What Is Success In Music? – Part 2: Get It OUT There!!!
It’s been over three decades now that I’ve been a musician.
I first started out as a singer. I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember and will probably continue ’til I can’t take a breath and go join the largest choir ever amassed.
Then, in middle school, I joined the marching band and started my long journey as a multi-instrumentalist.
Music is all I ever wanted to do. Still is. I’ve seen many answers to the question of “what is success in music?”.
How grateful I am then to have done so much music, in so many countries, for so many years in front of thousands of people.
But there’s one thing I’ve learned that I wish someone would’ve told me when I was still a teenager… something not so much about music as it is about career strategy.
This is it:
Get recordings of your music out to the public, in any way possible, as soon as possible.
If there is any success to be generated from your music, following this advice will get you there quicker.
My Latest “Out”
As an example of the dedication you should have if you’re taking music seriously, here is my latest release, called “11 Miles From London“.
For info about the story, lyrics, production, etc. VISIT OUR WEBSITE. I release most of my material under the music project there called “The Abacus Path“.
I actually wrote this song in Canterbury, England in 1989! Sometimes a song comes out when it’s fresh, and other times…it has to age for a while. LoL
Couldn’t be happier with the outcome though. Take a listen and go through and journey with me through the heart of a homeless man in southern England.
Out is Better Than In
Now that you see that I “practice what I preach”, let’s take a look at the first reason to record your music and distribute it:
An unfinished, unrecorded, unplayed-to-an-audience song, kept inside you, might as well never exist.
Don’t get me wrong… I’ve got hundreds of song fragments that I’ve not finished. Any songwriter does.
The only reason those are unfinished is that there are hundreds more that I DID finish, which took my life’s time, effort, and attention.
I was once dating a girl in LA, Judith, and she dropped by my place right after I learned an Elton John tune: “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”.
I played what I had learned for her, right up to where the bridge would happen (which I hadn’t learned yet). I then stopped and turned to her with a smile, thinking, of course, that she’d be amazed at my technique and flawless performance. LoL
Instead, the first thing out of her mouth though was, “Why’d you stop?!“.
I explained that I just haven’t had the time to learn bridge yet. She said, “Well, you gotta learn that. I was all ready to sing it!”
I often think back to that funny little moment whenever I’m working on a song and have not finished it. That goes for one I’m writing, or for one I’m learning from another composer.
If you make a habit of finishing what you start, not only in music but also in life, you’ll be much happier, more fulfilled, and frankly… you’ll have a much bigger audience and probably a larger paycheck.
Got a lot of “song bits”, but not a lot of songs? Get to work.
Or, got a lot of finished songs but none, or few, of them are recorded for anyone to hear?? Time to get crackin’!
Here’s the truth: everybody has an audience. No matter what kind of music you create, there will be many people who will appreciate it.
But not if they never hear it.
You want to be a professional and successful musician, RIGHT??! Then commit now to releasing a song at LEAST once a month.
You won’t regret it.
Out is better than perfect
But what if nothing that you’ve written or recorded sounds totally ready?
Lemme just cut off your inner perfectionist right here and say this:
If you wait ’til all your music sounds perfect to put it out, you’ll have a very small repertoire, draw a very small audience, and earn too little or NO money.
Take it from me… it’s far better to put your material out, on a consistent basis, every month, than it is to second-guess your writing, wait ’til the heavens break open and demand the angels sing, “It is ready now!!”
Or, even better, take it from genuine heroes in the songwriting and music performance field. MANY of them have felt like their recordings were NOT perfect or up to snuff:
- John Lennon
- Billy Joel
- Jimi Hendrix
- Kurt Cobain
- Pink Floyd
Consider Bruce Springsteen, who called “Born To Run” the “worst piece of garbage” he’s ever heard!
Or Robert Plant, who derisively calls “Stairway to Heaven” “… that bloody wedding song”, and even went so far as donating money to a radio station that vowed to never play it again!
Now, if you hate one of your songs, OK, then just skip that one and pick up another to work on. Or, if you like your songwriting but maybe one or two of the recordings or arrangements just doesn’t cut it for you… fine: leave those as deep tracks or unpublished. You can always change, or release them, later.
See, the question of “When is a mix done?” will always haunt us. It’s a specter lurking before every release.
But it doesn’t have to master us. Put it to bed, then master IT! Be decisive. Don’t let fear or uncertainty keep your music from being released.
If you’re often reticent to release material because of quality questions, don’t go it alone either – bring in other ears and hearts to help you decide. People that you trust and you know will be straight with you.
If they say, “Dude – that sounds amazing!!”… put a gag on your picky inner editor and do what’s more needful…
PUT out the song!!
Out is Better Than Home
Until you have a loyal following of thousands, you may encounter confidence issues regarding your songs and/or their recordings.
The common sign of this lack of “song esteem” is the writer or musician who plays music for family and close friends all the time… but rarely releases anything further.
