WHY Do You Want to Become a Successful Musician?
The D.I.Y. Rock Career: Planning
Part 1 - WHY Do You Want to Become a Successful Musician?
One thing that a lot of musicians are going to ask themselves over the years as they try hard to become successful is, “Why am I not successful as a musician?”
Even if that person makes decent money by using their musical skills to earn income, they are likely comparing themselves to a bigger target that they haven’t hit yet.
Has that ever happened to you?
Have you ever felt like no matter how much momentum you gain with your band, you still haven’t gotten where you want to in your musical career?
Do you know why you are even playing music?
You know that any job on earth is likely to pay you more money than the average musician makes from their original music, right?
You could work at Starbucks for $15/hour and in one month make more than most bands make in a year from their music.
Sounds pretty dismal, but, of course, the “average band” is also determined by taking into account that a ton of bands don’t ever make a single dollar from their music because they either give up or grow out of playing music due to them not becoming successful fast enough.
Most people who start a band or play music don’t believe they will ever get to the point where they can make a real career out of it, and they will stop focusing on that career.
Today, I want you to really dig deep into your psyche to unravel the mystery that is put in front of you, and that is the answer to the question of, “WHY do you want to have a career as a paid musician?”
There are definitely different ways to make money as a musician, but for most artists, they want to be known for their original songs, and have a fanbase that adores their music.
Sounds great, but that path is an immensely difficult one to achieve.
So, knowing that the road is treacherous, you statistically have very little chance of achieving your goals, and combine that with an industry that is focused heavily on pop, hip-hop, country and EDM types of music right now, WHY GOD WHY would you ever want to start a rock band and try to make a career out of it?
Let’s dig into that topic today, because I think you will be highly rewarded for your efforts.
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.
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 reading is hard for a lot of people. Understanding what you are reading is even more difficult.
Before we even get into the goal’s of your band, I want you to give yourself a real hard look in the mirror and ask yourself this very monumental question:
“Why do I even want to play music for a career?”
Because well over 90% of all bands never make enough money to live off of from their music alone.
So, if almost no bands ever make a living from their music, then why in the hell would you turn around and try to do something that is seemingly so difficult?
You better have a REALLY good answer to this question too, because at the end of the day, if your reason for wanting to play music isn’t greater than your current level of comfortability, you will not achieve your goals.
What do I mean by that?
Basically, if you are living a life that you are comfortable with, and you don’t really want it to change much other than you make money from music, you are probably not going to have a strong enough desire to do what it takes to become successful.
Have a spouse and kids?
Well, what if I told you that you need to leave them for 150 days of the next year in order to become successful at music? (This is just hypothetical right now.)
What if it was 250 days of the next year and 150 days of the year ongoing for the next 10 years?
Are you willing to really commit to that?
Are you willing to quit your job once you have enough income to cover your absolute minimum bills from your music knowing that you may have to sell your house and scale down your expenses in order to move forward with your career?
Of course, if you have no house, no spouse, and no kids, then you have less “life responsibilities” to worry about, but you still have to eat, have some place to sleep, and keep yourself healthy and safe.
Are you willing to put yourself in uncomfortable circumstances to achieve your goals?
I don’t mean criminal or illegal situations, but for example, are you willing to eat instant ramen noodles for weeks on end to make sure you have enough gas to get from place to place?
Do you know how to maintain a diet that will give you enough energy to do so?
Are you willing to cut down on drinking so that you can save costs on tour and not spend everything you make?
Do you see how there are several sacrifices you will have to make to help your band become more successful?
So, I am going to ask you again:
“Why do I even want to play music for a career?”
The chances of you not achieving your goals are high (statistically).
Of course, the vast majority of bands don’t actually have any sort of plan or any executable actions that they are taking to progress their music forward.
Most bands make songs, release them, and then play shows without ever really knowing how to capitalize on each part of that process (and many other parts of the process as well).
I want you to craft a rock solid “WHY” for yourself and have everyone in your band do the same thing, because if you are not all aligned now, it will definitely cause rifts in your friendship and in your band later.
Exercise - Ask yourself what is your WHY?
A “why” is the reason you would bang your head into a brick wall 1000 times to accomplish your goal.
Simply put, WHY do you want this to work more than anything in the world, and why will you NEVER STOP until you make it work?
Notice I said “never stop” in there. Well, as psychotic as it sounds, this is actually the ONLY difference between people who are successful at something and those that are still struggling or who give up entirely.
People quit on their dreams all the time. Living your dream life is probably one of the hardest things that you can possibly attempt. That’s why it’s dubbed a “dream life.”
Of course, if you alter your dreams to match your reality, you can still be happy in the life that you create. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I know that most people will feel a bit of a hole inside knowing that they didn’t push harder to go out and reach for their dreams.
As they say, “You WHY should make you cry.” So, don’t pull any punches here.
Think to yourself, “How will you feel if you don’t achieve your goals for your music?”
The path to success is rarely paved. It is usually full of dead ends, bumpy roads, stormy weather, bad luck, and other misfortunes that will make a cynic of even the most optimistic musicians.
So when things go wrong, you will need to fall back on your “WHY” and grit your teeth and push through the challenges, get over your obstacles, and use the pain and experience of the setbacks to make you a better person and a better musician.
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.