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How to Succeed in Music Without Selling Out

I speak from personal experience when I say that aside from the fear of failing, most musicians’ biggest fear is that they’ll have to sell out in order to succeed. I did both and you’re wise to avoid them. Here’s how:

Know Who You Are

Your number one defense against failing and selling out is to fully understand who you are and what you want. And while this sounds like a “duh” and you probably think you do, most musicians do not.

Most musicians have shallow, music oriented knowledge of themselves. “I’m a guitar player.” “I write songs” These are not who you are, these are what you do. Who you are is a girl raised in the slums of Chicago who writes Rock songs encouraging kids to use their gifts to make a better world with plans to develop free summer camps for disadvantaged youth.

And while that may not be your story, you DO have a story. And in today’s hyper-cluttered world of players, singers, songwriters and artists, telling your story well is the key to your success.

Know Your Potential Customers

Here’s an excerpt from Why I FAILED in the Music Business and How NOT to Follow in My Footsteps:

The only reason people sell out is because they have never figured out who likes what they’re doing and how to reach those people.

You’ll never have to sell out if you take the time to think about your customers first, and always. Believe me, in this wide world there are customers who want your music, and they want you to find them.

If you don’t, two things will happen. First, you will spend your life trying to connect with the wrong people – which won’t work so you’ll end up frustrated. Second, you will miss out on making the right connection with the right people – in which case you’ll also end up frustrated.

Avoid Frustration

The way to avoid these frustrations, and succeed in the process, is to know your story and tell it to the right people.

  • You will succeed because you will remain true to who you are and avoid chasing success by selling out.
  • You will also succeed because the definition of “right people,” is the people who want what you have and who you are.

Those people are called happy, long-term customers whether they are fans, producers, artists or whatever. Happy, long-term customers will support you in your happy, long-term career and life.

Not sure you have a compelling story? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.