While artists now live in a time when they have more freedom than ever to create, market, and sell their music, the digital age has brought with it a unique set of challenges as well. Here we look at the three biggest obstacles standing between contemporary musicians and success.
Guest post by David Andrew Wiebe of Music Marketing Guy
People often talk about the “good old days”.
But I don’t believe there was ever a Golden Age in music. From day one, artists have often gotten the short end of the stick.
If you were one of the fortunate few, you enjoyed fortune and fame. Though I’m not convinced fortune and fame is always a good thing.
Moreover, in what people refer to as the good old days, most artists were exploited and taken advantage of. Things haven’t exactly changed a whole lot here in the digital age.
But if there is such a thing as a Golden Age in music, I believe it’s now.
We’ve never been freer to create, distribute, market and sell our music, and we can even do it all from the comfort of our own homes. Wow.
But this certainly isn’t to suggest there aren’t any challenges today, because there are. If anything, the challenges we’re facing are colossal.
Want to know what they are? Read on.
I’ve worked with enough musicians to know that technology frustrates a lot of people – especially those over a certain age.
Look, you and I might not have that problem. You made it onto the blog, at least – good on you. But there are plenty of people who, if they landed on this blog post right now, wouldn’t even know what they were looking at.
And, when you think about the typical digital rollout for musicians these days, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that some might struggle with the technical aspect of a music career.
Here are but a few examples of items musicians must be competent in today (especially if they don’t have anyone helping them):
- File sharing. At a minimum, musicians need to know how to use Dropbox and be able to share folders and files with bandmates, collaborators, reviewers and so on. These days, there are plenty of gatekeepers and influencers that expect you to go through SubmitHub, Fluence or SoundCloud. That list of apps only gets longer by the day.
- Web and graphic design. I started building websites and designing graphics when I was 14 (when Yahoo was still the biggest website online). As intuitive and straightforward as the tools have become, I can only imagine the pain a newbie would experience when trying to set something up on their own.
- Social media. There are plenty of people addicted to social media. But for someone who isn’t tech savvy, it’s an utter nightmare. They have so many questions. Who’s on here? Why would I use this? What’s the point of social media? And so on.
The good news is – this represents a major opportunity for tech-savvy people like us. If you wanted to start a business helping older or non-techie musicians with their online presence, I bet you could make a killing.
Regardless, the evolution of technology is a major pain point for artists everywhere, because there are plenty of other things you need to be doing with your time – such as making music. And, new, disruptive technology is launching all the time.
Everywhere you go, there are musicians talking about how hard it is to get people out to a show, to pay attention to a new release, to get interaction on their social media posts and so on.
Look, I’ve done enough PR, radio, crowdfunding and marketing campaigns to know that if you do things right, you can still get plenty of attention for what you’re doing. Yes, it’s hard, but not impossible – not even close.
But I can also empathize with anyone who’s felt the sting of apathy. In the last couple of years, I’ve been hosting or helping organize a series of local events for musicians. And, at times the turnout for these events was outright dismal.
There were a few successful events, to be fair, and we learned a lot from those. But was there a sense that we were fighting apathy at times? Absolutely.
It’s a noisy world out there and getting people to pay attention to what you’re doing is hard. Getting them to engage over the long haul is even harder.
I hate to say it, but to a degree you almost need to expect apathy today. If you’re just getting started, then you’ve got a long way to go. Don’t expect people to love what you’re doing out of the gate. You’re going to want to spend plenty of time honing your skills, whether you’re a songwriter, instrumentalist, vocalist and/or performer.
With that said, also note that talent and skill isn’t everything. People want to be entertained. If you know how to engage a crowd, that’s a far more valuable skill than being amazing on your instrument. Sad but true.
To me, this is the biggest challenge of all, and potentially the only one that even matters.
Today, people spend a lot of time focusing on the tactical things, which tend to change from one day to another (go back and read the section on technology if you don’t know what I’m talking about).
It’s not about tactics. It’s about determination, commitment and perseverance. Even those words don’t quite get the message across, but I think you know what I mean. It’s about being driven.
“Oh, I’m just not wired that way.”
The bad news is this – if that’s your mindset, the music industry will chew you up and spit you out.
The good news is that you can develop a stronger mindset starting today. Yes, anybody can. But it does take time and effort.
Tony Robbins says success is 80% psychology. Take that how you will. Maybe you don’t buy into any of that “personal development crap”. I get it.
But you can’t underestimate the importance of building your resiliency. If you’re truly passionate about your craft and committed to it, if you believe in yourself, and you’ve got the will to go on no matter what, you will find your version of success. If you aren’t, then aspiring to more could mean a life of misery.
Let me share with you a little secret – if you chase this with everything you’ve got, you’re going to be told “no”. It’s going to happen a lot. More than likely, you’re going to have to endure a lot of rejection and hardship. Are you ready for that?
Regardless of where you are on your growth path, you’ll be glad to know my latest handbook is on this very topic. It’s called The Essential Guide to Music Entrepreneurship.
Don’t let the word “entrepreneur” scare you away, because at core we are all entrepreneurs. Maybe you’ve never seen yourself that way before, but I wholeheartedly believe it’s empowering to see yourself this way.
Maybe this is for you, maybe it isn’t. But if I’ve struck a chord with you, I would like to invite you to learn more about The Essential Guide to Music Entrepreneurship and associated Pro Packs, which are only available for a limited time.
The time to grow is now.