Finding success can be difficult for anyone regardless of their field or career path. However, it feels like musicians and artists have it even harder when it comes to both defining and feeling successful. This is partially because of the way that the society around us views success in the arts. It is a much more subjective and arbitrary definition than it is in other fields. For an accountant, having a full-time position at an accounting firm is considered a success. Even if that firm itself is a smaller-tier firm that doesn’t handle major budgets or big accounts. In the arts, though, this simply isn’t the case.
Artists and musicians are often expected to have more than one job, more than one skill in case their art career fails, and a variety of other safety nets to fall back on when they inevitably become another starving artist. It’s a brutal world out there for creatives.
For as arbitrary as success is in the world of art and music, the following are a few benchmarks of success for musicians to look out for. Don’t worry if you’re not there yet, there are also active steps you can take as a musician to develop some of these so you can find success as a musician or artist however you define that individually.
1. A Loyal Following
One of the first you’re going to want to establish as a musician is a loyal base following. These are the fans that discover you at your very beginning, or close to it, and like you so much that they follow your career for its entirety. Historically, the only way a new or upstart musician could really develop a loyal following was through local performances or gigs they’d book around town. Now, though, with the help and power of the internet, musicians have a whole playground of options in front of them when it comes to releasing their sound to the public.
That means it can be a little bit easier for a musician starting out to garner some traction and build a following. After learning how to upload music to Spotify you can release your tracks and albums for users to stream all around the world on the super popular music streaming app.
This whole music upload process can be made even easier with the help of a music distribution service. A music distribution service can handle all the logistics surrounding your Spotify and Apple Music uploads so that you can truly focus on your art.
2. A Unique Sound
Hand-in-hand with a loyal following is developing a unique sound that your fans can almost immediately identify. Think about classic stars like Bob Dylan or modern-day musicians like Billie Eilish who have incredibly unique sounds that they carry with them throughout the entirety of their careers. This isn’t to say that you can’t change or evolve your sound or the type of music you produce as a musician, either. Rather, developing and embracing a unique sound and feel to your music will give it that extra layer of atmospheric delivery that makes certain artists stand so far beyond the rest. A good example here would be someone like Childish Gambino whose sound evolves with every album he’s released.
3. Charisma and Chemistry
Performance is an extremely important part of finding success as a musician. This is for a number of reasons, including that many artists earn the most when going on tour and selling concert tickets. However, it’s also because when playing live, audiences expect at least a little bit of a spectacle to be involved.
Having that ‘it-factor’, as it’s been referred to many times throughout history, can truly be the difference between a good musician and an excellent one.
Just like anything else in life, making a career as a musician is so often about who you know and not what you know. It isn’t exactly fair, but this seems to be the case in almost any industry.
This is yet another reason that it pays to go on tour, to collaborate with other artists, and to be an active participant in the community of your musicianship. You never know where a simple conversation can lead.
5. Seizing Opportunities
Finally, it’s vital that as a musician, artist, or any type of professional, you seize the opportunities that come your way. When you’re starting out, this can include all of the little gigs that you manage to drum up, no matter the compensation. As you grow, though, you can be more discerning with your work and your collaborations, and slowly raise your standards.
Putting in the work will certainly lead you to the reward.
It isn’t easy being a musician or an artist of any kind in today’s day and age. Understanding that artists are subjected to a completely different scale of success should hopefully give you some piece of mind as you work toward building your loyal following, your unique sound, and ultimately your career as a musician.