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How to RUIN Your Music Career in 7 Easy Steps

Everybody wants to know the easy, proven steps to music success. Therefore, most experts offers tips and strategies to help you reach your goals in a positive light — including me.

Well, it’s time to shake things up and serve a new audience — which explains why this post takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the dark side: How to destroy your music career in seven easy steps …

1) Give Away Your Personal Power

The first step to destroying your music career is to realize that your destiny is in the hands of other people and circumstances beyond your control. Fully embrace the fact that you need to be in the right place at the right time to get your “lucky break” and be “discovered.”

Know that industry people and music critics must deem you worthy of success for you to have value as a musician. Also, cling to the belief that all the answers are “out there” somewhere and out of your control and you will be incredibly successful at failure.

2) Turn Marketing, Promotion and Sales Into a Huge Burden

Do you really wanna fall flat fast? Then start referring to marketing as a “necessary evil” right away. Realize that you don’t have what it takes to “sell yourself” and reach more fans. In fact, there’s probably a biological reason you hate promotion: you were born without the critical marketing gene that all those “gift of gab” people have. Therefore, you are destined to live a lifetime of hardship as you struggle with having to engage in the ugly chore of self-promotion.

3) Be Fearful of Being Perceived as a Greedy, Capitalist Pig

Paranoia will go a long way to helping you fall short of a thriving music career — especially when it comes to earning money. Just know that every one of your fans is watching you and waiting to jump ship the second they smell any scent of capitalism. Therefore, if you make any sales pitches at all, they better be so low key as to be barely perceptible.

In fact, it would be best not to even make people aware that you have things for sale. Just wait till they come to you. If they’re interested, they’ll ask. And if you want to score extra points, when they do ask, tell them you left all your CDs and T-shirts at home.

4) Use a Lack of Time, Money and Connections as Your Biggest Excuse

Here’s a surefire way to go down in flames. Have convenient scapegoats based on scarcity. Tell anyone who asks (as well as a lot of people who don’t ask or care) how lousy your career is because of all the lack in your life. Frequently use phrases such as “There aren’t enough hours in the day,” “If I had that kind of money, I’d be a rock star too,” and “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” To spice things up, every now and then throw in an angry reference to “The man.”

5) Market Yourself to the Faceless Masses Using Traditional Big Media

Why spend all that time dealing one on one with fans, when someday someone could just throw a bunch of money (you know, the funds you don’t have enough of now) into a massive marketing campaign? Realize that it takes big bucks spent on radio promotion, retail placement, billboards, and paid display ads in national magazines to succeed. This mass media mindset is your ticket to success … at hitting the fast track to failure.

Bonus tip: Never answer your email from fans, and rarely — if ever — log into your Facebook, MySpace or Twitter accounts. Better yet, don’t even start these accounts, since they are time-wasting fads.

6) Promote Yourself Sporadically and Only When It’s Urgent

If you have a mailing list (and with piss-poor email delivery and open rates these days, why bother?), be sure the fans on your list don’t hear from you very often. One of the best “road to ruin” marketing tactics is blasting your fans with urgent “come to my show” or “buy my new album now” messages when they haven’t heard from you in months. Your ultimate goal is have fans read your promotions and go, “Who is this band again?”

7) Know That Everyone Owes You Something Simply Because You Exist

I’ve saved the best way to destroy your music career for last. Simply know that everyone will care as much about you and your music as you do. Understand that complete strangers will indeed listen to every note of your 70-minute concept album and read every word of your 10-page bio. Be sure to send long, in-depth emails and leave lengthy, rambling voice mail messages for the imbeciles who don’t recognize your greatness. Also, be sure to insult anyone who doesn’t get back to you within 10 minutes.

There you have it — the top seven ways to ruin your music career.

So … what are you waiting for? Now get out there and demote yourself!!!


P.S. Did I miss any important ways you destroy your music career? Please add your own tips in the comments below.

Reader Comments (39)

absolute. brilliance.

November 12 | Unregistered CommenterSah

Feisty...but awesome!

November 12 | Unregistered CommenterJames Pew

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Is actually being taught in (music industry related) schools these days. I guess I almost fell for that one too.

2b) Use an automated friend-adder in social media.

November 12 | Unregistered CommenterSon of 8-Bits

As a former music manager, may I add that you can ruin your career by being inconsiderate. There is a huge difference between being polite and being considerate - as a musician you need to be both. Actually, as a human you need to be.
But sticking to music - realize that early in your career you probably have a lot of people helping you for little or no money. They are investing in your potential. Being inconsiderate ensures that people lose interest in helping you. Add some alcohol assisted rants to that - and you have a sure fire way to kill your career.

