It’s no secret that making a living with music is an uphill battle. We’ve all had skeptical friends and family ask about our “back-up plan” in case it doesn’t work out. We’ve all had those months spent waiting for our next gig. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been in the business for years, working in the music industry is a challenge that always has its ups and downs. Yet, despite these challenges, we keep going – because there’s no way we could see ourselves doing anything else.
Finding jobs as a musician or producer can be tough. Building a career as an independent artist has its own obstacles. But if you truly love what you are doing, that makes all of it worth it. These struggles may never go away. The way you face the struggles and maintain your passion for music makes all the difference during the hard times.
Whenever you feel like surrendering to the nay-sayers, remember these reasons to not give up on your music –
1. There is no one correct path to success in music – even for some of the world’s most famous musicians
Next time you feel like comparing yourself to a famous and/or successful artist, remember that everyone’s journey is different. If you look into the backgrounds of some of today’s most successful people in music – many of them started from the ground up, just like you.
Take Lady Gaga, for example. Today, she is one of the world’s best-selling music artists, but back in the day (2006, to be specific), things were very different. She was dropped from Def Jam Records and spent the next year hustling in New York performing neo-burlesque shows. She didn’t get to release her debut album until 2 years later, and even then, she was still performing in small venues (including an IKEA parking lot – not kidding).
There are countless other success stories from other musicians and artists who took much less or much more time to reach success. But does that make any one of their stories more or less valid than another, just because they took a different path? Of course not!
Whether you’re playing small shows in local bars or recording songs in your bedroom – don’t ever fear that you’re “doing it wrong.” Choosing the right path for you (and no one else) is what really matters.
2. You don’t have to be famous to be successful
For many people, the idea of success in music is making millions of dollars selling out stadiums and earning platinum records. While that is certainly not an impossible dream, it can get discouraging when you have to struggle just to get 100 streams on Spotify. Although you may not be selling out stadiums just yet, that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful in music. Always remember that success does not equal fame.
Some of the most successful people in the music industry aren’t “famous” at all. They are often the people working behind the scenes. People who might not be household names, but are making a living doing what they love and working in music. These people may be the guitarist for a big-name artist, a music director for Taylor Swift’s tour, a session singer for TV and film, an audio engineer at a renowned studio, or an A&R rep at a record label.
These people may not be famous, but that in no way means they’re unsuccessful. We shouldn’t be defining success with fame – true success is being able to wake up and do what you love every day. If you’re making a living with your music, you have every right to call yourself a successful musician.
3. Your music has the power to make a positive impact
No matter what your background in music is, we can all agree that music can touch people in ways that nothing else can. We all have that one song that can cheer us up when we’re feeling down, or that one song that makes us want to get up and dance every time we hear it.
Music has the power to bring people together, raise awareness, spread joy, and even save lives. Who’s to say that the song you’re writing right now won’t be someone’s new anthem someday? Who’s to say that the artist you’re recording in your home studio won’t be the next artist to inspire millions? These are the kinds of questions you should ask yourself the next time you’re feeling doubtful about your music. Never forget that your music can change lives and make a change for the better, whether it’s big or small.
If you have the gift of being able to make music, the world needs to hear it. Your success will come, maybe tomorrow, or maybe in a few months, or a few years. On the way to that point, enjoy the journey, and embrace every struggle – these are the moments that will make you a better and stronger musician. Don’t give up!
Kira Morrison is an LA-based vocalist, songwriter, and arranger