20 steps on how to be successful in a music career

20 steps on how to be successful in a music career
Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason performed at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on May 19.

Are you aspiring to pursue music as a career? Do you want to venture into the music industry but still lack any slightest idea on how to begin?

This blog pays attention to major aspects and systematic explanations on how to become successful in the music industry. This guide will be helpful to bands, independent artists, performing artists, singer-songwriters, rappers, instrumentalists as well as producers.

It helps those who want to sign with major music labels. It is worth mentioning that with the presence of the internet, musicians no longer depend on music labels to become successful in their music careers. You can do it yourself as long as you following this guide.

It is vital to acknowledge the fact that signing a label is still beneficial. It provides connections, expertise, as well as resources that can expand your music. The only downtime on this is the fact that you have spent a lot of money. This will not go well with aspiring musicians who need to save as much money as possible. In the music industry, what matters is to own that piece and becoming fully in charge.

Is it hard to make it in the music industry?

Being successful in the music industry is very challenging, and only the fearless and hard workers achieve it. With good music, you can go far. Selling in the music industry is a big problem. That is why you need to learn more about this industry before embarking on singing. It might not be what you always think it is.

How to identify yourself in the music industry

As mentioned earlier, the music industry is a big one, and you must always be smart. Be prepared to play anywhere, use social media platforms to sell your music, be an excellent singer as well as instrumentalists, play anywhere, establish an EPK, and always practice your music.

Becoming successful in the music industry is quite complicated. It requires much cash to produce and promote your piece and becoming fully in charge of every aspect regarding it. In most cases, beginner artists duped, and in the course of everything, they lose interest in this industry. Do not give up yet; we have researched and assembled the top 20 steps on how to be successful in a music career, as discussed below:

1. Strategize and have your goals

Are you sure that you want to become an artist? Do you have an idea of what you want to achieve in the music industry?

Have your goals ready? you must have an idea of where you want to go and how you will get there. If you are new in this industry and you have no idea, then do your research and consult with other experts. Do not waste time, plan, and set your goals right.

Artists have different motives when they join this industry. Some only want to synchronize licensing deals for commercial as well as movies while others just want to perform as they tour the world. Others, on the other side specializing in producing tracks for other artists. What is your take? Do you want to create your label as well as a band?

Make your goals unique; do not set them just because your fans have the same goals. They must be achievable. Make your goals flexible so that you can change them as you gain more experience.

There is no doubt that we are in the 21st century, where the internet is dominating across the world. Even though most people would advise, you that since you can promote your name and brand on the internet now, you do not need to move to a bigger city to sell your music, you do not need to make a name within your local area and attend all the concerts in the city. Well, all these aspects are still crucial in optimizing your chances of success in this industry.

2. Find a way to make a living

Most talented and aspiring artists fail terribly in this industry simply because they leave everything behind and head to the city to practice singing. This is more fantasy than reality.

You cannot make a living off music right away. It can only be possible for individuals who have built up a strong following through different industries, and they are earning already. Nonetheless, to be successful in the music industry, you must do something else that pays for your bills and practice music as part-time until to become successful.

Do not forget that many artists out there have tried to go into this industry without looking into how they would survive? They think that striving is somehow a motivation, but that is not the case. Your life must come first.

Anyone can pursue music, but not everyone can succeed. A new artist should find and do something that provides for your daily need is equally very important.

As an adult, on the other hand, you should find something to do. Most artists for r at least 9 hours a day then make third music. Did you know that such dedicated artists still find time to perform at shows in the evenings? Keep in mind that success in the music industry has a lot to do with working smart and dedicated. It is a long process, and it takes time to transform you into a full-time musician.

Some artists have made it through working as an intern in a firm or position related to music such as music schools, studios, venues, and labels, to mention but a few.

Working and making music as a sideway job does not mean that you do not study it. Learn all the mechanics of cash flows in this industry. The main cash flows in the music industry are; selling merch, live performance, music licensing, and touring, among others.

3. Your music career should be your #1 business idea

Treat your music career as your business. One of the things that most people do to succeed in business is learning how to manage it properly to increase profit.