Yes, your family’s probably gonna love anything you create. They’ve watched you start from nothing and seen you progress to being at least capable in some things they can’t do at all. Of course they’re impressed.
But they don’t count. There, I said it. They don’t count. Who does?
The objective opinions of strangers (new real fans) who take your music at face value.
These are the audience who will be more insightful, more ‘bought in’, and in the long run more passionate about your music than anyone else… especially your family.
With literally hundreds of music streaming sites online today, there’s absolutely ZERO reason for you to not be issuing forth your songs on a regular basis.
Sure, once you’ve released a new lyric video onto YouTube, go ahead and add your family and friends to the email or text list. But always make your main priority sending forth musical tendrils out into the world to new fans… your world audience.
Besides, (little secret here)… your family is probably WAAAAAY tired of hearing your songs. ‘Cause you practice them all the time and they’re kinda sick of ’em.
(Uh… you are practicing a lot, right? 😉
Out is Better Than Live
Over the decades of my music career, I’ve developed relationships with many colleagues who work really hard at their craft.
They put in tons of hours: practicing, performing, writing, backing artists, joining bands… all for the love of music, all hoping they can one day make it pay ALL the bills.
But one thing we must do, if we really want to be a successful musician, is work SMARTER, not harder.
Recently, I’ve noticed some troubling habits in my esteemed friends that, to be blunt, are NOT smarter: many (if not mos)t of them are still using OUTDATED music marketing methods that no longer work In our modern online world.
The most prevalent “old method”? Playing out live instead of releasing new material online.
I really hate to see truly amazing musicians who blow me out of the water still playing to small crowds and earning little cash because they’re not working smart.
I understand it though. We all love playing out, to REAL people (something I can’t wait to get back to after this COVID 19 quarantine!), but we have to realize that we MUST do the hard work of recording and marketing our songs online if we want to even compete in today’s market.
We have SO MANY awesome and effective tools at our disposal today that help with this. If you have a simple computer, you CAN make great music now!!
Contrast that to how things were just a couple decades ago, when the ONLY way to get your stuff recorded was to spend THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS in a recording studio. That was your only option. You either had a ton of cash or you were outta luck!
But today? You can download excellent recording software FOR FREE and start releasing material. That’s crazy awesome!!
So, are you still using “old-school” musician tactics? Are you still using antiquated marketing methods to try and fit in our digital, streaming, short attention span world?
If so, it’s time to stop. Playing local clubs & putting out CDs will NOT get you where you want to go. You must start to use the latest tools and online venues, to expand your presence on the biggest stage of all – the World Wide Web!
Should you STOP live performing totally?? Of course not!
But realize that in today’s market:
- musician wages are at their LOWEST
- songwriting royalties are at their LOWEST
- people’s free time is at their LOWEST
And the future? Recent articles point to it only getting worse.
Your online presence today is considered your business card. Your tour schedule? Not so much. Neglect social media and new releases to your financial peril.
Oh, and if you DO play out, make sure somebody’s recording it, whether on a smart phone or using a tripod and high-quality DSLR.
Either way, you’ll be getting far more mileage off of those live performances by letting them live endlessly online, helping you promote your music to the world.
Why not? They’re just waiting to love your stuff!! 😉
Out is better than Old
As someone who’s been doing this a long time, I also want to give a little shout out to those who are under 20.
You probably don’t realize, but you have a much greater potential for success in your music than anyone over 20.
Why? Because everybody loves to help out and support “the kid next-door”.
Watch any season of “American Idol“– the top 10 is not always filled with the best performers. It seems pretty clear that, many times, some finalists reach the top 10 because they’re… young and cute!
So use your youth to your advantage! Start putting your music out while you’re still in high school. Look what happened with Justin Bieber. Could anyone have predicted his huge success when he started?
The important thing is, he did… start! And he kept at it. Again, and again, and again… releasing material with the dedication and obsession beyond even mainstream acts with whole record companies behind them!
Was everything he put out amazing?? No. Many times it was embarrassingly adolescent.
Ahhh… but the times it WAS amazing… that’s what got him to where he is today. That, and his sheer tenacity which built a huge online repertoire that’s still making him a successful musician to this day.
Do you want to be taken just as seriously as a musician? Even if you’re still young?
Then don’t wait. Put out your music.
Because after all… you can’t “make it”… ’til you’ve made it!
Do… It… NOW!!!
So I hope the goal is clear – no matter what, be releasing material online. No excuses. No long lapses in between. Just a consistent, progressing presence that no one will be able to deny.
Ever effort you make is another small step towards victory in your music career. Celebrate each singing step!
Don’t think you have to be everywhere though. Start on one online venue, like SoundCloud, YouTube, BandCamp… or any other variation. You can always add from there.
What matters is that you have at least LEAST one place where you are regularly uploading new material for the world to see and appreciate.
Got a success story about doing any of these things in your music? Let us know. We’d love to highlight your story here, as well as our own.
‘Til our next post, here’s to YOU and US conquering new musical heights. Peace.