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« Last Week On Music Think Tank | Main | Investing in Artists: Consider a Promotionless To Popular Strategy First »
Friday
Jul232010

Frustration, Jealousy and the Often Forgotten- Consistency

You’re in music.  You are frustrated with the Industry and on days where you are honest enough to admit it you are jealous of several of the seemingly talentless hacks that sit atop the pop charts.  Here are some of the conclusions I have come to about my career path in and out of music.

Sometime in the last year or so I was aimlessly flipping through 400 channels of nothing on when I noticed a familiar face on TV.  My old band mate from college Gabe Roth was playing on one of the late night shows with the band he founded - Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.  After playing together in college Gabe simply never stopped.  He maxed his credit cards and borrowed money from friends and did anything and everything he could to always be playing.  Although he is most proud of the work he does with his own projects he was recently awarded a Grammy for engineering and doing arrangement on the Amy Winehouse Record “Back to Black”.  Gabe is not one of the talentless I referred to in the opening paragraph by any stretch of the imagination.

I was so happy and proud to see an old friend doing so well… until of course a completely unreasonable jealousy rose within me.  “Man, if only I stuck with it… I could have… I would have…  If Only…If Only…If Only…”  Was I ever as talented as Gabe? Nope- not by a long shot.  Are there people far less talented than him or you or I doing extraordinarily well in music?  Yes, Absolutely.  Why is that?

Sometimes there is absolutely no reason.  Sometimes someone was at the crossroads of right place and right time and lightning struck in the biggest way imaginable.  This is rarely the case but it IS the constant example I bring up in my mind when I am feeling down about how things are going in my career and my life.  I either bring up someone who lightning struck / metaphorically won the lottery or I conveniently forget that most people I compare myself to have put in years and years of work towards a single goal whereas I have not put in nearly as much effort towards any one focus.

I still play but I am definitely happy being a hobbyist for now – in spite of having had the great luck to play with some amazingly talented people I would be thrilled to just have a cover band that would play weekly and be good enough so I wouldn’t have to guilt people into showing up.  My main focus is growing my coaching business and it is built and marketed in the same way I marketed the groups I played in or worked for over the yeras.  I know I am having a bad day when thoughts of the “compare and despair” variety pop into my head.  Things like “How the Hell does Ariel Hyatt have almost 10,000 twitter followers?” or “What is in the Kool-Aid that Derek Sivers is pouring that gets him 50 comments on every blog post?”

I am getting better at not letting these thoughts derail my day and I have learned that when I am thinking like this – even if it is only for seconds-  I am doing nothing towards accomplishing my goals.  I also came to the realization that the people I am comparing myself to had their eye on the proverbial prize for years.  Both of the aforementioned executives (both of whom I like and greatly respect) focused on building their companies for well over ten years each.  Other than breathing – I don’t think I’ve done anything that consistently for that long and if breathing were up to my conscious self I’d probably forget that too.

It comes back to my friend Gabe.  I interviewed him because I had to know his secret only to realize it was plainly obvious.  In a moment I couldn’t quite fully capture in the interview his voice warmed and he said something to the effect of “Rick, how long do you know me?  I haven’t done anything different for fifteen years…”

Don’t ask me why it was a ton of bricks moment for me but it was. I realized when looking over my shoulder that he was consistently playing.  He risked bankruptcy to have a studio built in a shady part of Brooklyn so he could always be recording.  He played with anyone who would teach him something and it got to the point where I didn’t recognize him without a gig bag on his back or a snare under his arm.  That was it – that was the “secret” and not just for Gabe – for almost everyone I knew who has endured in music.

More than talent, more than “luck” more than any other trait that I have seen in musicians (or music business people for that matter) it was being consistent.  The people who were always playing and creating were the most likely to succeed.  The people who found a way by whatever successive approximations they could come up with who adapted their lifestyles to always be creating, playing and touring consistently were the ones who made something of themselves.  It wasn’t the best artists that always “made it” – it had a way of being the artists that were still artists ten years later.  If you want to look at a glaring example of the power of being consistent just look at Anvil.

