Tom Hess, music career coach and guitar player for the 1.5+ million record selling metal band Rhapsody Of Fire shares his experience regarding success in the music industry.
Why do certain musicians develop a thriving career in the music business, while most others have a difficult time just getting by (due to not being able to support themselves financially)? In my writings on this topic, I broke down the answer to this complex issue into a single concept: music career success depends on the ability to be of maximum value with little/no downsides to any musical project you become a part of (such as a band or a record company). Clearly there are MANY points that make up the simple idea expressed above, however you must know that with everything you become a part of in your music career you need to learn how to provide the most value with the least risk.
When mentoring musicians to become successful in the music business, the above concept is one of the core elements of music career success that I train them to possess. I found that musicians have no trouble comprehending the need to reduce their music industry risks in traditional, self-evident ways. At the same time, most people do not see how even their assets' (positive things they bring to the table as musicians) also contain elements of risk for the music industry. This lack of awareness makes it much more difficult (if not impossible) to reach lasting success in one's career as a professional musician.
To end up among the small number of musicians with a thriving music career, you must understand how to reduce the negative effects that are present on the other side of your strong areas as a professional in the music business. In this article, you will discover how to do this effectively, so that you can maximize your potential for success.
The Psychological Makeup Of A Music Business Pro
In the process of working towards a music career, you have no doubt spent a lot of time to acquire skillsets with intention of using them in your musical projects. These can be described as your music industry assets'. However, like most people and musicians, you likely developed these assets without a strategic understanding of how each element will lead you to your ultimate long term goal (this is typical of musicians who come to me without any prior music career training). This makes it even more likely that the musical skills and the music business experience you acquired all contain contrasting weaknesses that can in many cases overpower your positive sides if you let them go unnoticed. I observe this unfortunate scenario very often in musicians in all areas of the music business, and the most frustrating part is that this frequently happens without them being aware of it.
To accelerate the advancement of your career as a pro musician, learn to get the most from your positive attributes while minimizing the negative/opposing weaknesses that they create in your music career strategy. All musicians with a thriving career do/have done this at one point or another, while those who fail to become successful continue to wonder why some musicians can make it' in the business and they can't. The good news is that it is possible for anyone to get on the right track with their approach and I will explain how to get started as you keep reading.
To begin, see the table below that lists (in the left column) several music career assets/strengths that musicians typically have. In the adjacent column, is an illustration of how a seemingly positive attribute can frequently contain elements of risk/weakness that lies beneath the surface. While coaching musicians to build a music career, I see the problems listed below VERY frequently (among many others) and these are the reasons why a typical person has a hard time making it in the music industry even while possessing many impressive skills and accomplishments.
It's worth mentioning that the examples listed below (on the positive side of the table) certainly ARE good/valuable in and of themselves. At the same time, you MUST realize when/how these same items can also hurt you if you are not careful about preventing this from occurring.
Your Positive Music Career Attributes
- Your Opposing Weakness/Vulnerability
You are a highly advanced musician on your instrument.
- Many musicians are completely out of balance with the amount of time they spend developing their musical skills and the time invested into building their music career. While having high level skills on your instrument is definitely a requirement, advanced musical skills by themselves will not give you the successful music career that you want.
You have played in many bands.
- This seemingly positive thing can often be misinterpreted (by other people) to mean that you lack loyalty or dedication to a single project (particularly as you seek to enter a new, more successful band). Ironically, your true amount of commitment and loyalty may be in fact very high, but the credential of having played in many bands can often be perceived in the opposite way from what you intend.
You went to college for music.
- While having a music degree is good for your musical skills, this credential is meaningless for helping you to sustain a professional music career'. For proof, consider how many musicians graduate with advanced music degrees and struggle to find work and make a living despite their impressive academic achievements. You can often spend your money and time more wisely by receiving actual music business' coaching from someone who has already reached the success you are after.
You are an accomplished musician on many instruments.
- Outside of the narrow realm of session work and writing music for others, you will be perceived as a better musician if you are considered a true MASTER of a single instrument. Before you invest years of your life trying to become a jack of all trades, consider how you would rather be perceived in the industry. Note: That being said, for your general music knowledge it is certainly helpful to study multiple instruments, but there is a big difference between doing that and trying to market' yourself as a jack of all trades type of musician.
You know and can play multiple genres of music.
- Unless you desire to become a studio musician (only), it is often better to be a specialist in a single style rather than spread yourself too thin and attempt to only be good' in many unrelated styles. As always, the steps you take to develop as a musician should be strategically aligned with your big picture career vision.
You easily come up with new plans and ideas.
- Many people to whom this applies are notorious for being involved with dozens of projects but not bringing any of them to completion. To add to the obvious risk of burnout and frustration, an overly high level of enthusiasm can make it difficult to think things through rationally as you decide on a course of action.
You are very analytical in your approach to solving problems.
- If you have this mindset, it is easy to overanalyze a situation way too much and paralyze yourself into inaction. This can often cause you to miss opportunities due to spending too much of your time planning' and not enough time implementing' and taking action.
You work well by yourself and get things done without asking others for help
- As valuable as it is to be resourceful and independent, musicians who spend too much time working by themselves often have a hard time working on team-oriented projects. This can be very damaging for your music career, because being a professional musician will require you to collaborate with MANY different people on a variety of projects. Moreover, no matter how skilled you are, you simply cannot do everything you must do in your career by yourself'. To succeed in the music business you must learn to love teamwork.
You have a high level of work ethic and persistence.
- Much too often, the positive qualities of persistence can go to the opposite extreme of making one pigheaded'. This will be likely to keep you moving down the same incorrect path that you have been on for years without realizing it in your music career.
You are very accommodating and are able to resolve conflicts to collaborate with others.
- Musicians who go out of their way to be too accommodating often get taken advantage of when negotiating contracts and business deals (that happen all the time in the music industry).
After having seen how and why your music career assets can also become your weaknesses, there are a few things you need to do right now to maximize your chances for success for doing music as a career.
1. Keep in mind that not all of your music career strengths are created equal. Some (or most) may also contain hidden elements of risk when analyzed from the viewpoint of your long term goals in the music business. Certain elements that may at first seem overwhelmingly positive can very often do more harm than good (as you have seen in the above analysis).
2. You must assess your current profile of strong and weak elements for your music career.
3. Organize a music business plan detailing the goals you want to reach. In the process, list the assets (elements of musical value for the industry) that you will need to acquire and also make a plan for how you will minimize their opposing negative side effects. To get help with doing this, you should work with a proven music career coach who can guide you effectively through this process. Additionally, through music career training you will often discover new and powerful ways to make yourself more valuable in the music business that you have not considered before.
4. Get used to the fact that music career success depends on having a laser-like focus on your goals, as well as ongoing training. Most musicians (similar to entrepreneurs) lack the perseverance needed to plan their career in a strategic way and instead rely on instincts and intuition alone. Although it can be helpful to rely on your gut feeling occasionally, doing only' this will make your music career results unpredictable and random.
Last but not least, remember that in your quest to build new pieces of value for advancing your music career, your actions will be of limited use until you complete the self-analysis of your strong and weak areas in the way I explained here. After learning how to get the most from your current potential, your progress towards a successful music career will become greatly enhanced.
If you haven't yet completed the test about music career strengths and weaknesses, I suggest to do so now.
About The Author:
Tom Hess is an online guitar teacher, music career mentor and the guitar player in the band Rhapsody Of Fire. He trains and mentors from all over the world on how to develop a successful career in music. On his musician improvement website you can find a lot of free music career resources and music industry articles.