In simple reality, let the music be your product, such as the physical copies. Due to advancing technology, this aspect changed; today, your commodity is your brand; hence you can only monetize via merch as well as tickets.

It is important to consider the following for your music:

  • Get acquainted with branding and apply it
  • Come up with a good marketing strategy
  • Know your target audience
  • Choose your genre
  • Protect your music
  • Set a budget for marketing for the music
  • Create a good business plan
  • Hire a manager
  • Hire an accountant to handle your finances

4. Hire a lawyer to help you in the contract signing

You may like to hire other professionals to help you out in your business. You should do a lot of research regarding the same and understand what to expect. A lawyer will guide you and help you sign all your contracts accordingly.

5. Learn more about other musicians’ business concept

Learning the business concept of music is an important aspect, especially amongst the musicians who hate business. If you are good at business and you like doing business apart from singing, then you must select a team that can help you in either way. Learn how to sign contracts, written documentation regarding copyright ownership details, operation agreements, rules, payment expectations, and decision-making, among other things.

6. Always be positive in your music career

Being yourself and positive in your career is very important. It makes you resistant to the bad things people say about you.

Do not take things personally because this can interfere with your career. Did you know that there are about 80,000 albums released annually? Out of all these, only 0.25% that is 200 albums, becomes heat. You have to be optimistic about succeeding in this industry.

7. Give it your best and observe excellence

This should apply to all the things you do. As the saying goes, charity begins at home; learn to lower your expectation. Observe excellence in your music. Give music your best and never should not accept mediocrity.

Learn more from the available music teachers who are conversant with the music theory as well as its appreciation. Find out what successful musicians in the industry are doing. Learn from them.

Listen to all music regardless of their genre. Get the message and appreciate the beauty.

Note that it is the foundation that you lay your own today plus the essentials that you have learned that will determine your success in the music industry.

8. Continue composing music and improve the craft

Making music sounds easy, but it is quite complicated. There is a lot of music content produced in the market regularly. Being on par with this competition requires artists to make more music. How often can you make good content? For a new musician, it is challenging to balance music and your business. Most people prefer writing as many music pieces as possible before embarking on the recording. This will give you time to concentrate on your business as you work on your music as well. This is the best time to concentrate on improving the quality of your music.

You can only succeed in the music industry if you have quality songs that will become a heat within no time. In other words, a good song helps to aspire, and new artists jump-start their careers.

Most artists fail in the music industry simply because they believe that their talent is all they need. Well, this is wrong. Many other factors to consider are such as promotion as well as work ethic. Talent is a necessity, but it will not translate into a good song that will expose you to this industry.

According to research, promoting your song is as important as the song itself. The secret behind the success in this industry is quality music, marketing as well as push your song to new audiences. It does not matter whether your song is new or old because, to some people, it will always be a new song.

Refine your talent and keep working on your skills. Practice makes it perfect, whether you are a signer, a rapper, or a producer, always exercise and learn more.

Russ is an example of an artist to watch for in the music industry because of his talent, hard words, unusual pieces, and promotion skills. Recently he signed a record deal with Colombia Records. He increases his fan base from the ground by releasing free songs every week.

Do not copy other artists, but you can improve your skills and talent through learning from them. Make sure that you are in the right place that promotes your emotional, physical, and financial comfort.

It is also crucial to produce good sound quality in your music. Make it sound better in different speaker systems. Today, you can record music using your laptop as well as quality equipment. Select the right acoustic setting to ensure quality.

9. Create a good professional peer group to form a sounding board

Some people would opt for family and friends. This is not advisable, though, because, in most cases, they do not give a genuine opinion.

Seek constructive guidance from music professionals as you set realistic goals and expectations. Network properly because this is what forms your net worth.

First, you need to develop relationships within the local community as well as music scenes. You can network within your school, neighborhood as well as city. Develop music relationships by understanding different venues. Consul with local artists and all those how are in music. Some people build local support groups as motivation.

Make good use of the network other than developing a fan base. Take advantage of the networking opportunities, particularly approaching the relevant online communities that support local artists. This will open other opportunities for you as you can meet other artists and collaborate with them.

