How They Did It
Unless music is just a hobby for you, you’re probably looking forward to getting something out of it, whether that means financial rewards, fame, or both. But achieving those things is more of a dream than a reality for a large number of songwriters and musicians who go into the music business with the intention of making a career out of their talent.
To make matters worse, it would seem the music industry is quite picky about who gets the major deals and who does not. Having great skills does not guarantee that you will be successful in getting your music published or even attracting listeners. Following all the steps and advice on how to “make it” in the music industry won’t automatically translate to getting a foot in the door, either. In fact, there is really no assurances or guarantees that launching a music career will lead to any substantial financial rewards or major recognition. That's one reason why there are a number of songwriters who have regular day jobs that help to pay the bills.
Because of the unpredictable nature of the music business, however, you never know if or when you could get a major breakthrough. The best you can do is to keep improving yourself, practicing all the right things, and hoping your efforts eventually open doors. It’s also a good idea to study the careers of successful musicians to try and understand how they did it. To help you out with that, here are some of the reasons why musicians who get the deals, do.
They develop a professional attitude
Develop a professional attitude and display it in all areas of your music activities. This can mean a number of things, including showing up to meetings on time, not making excuses, having a solid work ethic, being respectful, not taking shortcuts, and not making excuses. People who can make things happen in the music business are often professionals themselves. As such, they will be more willing to pay attention to you if they believe you display a professional attitude, which indicates to them that you are serious about your career.
They seek out opportunities
Regardless of how hard it might seem to get a foothold in the music industry, there is no shortage of opportunities. Established artists and labels are constantly searching for the next hit, music supervisors are always looking for the right song to place in productions they are involved with, marketing companies have a demand for catchy jingles…the list goes on. But these opportunities simply aren’t going to present themselves. You have to keep knocking on doors – sometimes literally – to discover opportunities to pitch your music or present an idea.
They diversify their careers
The music industry is not just about selling records or performing in front of screaming fans. There are many other avenues that can be just as fulfilling. For example, you can be a non-performing songwriter
; compose music for film/TV or jingles for commercials; offer songwriting and music lessons; make videos and post them on your YouTube channel; stream your songs on Soundcloud, Spotify or other platforms; start a songwriting or music blog; sell courses related to a music niche you’re knowledgeable in. The possibilities are endless. Trying different things means you have more chances than if you were solely depending on one avenue. Sheryl Crow, a many-time Grammy winner, started her career with a jingle for an ad then moved on to doing backing vocals for big-name artists, all before launching her solo career.
They are constantly making connections
Because many of the opportunities in music aren’t necessarily advertised, you need to constantly be reaching out and connecting with people who already have strong connections in the business. In fact, some opportunities might not yet exist until you reach out. It’s not hard to build your connections, either. You can connect with music peers and professionals through social media or email or by showing up at conferences and other music events
that attract people from the business. Just remember to be professional and friendly in whatever approach you take. Also, do not take any rejections personally, it usually isn’t.
They keep up with the changing trends
Things are always changing in the music industry, so what might have been the norm a decade ago might be out of tune today. From shifting songwriting trends
to new ways of music publishing and distribution, you have to keep your ears close to the ground so you can make the necessary adjustments if needs be. That way, you remain relevant and marketable to a wide cross-section of people.
They continuously improve
The more you try to improve your skills, the more likely you will become better and better. Among the ways you can improve include learning new instruments, checking out songwriting tips from other songwriters- especially those who have proven themselves to be good at it - collaborating with other songwriters and musicians, entering competitions, and taking courses. Improving does not only apply to your skills, learning about the industry and how it works will also help you to better navigate it.
They keep trying
Every successful songwriter and major artist has had to deal with rejection at some point in their careers. The important thing is that they kept making music and continued trying to get a breakthrough, instead of caving in, when doors closed in their faces. Bruno Mars famously got turned down when he first tried to enter the pop music scene, fresh out of high school. He bounced back by spending a few years writing songs for other artists, which spread some good word of mouth about his talent, then went on to try his thing again. You will face rejections (and probably have already) during the course of your career, but you have to keep at it and remain positive.
While all of the above traits, and more, still won’t guarantee that you follow in the footsteps of household-name musicians, or even make a tiny splash, your chances of achieving your goals in music will be much higher.