Five reasons you will fail in the music business
July 31, 2009
Loren Weisman in Realistic Music Careers 101, artists, bands, brain grenade, business, loren, marketing, weisman

These are five of the top reasons why you will fail at a music career. It may sound like it is coming off a little harsh. That’s because it is.

Too many musicians put too much energy and effort into talking about why things have not happened or why things are not working for them. Everyone has reasons, justifications and rationale to explain why they are failing, yet these same artists do not take the steps to problem solve, change direction, learn, educate or empower themselves with the knowledge and the tools to change the path.

Egos are a sensitive thing and musicians, as well as other artists, are very sensitive. Add stubbornness and delusions of grandeur to ego and you get a failure trifecta. The music industry has changed. It is not what it was twenty five years ago and, hell, it is vastly different than what it was even five years ago.

It’s the musician’s responsibility to learn the industry and the changes that are currently happening. Then formulate a clear understanding of what has to happen in order to ensure success. You must have problem solving skills. You must have the tools and patience to do the drudge work. You must watch for mistakes and missteps just as you watch for opportunities and new avenues. It is crucial to make corrections to keep yourself on the path to success.

Here are five of the top reasons or excuses for failure that I hear all too often. I’ve listed the reasons why they are bad and a way to look at them in a different light.

5. My friends tell me I am great. My fans love me and tell me I should be a star. Everybody loves me and I got a ton of reviews so I am in the right direction.

Congrats! Your friends like you and you have connected with some new fans. This is positive, but not something on which to base your business approach. When positive things are coming your way via comments, messages and personal reviews, then work to find magazines, websites and more reputable organizations and media to say the same thing. When you have a whole bunch of comments on your website or any of your social networks, you are in the same boat as EVERYONE ELSE. Many artists get cocky at this point and think world wide success is just around the corner because a song got 10,000 plays and some cute girl on myspace commented that she loved it.

Now is the time to work on getting 10,000 sales of that song. Now is the time to go after reputable media to review your music or your band. Now this is the time to work even harder and not get cocky. This is how you capitalize on successes. This is how you differentiate yourself from the thousands of other bands that think they are on the brink of success. If you do not, success may just be around the corner, but it will be at a day or night job working at a corner store.

4. I don’t need to worry about the business. The songs will take care of themselves. I don’t need to put the work into the business because it is about me and the music. I just need a manager or a label to take care of everything.

Great attitude. Just sign away the rights to everything then. Let some manager or label do the work. Okay, first off, a lot of labels out there have no idea what they are doing at all. They have templates of old record label contracts that they get you to sign. You then lose all sorts of percentages you are unaware of and they have rights to you without doing anything. On the other side of the coin, say by the smallest chance you get a solid deal, you are still giving up a great deal of ownership to other people to do work that you could easily help with and retain more of a percentage.

The reasons why you need to know the business are paramount and a book within itself. Here’s a summary:

The minute you sign contracts, you are giving other people rights to all aspects of your musical presence. These “other people” may or may not know what they’re doing.

It is required to know what these people are doing with your music, your booking you image, etc., what they can do and what could happen if things go well, just as you should know what could happen if things go poorly.

You do need to worry about the business. Whether you are independent or going to a label or manager, you need a crystal clear understanding of what is being done with your musical presence. Otherwise you will—I repeat—YOU WILL BE SCREWED!

3. This artist did it 10/20/30 years ago/ They didn’t worry about this, why should I? These things worked for them. I am copying them and I will have the same success.

Gas prices were cheaper 10/20/30 years ago. We didn’t have a lot of things back then we do now. Why [the hell] are you expecting the exact same methods used years ago to work today?

This is one of the most foolish ideas I hear, and I hear it all too often. From logos, to recordings, to what it costs to put out an album, you cannot use the facts of the past to define the truth of the present. While certain aspects may apply, you need to be smart enough to understand change and what the change is.

If you are so sure that what Duran Duran did with Rio is the short answer to success, then I guess you should also have tens of thousands of cassettes made. Oh wait. People don’t use cassettes much anymore. This also goes for how marketing works, how recording works, how soliciting works. Things have changed. Be aware of the change and consider that the elements that may have worked twenty years ago may not be applicable to today.

2. If I just had the money, the backing, the ears, or if this famous person hears the music…

This is heard at every bar, music venue and music shop: if things were different. Well, you know what, if the world was flat, then it wouldn’t be round. There you go. This statement wastes time and energy that could be used to find ways to get investors or donors, work on a solicitation package for assistance or support from a manager, a label or a talent buyer.

Get out of the excuses and get into going after what you want and figuring out how you are going to get it. It is all about productively and effectively building the promotion, marketing and branding in your solicitation to be recognized by people in the industry. It goes WELL BEYOND THE SONG. You have to be the whole package and worth the investment. Think about it: the upper level executives receive thousands of packages. They need to be impressed enough by the package itself in order to open it up and listen. They see you before they hear you. Keep that in mind.

On the other side, get real. Do you honestly think if a famous person hears you that all the sudden you will be signed to a multi-album deal? Not gonna happen. He or she can recommend you, they can send something along. But they’re just one person. Would you rather have one person hear your music or tons of industry professionals who might be willing to help you?

Plan according to research. Examine and create lists of people that will look at your type of package, listen to your type of music and have had success getting things done that you want done. Build that list up everyday and, when the package is ready, spend time sending it out to every single one.

1. The industry is against me. I know how things work and they just can’t handle my sound and my image. They just don’t know and that is why I am not where I want to be.

See above response. The same thing goes. You can blame anyone, everyone and everything, but when it comes down to it, it’s about how you handle things. What will impress or turn off many in the industry is your reaction, your following action and the way you execute. You may even be right at times that things are against you, but if you just blame and agree, you are settling, giving up and giving in. None of those attributes makes for a solid investment. Plus, it makes them sound like they’re five. “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll go eat worms.” Now, even more so, you are providing support for why the industry should be against you.

Buck up, gear up and fight for what you want. Work to show them what you are about and learn different ways to present your sound, your image and your goals. It might not always work, but it is a hell of a lot more effective than bitching and will get you worlds further.


Just do it. Don’t expect it. Plan, learn, grow, create, problem solve and empower yourself as well as your dreams. And then execute. Take those steps or quit. It’s your choice. It really is that simple.


Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (
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