When I get down about where I am in the world I find it is really important to remember that I am not a patient man and I have not consistently put in enough effort over a long enough period of time towards any one goal to complain about where I find myself today.  Some days the Cool Hand Luke Spirit can be a hard thing to muster up but I don’t want to ever look back on my life again and say “If Only” to no one in particular.

Reader Comments (34)

Boy did this strike home. Nice to know there are others who feel this way sometimes, and thankful I have a gig tonight :-). When those feelings of jealousy start to well up, I think it's important to realize that the ones you're jealous of are just as jealous of somebody else, and that there are also a lot of people who are jealous of where YOU are in your career. I don't believe there is a destination in the music biz, only a continous and winding journey. If nothing else, I'm always grateful that I get to take that journey, even if only in a small way.

Rick, you've been on a roll this year. This was interesting and important, I've been warming to your writing style and this was a pretty perfect slice right here.

Jealousy is second only to Excuses when it comes to toxic, self-destructive cycles. This advice is relevant in any industry, any country, any point in time.

July 23 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

not to be rude, but this post is puzzling. What you seem to be saying is that you were not successful as a musician, but you want musicians to pay you to coach them?

[facepalm]

a little context might help sort this out ;-)

July 23 | Unregistered Commenteruh...

Great article.

The integral part of this article to me is "...I am definitely happy being a hobbyist for now." It is something a lot of us have trouble with (not just in music, but in life for that matter), being comfortable with where & who we are. The truth is a lot of the times we are where we are because we aren't willing to do the necessary things to get to the next level. I'm not willing to go $30,000 in debt for my music career & I know friends that have been & some have been successful & some haven't. Eventually all of the people that are "talentless hacks" have had the same thing happen at some point. Those kids from Disney don't spring out of nothing, they come from crazy parents who sacrificed a lot of things (often their children's childhoods) to make it happen. I'm not even willing to live my life out of a car & do 300 shows a year. But I do think when you get comfortable with who/where you are, you start to exude a certain level of confidence & calm that will eventually attract more success to you than running around like a crazy person will ever do.

What a lovely honest piece of reflection this Friday morning. Thank you!

July 23 | Unregistered CommenterJG

@uh.

I chose being on the business side... but still daydream about what if I had continued playing full time.

Was it a mistake to stop? Most days I think it was the right thing but if it was a mistake at least someone might get the benefit after having heard the story.

I have been fortunate to play some amazing gigs with amazingly talented people as recently as this past Winter but I don't think I ever loved playing enough to make the sacrifices you need to make to do it full time.

My coaching business has nothing to do with singing or instrument lessons or even improving stage presence- it's about how to grow and market your music a business - that I did well in bands and at labels and continue to well as a consultant. So yea - I wouldn't want to hear anything from me about how to write a hit song either - I don't know how. Marketing and promotion ideas and how to leverage one's strengths - that stuff I do well.

July 23 | Registered CommenterRick Goetz

word. this is such a touchy subject, so thanks for saying it out loud. sometimes, i feel like i've done nothing BUT watch various peers surpass me professionally since i moved to new york, and it sucks. but there are always lessons to be learned:

#1 wasting precious energy being jealous will get you approximately nowhere.

#2 use that energy instead, to make yourself better at what you do. a better musician, a better writer, a better marketer, whatever.

#3 it's always more beneficial for everybody involved to be friendly with those ones who are "making it," rather than sitting bitterly in a corner, wondering why it's not you.

also, @Brian John Mitchell- I do think when you get comfortable with who/where you are, you start to exude a certain level of confidence & calm that will eventually attract more success to you than running around like a crazy person will ever do.

EXACTLY. i've found that attempting to be comfortable with where i'm at is imperative. not only for staying sane, but attracting new opportunities, as well.

July 23 | Unregistered Commenterchantilly

Rick, once you're bitten it's hard to get un-bit, so I'm guessing there will always be a part of you that wished you'd taken it to the limit.

On the plus side for you, one of the effects of living a popular music musician's life is a large chance of an early death. Reading the obituaries in Mojo sometimes feels like a government report on factory workers from the end of the 19th century.

They don't tell you that when you buy your first guitar...

July 23 | Registered CommenterTim London

GREAT piece, Rick.

Seems it"s about knowing the difference between what we want...and what we REALLY want.

And the test of if we REALLY want it is observing if we do the HARD WORK (and make other sacrifices -financial/social/etc) - consistently over many years.

