, has almost always been inspired by other songs that came before it.
Listening to other artists' music helps you to notice the small nuances in a particular style of songwriting, or the intricacies of a certain genre of production. Create a playlist of some of your favorite songs and listen to each section of each song carefully to see what elements you can implement in your own music. You might want to think about repurposing your playlist as a Spotify artist playlist so that your fans can listen to and learn about some of your musical inspirations.
6. Be consistent in your music releases
If you're an independent artist, develop consistency in your music releases. Developing consistency helps to signal to your current fans and new fans that you're serious about your craft, and that they can expect to tag along for your exciting musical journey. People love to see artists change and grow over time. They'll less likely be invested in your journey if you disappear for years at a time between releases.
Consistency will look different for everyone. For me currently, it's one original song release per month. For you or someone else, it may be one song every other month. Maybe it's only three or four songs a year.
We all have busy lives, which is understandable. Set a reasonable release goal that you can actually commit to, and keep to it.
7. Be willing to learn and be open to new ideas
I recently started listening to the CDBaby DIY Musician podcast, and I get a few new tips I haven't thought about from every podcast episode. I'd highly recommend it!
Don't be afraid to spend some time expanding your knowledge of music and music marketing when you have the time. Do a search for musician meetups in your city to see if you can learn from others near you. If possible, search for nearby community college music classes that you can take. Follow your favorite musicians on social media to see what advice they may have to offer you.
8. Take plenty of breaks and get enough sleep
If you produce music, write songs, or work in any other creative field, getting enough sleep is important. I used to record vocals when I was tired and my vocals would sound awful. I wouldn't feel motivated to keep working on my songs, and a lot of projects went unfinished.
I started taking naps before I would record, and the change in my productivity and motivation was drastic. I finished my sessions in a quicker amount of time, and always felt more confident about my work.
Taking breaks from doing creative work is crucial as well. You recharge your creative energy when you're not working on music. Go out for a walk, or meet up with friends, or do something as simple as going to the grocery store. You'll give yourself the chance to see and hear things that will consciously and subconsciously inspire your music, whether it's a conversation you've overheard or a beautiful nature scene you've seen. When you come back to write, your brain will have something to work off of.
9. Be good at saying no
Don't be afraid to turn down opportunities, especially those that offer only promotion or exposure with no pay. In the first few years as a musician, I did plenty of shows for free and usually left with only a handful of new followers on Instagram.
Taking on free work only sets a precedent that your art doesn't have value. Unless you're doing work for a charitable cause, your efforts have every right to be rewarded.
Here is good way to decline performance opportunities that don't offer pay, if you think it's worth maintaining a relationship with the person reaching out to you:
"Thank you for thinking of me for your event! Unfortunately, I cannot perform for free.
If a performance budget becomes available to you, please let me know."
10. Set better goals
Setting goals can be helpful for a habitual procrastinator. However, they can be detrimental to your mental health if they're too difficult or too unpredictable to reach.
Goals that are much harder to reach are financial goals, or goals based on metrics. When I quit my job to become a musician in 2016, my goal was to make $2,500 per month from music. I didn't hit that goal until 3 years later. Later when the pandemic hit, my income dropped for several months before I was able to bring it back up to that goal.
Life as a self-employed musician goes day by day. You rarely will be able to accurately predict how many shows you'll book, or how much income you'll make, or how many Instagram followers you'll get. There are factors at play beyond your control.
Try setting goals that can be reasonably achieved based on your own time and effort. Some examples are: "I'm going to send out 5 e-mails to performance opportunities this week" or "I'm going to spend 2 hours writing a song today". These goals don't rely on luck or other factors that you can't predict. If you put the time in, you can and will achieve them. If you procrastinate, then you won't.
Here's a bonus tip!
11. Go with the flow
Here's my last and final tip, which relates to the tip above.
The life of a musician is an unpredictable journey.
A portion of your success will always be determined by luck. You could spend your entire life making music and never reach your financial goals. Or (ideally) you could write one song and spiral into a life of fame and success.
Accepting this is important to becoming a musician with a healthy mindset. Learn not to expect a certain amount of streams, followers, income or other metrics that are hard to predict. Tell yourself that you're going to make music for the sake of making music, and that you're going to have a happy and positive attitude while doing it. You shouldn't be lazy, but you shouldn't overwork yourself either.
That's it for my top 10 tips to become a successful musician! I hope you guys enjoyed these tips. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email at email@example.com. If you're looking to hire a me as a mentor or to get advice from me on writing and recording music, write "Personalized Lessons" in the subject line of your email.
For quick tips on how to market and promote your music, make sure to check out the following below:
10 steps to a successful independent song release HERE
Spotify playlist curators taking free submissions - Part 1 HERE
Spotify playlist curators taking free submissions - Part 2 HERE
How to promote your music using Facebook Ads HERE
Connect with me below:
Bookings and inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org