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Making A Living Is The New Success

For more and more musicians, the idea of stardom seems to be further and further away. While some still see stars in their eyes, a great number have come to the realization that the goal is now a lot different, since just making a living in music can now be considered a success. I’ve written about this in a number of my books, but here’s a passage from Music 3.0: A Survival Guide For Making Music In The Internet Age that illustrates the point.

“Musicians and artists will begin to see success in a different way as making a living replaces stardom as the big score. To some degree that was always true. Most musicians are only too happy making a living by playing music, but thanks to the excesses of Music 2.5, far too many felt that stardom was easily within their reach.  

This has changed as a new realism comes to pass.

  • The realism that DIY [do it yourself] takes a lot of work and the rewards aren’t as great as in the heyday of the major labels. There’s not as much revenue in the recorded music industry pie to split as there was before.
  • The realism that social networking has limitations just like traditional marketing, so traditional marketing and promotion can’t be completely abandoned. You still need both for effective branding and marketing.
  • The realism that the touring market is not nearly the gold mine that it once was during better economic times. Fewer venues, less money and more competition makes gigging more difficult than ever. That being said, look for this to loosen up a bit as the economy rebounds.
  • And the realism that some things in the music business never change. You still need talent, great songs, lots of hard work, and a little luck to make your mark.”

Everyone wants to be successful, but that always doesn’t mean making platinum records (they’re so much harder to come by these days) and grossing (key word here) millions of dollars. Sometimes, it’s the simple things that make you feel like a success.”


You can find more music marketing tips on my Music 3.0 music industry blog. For music and production, check out my Big Picture production blog. To read some additional book excerpts as well as some from my other books, go to You can also follow me on Twitter for daily blog updates.

Reader Comments (8)

Let's face it; some of this has to do with the fact that most music is re-produced crap. The economy has always been bad when the best music comes around. It's like a natural cycle. The better the music is, the more people want to escape into it. You don't really see the economy affecting the sale of cigarettes. I think great music and having a chance to escape into that is equally as interesting.

Sounds like a great idea, maybe help to keep the music more "real". Another upside with more people doing it, or at least attempting to do it, is the area on a whole could get better, ie more solutions or guides to help the independent musician do all that needs to be done, while at the same time staying in control of their work. Always a work in progress but hopefully getting better...

May 8 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

While I respect your opinion, I don't necessarily identify with anything mentioned from the book you reference and find the collective generalization about musicians inaccurate.

I think people get into the music business whether it is performing as a musician or on the back side because they genuinely love it. To say the idea of stardom is going to be replaced with merely earning a living is irresponsible. You can't lump a whole class of musicians with one swooping generalization.

May 8 | Unregistered CommenterCorey

Well Bobby, coming from a community of indie musicians in Nashville doing exactly this, I for one agree with you.

It may not be the same in every city or for every musician's goals, but for the mass of peers that I've had the pleasure of working with in the last 5 years, we're all pretty happy to be consistently doing what we love and making a living from it. Stardom has always come with high costs monetarily and personally, and very few of the actual joys of life.

Welcome to the Music Middle Class.

I definitely respsect where you are coming from, and the facts are true. Very few desirous of a mainstream career will make it there, which means being sad about it or working happily and making a living in music, which I think many feel means doing something in music that you don't want to do, like teach if you are a performer, but there are many outlets now to have a successful career that is not on the cover of People magazine. Thanks for sharing this. It spoke to me, and it encourages me to continue as an independent artist, as my markers for success have changed.

May 8 | Unregistered CommenterMario

What is really interesting to me is that a bunch of us Indie musicians that started back in the late 90's came to the conclusion that "making a living" would be the gold standard for the majority of musicians. We were at the forefront of the new millenium music industry. It was an interesting time with no certainty and trust that the then "big 5" majors really didn't know much more than we did. One thing I have learned in my 14 year indie career is that you have to be nimble and diversify your brand. Also I agree with Michael....Welcome to the Music Middle starving & bitter!!!!

I can't disagree with you more, Bobby. I see a direct correlation between crappy music and low "success". Rest assured if your music IS, in fact, great, you could do more than "make a living". Sorry if this sounds bitter, but I refuse to embrace negative reality that you have accepted. I stand by the idea that great music triumphs all. If you are just getting by then take an honest look at the quality of your sound.

May 15 | Unregistered CommenterSolo

You're right of course, I have spent the last six months mostly making music - writiing & recording new stuff, getting a great live show together - and being happy as larry but poor as a church mouse. Fuck it, i've put the work in, the music sounds mint, I want my pot of gold lol..

June 22 | Unregistered Commenterdaz nez

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