How to succeed in the music business today

Music Business Success, Music Business, Music Industry, Music Biz

No two paths to success in the music business are the same, but the decisions that need to be made along the way are universal.

Here are a few lies you’ve probably heard about success in the music business:

  • “All it takes is one great song!”
  • “The music industry runs on connections.”
  • “Anyone can be a music professional.”
  • “If you really want it, you can have it.”
  • “Getting mentioned by ____ changed everything.”
  • “If you pay to be on this playlist/gig, you will have a career overnight.”
  • “Every artist must ____ in order to succeed.”
  • “Every music professional should ____ if they want to keep their job.”

There are fragments of truth in all of these phrases, but as a whole, they each paint an inaccurate picture of life in the music business. One song is no longer enough. There are more artists than ever, and countless thousands have produced viral songs that never lead anywhere of note. Even if they did, those same artists were expected to produce another great track almost as soon as the first began to find its audience. There is no end, only short plateaus where we catch our breath before pushing further forward.

Music is a calling. There are millions who claim they want this life, but only a few hundred will actually find work, and even less than that will make music a career. Connections can open doors, but you still need talent. Those who get ahead by connections alone always end up revealing their true nature in time. Those who keep their head down and put in the work needed to learn their jobs might not rise as fast, but they will be part of this industry for longer because people will want them around. Friends are cool, and having them around is nice, but those focused on success need people willing (and able) to do the work needed. That is where the true professionals come in.

If you want to make a career out of music there is only one way to do it: Commit.

Commit to learning your craft.C

Commit to networking and collaborating with like-minded individuals.

Commit to never giving up on yourself, even when things don’t work out.

Commit to accepting failure as a fact of life rather than something you can avoid.

Commit to helping others.

Commit to never giving up, even when you don’t know what else to do.

Commit to remaining a fan for life.

Commit to giving more than you get.

Commit to celebrating your success, no matter how small.

Commit to going above and beyond what is asked of you, even if it means making sacrifices (within reason).

Commit to standing up for yourself.

Commit to admitting when you’re wrong, and to learning from the mistakes you make along the way.

There is no easy path to success in music. The good news is, that same rule applies to everyone else. Good luck.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.