November 12 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

take loads of drugs!

November 12 | Unregistered Commenterneil

Don't burn bridges, control your ego, live up to your word, don't do drugs.

November 13 | Unregistered Commentermarty thau

Jump out of the gate claiming to be the KING or the Savior of RAP!

November 13 | Unregistered Commentermcluvin

I recently saw the opening artist for a major band petulantly tell the audience that the only way to get her music legally was by buying a CD at the show, and that downloading is ruining the livelihood of musicians. Great way to to turn your opportunity into failure.

November 13 | Unregistered CommenterMister 1-2-3-4

Chewy but tasty post, Bob. Fun read!

November 13 | Registered CommenterMary Guthrie

this is basically everything i do with my band / bands! haha!

November 13 | Unregistered Commenteralto

what would albini do?

November 13 | Unregistered Commenterchiboy

I've got another great tip - talk shit about other bands, companies, record labels etc.

For example - when Les Paul dies - make sure you make an announcement to all of your fans saying "Why couldn't it have been Paul Reed Smith?"

That's really smart too :-)

November 13 | Unregistered CommenterJen

"I've got another great tip - talk shit about other bands, companies, record labels etc."

It worked for Mark E Smith!

November 13 | Unregistered Commenteralto

Gotta speak out against all the anti-drug messages in the comments. You puritans can feel free to pat yourselves on the back, but don't think for a second that at least 50% of this industry isn't high on any given day. Marijuana and LSD are both proven creativity tools with very real benefits.

Sure, you can all point to some drugbag failures, but those people failed at everything they did, including drugs. Don't mistake symptoms for causes.

If we're going to talking like adults, though, here's the real message: don't do cocaine. It's a useless, expensive drug that makes you into a worthless human being and puts you into the orbit of even more worthless people. Don't do heroin. Dumbest shit you could possibly do with your life, next to having sex with Courtney Love. Don't drink on tour. Seems like a good idea, almost never is. Your health is under daily attack already. Never bring drugs on tour. Even if you are a well-balanced and productive marijuana user, you put your whole tour at risk by taking some with you. That's not cool.

November 13 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

Hmm. I don't get the first two steps.

Step one is saying to take control of yourself as an artist, don't let others manage you. Yet step two says don't try to promote yourself, enlist the help of a professional promoter.

Are these two instructions contradictory, or does Bob mean "by all means get someone to handle your promotion but everything creative to do with the music is up to you"?

Step three is also a good point to make in today's age of valueless recorded music, but couldn't one very easily go too much the other way? I recently unsubscribed from a number of Facebook pages and ReverbNation mailing lists as they were being too pushy and in your face. Should we all be like relentless Kirby salesmen?

November 13 | Unregistered CommenterJames

Speaking of drug use, how about "Do the things your favourite stars did and that you were gonna do anyway." Why spend years years building a career when you can just party like an already established rock star? After all, can anyone name a drug user who isn't famous?
Also, "Pretend like it's still the 60's." Also known as "Assume that everything that happened before was inevitable and will therefore happen again".

November 13 | Unregistered CommenterKjle

the prolific Gavin Castleton wrote a similar essay with some helpful lessons:
The Keys to Failure

November 14 | Unregistered CommenterJames Spake

@James "Step three is also a good point to make in today's age of valueless recorded music, but couldn't one very easily go too much the other way?"

There is a rather large difference between $0 (price) and value.
This blog post explains it quite well:

November 14 | Unregistered CommenterMark

Great list.

When tackling a problem or trying to figure out a strategy it's always smart to look at what works and what doesn't work.

November 15 | Unregistered CommenterMSRMusic

Don't forget the Ever classic.Excuse, I'm still Mixing my Project (although it's been two years!) and I'm waiting for the Right,:time,Investors,season,every one to run after me..and the ever popular a Sign from "GOD" !..DO Every thing and Anything (That is Legal) to Promote YOURSELF!.. Believe me ,, the World "is" waiting for you they want you to 'win'...

"the World "is" waiting for you they want you to 'win'..."

IMHO Maybe the world is "not" waiting for you, but you should just put your music out there, there's really no reason not too since no one really cares that your releasing it anyway. You'll get people to care once they see you how hard you work to create, record, release & perform your work.

