The 7 Key Ingredients in the Secret Sauce to a Successful Music Career
The D.I.Y. Rock Career: Planning
Part 5 - The 7 Key Ingredients in the Secret Sauce to a Successful Music Career
Many artists believe that you have to either be incredibly lucky or sell your soul to become successful in the music industry.
Well, today, I want to dig into the 7 Key Ingredients in the Secret Sauce to Success as a Rock Band (or musician in general).
These are not the ONLY things you need in order to make it in the music business, but these 7 Key Ingredients will generally put you in a position to conquer a lot of the obstacles that come your way, and in the end, it will be up to you to determine how successful you become.
Also, I should note that even bands that “have it all” may not necessarily be happy with their lot in life, and if you are miserable due to the success of your band, then that is not an ideal situation.
So, let’s jump right in, and let me explain to you what the 7 Key Ingredients in the Secret Sauce to Success as a Rock Band are.
But first, let me quickly introduce myself.
My name is Isaac Kuhlman, and 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 to train people how to be 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.”
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 jump into the 7 Key Ingredients to the Secret Sauce to Success as a Rock Band, but
I will say that this step will only be possible if you actually do the 3 steps in the process I have laid out before this which are:
The reason you have to do all four of those is because you need to know what GOAL you are aiming for before you start to actually create the plan.
So, if you haven’t actually gone through those 3 parts, then I recommend you do that now. This article will still be here when you are done…AND ACTUALLY DO THE ACTIONS ON THOSE STEPS!
Now that you have gotten through those 4 steps, let's talk about the 7 Key Ingredients in the Secret Sauce to a Successful Music Career:
- Play music
- Love doing it
- A strong desire to progress your music career
- Believe in yourself and each member of the band
- Everyone must work hard
- Run your band like a business with roles and responsibilities
- NEVER QUIT!
One thing I want you to take on board for yourself right now REGARDLESS of any of the rest of the advice in this blog so far is this – You ARE good enough to achieve your goals!
How do I know this?
Well, if you play music, love doing it, and want to progress your music career, then your MINDSET is already making you good enough to do it.
As an example, I tell people that even though Nickelback is widely known for being a “bad rock band” (totally debatable, but highly mentioned), they STILL became a very successful rock band.
So, why is that?
Were they the most talented band in the world? No.
Did they have the best music in the world? Again, debatable, but most would say no.
So, what was it then that made them successful?
The mindset I mentioned above:
- They play music
- They like doing it
- They wanted to progress their music career
- They believed in themselves and each other
- They worked hard
- They created a band that ran like a business
- They NEVER QUIT!
If you pile all 7 of those ingredients together for you and your band, you are going to have a lot of good things come your way.
So, right now, I want you to understand that the ONLY reason you aren’t as successful as you want to be is a subset of limitations that you either placed on yourself or you just haven’t experienced yet.
For example, you may think, “We are never going to be famous. No one knows who we are.”
Of course that’s not true. SOME PEOPLE know who you are, and then in a few months, a some more people will, and so on and so on.
The whole point is there is momentum that builds when you consistently take action towards your goals, and that will inspire you to be more confident in taking chances that right now seem scary as hell.
I will give you a true story of a band that I have interviewed in 2022.
The band’s name is The Dreaded Laramie.
Ever heard of them?
Well, probably not – unless you follow our podcast or blog or our social media or really follow indie rock music (specifically near Nashville).
However, this band recorded an EP that got put out on Wiretap Records (a small indie label in Los Angeles, California), because they had worked to create some networking that allowed that to happen.
Then later in 2022, they decided to try something that seemed VERY difficult.
They put on a Kickstarter project that set a goal of $20,000 to help pay for their debut full-length album which is set to come out in 2023.
The band had less than 2000 followers on Instagram, and they had less than 600 likes on Facebook.
So, how in the hell was a band with such a small social media audience expecting to get $20k for an album?
They applied the 7 special sauce ingredients:
- They played music – lots of gigs in their area of Nashville and Lexington
- They LOVE doing it – people see their infectious positivity and want to help
- They wanted to progress their music career – They took steps every day and week to help get them closer to taking that big, giant leap
- They believed in themselves and each other – The band is a tight-knit group who want to “make it” together
- They worked hard – They went on podcasts, played shows, talked to fans, engaged with other bands, etc..
- They created a band that ran like a business – Each member brings different things to their band (though they may not have business roles necessarily, they do have things each person is good at)
- They NEVER QUIT!
The project went for 28 days from memory, and they got over $21,000 in backing to fund their album.
I want to make it clear that I had NOTHING to do with their ability to do this. I just know this band, and I think they are a great example of an indie band who got the funding they needed without having to sell their soul to a record company so that they could make the music they wanted to make.
Their fans “bought in” to their success going forward.
You may not be in a position to do something like this yet, but maybe you are. Maybe you are just afraid to try it.
Or maybe you are closer than you think.
Every single person you interact with that likes your music is essentially an “investor” in your band as long as they buy merch, your music, talk about you, support you or whatever. They can “invest” in your success in a number of ways.
They are not a “transaction” though. Don’t ever think that I am telling you that every fan should just be looked at with dollar signs above their heads.
These are passionate, friendly, and helpful people that if you treat them well, respect them, don’t abuse your relationship with them, and you give them the music they love, they will keep supporting you until you decide to hang up the instruments for good.
Right now, I want you to go into your practice space pick up your instrument and bust out a loud chord strum, hit a sweet beat, or just yell out loud, “My band is awesome!” to help you externalize what you already feel.
You will almost instantly put a smile on your face and renew your motivation in your band’s success.
Stay tuned to this blog for more help on how to create an income for yourself and your band.
This is just the start of something that you can really do for yourself and your band, and the more detailed pieces are still to come.
And 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.