The 5 Requirements For Success In The Music Business

Author: Tom Hess

Author: Tom Hess

How do some musicians become highly successful why other struggle to make any progress in their careers? To find out, you need to look into the way successful musicians ‘think’ rather than merely observing and trying to imitate their ‘actions’. The reason why musicians become successful is they have a success-oriented mindset that forms the foundation for all the specific actions they take in their music careers. You must also develop this mindset in order to succeed in yours.

Throughout the rest of this article I am going to operate on the assumption that you have already put great thought into what you want to do in your music career (if you still need to do this, study this article on how to develop music career goals before you keep reading). To help you understand how you can achieve the greatest success in your music career, I am now going to compare the way ‘unsuccessful’ musicians think versus how ‘successful’ musicians think. By understanding the difference between the two, you will be able to reach your music career goals much faster.

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Have Intense, Unbreakable Focus

Highly successful professional musicians make sure that everything they do works in congruence with their major goals. They have an intense focus on their goals and do not spend ‘any’ extra time, money or energy on things that will not help them achieve them. For instance, if your main goal was to release a solo album on your own, you will need to invest your time into writing and recording rather than simultaneously searching for a band or get local gigs.

Musicians who struggle to achieve success believe in the ‘common sense’ advice of ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ when it comes to their music careers. Because of this, they end up spreading themselves too thin and fail to achieve any ‘big’ results in anything they do. Truth is, becoming successful requires being the very best at whatever you do – this only happens once you line up all your thoughts, beliefs and actions to focus toward the achievement of a single goal.

An additional factor for becoming congruent is maintaining integrity for the things you truly desire in your music career. If you want to perform in a band that tours the world but instead you decide to make a ‘safer’ choice and write commercial ‘jingles’, you will struggle to remain congruent in your thoughts, beliefs and actions (because this is not what you truly desire).

So how can you apply this into your own career in music? Simply put, question yourself in the following manner for everything you do in the music industry: “How is the current action I am taking helping me accomplish my greatest music career goals?” If you are not able to answer this question in basic terminology, it is a red flag that you are not on the correct path toward achieving your main goals. Ironically, even if the current action you are taking (or are about to take) IS truly beneficial for your music career, it will frequently not have any positive effect if you do it without knowing how to best apply it into your overall strategy.

Additionally, some of the actions you take might seem entirely unrelated to your main goals when they are actually completely related to them. For instance, many musicians who want to tour the world in a band refuse teaching music for a living, thinking that this will keep them from achieving their goal. However, the truth is teaching music is the quickest, most stable and flexible way to earn a living as a musician while working on other activities in your music career (such as going on tour – something you could never do working a regular full time job).

To summarize, it is just as ‘crucial’ for you to understand how an action will help you build your music career as it is to actually do it. Test yourself now to see how ready you are to begin building a successful music career.

Fully Understand What ‘Tactics’ Are And Why They Are Different From ‘Strategies’

In order to reach a high level of success in your music career, you are going to have to determine specific objectives you want to achieve in the long term. For instance, you might desire to record music under contract by a music company, tour the world in a successful band or write songs every day while making good money through your music.

For you to accomplish these things, you must develop a ‘strategy’ that is made up of many well organized and effective ‘tactics’.

A ‘tactic’ is an action you take that achieves a specific result in the short-term. Examples of this include: playing a show, trying to get your album reviewed or creating a new website for your band. Any single action you make is a tactic.

On the other hand, a ‘strategy’ generally means combining together many tactics as part of an entire system with the goal of reaching a longer term goal.

To illustrate the difference between the two ideas, think of this analogy: In football, a tactic could be making up a specific play while on offense or defense. A strategy would be understanding how that specific play ties into the big picture when it comes to beating the other team’s weaknesses in order to win. This means understanding how the play relates to the other plays you made before and the ones you will make afterwards to win the game.

Musicians who never achieve success in their careers operate only by using tactics (and usually confuse tactics with strategies). Most musicians make at least ‘some’ kind of action to improve their music careers. However, because they only understand how to perform tactics and have no real strategy, they rarely achieve anything of any true significance. This is a big reason why you should not simply ‘copy’ what seems to be working for other musicians – because you are merely replicating the tactics they are using without having a strategy for how they work together to help you accomplish your specific goals.

With this in mind, the overwhelming majority of musicians are not great at forming successful strategies to build their careers (…neither was I). However, you MUST have a great strategy in order to maximize your chances for success when it comes to accomplishing your biggest music career goals. To form a solid strategy, work together with a mentor who has trained many musicians to reach their goals.