My 2 cents

"everyone thinks their music is being highly whom ? "

November 16 | Unregistered CommenterYousef

Sign to Narnack Records.

November 16 | Unregistered CommenterHappy

Record, mix and master the record all by yourself.

November 16 | Unregistered CommenterJK

Tipe #*8! Make sure your music has nothing unique about it. You don't want to distinguish yourself by doing something new. Make your songs as generic and unmemmorable as possible, with no epic feel or sound. Don't worry about making music other people like, worry about what you like because writing commercially viable music is just selling out. Oh and be sure to include a 10 to 15 minute guitar solo on every song that you might consider your hit single, and don't worry about getting radio play--because radio is never a way an artist breaks today

November 16 | Unregistered CommenterToBEorNot

Here's another way to achieve failure --
Don't join a rights association for artists, such as ASCAP or BMI, that will help support you as a musician or singer/songwriter to receive all the income you deserve as a creative artist.

In fact, the female performer (mentioned by Mr 1 2 3 4) who announced that her CD's were available legally at her gig and deplored illegal downloads (full disclosure -- it wasn't me -- I don't make announcements like that at gigs) was totally in the right, though, because all of us who are artists are being ripped off by illegal downloads. We have a right to expect payment for our work (as well as the right to offer a limited amount of material for free -- if we choose to) but anyone who doesn't support the work being done by ASCAP & BMI & SESAC and such organizations is shooting themselves (and all other artists) in the foot, because respect for intellectual property is necessary for us to survive, and copyright protection must continue to be strengthened.

The Open Letter I published (a copy of which appears on the "Upcoming CD" page of my website) states the issue clearly.
Leigh Harrison

November 16 | Unregistered CommenterLeigh

ASCAP and BMI is organized crime that got big enough to buy their way into legitimacy. They don't have a business model beyond that because they don't need one. Their income stream is guaranteed by laws they helped write. An admirably simple approach. They use a magical black box to dole out cash payments to artists, who generally wind up cheerleading for them. It is, indeed, a good system.

But it's definitely getting in the way of new, better systems. Nobody has been more of a brick wall in the history of digital music than the publishing companies. New kids should focus on ways to make 100% of the money and keep 100% of the data, and leave the debate over file-sharing and publishing rights to the academics. Right? Experiment, do new shit, make lots of money. I've worked in several genres now and trust me, functionally retarded people are making five figures a month off this, all over the country.

That's why I'm leaving that "publishing money" on the table with no qualms. It's like refusing to shop at Wal-Mart: I might wind up with less money, and I know that my decision makes no difference at any meaningful scale, but I feel obligated to be a contrary Vermonter where I can. Don't go down with the Death Star.

November 17 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

Actually in my music business classes we were taught it's not who you know but who knows you.

November 17 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

From my point of view; like any other fiercely dedicated artist; I've worked long and hard, made enormous sacrifices to produce and distribute my music in the only way I can afford to allow myself to and to the best of my knowledge and capabilities. I find such an outrageous CRIME in that those who contribute the least end up perpetually gabbing their gums away and getting away with massive quantities of carreer murders and being highly destructive and all too influential among the often uninformed public who wallow in such corrupt gossip. So much going on, so little to believe in...What would it take to give the devil a conscience so it could finally get a taste of its own sorry vile self for a change. It's rather unfortunate that those who stir up the dung never get to have their own noses rubbed in it! Much of this does not surprise me at all. Unfortunately, adversity is very much human nature's way. I've seen this all my life; not just in music, but in all it's aspects all too often. I go one way, they go the other; hence the anti- Rock n Roll guitar syndrome we all know and tolerate so rampant among the 'socially correct' tribes amongst us. Enough with the useless negativity already... Get REAL, get POSITIVE, GET CREATIVE for God sakes and by all means flush the crazy destructive gossip. Start by getting some sort of life and move on from there, PUHLEASE!! Stop feeding the fires of hell by paying attention to destructive naysayers. Freedom is a good concept only if you don't abuse it...Thank you!

November 17 | Unregistered CommenterGuy



November 17 | Unregistered CommenterChip Souza

"Sin Blign Bling" by El Tarot - availabel now @ Napster, iTunes, Spotify, Rhapsody, etc. via TuneCore.

It's the song that defines a generation!

I might not have the bling or be on TMZ, but I got what it takes to offer my music for free. If you like the song, contact me, and I will give it to you as a thank you note for taking the time.