Networking builds relationships, thus enabling you to mingle with other artists for colorations, booking agents, managers, and photographers. From here, you will form a good team to work with. It is advisable to form a team that is at the same level because they believe in you, and they are likely to support your work.

According to artists with experience in the music industry, “relationships are the key to success in the music industry,” thus, the early you start forming your team the better.

10. Create an online presence

Some artists take music as their hobby while others as their profession. In business, presentation is essential. Treat your music not only as a career but as a business as well. You have to present yourself as an artist all the time. If you always look like an amateur, then your fans will associate you with low quality.

Work on the quality of visuals, including graphics, photos, and videos, to ensure your online presence.

Work with a professional photographer to get high-quality photos of your band as well as yourself. These pictures may be used on your bio, social media as well as website. Always have a lengthy discussion with your photographer so that you can plan how specific shots or upcoming events employed in the future.

Advice your photographer to cover long as well as close-up shots and orientations to allow you to use different photos in the right place.

There is no doubt that as a beginner, you might not be in a position to pay a graphic designer. Learn to do things on your own. Make good use of merch designs, logos, and album covers. How about considering a Free app known as Canva to help you with the graphics?.

Set up and optimize your social media accounts. You can as well consider a professional website. Use a Squarespace to help in creating a website.

Register a domain name and maintain consistency by using a similar name as all your social media usernames. Check all the available domain names from

Create a good impression with your website as well as a strong brand is essential. Do not rely on SoundCloud alone to ensure your online presence.

11. Create a good artist name or brand

Establish a good brand that will identify and distinguish you from others in this industry. This important aspect will help you promote your music to the right audience. You must know yourself and create self-awareness to establish your brand. Not everyone will like your music, create your brand, and let potential fans make their decision regarding your music.

Your brand, as well as artist name, can change as well as evolve. New artists should start with a simple but beautiful name that they can commit to it. Choose a simple brand easy to remember.

Choose a unique brand; you can think about your hoot, story as well as a nugget. This name should be authentic, and your fans can easily connect and associate with it.

What makes you an artist? Sit down and think deeply regarding your music. Put it down on paper in a simple line. Mention whether you are a female artist or a male rapper. State your location, California or New York. Mention to your fans what music you are releasing soon, your hobbies, styles, and the kind of scenes, lifestyles, and interests other than music.

12. Influence people through value in your music

Getting publicity as a new musician is not easy. In most cases, new artists hire professionals such as bloggers, influencers, tastemakers as well as playlists to expose their work and help them become popular. This implies individuals who have a large audience of followers. With good music worthy of attention, be sure that this will make you popular within no time.

Most artists will not get a chance for promotion whenever they request it. As an artist, ask yourself how promoting you help them.

Keep in mind that in the music industry, it is not easy for people to help you out of goodness. Sometimes it needs connections, or you need to prove yourself.

This requires effort and hard work. Understand your value as an artist. How can you make good use of this value to influence your followers? New artists must first provide value before leveraging.

In the recent past, to be successful in the music industry, you must first offer your music for free to build a following. The value that you could possess has good music that makes influencers look genuine in front of your audiences.

How about having a large, engaged audience that can get your popular playlist additional exposure?

For local press as well, there are media entities that you need to engage hence a unique story that will be helpful.

Do not rely more on what you want than a perspective. The music and audience built is already good news. Leveraging your story is also possible.

13. An artist must learn and understand all the basics of music copyright laws

You must protect your music against piracy. To avoid piracy, you should copyright your music properly.

Make your music safe and protected against piracy by copyrighting and recording. Register your music with the copyright office to offer further protection. This will also serve as evidence that you are the original developer of that piece.

Do you know that you can become a victim of copyright infringement? If you do not copyright your music, then you are likely to become a victim. According to some A&R from a major label, it is easy to scout some songs from newer artists and check if, indeed, the song copyrighted. In case the artist is not registered, these people would easily steal your music. This is a popular occurrence in the recent past. Know your rights as an artist, and take precautions before it is too late.

