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« Moving Beyond The Age of Narcissism | Main | A Lesson in Music Industry Success Prevention. »

The Music Success Formula - Rough Cut

So I got the idea of creating a “back of the envelope” formula that will be a quick way to determine a band’s potential of “breaking through” to the next level, however they define it. This is the potential to be very useful to many musicians, but I need your help refining the idea. Please, poke holes in this so we can strengthen the idea!

What I’ve developed so far is based off the simple equation for force (force = mass X acceleration) except replacing the variables with things related to bands. It would measure, on a scale of 1 to 10, the band’s potential to reach their “fan goal” (which goes into the equation).

You’ll notice music quality is not the central focus of the formula. The reason for this is, due to the subjective nature of music, there are many variables which contribute to whether the music will sell or not. The goal of this formula is to get bands to focus on improving their strategies of getting their music out to the world by focusing on variables under their control This formula makes little distinction on the music itself, it’s up to you to ensure your art is as polished as it can be.

Band’s Potential of Reaching their fan goal (Scale of 1 to 10) = quality of the band X quality of promotion.

This is broken down further into: 

Quality of the band = music quality + music production quality + live show quality + merch quality

Where each item would be on a numerical scale:

-Music quality (how developed is your art, from 0 to 3)

-Music production quality ( 0 = home recording, 1 = midrange quality, 2 = professional)

-Live Show quality (0 = embarassing, 1 = crowd interaction & presence, 2 = effects, light show and excellent crowd participation”, 3 = Lady Gaga sized production)

-Merch quality (0 = no merch, 1 = some OK-quality T shirts, 2 = staffed by merch person with lights and pro-level products)

Quality of Promotion = {current draw at shows + (fans contacted monthly X conversion rate X 12)} / the band’s fan goal.

By plugging in the relevant information, the band would know what their relative chances of meeting their “fan goals” within a year are.

I need your input! This could help MANY people if we get this refined!


Derek is an MBA who teaches business skills to artists, runs his band Onward We March, and builds hot-rod bass guitars. He posts every thrusday on

The Music Success Formula - Rough Cut

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Reader Comments (6)

The music quality thing doesn't make sense to me as a fan... quality for me is not quality for you. I love one melody you like other, I like these lyrics you like others... and the quality of recording is not something that needs to be counted because these days you can get into a studio cheaply or even get a studio at home. The technical part shouldn't be part of the equation here in my opinion...

March 4 | Unregistered CommenterAdrijus

Very true that quality is HIGHLY subjective, hence why the role of it is downplayed. I included this factor primarily to induce the artist to think very critically about how refined their art is compared to how refined it could be.

The technical aspects *must* be included! True, you can get into studio cheaply but the choice of producer, engineer and mastering engineer has a PROFOUND and IMMUTABLE on the quality of your music. Sure, you can record in a bedroom with top of the line gear, but if you can barely work protools it'll undermine the quality of your songs.

Again, the big goal of this formula is to make the artist focus on promotion and marketing as the primary, *controllable* means for improving their fan base. There is no way to possibly predict if a certain *sound* will catch on, so it only makes sense to emphasize what *is* under control that *will* make a difference. I'd compare it to poker; the quality of the cards your dealt is out of your control, but your skills as playing the game are perfectly controllable and will make you more profitable in the long run.

March 9 | Registered CommenterDerek Miller

Sweet idea.

Where is number of performances in this equation? I play about 4 or 5 gigs a week and add about an average of 5 people to my mailing list per gig, so wouldn't I grow fans more quickly than someone who plays once or twice a month?

Oooh, yeah. That's a great point David! Maybe I should move the quality of promotion formula so it looks more like this

quality of promotion = { (current draw at shows * monthly shows) + monthly fan contacts} * conversion rate * 12 / the band's fan goal.

Kind of a mouthful, haha.

March 10 | Registered CommenterDerek Miller

I don't current draw should be included in this calculation, those are ALREADY fans. There should be a number for "average strangers at each gig". If that number is 0, it doesn't matter how many you draw, you still make 0 NEW fans.

March 11 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Fraser

Hey, I LOVE the idea of having a formula that any artist can apply to him/herself to guide a career by. I think this may be a good start...incorporating the necessary elements of business planning and/or marketing strategies [which include the size and scope of the overall industry and where an artist sees himself within it] and you could really be rolling with something, imo.

March 26 | Unregistered CommenterKenny Jaworski

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