How To Succeed In The Music Industry On Your Terms

How To Succeed In The Music Industry On Your Terms

Disclaimer: First of all, let me make this clear. I’m not trying to say that making it in the music industry is easy, or that everyone who reads this will become a chart success. The aim of this guide is to help you define what success means for you personally, and look at what you’re willing to do to reach your goals. I’ll also touch briefly on creating a business plan to achieving your goals and more.

Hopefully the information in this guide will give you a clearer path, and increase the likeliness that you’ll get where you want in the music industry. Again though, nothing is guaranteed, and it’ll essentially be down to your drive, your level of talent, your marketing and business knowledge, the amount if time and effort you put in and the like.

If you’re not willing to put the work in, don’t expect to succeed in the music industry! – Tweet This

Now, with the disclaimer out of the way, let’s look at the steps you can take to succeeding in the music industry. 🙂

Define What Success In The Music Industry Is To You

Before anything else, you need to decide what your personal definition of success is. The reason for this is simple; if your idea of success is becoming well known in your country for being a talented musicians, you’ll need different steps to achieving that than you would if your aim was to earn a full time living from music.

So what is your final end game? What do you want to achieve? If you’re not yet sure, here are some common outcomes which a lot of musicians aim for. I’ve also included a (extremely generally) look at what’s needed to reach these goals:

  • Aim to play good music you and your friends will enjoy.
  • Aim to become well known at a local level. (Requires a lot of work).
  • Aim to become well known at a national scale. (Requires a lot of work and luck).
  • Aim to become well known at a international scale. (Requires a lot of work and a lot of luck).
  • Aim to earn a part time living from music. (Requires a lot of work).
  • Aim to earn a full time living from music (Requires a lot of work).
  • Aim to become wealthy from music (Requires a lot of work and a lot of luck).

Feel free to mix and match your goals as you need. For example, it may be your aim to be well known in your local area and earn a full time living from your music. This is an achievable goal if you know what you’re doing.

While it’s easy to assume that most people would want to become internationally well known and wealthy from their music, that’s not always the case. As someone who regularly talks to musicians all around the world, I’ve seen that different people want to achieve different things, and everyone has their reasons for their end goal. So no matter what your end goal is, be sure it’s clear in your mind and we can move forward.

Determine What You’re Willing To Do To Succeed In The Music Industry

This is where the whole ‘on your terms’ bit fits in.

So now you know what you want to achieve from your music career, the next steps is deciding what you’re willing to do to achieve these goals. No, I’m not talking about who you’ll sleep with to get to the top (I do not recommend this). Instead, you need to decide if you want to achieve your goals strictly through your personal brand as a musician, or if you’re willing to use your musical skill in other ways to pad out your income and get you better known.

Let’s say the goals in your music career are mainly driven by money. Making a part time living is something I feel most musicians with talent and good marketing knowledge can achieve. That said, only a % of those people will go on to make a full time comfortable living from their music alone. It is achievable, but it’s a lot harder than if you were to also use the talents you’ve acquired from the music industry for other forms of earning.

For example, if you were to start teaching up and coming musicians how to sing, rap or produce, you could earn more than you would from just playing gigs and selling songs alone. Teaching wouldn’t get in the way of you playing gigs; gigs are generally performed later at night, while your teaching lessons would likely be in the day. Furthermore, if you was to teach via a online video course for example, after you’ve created your product you wouldn’t have to actively be there to teach each new person that came along.

There are plenty of income streams you could tap in which are music related, but which don’t involve your personal brand as a musician. Other examples include songwriting for others, doing backing vocals for other musicians, doing skits for people in need of them (isn’t restricted to other musicians) and the like. Think about who you can help with the talents you have, and provide a service to them.

With regards to becoming well known in the music industry, do you want to achieve that strictly by making music, or are you willing to get known for other things which could in turn boost your profile and allow you to promote your music from there?

Sometimes, the most effective path is to create a larger brand which isn’t just focused on your music. How do you go about doing this? Well, think about what fans of your music genre are also into, and target one of these interests.