Strean it at Email –, Twitter: @eltarot,, El Tarot Fan Page,, Our Stage - El Tarot, etc.

Deceber 23, 2009 at La Respeusta, Puerto Rico - El Tarot LIVE - VIDEO SOON!

I already know I did not fail. So your post is not about me or anyone I know. It's interesting though. I would add: Don't give up no matter what people on the internet say!

November 17 | Registered CommenterEl Tarot

Here are a few quick ones...

By all means, let the venue and event organizers take care of all the promotion. Why bother sending out an email, myspace and facebook invitations or tweets about your gig? Assume the venue will become packed and that all your fans will psychically just know where and when to go.

Oh, and make sure you don't have a website. Already have one? Make sure it isn't updated regularly or you'll get too many visitors. Oh! And here's a big one I fell for at first... pick a long domain name that people can't spell or understand over the phone - that works great for losing business.

By the way, if you're sending out a newsletter... don't put any information in it that your fans might find useful. And make sure it's a mass email, with everone's email address available for the taking. Why use blind send when you know all that spam is sure to help you trash your reputation.

Bob... brilliant article. Truly.

Brenda, Medicine Song Woman

November 18 | Unregistered Commenter@healingsinger

dont leave the house!
just keep writing songs but never get out and perform them...
i mean there's so many other bands out there-who really wants to hear your music?

November 19 | Unregistered Commenterd

#9) Assume your music is so well-crafted that it's totally invulnerable to criticism. Any mistakes you made were intentional and thought out long before the song came into existence - you're not making up a defense as you go along!

Attack those nasty, jealous, negative people who say bad things about your music. They just don't get it.

November 19 | Unregistered CommenterSynonym Music

pleeeeaaaaassssseeee tell me how to do whatever i need to do to be successful...
"how" is the key word - so much advice but no real steps...
promote... but through who? how do you find a good promoter? should you have to pay up front?
how do you fund doing all of these things???
how do you get heard?? how do you expand your fan base..... i have done shows but i only know who i know... how do i get others to know me?? i have a myspace.... i do the word of mouth thing...
i have songs recorded.... should there be someone to critique and help with the product???
i do my own stuff because of cost... but how do i get it out there??
why get cd's on a shelf if noone knows to buy them??
how do i sell myself to get signed? is getting signed even the best option??? is a distribution deal better???? but even then, who will know to buy my stuff???
i am going to do a music video - but why??? i don't know what i am going to do with it...
are EPK's best??
is it best to submit to record company's on-line ? how will i ensure that they ever open the email??
i have been unsuccessful thus far... i have books, ask people for help, do shows, record to the best of my ability in english and spanish - i have a lot of good material.... but the final step is missing....
so please tell me how to get where i am trying to go.....

hit me up at:

November 20 | Unregistered Commenterdesperate

I would add that you shouldn't waste your money paying professionals like Mastering Engineers to clean up and Master your CD when you can do it yourself with a plug-in! In fact don't even bother mastering your CD -it's more real if your CD sounds like sh--. Real fans and critics will be able to hear the genius of your music in spite of the bad digital clicks or low record level or the way too hot level, and the bad EQ.
Sound your best! And keep the great info coming.....

Adrian Carr

November 27 | Registered CommenterACMastering

Great article, but it all comes down to the fact that some people really are weaker in some of these areas. Everybody can market themselves, but some people are more natural at it. It's one thing to be chatty and outgoing some of the time, but it's not easy for everyone to do it consistently. Maybe that's a good reason to collaborate with people who are strong in these areas whenever possible.

November 4 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Another great article Bob.

# 8 don’t have a clear picture of what you want your whole life to look like when your music career is really successful – just get sucked into the whirlwind. Your friends won’t mind when you never call them except to complain that your globe trotting, adoring fan filled life is rubbish and what are family for anyway?

# 9 don’t get help with your relationship with your manager/producer/fellow band members when they start to present challenges, just find a whole new group of people to drive you crazy instead.

December 21 | Unregistered CommenterTamara Gal-On

So that's what I did wrong!....everything.


October 3 | Unregistered Commenterbarrelhead

Thank you and blessings to all of you brave musicians in the world.
Please work hard at your craft and spread love.
PLEASE don't forget that...

Here is the worst mistake:

Never show love. In fact, love is corny. Only think of the surface and "getting over"
Step on your friends. Never share the message of your music. Message? What message?
Be a ruthless snake with no moral code.

August 19 | Unregistered Commentertrinkletinkle

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