If you are not sure how to register your music, then do your research and have all the facts right. Start learning from copyright basics and learn the registration process.

Know exactly what you can and cannot do as a producer, especially if they are into making beats as well as using samples to avoid potential legal action.

Band and group artists must figure out how to split ownership over the musical composition that they create to avoid misunderstandings in the future.

14. Find opportunities to perform as much as possible

You must find opportunities to perform if you want to be successful in the music industry. Some people would prefer to produce music solely behind the scenes while others want to sing for other licensed artists or the rest of their lives. Not unless you want to be like this forever

Live performances boost your income source as the record sales diminish with time. This is the time that upcoming artists should promote their music, especially amongst other people who may not have heard your music.

Practice live performance and make yourself as comfortable as possible. Make good use of this opportunity and improve your work. Acquire more skills, practice as well as experience to grow better.

Record all your live performances, and based on your feedback, improve as much as possible. It is always a good idea to earn from your mistakes. Watch live performances of your favorite or competitors and study them well.

Some new artists may not be in a position to get paid performance. This should not discourage you. You can start performing in family gatherings, as well as open music in schools, churches, and communities.

Some people hire booking agents that can be costly for new artists. Show your fans that you can get those shows alone through your talent and quality music.

15. Build a team

As discussed earlier, to take your music career to a higher level, you must build your team. Some artists run and manage their music career alone, though this is not advisable. Even though it is good to be creative, it will be difficult to be successful in the music industry alone. Identify competent people that you trust and work with. They will help to control and flourish your future in a music career.

As a beginner, you should take your time and do things alone as you learn how things operate in the music industry. This will help you identify some of the jobs as well as tasks that you need to outsource and save your time.

There is no doubt that at this point, you would love to access as well as work with many people that you have met. You have identified their potential, and you think that they can be part of your team.

Tips for choosing the right personnel for your team:

  • Find out if they have personal goals as well as aspirations. Of course, they also need motivation just like you. There is no point in working with someone more interested in making money than values. They must have their own achievable goals that are almost similar o yours.
  • They must have good values; it is important to work with people who view the world from their same perspective as you. There is no need to work with someone who does not like your music. How will they promote it in the first place if they do not like it? find out if you like your team and how much you are willing to spend more time with them
  • They should practice good communication skills. They must respond well to all the feedback that your fans leave on your page. Keep in mind that some people out there suck when it comes to getting back at people. Working with such people annoys and frustrates.

An artist would look for before establishing their team. Let it a team of people who are willing to grow with you and give you genuine feedback. They should not take advantage of you at any cost.

The following people can make a good team for the growth of your career:

  • Assistants
  • Managers
  • Photographer as well as videographer
  • Booking agent
  • Entertainment attorney
  • Marketing strategists

16. Learn how to distribute your music properly online

Becoming popular and successful in the music industry is quite tricky. However, at times, things can surprise you, especially if you post your music on YouTube and Soundcloud, then you become popular, just like that. Well, you need good distribution is that it can reach as many music platforms as possible. For your music to reach major outlets such as Google Play, Apple Music, Amazon Music, iTunes, and Spotify, to mention but a few, you must work with a good distributor.

Renowned online music distributors:

The sites mentioned above will enable you to get your music to major streaming as well as digital sales platforms. You will not have to go through record companies. These sites offer different costs, tools as well as a feast. Take your time and get the fast right before opting for one.

17. Learn how to earn royalties from the music

Earning royalties is quite confusing and complicated. We are going to discuss earning royalties in detail:
In the music industry, songwriters, recording artists, music composers as well as music producers have different income streams collected from the music as it plays as well as used in different ways. For instance, if you upload your music on platforms such as YouTube, Pandora as well as Spotify, you earn some money like the one every time listeners stream you stream your music is.

Types of royalties:

  1. Synchronization
  2. Mechanical
  3. Performance

Even though most new artists do not consider joining a Performance Rights Organization (PRO), consider this necessity. One of the major functions of a PRO is collecting publishing royalties generated from your music. Earn royalties when you perform live or when you play music. Do not ignore this factor because this is an excellent income to sustain you. Sign up with PRO and enjoy their help.

