Tom Hess, musician success coach and guitar player in the 1.5+ million record selling metal band Rhapsody Of Fire discusses success in the music industry.

Why do some musicians reach success in their music careers while others never seem to ‘make it’ and end up working in jobs outside of the music industry? I have previously written information in my other music career articles about how you can achieve success by building value and eliminating risk in all of your interactions with others. If you have not read about this yet, take this short pro musician assessment before you continue reading the rest of this article. Although this seems like a basic idea, the truth is that every single thing you do in the music business will tie into this idea one way or another. However, as you could have already guessed, merely ‘knowing’ something is only half the battle, and will not make your musical goals into a reality on its own.

As a trainer to musicians, the main thing I train people to do is to learn how to become effective at offering maximum value with minimum downsides/risk with every action taken. In my experience I noticed that most musicians easily grasp the idea of lowering their risk in conventional/obvious ways, however many people do not realize that even their ‘positive’ traits and skills can hold elements of severe music industry risk. It is the lack of understanding of this fact that proves to be the weakest link in the music career plans of most promising musicians, even those with a great deal of talent.

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 skill sets 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 process of expanding your music career, it is necessary to find out how to exploit fully the positive elements you already possess, while at the same time working to reduce the conflicting risks that each of them carries for your music career. Every successful professional musician has done this in the process of reaching their goals, while the majority of wannabe pros go through life wondering why what they are doing to build a music career isn’t working.

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. As I work to help musicians develop a successful music career, I notice the points mentioned below on a frequent basis (among many others) and these are the main reasons why people have a tough time making it in the music industry even though they posses many great 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 Vs. Your Opposing Weakness/Vulnerability:

Positive Attribute 1:

You have played in many bands.

Opposing Weakness:

This ‘credential’ can very often be perceived as showing a big lack of loyalty and commitment on your end to any one project. Even though your ‘actual’ loyalty and commitment may both be at a high level, you must be careful about controlling the perceptions that are created (in the minds of others) when you mention your past experience in the process of trying to advance your career.

Positive Attribute 2:

You went to college for music.

Opposing Weakness:

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.

Positive Attribute 3:

You are an accomplished musician on many instruments.

Opposing Weakness:

While having skills on many instruments is often (but not always) important for being a session musician, if you want to do anything other than work in the studio, in most cases you will be better served by becoming an expert on your chosen (one) instrument. Here you need to determine by yourself what it is you want to be known and perceived as in your music career and act congruently with that vision.
Note: I don’t mean to imply that having general knowledge of more than one instrument is ‘bad’, but there CAN be a problem (depending on your goals) with trying to communicate to others that you are trying to make a name for yourself as someone who plays many instruments.

Positive Attribute 4:

You have a high level of work ethic and persistence.

Opposing Weakness:

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.

Positive Attribute 5:

You are very accommodating and are able to resolve conflicts to collaborate with others.

Opposing Weakness:

Musicians who are generally considerate of others run the risk of having themselves taken advantage of in competitive music business negotiations (that you will often find yourself in while building your career). This may often happen even without you realizing how/why it occurred.

Positive Attribute 6:

You easily come up with new plans and ideas.

Opposing Weakness:

Musicians to whom this description applies often have a tendency to begin a number of new and exciting projects, only to let them wither away, unfinished. Over time, this leads to not only extreme frustration and overwhelm but also to a vicious circle of taking actions in your career based largely on emotional impulses rather than rational thought.

Positive Attribute 7:

You are very analytical in your approach to solving problems.

Opposing Weakness:

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.

Positive Attribute 7:

You work well by yourself and get things done without asking others for help.

Opposing Weakness:

While self-reliance is an excellent personal attribute, musicians who are not used to working (effectively) with others will have a much harder time getting ahead in the music industry which REQUIRES one to be an experienced team player. Moreover, relying only upon yourself for everything can make it difficult for you to request help at times when your music career can truly benefit from it.

Positive Attribute 8:

You are a highly advanced musician on your instrument.

Opposing Weakness:

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.

Positive Attribute 9:

You know and can play multiple genres of music.

Opposing Weakness:

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.

With the above understandings in your mind, here are some additional actions you can take right now in order to speed up the progress of your music 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. To begin, take this free pro musician assessment.

3. Design a plan for organizing the actions you plan to take to grow your music career. This means to write out the music career value assets you must develop to reach your specific goals and also think about how you will seek to eliminate the conflicting weaknesses that come along with them. You will have a much easier time doing this step of the process if you work with a proven music career trainer who has already coached musicians just like you to reach success in the music business.

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.

To get the most out of your potential to develop a successful music career, fill out this pro musician assessment.

Author's Bio: 

About The Author:

Tom Hess is a recording artist, online guitar teacher and a music career mentor. He plays guitar for the band Rhapsody Of Fire. Visit his musician development website to become a better musician, get free music industry advice, music career tips and professional music industry advice.