Then being willing to accept that if the burning PASSION isn't there to push us to do so, it is HIGHLY unlikely we will get even remotely close to our goals.

Only then can we make an intelligent, conscious assessment of what direction to go...knowing there is no right or wrong - it's all about compatibility - bringing it back to what we REALLY want...

July 23 | Unregistered CommenterDg.

PS. Back from reading the G.R. interview - good stuff. Been enjoyng the Dap Kings on the radio (KCRW in LA) , for few years now, and Roth's slow but steady organic approach clearly helped develop their deeply authentic retro-soul sound, as well as the business.

Talk about knowing what he REALLY wanted and having the patience and persistence to get it - whew...sobering while inspiring!!

July 23 | Unregistered CommenterDg.

A writing buddy of mine (going back to our late teens) has never had a job in his life. He tells that with pride, that does not mean he is homeless, just stuck to writing and enduring the starving artist lifetsyle, and he has a few published books. I have a pension plan but I don't suppose anyone would like to read it. I don't regret the choices I made though I do wonder if I might have done more in the legacy department if I had also refused to work a job.

July 23 | Unregistered CommenterLawrey

I've had a lot of successful friends -- athletes, musicians, writers, entrepreneurs -- and where I get mixed feelings is thinking about losing access to them. I am genuinely happy for them, and in all cases "I knew them when." So it's exciting to watch their careers develop and realize that in some cases I helped or was part of their team early on.

But I also know that as people become more successful, their time becomes more limited while at the same time their networks expand. So while you may have been close at the start of their careers, you are likely to see much less of them the more successful they become unless you remain part of their daily team or entourage.

And there's really nothing you can do about it. It's a natural progression for them. But their success becomes bittersweet. However, I think if you begin to see yourself as something of a teacher or contributor and that them leaving you behind is what they are supposed to do, then you are prepared for, and even welcome it.

I wonder, though, how this is going develop with all these social marketing and fan involvement plans develop. Will you be able to keep paying attention to your earliest and most devoted fans as you get more fans?

"Will you be able to keep paying attention to your earliest and most devoted fans as you get more fans?"

Suzanne, apart from perhaps maintaining some sort of preferred benefits for them, it seems the answer is simply...NO.

And most will not take the enlightened perspective you do, therefore, likely becoming resentful.

While I think this is a definite drawback to a high-touch personal interaction with fans from the beginning, I suppose most artists that make it big will just look at the disenchanted/lost fans as collateral damage, more than offset by the financial rewards of the masses.

But personally, I think the intimate FB/Twitter approach that is rampant now is a mistake anyway, due to a loss of any mystique element, but I know I few agree and I could be wrong...

July 26 | Unregistered CommenterDg.

I truly love everyone on this post. Great discussion! Rick, thank you for sharing.

Once one can accept the fact that there are few things he really wants to give his life to, and that performing may not be one of them, progress is made.

July 26 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Dolan

And most will not take the enlightened perspective you do, therefore, likely becoming resentful.

I certainly didn't start being quite so enlightened. Sure, I did have friends who moved on to bigger and better things and I understood immediately they were going to be too busy to stay in touch, but I sort of knew from the beginning that they were just passing through my life and it was good to know them when I did.

But I've also worked on projects where I assumed the professional relationships would remain the same and they did not. Here's one such case. I watched a talented young athlete suffer a potentially career ending injury and then battle back from it. I offered to do some PR for the athlete so the athlete would have some press coverage before heading off to college. I pitched story ideas about the accident and the year-long rehab to editors. As a result, multiple publications had stories about the athlete on the day of a major competition, which the athlete then went on to win, something no one was expecting. That changed everything for the athlete and the agents swooped in within minutes of the win.

I told the athlete's father to take his time and not sign the athlete with anyone. The father didn't take my advice, signed the athlete with a sleazeball agent who, among other things, told the father to hire the agent's handpicked publicist. I told the father that he had been getting professional PR for free, from me, so he didn't need to pay the new publicist to do the same thing. But he said he'd go with the agent's recommendation. A few weeks later the publicist called me and wanted me to write stories about the athlete. So I called the father and said, "The publicist you are paying just called me to do the writing that I was doing anyway for free. So now you are paying the publicist to turn around and call me." I passed on working with the publicist.