For example, if you make music in a genre where a lot of the listeners are also into skateboarding, could you capitalize on that in some way? If you can skateboard to a good level and compete in televised competitions, great, there’s another way for you to reach more people and showcase your music to a targeted audience. If not, could you start up a skateboarding related blog or podcast? Maybe covering the events that happen, reviewing the best skateboards, or interviewing well known boarders.

As you showcase your face and build up a relationship with your website / podcast visitors, be sure to leave links to your music on the site, in the podcast, in your videos and the like. Your music will fit perfectly into the feel of what you’re offering, and get new fans of your music along the way.

This is just an example, you can find things relevant to your genre no matter what kind of music you make. The formula is this:

  1. Find another popular interest shared by a lot of people in your genre.
  2. Build a platform (e.g. blog or podcast) which covers that side of thing. I suggest making a website first, then if you also want a podcast doing that after.
  3. Incorporate your face and music into that new platform of yours so people know you made the site and also the music on it.
  4. Cross promote your website / podcast and your music.

One of the reasons this works great is because you’re creating your own platform to showcase your music. If you set your blog or podcast up so that the brand name is related to the interest rather than you personally, you’ll get more people checking it out simply because it’s something they have an existing interest in (even if they’ve never heard of you before). Then once they’re paying attention, you can now introduce yourself as the creator, and at some point introduce them to your music. You can also use this platform to build credibility and build connections you couldn’t as an up and coming musician.

As you can see in both examples, by doing more than promoting yourself as just a musician, you can open up other opportunities to both earning more and getting more exposure. This isn’t a path that everyone will want to take, but it is a option, so it’s worth thinking about.

Creating A Business Plan For Success

Next up, you’ll need to create a plan of action. After all, it’s one thing knowing what you want to achieve, and it’s another thing getting there.

As I mentioned earlier, it’d be impossible for me to map out every stage of what you need to do in this one article. That said, here are some pointers which will hopefully get you moving in the right direction.

First of all, you need to work out what steps are needed to get where you want to be. You’ll find help discovering what kind of steps you’ll need and help with achieving these steps both via the hundreds (if not thousands) of guides on Music Think Tank, as well as the hundreds of guides I’ve written on Music Industry How To and other sites. So have a look around, a see what you need to do to get started on your chosen path.

Next up, you’ll need to set S.M.A.R.T goals for each of these steps. S.M.A.R.T will allow you to come up with a realistic plan of actions you’ll need to follow to achieve your goal. That guide I linked to is one that will help you with this side of things, and will help you form your overall business plan.

If you’re struggling to put a business plan together and want some guidance with what you should be doing next in terms of your music career, you may want to check out my ‘next steps’ program.

Work At Achieving Your Goals

Once you’ve defined what success is to you, you know what you’re willing to do to achieve that, and you have a business plan ready to be followed, there’s only one thing left to do: putting in the work to making yourself a success!

Be under no illusion that it’ll be quick and easy; it’s rarely either for the majority of musicians. Music isn’t a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. Real work and hours are needed to ‘stand above the noise’, being talented alone isn’t enough to earn from music or get your name out there.

Be prepared to put in as many hours as you can every week, and to sacrifice some of your favorite TV shows and other hobbies in exchange for getting your music out there.


I hope this guide has given you a better idea of what success is to you, and given you some ideas on ways in which you can go about achieving your goals. As with any business, clearly defined goals are needed to know where you’re heading. Add to that hard work and putting in the time, and you’ll increase the likeliness you’ll reach where you want to be tenfold.

If it’s your aim to make money from your music career, you may want to check my free report on doing just that. In there I look at why many musicians fail to make a income from their music (hint: it’s something that can be worked around when you know what the barrier is). I also look at other related issues and give relevant tips and advice.

If your aim is mainly about getting known, you’ll also want to check out my free ebook on marketing (this is different than the previously mentioned ebook so get them both). This is one that’s already helped over 1000 musicians get a better idea of what music marketing is all about, and got them up and running with putting the process into affect.

If you found this guide useful, please share it with your fellow musicians and friends. You can do this by sharing it on your social profiles, or by linking to it from your site for people to follow. I’ll be back with another guide soon. 🙂

Shaun Letang.