In the USA, you can consider the following for traditional performance royalties:

  • SEAC
  • BMI

For digital performance royalties, you can consider the following:

  • SoundExchange

18. Make yourself mentally ready and stable for the long haul

The music industry is a tough one, and your success does not come on a silver plate. You have to work tirelessly and smartly. Do not be discouraged.

Sometimes your first song or second can only receive a maximum number of 20 streams on YouTube or Spotify. These streams are likely from your friends, relatives, and college mates. Do not give up yet; eventually, you will receive thousands or even millions. Keep in mind that popularity takes a lot of time and probably works just to build your name. Do not panic simply because you received 20, and your friends are in millions. Take your time, understand the industry, and go at your own pace. Make sure that you are as comfortable as possible.

In the music industry, you are likely to face rejection, turned down most of the time, ignored, and receive the worst feedback. That is part of life; we are just realistic here. You will get embarrassed in your show but learn to take this positively. When you emerge as a winner in the future, you will enjoy being a celebrity.

It is all challenging, especially because you are still pursuing your education; you have a job and practicing music at the same time.

Do not do this alone; you might be overwhelmed in between. I bet you have an artist out there that you can work with. Someone that you can confine in either musician friend or family, seek his or her advice every time you feel like you need one.

Always have the right mindset.

19. Learn and invest in yourself

Music, as a career, is quite demanding. You have to be fashionable, you have to do quite a lot of things that your fans would like you to do, and sometimes, you have to go beyond borders just to make it. It is all about investing in you. You must be willing to work extra hard and learn new things as you get things done.

You must have money to build a career in the music industry. You will need to hire a photographer, a blogger, and develop your website. Sometimes you will be required to hire a designer, CD presser, and a manager to transpose your music and enable you to perform in venues. Music is like a business; you have to put up some capital and the best commodities to be on par with the competition. You should invest in yourself properly so that you can achieve high-quality music.

Your fans cannot just invest in you.

Other than having some money, you also need to invest a lot of time in learning and making music altogether.

Time is money; hence, you invest either your money or time. You need time to understand the creative aspects of music production as well as practicing music as a business. Prepare yourself to do many studies in the music industry, if you want to succeed. Moreover, as a new artist, you will have to do many things by yourself.

An independent artist, the opportunity of being successful comes with a lot of challenges and responsibilities. You have to do everything on your own. A musician who practices it just as a hobby and not a full-time professional may not have what it takes to succeed in this industry. It is worth mentioning that a music career comprises of many things such as experience, education, talent, performance as well as experience to develop. You are just artists. You are not an accountant, an entertainment attorney, or a marketer; hence you need to do your research and find out what to expect from other professionals’ services.

One of the best methods that have helped most starting musicians is opting for online courses for development. Access Skillshare, a website that offers different types of courses, including music and business, and is acquainted. The site provides these courses at affordable prices. Moreover, there are two monthly free trials that offer many courses as well. You can sign up for a free trial and study for two months, and if the course did not meet your expectation, then you can opt out.

20. Do not do things because your fans are asking you to do so

We need a large fan base for us to prosper in the music industry, but you have to be very careful. Not all fans love your work. Some are your enemies and are out to destroy you. Well, it is right to go through all the feedbacks that they provide and react accordingly. Nevertheless, do not do things just because your fans asked you to do them. This can be the end of your career.

Some of the comments written on your social media pages are genuine, while others are not. Some are after your downfall; hence are careful about how you go about them.

It is also essential to know the industry. The music industry is such a big one that comprises a lot of talents, hobbies, and expertise. Know exactly what you want, be fully in control, and build as many connections as possible.

Wrapping up 20 steps on how to be successful in a music career

We have just learned that the music industry is such large only the best singers and instrumentalists become successful. On the other hand, music is more of a business, but as new artists, we should not rely on it to pay our bills. We can attest that the above-discussed steps are helpful, especially for the spring musicians. Music relaxes our minds and soothes our hearts hence always nourish this industry with good content all the time to keep the spirit going. Now you can easily become successful in the music industry through the above-discussed steps.

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