I had also told the father that if he was going to go with an agent, there were more reputable ones than the person he signed that athlete over to. About a year after I offered my unsolicited advice the father dumped the sleazeball and went with the agent I recommended.

I could have saved everyone a lot of time if the father had just taken his time before signing with the sleazy guy in the first place.

The same thing has happened with musicians. I offer to do pro bono work for people early in their careers because I see that they have potential if they get the right help at the right time. I get the job done and they get approached by industry people who claim they will do a better job than anyone who is helping out for free. (That isn't always the case, but the musicians usually don't know that.) I tell the musicians not to sign any contracts with anyone to keep their options open, but they still do and sometimes they end up in worse shape because of it.

I've become philosophical now. Either they are going to move on to bigger and better things and I'm happy for them, or they are going to be screwed but there's nothing anyone could have done to stop it and you just have to let them learn the hard way.

At any rate, the idea that fans are going support musicians from the beginning and continue to have the same access for years is very unlikely. Success changes relationships. Marriages break up because of it. Friendships end because of it. It isn't necessarily jealousy. It's about time and available financial resources and where people live, etc. Success changes lifestyles, which also changes relationships.

Regarding success as a musician, think about this a moment:

--When they write books about "How to become a millionaire", they typically interview millionaires to find out what they did.

That doesn't really help. What they need to do is interview an equal number of people who tried to become a millionaire, and failed.

Then look to see what the successful people did that was different.

What if you find that they ALL did the same thing, but only 1% became millionaires...through some sort of lucky circumstance?

What if you look at ALL the people who "did whatever it takes" to be successful as a musician and found that 10% made it, and 90% end up in crippling poverty, with no health insurance, no safety net, working a horrible job they hate?

But it's the 10% that they write stories about, saying "he maxxed out his credit cards and did a lot of extremely foolish, risky financial things, took terrible chances with his life", but he made it!"

And that simply fires up others to make the same choice, with a 90% chance of crippling failure and a sad, hard life!

I suspect that is what happens. I really do.

Sorry to be a downer.

I'd say give it a really good shot. But if your audience is small and not growing after 5 years, turn to something more realistic. Save yourself the grief.

July 27 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Galen

@Glenn,

It's a lot more than just maxing out credit cards. If you read the interview, you'll see that Gabe had what most aspiring career musicians don't: a plan. There's a lot to be said for persistence. And not the stupid kind of stay-the-course persistence where you trip over into delusion.

And seriously, how much less risky is a mortgage and day job these days? You could lose either due to circumstances you don't control; the idea that it's somehow less dangerous is a matter of personal perspective.

July 27 | Unregistered Commenterscottandrew

@Glenn

You've got great point. I got into sports marketing because I spent six days a week, 50 weeks a year, for six years at what was then the top skating rink in the world. The head coach had coached four skaters to Olympic gold medals. Three of the top 10 women in the world were training there during the time I was there. And several other skaters who later went on to win Olympic and World medals also trained there.

So I had an up-close look at a sport at the top levels. Everyone wanted to win, but only one male, one female, one dance team, and one pairs team would win Olympic gold every four years. So a lot people devoted 10 years of their lives and a lot of money training to win, but didn't achieve it.

So you can throw all the hard work and passion you want at a goal, but that doesn't mean it is achievable. And sometimes you need to make a reality check and say, "I can make this my life's focus, or I can do something else."

The reason I set the goals so low in music is that if people are playing for self-expression, creativity, and community, that is achievable -- by pretty much everyone. If you want to make a living at music, you either think in terms of getting a music-related salaried job, you do private lessons and/or weddings, or you keep your living expenses so low that you can survive on just about nothing. People think I'm being a downer, but I'm just trying to help people set achievable goals. Then if you accomplish more than that, you'll feel that much better. If you enjoy music as a process, you will be rewarded. If you think of music as a source of income, you may be disappointed.

I remember parents in skating telling me that they had taken out second mortgages on their houses so they could pay skating expenses. Often one or both parents relocated so the kid would be closer to a top rink. Or they sent the kid off to another town and the kid lived with people who boarded athletes.