Stay Away From A “Zero Sum” Mindset

Highly successful musicians consistently follow the following two premises:

Premise #1 – It is not ‘wrong’ or unethical for a musician to desire to earn as much money as they can from what they do. Until you agree entirely with this idea, NO music company will want to work together with you to help you build your music career. Why? Because all companies in the music industry exist for one reason and one reason only: ‘to make a lot of money’. Music companies would never invest tons of money into a musician who thinks that money is the root of all evil and has no intention to help the company earn their investment back tenfold. It is for this reason that the industry is called the music ‘business’ and not music ‘donation’. Caution: Even if you think you can fool a music company into working with you while at the same time not wanting to help them earn money, they WILL know. Companies can ‘sense’ this in you way before you even realize it. This is just another strong reason why you must be congruent in your beliefs as I mentioned above.

Premise #2. The world is filled with opportunity and you can achieve unlimited success for yourself and those associated with you by using a win/win mindset and forming mutually beneficial partnerships.

These two mental approaches are fundamental for getting musicians to take the correct actions to achieve their goals and become highly successful.

On the other side of things, unsuccessful musicians think with an opposing mindset to these two approaches. They believe that the amount of money available for everyone is limited and when someone becomes wealthy, it reduces opportunities for everyone else. In addition to these ideas being completely unproven, this style of thinking creates a mindset of ‘scarcity’ that leads musicians to think with in terms of ‘lose-lose’. No one in the music industry will want to work with someone who thinks like this.

This is a huge part of why it is ineffective to copy the tactics of other musicians. In addition to needing a complete, overall ‘strategy’, if you as missing the right belief system to make the foundation of the actions you take, you will never get the results you could in your music career.

Only Associate With People Who Will Help You Succeed

Everyone who is successful in the music industry is highly selective of who they invest time, money and energy into. You must also take on this trait if you wish to build a successful music career.

Here is a basic example that demonstrates how you can potential ruin your music career by associating with the wrong people:

When ‘wannabe’ pro musicians begin a band, they almost never examine a potential band member for anything beyond their musical skills. There is no conversation about how each member’s goals work together with the goals of the band and no strategy put into place to for each member to lead the band to success. These kinds of bands generally break up after only a month or two. Worst part is, the risk to music companies increasingly grows once they have deal with several people who fail to deliver real value to the music industry. This kind of project is totally doomed.

Successful musicians not only find other musicians who are musically talented, but they analyze them deeply to understand if their mindset fits in perfectly with the band’s overall goals and vision. To see how to do this in your own band, read the information in this free eBook on how to find the right band members. No matter what you plan on doing in the music industry, you must put together a network of success-minded musicians and business partners who will help you build your career just as you will help them. These people must be more than just ‘great musicians’. The must have all the same pieces of the puzzle as successful musicians.

I’ve seen the great value of this type of network many times over as the members in my mentoring program have put together money-making partnerships, toured the world in big bands and accomplished many other awesome things because they had a network in place that was based on the fundamental principles outlined in this article.

Abandon The ‘Entitlement Mindset’

Musicians who are unsuccessful think that they must beg gatekeepers in the music industry for opportunities by (for example) sending out demos or other promotional materials to record labels. They believe that only the few musicians who are lucky enough to get heard by these companies are the ones who ‘catch their big break’. After this method doesn’t work for them, they start complaining about how there is too much competition in the music industry and how an ‘average musician’ cannot get his chance.

Successful musicians on the other hand believe that everything they desire and want in their lives must be ‘earned’. They don’t wait around for opportunity to fall out of the sky into their lap and don’t complain when things aren’t going their way.

Doing this requires them to:

1. Understand exactly what the music company they intend to work with needs as well as what major goals the company has. Discover this for yourself by completing this free music industry assessment.

2. Complete a strategy that will help them form a beneficial partnership with anyone they work with.

3. Make sure that the company they work with KNOWS how valuable it will be to work together.

4. Follow through completely to generate value for the other side and develop a reputation for being highly loyal, reliable and dependable.

Any musician who follows these four steps will put themselves at the head of the line in front of the other 99.9% of musicians. Complete this free mini course on how to build a successful music career to learn how to create your own music career opportunities.

Now you should have a detailed perspective on the difference between the mindset of successful and unsuccessful musicians. This should make it totally obvious why so few musicians actually ‘make it’ and achieve great success. Your mindset is your greatest asset or your greatest liability. Once you have taken on all the mental characteristics of successful musicians, every action you take will bring you much more value in your music career than ever before.

Study this free mini course on making it in the music business to find out how to use the ideas of this article effectively and become a successful in the music industry.

About The Author:

Tom Hess is a touring guitarist, composer and a mentor to musicians. Tom also trains musicians internationally on how to get into the music industry. Visit to get free music business tips and music career resources.

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Tom Hess is a successful professional guitar teacher, composer and guitarist
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