Success in the music Industry has long been measured by landing a recording contract, but with the ever-increasing digital distribution outlets available, and the shrinking physical market, the goal posts have certainly shifted.
In reality, as 90% of those who had the (mis)fortune to find out first hand will testify, securing a record deal was never an indication that you had actually “made it”. It was a temporary influx of much needed cash, but any perceived luxury came with insurmountable overheads. With every limo ride and big city showcase offering free booze, your ever-expanding expense account would ensure that your musical career was never going to be a viable long-term business.
A re-evaluation of what actually defines success in music is much needed. Especially as new artists take steps to build a working business model in the constantly changing digital world.
LEVELS OF SUCCESS
Keeping a diamond in your mind is important to help positively focus your goals, but for anyone embarking on a fledgling career, a realistic timeline needs to put in place.
The first step for any artist is to make your musical career self-sufficiant. This does not mean it is your only source of income, it simply means that it pays for itself. And this does not include investors paying your bills either - you need to be self-sustainable. If you have found enough fans to regularly invest in your product, and your monthly overheads are covered, from guitar strings to website and mailing list costs, then you can class your business as doing pretty well.
More importantly it is an indication that your business has legs, that what you are doing is connecting in the right ways to evolve and grow.
PAYING THE RENT
True success in music should be measured like any other business, if you can pay the rent, the bills and put food on the table, then you can consider yourself having “made it”. That’s not to say you should rest on your laurels and get comfortable. On the contrary, it means you have something very special going on that needs to be nurtured and grown even further.
At the stage when enough people are investing in your product that you are able to sustain, not only your musical endeavors, but also full time employment, then you are more successful than the vast majority of artists that were ever signed to a record deal.
THE LONG HAUL
This is where goals need to be set in the new music business. Visions of selling out arenas are still achievable, but they will come after 10 - 15 years of grinding it out and legitimately building your career, bit-by-bit, fan by fan. If you are not in it for the long haul then this is no longer the business for you. You may pick up investors on the way, but only because you have already proven to be a worthy business model to invest in.
Music has become an industry built for those who love music, not fame and money. If you are looking for instant recognition then go clog up the reality TV market, if you are looking for money, go back to school and get a degree, put the hard work in somewhere else.
However, if you love music and are dedicated to it, then success is just as achievable as it ever was, as long as you keep the quality high and the goals realistic.
Robin Davey is a Musician, Film Director and Producer born in the UK and now residing in Los Angeles. He was inducted into the British Blues Hall Of Fame at the age of 23 with his band The Hoax. His current band The Bastard Fairies achieved over 1 Million downloads when they were the first band to release an album for free via the internet in 2006. As a director he won the best Music Video award at the American Indian Motion Picture Awards. His feature documentary The Canary Effect - an exploration into the hidden Genocide of Native Americans, won The Stanley Kubrick Award For Bold and Innovative Film Making at Michael Moores Traverse city Film Festival in 2006. He is also head of Film and Music Development at GROWvision - A full service media, management and production company