I also knew parents who said that what they might have set toward a college education for their kid had gone into skating instead. The assumption was that it was an investment in the kid's future and he/she could always coach. So decisions were being made early on that would determine the kid's future.

People who want careers in music generally have to make sacrifices too, though they may not always realize it until they are in the middle of it and realize the choices they have made. Keeping expenses down. On the road all the time. Crashing in people's houses. Being supported by a significant other. Postponing having kids.

A lot of musicians give up on some of the dreams when they want to settle down, raise a family, buy a house. And it's probably wise to get the dreams out of your system when you are young. Go after it when you don't have a family or a mortgage and your health is good and you can get by without insurance. Then at some point you decide if you really want to do music full-time, or that it's easier and maybe more fun to have a day job and play on weekends. I try to validate that choice because I know a lot of people have to make it. It doesn't mean they weren't good enough. It's just a tough business and I understand when people choose to have more normal lives.

@Suzanne,

Your examples perfectly illustrate the dilemma of competing for a very small number of available slots.

I think if you asked all the young Olympic hopefuls, who practiced hours every day from age 7 onward, if you asked them at age 12 what their chances are, I think they'd ALL say they have a good shot at it because the "want it more", or because "have worked harder than anyone else so they will get it".

I really think that people get a sense of control from thinking that "doing WHATEVER IT TAKES" will drastically increase the odds they they will be successful. Because then it's back in their court to make a superhuman effort. It's again in their control.

It helps them keep going, but it doesn't really change the odds for them.

As I said, go ahead and try, REALLY try. For five years or so. But don't try so long that you ruin yourself financially for life. I have know musicians who have done exactly that, and their lives seem quite hard in their 50s and 60s and 70s.

July 27 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Galen

I should mention that I was at that rink as a skating parent, rather than an athlete. My daughters wanted to skate, but luckily neither wanted to compete, so we were at the rink all the time and they trained with future Olympians and I spent the equivalent of a private school education to pay for the lessons and the ice time, but we never deluded ourselves into thinking they were going to the Olympics. I'm so glad we didn't put ourselves through that. But I got very close to skaters who were devoting their lives to skating.

When I got involved with music, I worked with musicians who went on to have multi-platinum albums, and I know musicians who make a very good living as DIY artists, so yes, I know it is possible, but I know far more musicians who will always have non-music day jobs to pay the bills.

I have to say that this article and its comments are some of the most enlightening I have read.
Every 'wannabe' should read every word on this page because, this is the reality.

July 28 | Unregistered CommenterTCK

As Glenn pointed out, we hear about cases where people made great sacrifices and won or achieved success. We usually don't hear about people who do exactly the same thing and don't achieve their goals.

Over the last year or two, people have cited a few examples of successful musicians as a way to say it's great for everyone. But generally the really successful musicians are the exceptions rather than the rule. And if you say that, then the "everything is great" people come back and say the ones who aren't making it are doing something wrong. Then you point out that the less successful musicians may be doing exactly what the successful ones are doing. But then the people who want to tell you "everything is great" insist that the musicians who aren't succeeding MUST be something wrong. They aren't talented enough. Or they aren't working hard enough. Or they just haven't found the right way to make a living. These "everything is great" people INSIST the system works because a few people do well. And when others don't do well, it isn't the system that is wrong. It's the musicians who are wrong.

I've already spoken about sports and music. Let me use a different industry as an example.

When I became a professional writer, I turned to some people in the industry for some tips. They told me who to contact, how to pitch ideas to editors, etc. Within six months of deciding to write, I had an assignment from a national magazine and a literary agent. In other words, I didn't pay my dues. I broke through immediately. I had a college degree in business and economics, not one in English, journalism, or creative writing. I had never done any professional writing before and had no writing lessons, but I wrote good enough proposal letters and dropped a few names and got my foot in the door.

What I figured out about the industry was that there were ways to put you into that top 15% pretty fast. You could avoid mistakes that kept a lot of people from having success. But once you got into that top tier, then it was very competitive. So you could get to the point where editors would look at your ideas. But you couldn't ensure that you'd get the assignment over anyone else in that top tier.

The same in music. You can learn what you need to learn and avoid all the rookie mistakes. And if you have talent, industry people, reviewers, and fans will pay attention to you immediately. But translating that attention into enough money to a living way is hard.

