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Unlocking the Three Pillars of a Successful Music Career

Updated: May 24

In the music industry, aspiring artists often find themselves navigating through a labyrinth of challenges and contradicting information on their journey. While talent undoubtedly might play a role (I find the idea of gift/talent very much debatable btw!), a successful music career hinges on more than just musical prowess.


It requires a balance of three essential pillars: quality music, a strong artist identity, and a well-thought-out marketing strategy and business structure.


Let's delve deeper into each pillar and unveil the secrets to unlocking a flourishing music career.


1. Quality Music: The Heartbeat of Success


At the core of every successful music career lies one fundamental element – quality music. It serves as the cornerstone upon which everything else is built. The best marketing is still a great product. And that's your music. Even the best and slickest marketing plan and social media campaign, can make up for a mediocre product. Quality music is key. It not only captivates audiences but also fosters a loyal fanbase and garners critical acclaim. Artists can be ugly, disabled, or have a boring life story. If the music is crazy and they make themselves findable, they'll go places.


What exactly quality music is, however, is totally subjective and highly debatable. When thinking of great artists, some think of artists like Bob Marley or Whitney Houston or Erykah Badu. Others prefer Takeshi 69 and Ski Mask The Slumpgod and Nickelback any day of the week. That's what they call artistic freedom!


Achieving excellence in music requires dedication, creativity, and a relentless pursuit of continuous improvement. From crafting compelling melodies to thought-provoking lyrics, every aspect of the creative process demands meticulous attention to detail. It's an ongoing process of self-reflection, reflecting on your creative process and applying lessons learned into your creative efforts. Moreover, embracing innovation, thus daring to try something you haven't heard before and with that, pushing the boundaries of a genre are essential for staying relevant in an ever-changing musical landscape.


In essence, quality music serves as the heartbeat of a successful music career, breathing life into the artist's vision and forging a deep emotional connection with listeners. Unfortunately, that’s where most musicians' plan on how to further their career stops. Far too many seem to believe making great music is all they need to do until someone else finds them and does all the rest for them. This however, is a pretty passive attitude about one's own future.


This attitude, the starving artist's mentality, to me is fundamentally flawed and potentially a way for you into a type of self-inflicted poverty, as this is exactly what I've witnessed numerous times. Plus it will certainly keep you from gathering the funds needed to push your creativity even further. This mind set, born in the 1800s, implies today that the music industry is a meritocracy, an industry in which only the most competent musicians will always rise to the top. I’ve been doing this for almost 18 years and I feel very confident to say, it's not. Taylor Swift is not the best musician in the world. Drake is not the bet musician in the world. Well, unless…. we redefine what being the best really means.


2. A Strong Artist Identity: Crafting a Compelling Narrative


In any crowded industry differentiation is key. All players in an over saturated market (where the supply surpasses the demand) have to find ways to distinguish themselves from one another. That's how we end up with a million different types of cereals, craft beers, chips or lemonades. For artists that means we have to establish a distinct artist identity based on who we are as a person. Every artists unique identity is hidden in the perspective on how we see and perceive the world around us. That's really where all art comes from.

A strong artist identity goes beyond mere branding; it encapsulates the essence of who you are as an artist and what sets you apart from the rest. It's about crafting a compelling narrative that resonates with your audience on a personal level.


Defining your artist identity involves soul-searching and introspection, delving into your unique experiences, values, and perspectives. Whether it's through your musical style, visual aesthetics, or personal story, authenticity is key. Embrace what makes you unique, and let it shine through in everything you do. This is precisely how the biggest artist brands are built. Find out what makes an artist themselves and then almost over emphasize these attributes in your artistry, social media and so on.


Moreover, consistency is crucial in building a strong artist identity. From your image and persona to your online presence and social media engagement, every touchpoint should reflect a cohesive narrative that reinforces your identity.


By cultivating a strong artist identity, you not only stand out in a crowded market but also forge a genuine connection with your audience, fostering loyalty and advocacy because they see themselves in you. They identify with you. Because you're offer something, a story, a cause, a perspective, people can subscribe to. And they will! If you find ways to clearly communicate what you are all about people will start following you.


3. A Well-Thought-Out Marketing and Business Structure: Turning Creativity into Currency


Most aspiring artists believe that all they need to really make it is one viral moment. Let me crush your illusions and tell you "it is not true". A viral moment is a viral moment and that's pretty much it. If you don't have a business structure and plan in place that will help you capitalize on these moments, it'll pass and leave you with almost nothing but a story about a viral moment.


While talent and artistic vision lay the foundation for a successful music career, they alone are not sufficient to propel you to even just the musical middle class. Even if your goal is to get signed by a major or big indie label, they're going to appreciate the fact that you have built a following and business structure on your own. Especially, when it's already creating revenue. It shows real professionalism, a trustworthy seriousness and reliability. Basically, it makes you a better business partner when you bring something to the table instead of relying on someone else's help.


A well-thought-out marketing and business structure encompasses everything from strategic planning and promotion (TikTok, Instagram, etc) to revenue generation and financial management. It involves identifying your target audience, leveraging digital platforms for promotion, and cultivating partnerships with industry stakeholders.


Moreover, understanding the intricacies of revenue streams, such as streaming royalties, merchandise sales, and live performances, is essential for sustaining a profitable career in music. This is what professional artists really do! That's why they're always saying "you really got to love it because you won't be willing to do these business things otherwise".


Embracing innovation and staying abreast of emerging trends in the industry can also provide a competitive edge. Ultimately, a robust marketing and business structure empowers artists to monetize their creativity effectively, turning their passion into a sustainable livelihood.




Conclusion

In conclusion, a successful music career rests on three pillars: quality music, a strong artist identity, and a well-thought-out marketing and business strategy.


By nurturing these pillars daily/weekly with care and diligence, aspiring artists can unlock the door to a flourishing career in music, where their talent is not only celebrated but also rewarded. 


Ignoring it will most likely lead you down a path of frustration and financial problems that'll crush your confidence, faith and dreams eventually because you will still have to have food and shelter, no matter what.

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