While finding stardom and financial success remain difficult in the music industry, changing how you think about success, and reevaluating your goals and passions can help positively redefine your relationship to music and the industry as a whole.
Guest post by Gideon Waxman of Soundfly's Flypaper
Finding success in music is no walk in the park. The advent of free digital streaming has made it far more difficult for songwriters to reap the financial rewards from writing music that was achievable before the existence of leaks, piracy, and app-based listening. And although tons of money does get exchanged digitally now — in 2018, downloads and streaming made up 88% of the total revenues of recorded music in the United States — for most artists, it doesn’t amount to much.
The entire music industry now operates in a very different way, with the balance having shifted from marketing recorded music to promoting live music and innovative new merch models. In other words, it’s incredibly challenging for any artist, record label, or music company to receive sustainable financial compensation for musical units sold.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities hiding in these economic shadows. Technology has also made it easier than ever before for artists to write, produce, collaborate on, upload, distribute, and market new music. We live in an age where technology is at everyone’s fingertips, and anyone with a creative vision can realize their potential. There are also now more opportunities than ever for your music to be heard by new audiences with recorded and live music being present in every facet of daily life.
It’s just that with all of this fast-paced change, unpredictability, and content saturation in the marketplace, the route to success probably isn’t going to be linear. So here’s some advice on changing your mindset about what “success” means in today’s music industry.
The Power of Passion
Every musician has dreams of being famous. Everyone has goals. A goal is the object of one’s ambition and effort — an aim or desired result. The foundation for achieving a goal is a deep-rooted belief that one has the ability to do so. However, wanting to achieve these things purely on the premise of a reward represents misaligned priorities. How can one expect to reach levels of stardom without being inspired to do so through sheer enjoyment, passion, and creativity?
Passion drives entrepreneurs, athletes, musicians — everyone. It is the motivation for musicians and artists to willingly sacrifice enormous amounts of time, energy, and money for the sake of their craft. The mindset and approach that an artist brings into their efforts can make all of the difference.
There is nothing inherently wrong with aiming for stardom for the sake of simply being famous, but successful artists are often also fuelled by an unwavering devotion to their passion, to be the best version of themselves. Passion is the ultimate force that will enable an artist to continue to pursue their dreams even in the face of adversity and fear.
Of course, passion is not the only essential factor contributing to an artist’s success. Talent, hard work, ambition, and a desire to innovate are all facets of a successful musical artist, but it’s important for artists to look within and find the real reasons driving their desires and interests. The truth will continue to fuel the drive to achieve great things.
A Drive to Create
Let’s talk a bit about that desire.
As stated above, we live in an era where musicians may make less money per album listen, but also pay less to produce that album than ever before. Very little actually stands in the way of the passionate artist nowadays. Musicians of the past were never equipped with the kind of technology that can translate raw musical ideas into a professional standard with such limitless ease and efficiency.
The invention of MIDI and further pioneering developments within the world of music technology such as eternally-updating DAWs and recording interfaces have enabled modern musicians to create music seemingly without limitations. It is remarkable that we exist in a world where hungry and creative songwriters have the ability to record and distribute music without the help of record labels.
But that ease of use doesn’t mean your music is automatically going to sound good, or professional, or be understood and accepted by listeners. If anything listeners’ standards have only risen. Without a drive to create, to learn something new everyday, to expand your knowledge and skills with every waking moment, without a desire to write something that someone will be listening to fifty years from now, what chance is there for your music to really be successful?
Passion, Drive, and Originality Form Success
Drive, originality, and passion all go hand-in-hand-in-hand to achieve success. They feed each other indefinitely. Passion for creating music creates excitement to perpetually create better works of art that will eventually be recognized. A drive helps you overcome obstacles. Originality shows the world that you’ve got something to say that might articulate how they feel about the world as well.
Dave Grohl explained in his “Top 10 Rules for Success” that:
“If you’re good at what you do, people will recognize that. I really believe it. If you’re focused and passionate and driven, you can achieve anything you want in life!”
Grohl advises aspiring musicians to chase their dreams while focusing on making the best music possible, but most importantly to “love what you do.” Success will come naturally to those who are driven to attain success, not purely for the promise of future reward, but from the efforts that stem naturally from pure enjoyment and passion, with goals and ambitions driving the process.
Any form of success will require effort and dedication, not to mention resilience and a willingness to persevere when things might seem difficult. But standing out from a crowd, a sea of millions, is also essential.
As a drummer, I have found that my own improvement and maturity behind the drum set has been a natural journey of self-discovery. Through practicing and enjoying playing along to music, I have been able to shape my own musical tastes, and my playing style has become a reflection of that. I enjoy overcoming weaknesses in different areas of my playing and continue to strive to constantly progress as a musician.
I have always happily put in time, effort, and energy into my craft, because I have always been excited by the drums and music, and my own dream of pursuing my passion full time. I hope to get there one day and this is my plan. What’s yours?
Gideon Waxman is a London based drummer with over 13 years experience. Since completing a Music Degree at the University of Westminster, Gideon has been touring with metal act Familiar Spirit. You can find more of his advice over at Drum Helper, a free online resource dedicated to helping drummers achieve more from their playing.