Some people talk about luck in music. I don't believe in that. The people who get breaks usually have done all the necessary preparation to take advantage of opportunities as they come. Whether someone sells lots of CDs and whether someone never really breaks out has a lot to do with how a lot of pieces come together at the right time. But I don't think of that as luck per se. It's just the nature of the business.

Also, here's what I tell anyone in creative fields (the arts, music, writing, theater). I'm going to tell you how hard it is make a living at this. If your response is, "I know that, but I'm doing this because I must," then I understand. If you want to be creative to such an extent that you'll do it even if you never make any money at it, then you are probably doing it for the right reasons. But if you are looking at creative fields as a way to make money, there are more lucrative paths you can pursue. And once you have a kid, you may decide that as much as you like the life of a starving artist, maybe you should get a day job to provide for those who depend on you.

If you are just out of high school or college, give it a shot (although student loans often lead recent graduates to take jobs that pay well). Or give it a shot when your kids are out of the house and you don't need much money anymore. Then you will have had a chance to live the dream when the stakes are pretty low. If it works, great. If not, then you can accept it and live with what you have achieved.

Excellent and enlightening information, Suzanne.

It would be SO valuable to somehow know the actual percentage of musicians (or writers, or fine artists) who have great talent, sacrifice everything, work a good plan, and STILL fail to make it.

But we can never know those numbers.

Plus, there seems to be a huge new online business of selling services to would-be pop stars. And they will keep trumpeting that "everything is GREAT. You have the talent! You have the drive!! You CAN do this, and WE are here to help you! (for lots of monthly fees that really add up).

So we are going to keep hearing that if you do everything right, you most likely will make a very good living as a pop star, and even get rich and famous.

But I already think musicians who got into this 5 years ago are now wiser, and are getting out of it as a career. Because they have to.

The best thing I read is that it's going the way of the golf industry: millions of people who are average to mediocre golfers, but a huge industry selling them clubs, lessons, and golf tee times to them. And they are all having a good time and getting some exercise.

- But there are very few pro golfers making a living at it, and VERY few Tiger Woods replacements.

July 28 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Galen

Great article!

We encounter this issue occasionally on our Part Time Rockers blog (www.parttimerockers.com). Having been in this boat as well I decided long ago that I wanted a decent income and normal family life. After a 20 year break to raise a family and obtain a great career as a software developer, I have jumped back in as a part timer. It is great to be able to play music purely for the love of it and not to have to worry about making a living doing so.

July 28 | Unregistered CommenterBrent Malnack

Good article,

I have been up and down this windy road over the past 30 years.

In my experience, success in music business (or any other business for that matter), is a combination of consistancy, exposure/branding, knowing the right players and being at the right place and right time with them, and LUCK. The slice of the percentages vary by demographics and your target audience.

Cheers,

July 28 | Unregistered CommenterNick

It occurred to me that while we don't know the percentage of aspiring musicians who go on to do make a career of it, there are percentages for the number of high school athletes to go on to get college athletic scholarships and then go on to play professionally.

Here are some numbers:

Percentage: High School To Professional
Women's Basketball 0.02%
Men's Basketball 0.03%
Baseball 0.45%
Men's Ice Hockey 0.32%
Football 0.08%
Men's Soccer 0.07%

The best is baseball, where about 1/2 of 1% of high school players get to play professional baseball.

Here's the full chart, which shows you the drop off rate at each level between high school and professional sports.

How Many High School Athletes Get To Play NCAA Sports.

There's a now very out-of-date-but-still-relevant book I read years ago, entitled, Stoking the Star-Maker Machinery (the title obviously borrowed from Joni Mitchell's Free Man in Paris tune). The author (whose name escapes me) was an insider in the music biz. He made the following comment which (more or less) quoting is as follows:

If you're good looking, but have no talent, you will not make it in the music business.
If you're average looking and have talent, you might make it in the music business.
If you're good looking and talented, you probably will make it in the music business.

Rarely does anyone talk about the importance of looks in the music biz. Persistence, talent, connections, equipment, etc. are all discussed, and rightly so. But with the advent of MTv, looks became MUCH more important. With modern digital technology--auto-tuned vocals and all the rest--it's that much easier for the marginally talented and strikingly attractive to become music stars.

