How to Know What It Means to be a Successful Band or Musician
The D.I.Y. Rock Career: Planning
Part 2 - How to Know What It Means to be a Successful Band or Musician
Have you dreamt of becoming a successful musician?
Do you know exactly what “successful” means when it comes to building a music career?
Most people assume you have to be playing arenas and get on the radio to be successful, but I can tell you that there are a lot of bands who are doing really well for themselves and living out their dreams without ever selling out an arena or ever having a hit song on the radio.
So, what IS success then?
Well, that’s what I would like to talk to you about today, because not every musician is successful in the same way, and some of those musicians who sell out arenas aren’t always happy with the lifestyle that comes with it.
Would you call someone “successful” who is miserable in their career?
Today, I want to help you create what your vision of success will look like for you and your music career so that you have absolutely NO DOUBT in your mind when you have hit your goal.
Also, once you hit milestones, you can even update your goals and vision, but let’s start with the first step of getting your vision created.
But first, let me quickly introduce myself.
My name is Isaac Kuhlman, and no I am not a world famous musician.
Nor am I even a paid musician by career.
And no, I don’t have a background from a record label.
You might be thinking, “Well, then why the heck am I even reading this then?”
You would be smart to question the advice of someone who is not “living the life” of the thing they are talking about.
Why am I even talking about music then?
Well, rock music is my absolute passion.
I have played guitar since I was 11 years old (and still do) as well as drums, sing/songwrite, and play bass guitar.
I am also actively involved in the promotion of rock music through my podcast The Powered By Rock Podcast, our social media platforms, through community and local rock music involvement in Las Vegas, and through the website poweredbyrock.com which has articles, album reviews, gear to help musicians, and more.
The reality is that I am putting out this information to help my high school self and ANYONE else who is like that kid wishing to someday play for big crowds and record albums that people love.
And if there was ANY available information for me when I was in a punk band in high school on how I could actually make a career out of it, I would probably still be an active musician.
I will also tell you that I have been a part of online business consulting programs that have done over $5 million dollars developing business owners on becoming better at running their businesses.
On top of that, I have helped build e-commerce brands that have done over $13 million dollars in sales since 2013.
Does all of that revenue come back to me in the form of profit?
Hell no. I wish it did, but that’s not how business works.
And guess what…that’s not how bands work either.
Because whether you like to admit it or not, EVERY band is a business. Let me say that again, because a lot of artists want to believe in the carefree attitude of, “No, we are just jamming and having fun.”
That’s all fine and great, but as soon as you play ONE SHOW, write ONE SONG, record ONE TRACK, or even purchase ONE INSTRUMENT, you are making a business decision with your band.
EVERY BAND IS A BUSINESS. This goes for solo artists/musicians as well.
So, what does a guy who has run successful businesses and helped consult on and turn around business to be more successful know about helping bands make money then?
I would answer that question with one of my favorite self quotes I have used for years: “Business is business is business.”
Meaning, all businesses run on pretty much the same concepts, and to have a successful business, you need to follow the right advice, make great plans, execute the plans, create a great company culture, and so many other things that anyone who is NOT aptly prepared to run a business probably shouldn’t be trying to make money with their music either.
Hopefully, that makes it pretty clear as to why you might want to listen to me and not Tommy Lee or some other rockstar who likely doesn’t know the ins and outs of business but really just capitalized on their band’s management to help them achieve success.
Because, in the end, your band’s success depends equally on how well it is MANAGED as much as how great the music is.
And when you first start your journey as a band (heck, maybe even for years…or even forever) you will be managing your band to a large extent.
So, let's actually figure out what it means to be "successful" as a rock band or musician, because that answer is different for every artist.
I will say that this step will only be possible if you actually do the action from the last step in the process I have laid out before this which is:
The whole process is chronological, and it is based on 8 or so years of developing proper training habits with business people. If you skip steps, you are just ensuring that your band is not going to stay on the right path.
So, it's best to head to that first step if you haven't done so already and create your WHY statement.
INDIE ARTIST SECRET - Most bands fail because they don’t even know what it is they are trying to achieve!
“I want to be rich and famous.”
“I want to never have to work a day job and only play music for money.”
“I want to sell out arenas and make millions.”
If you looked at those statements, you might ASSUME that those are goals, right?
Well, in business, we don’t refer to those as goals. We refer to statements like these as “aspirations.” Basically, they are your HOPES that one day something may come true, and you will fulfill your destiny that you have for yourself.
Anyone that knows anything about any business will tell you that a GOAL is actually something that has a PLAN attached to it.
There is a famous saying that expresses this perfectly:
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Then how do you actually figure out what it is that you want to achieve with your music?
Great question, and I applaud you for getting this far into the article, because most people can’t even read a 5 minute article to help them understand their own goals of their music career. That means you already have a leg up on them in a competitive industry.
So, how do you know what “success” even means for your band?
When will you know that you have “become successful?”
The only way I know how to answer this question for you is for you to create a Vivid Vision for your band’s “success” so YOU know when you have “become successful.”.
I want to state for the record that the idea of the Vivid Vision comes directly from Cameron Herald and his book Vivid Vision.
It’s an immensely useful concept that I will explain here in Layman's terms.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”
I want you to read that sentence again, and if it still doesn’t make sense, read it again.
Lincoln knew before modern music and even a lot of modern businesses were created that if you want something to happen, the best way to make it happen is to actually go out and start doing it now, and create that for yourself.
Literally, this is the best way to predict your own future.
Does this mean you just go out and play music and hope things get better?
Hopes and prayers may be good enough for some people’s belief to get you into Heaven, but they have little to no effect on the real world (sorry to any religious folk reading this who are looking to be a rock star).
The reality is you need to start creating the vision you want for your band and make decisions every day and every week that get you one step closer to achieving your goal.
To create a Vivid Vision for your success, I want you to imagine you are three years into the future. You are in your own body, but things are different now.
You wake up. You are more fulfilled than you have ever been. You are excited about what you are going to do that day. You are happy about what you have accomplished over the past 3 years to get you to this point (“future memories”), and most of all, you are happy with your balance between your music and your personal life.
The exercise I want you to do is to write out about a page or two of what it is like to wake up in that body 3 years in the future knowing that you have accomplished a big goal for you and your music.
Write out what is happening in your day. What steps did you take over the last 3 years that got you to this place? Who did you meet and/or take advice from that got you pointed in the right direction? What goal did you set for yourself, and how did you hit it?
Remember what Lincoln said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”
You will LITERALLY be writing out your future, and giving yourself a step-by-step plan to achieving it.
Even if you don’t know the nitty gritty details of what the processes may be yet (which if you did, you should already be doing those things) you can still write out ideas and thoughts that will help you achieve your goals.
For example, will you playing 50+ shows a year help you get more fans?
What if you only ever played all 50 shows in the same venue to the same 100-200 people without finding any new fans?
Well, then there is probably no growth or incentive to keep playing that show unless you are making a good paycheck from that venue (which most indie bands almost never do).
So, what I want you to do right now is to build out your Vivid Vision for your music career over the next 3 years using our Vivid Vision template.
Be very descriptive as this will ingrain the smells, sounds, feelings, and thoughts of your future successful self into your PRESENT DAY SELF!
Seriously, it might even make you smile on a regular basis when you think about it!
Keep your eyes peeled for more blogs on how to help your band grow into an entity that can actually pay you for making the music that you want to make.