How To Tell That Your Music Career Effort Is Paying Off (Even If It Doesn’t Seem Like It)

5As an artist, breaking into the music industry is a difficult task, and it's easy to feel as though your efforts are offering little in the way of rewards, but it may be that you're just not looking close enough. Here are four tell-tale signs that show you're making progress, even if it doesn't always feel that way.


Guest Post by Sam Friedman on the Sonicbids Blog

Every independent musician knows that cracking the music industry is no easy task. We wonder why it is that other artists and bands seem to be skyrocketing towards success, while we're not seeing any immediate results from all our efforts. The truth is that all successful musicians have extremely different paths. James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, for instance, spent years playing music without a strong fanbase or big label support. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver was in and out of bands that never quite made it before he put out his debut Bon Iver album, and that was what finally shot him into the spotlight.

Even if you're not seeing huge immediate results from all the effort you're putting into your music career, there are still little signs you can look out for to reassure yourself that you're not just wasting your time. 

1. Your numbers are growing (even just a little bit)

Even the slightest growth is still growth. If you look at your social media stats, your track sales, your streams/plays, or the headcount at your live shows, and you see any growth at all, that means you’re doing something right.

Everyone would love to have a viral hit that launches him or her into instant stardom, but that’s about as likely as winning the lottery. Most musicians have to work for their paycheck, day by day. Even the slightest increase in any of your key metrics means that people are finding your music – and at least a handful of them are probably falling in love with it.

2. People are engaging with you

Some may disagree, but one comment can actually be better than ten likes. Comments mean engagement.

Have you ever seen a song on SoundCloud with hundreds of thousands of plays, but only five or 10 comments? The reason is probably because they paid for plays, rather than achieved them organically. If you go to your favorite artist’s SoundCloud page or YouTube channel, you’ll likely see thousands of plays and comments. When your fans leave personal messages about what your music means to them, that is the ultimate success!

People might click like on something on social media because it’s flashy or sponsored, but will they pay for it? Will they put your poster on their wall? Will they come to your shows? If you have people who are engaging with you at your shows, online, or in person, that means you have a fanbase that is actually committed to your music. It’s more than just something they see on Twitter for a flash second. 

3. People are coming back to your shows

1Fans who come back are fans who last. You might not be selling out big venues, and you might feel like you’ve hit a wall with your turnout, but if you have people coming out time and time again (besides your best friend and your mom), that means you’re doing something right.

Most independent musicians can get all of their friends, co-workers, and family together to pack a small venue. But since most of them are there just to see a friend onstage doing what he or she loves, they might not come back for the music and the music only. Having dedicated fans who love your music so much that they’ll pay to see you live over and over means you’re on your way up. Record labels and management companies are attracted to bands who have loyal fans—not bands that have a quick buzz that dies out.

4. You’re still having fun

Music is first and foremost about putting your heart into the sound and having the best time doing it. If you’re working as hard as possible, but not seeing the results you want, it can be heartbreaking. But if you’re still having fun and it still feels real and passion-driven, that’s a sign that you’re doing what you love and succeeding at it.

Becoming famous or selling out stadiums isn’t going to guarantee you the fulfillment you always imagined—it’s going to be you onstage, in tune with your passion. So if you’re still happy with the music you’re playing and still love creating it, don’t lose hope on getting the results you want.

Sam Friedman is an electronic music producer and singer-songwriter based in Brooklyn, NY. His music blends experimental ambience with indie-driven dance music. In addition to pursuing his own music, he is a New Music Editor for Unrecorded and is passionate about music journalism. Check out his music and follow him on Twitter @nerveleak.

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