Those of us who have faces somewhere between stopping traffic and breaking mirrors generally will do better looking for work in the music industry, rather than stardom. I'm an award-winning composer with a decent string of publishing credits, but I still play local gigs and teach guitar to make ends meet. You have to find your own definition of success.

Yes, looks, unfortunately play a big role in becoming a successful musician, even among unsigned artists. Music videos are still very important, but now they are on YouTube.

Age, too. If you are past a certain age, you will have trouble launching a career. Luckily there are a few genres, like blues, where age isn't so important. But if you are a new rock or pop band and all the members are in their 40s or beyond and not already popular, it will be hard to be taken seriously.

What I am wondering is how many young acts will be able to maintain a sufficient group of fans for 30 years, which is what one would hope to do to have a career in music. Can you grab fans when you are first starting out, and then keep them for decades, or replace them with sufficient new fans?

When I was 16 I thought all pop musicians over 25 were old and should be made to stop. When I was 25 I thought I could just go on til I was 30, even though I felt really old. At 30 I was being ironic by still getting on stage and miming to videos. At 35 I 'retired'. At almost-36 I made my come back. At 37 I bought suits and boots that allowed me to keep my self respect. I retired again at 40.

Nowadays I couldn't give a flying one, but, deep down, I know I was right at 16.

Honestly, I know it's not fair, but I don't really want my pop stars to go on too long; look what happens: for every Johny Cash there's Paul Mcartney, Bobby Dylan, Status Quo, Gene Simmons, Alice Cooper, Elton John, Mike Love...

July 29 | Registered CommenterTim London

I guess as long as people will pay to come and see those artists, they might as well keep having fun and making money.

When the audiences stop coming to their shows, they will find something else to do.

July 30 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Galen

Thank you! I found you by searching 'overcoming jealousy' I have had a hard time balancing the money and love. I wasted a bunch of years as almost a gonner in abusive relationships and men trying to control me. II'm extremely creative and multitalented, good looking...People love my work but I have such a creative mind it's hard for me to organize. I get overwhelmed easily. I own a house that needs a lot of work, I'm single and a struggling artist. I got fired last month from a job that was starting to pay the bills and support the love. I get jealous of peers that have evolved over the years and I unfortunately compare myself in their 'higher' positiion and wish that I was touring, recording...My obstacles basically come down to money. I don't know if I should work my a$$ of to get gigs or to get a job to support it. I'm in a medium size upstate ny town that wants cover bands mostly. I'm a singer/songwriter, indie rock who has learned to conform to playing covers. A lot of local musicians support and love me and I know they will work for me if I ask them to. But iI'm not motivated to work full time at booking gigs when I basically need money now and on a regular basis. and I'm not sure if I fit the mold here. I've gotten a few rejections because the venue thinks I'm too obscure or different. Any suggestions for the struggling, scattered, jealous artist? Thank you!!

August 3 | Unregistered CommenterMargot

I've worked with an artist like you. Great talent, but money problems and doesn't want to handle all the business stuff that goes along with bookings, marketing, etc.

She has gotten loans and financial donations from friends, but most of that came a few years ago when the music business still had a clearer path to success and we weren't in the middle of a recession. Getting financial support might still be an option for someone like you, though. But if you try this path, It's important to have a plan so that the money advances your career rather than just keeping you afloat and when it runs out you're no further along than before.

The other thing it sounds like you need is a manager type person working with you. If there isn't a lot of potential for income to support you and a team, you probably won't find an experienced manager to take you on. But you might find someone who will help for free. That's usually a friend or fan who is very interested in helping out. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Music business is something a lot of people can learn, though often fan/friend managers won't take the time to learn. I've been through this with the artist I mentioned above. I tried to share everything I knew about booking, merch, etc., and they weren't interested. I knew they'd learn eventually if they stuck around long enough, but I could have saved them several years' worth of them reinventing the wheel.

So what am I telling you in a nutshell? Find friends and fans who can help you out. But you have obligations in return:

1. Be professional about your music. Work on your career.
2. Repay those who help you. Not necessarily with money (because you don't have it), but with thank yous and attention.

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