August 20, 2019

Common Misconceptions about a Modern Music Career Part 1: The Overnight Success

Hey everyone! Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing a few of the most common misconceptions I hear people mention when they’re thinking about whether or not to pursue a career as a musician in today’s industry.   If you’ve ever looked into building your own career as a musician, I’m sure you’ve at least heard some of these misconceptions before, maybe you’ve even believed some of them to be true, and maybe some of these have even held you back from taking the first steps towards pursuing a career with your music.

I know that hearing and believing these types of things can be very discouraging, which is why I want to address them early on in our blog here because I don’t want anything to discourage you from giving this type of a career a real chance!  Most of these misconceptions come from a place of misunderstanding, and since I do hear people mentioning a lot of these same things over and over again, I want to address a few of them over the next few weeks, starting with today’s misconception of:

 “The Overnight Success”

One of the biggest misconceptions I still hear about this type of a career is that you can be (or even should aspire to be) an overnight success.  In my experience, and everyone else I know who’s built this type of a career, this hasn’t been the case, but I do understand why this misconception still exists.  I guarantee that at some point or another you’ll see some other musicians, especially on social media, seem to come out of nowhere and surpass you in terms of “likes”, “follows”, and other metrics of perceived success.  It can definitely be discouraging to see that kind of a thing happening, but you always have to keep in mind that most of the time when people look like they just achieved success overnight, we often don’t see all the hard work that went into helping them get where they’re at.  When you take a closer look, you’ll almost always end up finding years of hard work behind the curtain!

Sure, there will occasionally be some very rare cases of luck where someone actually does get famous overnight, but even in those cases, a lot of those people who seem to come out of nowhere usually disappear about as fast as they appeared, so would you even define that as “success”? Ask yourself: Would you rather be a one hit wonder and then never be heard from again OR grow a slow but steady connection with an audience of people who will be around to support you for decades?  I know I’d take the 2nd option!

Besides that, there are also plenty of other reasons why I think it’s actually much more of an advantage to not achieve overnight success and instead grow at a steady pace, so let’s go over some of those reasons now:

  1. Artist and Brand Development

With a normal pace of career growth, you really get to know who you are as an artist and you actually have time to develop both your art and your brand. You’ll get to try so many different things along the way, and because you’re not trying to rush everything, you’ll get to figure out what you enjoy spending time on the most in your career and then you’ll be able to prioritize those things accordingly.  If for whatever reason you were thrust into the spotlight after only a short time, you wouldn’t have many experiences yet to help you know what you really liked and didn’t like in your career, and you’d probably end up getting influenced by a lot of outside sources instead of making decisions based off of what you really wanted.

  1. Stronger Relationships with your Audience

Another positive of steady growth is that you really get to know and establish meaningful relationships with your audience. Whether you’re a huge mainstream artist or a smaller independent one, support from your audience is usually the main reason you’re able to have a career. Even if you’re backed by the biggest label or best management team out there, if you haven’t built a meaningful connection with an audience that’s interested in you and willing to support you, you’re not going to get very far in the long term.  The relationship that I’ve built with my audience over the last 9 years is the foundation of my career and the main reason I’ve been able to sustain a successful business surrounding my music.

  1. Career Longevity

Growing at a steadier pace also should allow you to enjoy a successful career for a long period of time.  I’m sure it’s not very difficult for you to think of a few one-hit-wonders off the top of your head. They may have gotten a lot of attention and earned a lot of money for one song, but then after that, their career was essentially over. I feel like it would be so sad if you only got to work as a musician for 1 year before your career was over, despite whatever money you made! And honestly, if you spread out that one-hit-wonder money over the course of 30 or 40 years, it probably wouldn’t be that impressive and you might be able to easily surpass those earnings as an independent musician over the course of your own 30 – 40 year career.

  1. Confidence

Another huge positive about having steadier career growth is the confidence you’ll gain through all the years of experience you’ve had. By the time you’re ready for bigger opportunities, you’ll be so much more confident and prepared than you would have been if success had happened for you overnight.  For me personally, even though I had wanted to tour for years before I was able to try it out, I’m now very grateful that it took me longer to get to that point because I was able to build up my confidence as a performer and develop a live show through performing a bunch of other smaller shows before taking on a full tour.

One of my first ticketed live shows on the left (2014) vs. my 2nd tour on the right (2016)

And on the subject of confidence, when you do start achieving your goals and feel successful, you’ll feel 100% like you actually earned your success.  If you just got lucky and didn’t have to put much work into your career before you became successful, I guarantee you wouldn’t feel like you earned that success as much as you would have if you had put in more hard work.  At this point, I have plenty of people who take one quick glance at what I’ve accomplished and immediately want to write it off as “she just got lucky” or some other excuse, but all the years of hard work I had to put into building my career before I started to feel any level of success with it makes it incredibly easy for me to brush off those types of comments and opinions as totally ignorant without ever affecting my confidence.

The reality for most musicians is that building a successful career takes patience and a lot of consistent hard work.  Instead of feeling discouraged that you’re not seeing results as fast as you may have wanted them to, take heart knowing that you’re not alone and that almost every musician who’s achieved success has experienced the same struggles, doubts and frustrations before achieving that success.

I’ll be back next week with a discussion on another very common misconception about record labels, so stay tuned for that!  In the meantime, if you haven’t checked out our free webinar, make sure you sign up for more industry tips and insights.  And if you’d like to be notified when we upload a new blog post, make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and/or sign up for our email newsletter! Have a great week! 🙂

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  1. Jackson says:

    Love this blog. I’m applying it to more than a music career, because nearly any creator can benefit from reading this. I feel fortunate to be a fan that was able to connect, and I feel valued 😀

    • Taylor says:

      Thanks so much Jackson, we’re glad you’re enjoying it so far! 😄 That’s great to hear you’re applying it to more than music too, I think that so much of the advice for this type of a career path can in some way be be applied to a lot of other types of creative/entrepreneurial careers too!

      • Iain says:

        I absolutely agree Taylor. I wrote on another of your social media channels that the content here in MOAT, is to notch career coaching and mentoring. Better than most courses actually because the content here is built on hard won, practical, real- life experience. You have “practiced” what you “, preach”, and demonstrated it works.

  2. Like!! I blog frequently and I really thank you for your content. The article has truly peaked my interest.

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