There is no one size fits all answer for the question of how to build a successful artist career. Because there is no one size fits all artist. We are each unique in our life experience, talent and vision. The road you choose on your path to
success, as an artist should reflect that uniqueness. Customizing your musical career path gives you more control of your future and demystifies the commercial enterprise.
To find the answers that will help you, it helps to ask the right questions. Where one artist may find marketing easy, it will be a struggle for another. High quality production may be more readily available to some, either through their own talents or geographical advantage. When you define your strengths and weaknesses, you can see where you need to focus your attention and energy. Then you can design a course of action that best utilizes your abilities and leads you to a career that is most fulfilling to you.
- What do you have?
What do you have to work with right now that can help you move your artist career forward? Don’t wait to be discovered, or to find your pot of gold. As the saying goes, Grow where you’re planted. Trust me, there is a performance opportunity, a family or friend connection, a coach or mentor that you are not utilizing right now. Make a list of your connections to music; then your connection’s connections. You’ll be surprised!
- What do you have to offer?
Think about what you have that others respond to. (This research is easy. Go to an open mic night and give it your best. Audience feedback to your performance will tell you all you need to know. Go home and analyze exactly what notes, movements, and lyrics made the audience react.) Whatever your strengths are, work to build on them. Raise your awareness of what makes you unique and explore how you can further develop or market those assets. If you’re molding yourself after someone else, the best you can ever be is second. If you grow and showcase the real you, you will always be the one and only and the best there ever was. Your originality will eventually get you noticed!
- Where do you want to go?
There are many versions of success. What will make you feel like your music has served its purpose in your life? Do not let anyone else paint a picture of success for you that you are not comfortable with. I work with so many artists who tell me that others think they should try out for a talent or television show or perform at a venue that doesn’t feel right for them. YOU design the career path you want. For every one artist who is an international sensation, there are at least one hundred others who have very rewarding careers, but are lesser known.
Decide what you want? Identify it and then focus your music and actions towards that goal specifically– whether or not those around you understand or approve. (Most often, money and fame follow passion. If you focus on your passion, the rest will fall into place.)
- What are you willing to do?
Do you have more time to DIY your career; or more money to pay for help in areas where you need it?
Ideally, you should have a combination of these two, time and money, to build your career most efficiently. Most of us are limited with resources, so a realistic approach to allocating them is very useful. Do what you can do well, but don’t hesitate to pay for outside services where they are needed. (See answer to question 2.)
If you have little money, but are willing to work hard it will take you longer to reach your goal. It is hard to be good at everything and skills take time to learn, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible.
Ask yourself if you are self-motivated and talented enough to create and develop all aspects of a successful artist career in a vacuum. If not, are you willing to ask for help and look for creative, alternate ways to fast track and fund your artistic goals?
If you have money but feel short on time, decide on a list of priorities for your success and then create a plan to achieve them balancing your assets.
Like any career, it does take investment to become a successful artist. For some, it is more an investment of time and hard work. For others, it is financial investment to pay others to do some of the work. Find a balance that allows you to enjoy the building of your career.
Music is not a factory job. Though there are creative and business lessons you can, and should learn, how you apply those to your journey will determine how much you enjoy the journey and how long you remain on it.
Kim Copeland is a music producer with a custom designed studio located on Music Row in Nashville Tennessee. She works exclusively with Indie Artists and songwriters.