Ten Reasons Music Artists Fail


1. Giving Up!

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There’s really one main reason music artists fail – THEY QUIT! They either quit before they get started, because of negative influences both internally and externally, or they quit because they can’t handle the pressures involved on the journey from obscurity to and through popularity.  You have to know what you want and be ready for the challenges ahead before your direction makes any difference.  Like the Cheshire cat says in Alice in Wonderland, “If you don’t know where you want to go, then it doesn’t really matter what road you take!”

2. No Support System

Every artist needs a foundation to build upon.  First and foremost is the artist’s inner strength. You have to believe in yourself so much that you don’t even have to open your mouth for people to feel your determination and drive.  Secondly, it is vitally important for artists to surround themselves with positive, like-minded people, from parents, friends and fans to the professional team they assemble.  I am not talking about false compliments that are no more than ego strokes.  I’m talking about genuine support by way of honest feedback, financial support, resources, time, energy and spirit.

3. Bad Attitude

You have to be the shining star in every situation.  No moping around waiting for someone to raise your spirits.  That’s your job!  You are responsible for setting the tone the rhythm and the tempo of your journey.  Complaining about things will only attract negativity. Think about solutions and don’t dwell on the problems. If you are good and you let it go to your head, then you might as well be the worst singer in the world, because no one likes to work with a prima donna, especially one that is still trying to climb the ladder. Put on a smile and graciously accept compliments, but keep your ego in check!

4. Lack of Music Industry Knowledge

It’s called the music business for good reason.  I actually believe it should be the business of marketing music, because the balance of success lies in the hands of the business-minded musician who knows how to effectively market their music.  You don’t have to know it all, but you do have to know how to choose the right people who when combined do know it all. There are attorneys to hire, business managers, publishers, promoters, performance rights organizations, publicists, marketing firms, agents, royalties to be collected, accounting to be done, and so much more that is 100% business. Most of the business is traditional in nature, but some is uniquely etched on the music business wall and requires specialists in the music entertainment business to decipher it. The marketing department of your business model falls into the unique category, because the sale of music is primarily based on personal preference and the options are HUGE for the consumer. Creative marketing requires expert knowledge of the market.

5. No Patience

Jim McMahan (JAMM Entertainment Group / Manager for Motown artist B5 / Co Founder “Be IT!”) puts it like this… “Making it in the music business is much like the work needed to enjoy a chocolate milkshake.  It’s all thick and just waiting for you to taste it.  You poke the straw through the hole, put your lips on the straw and start working to bring the milkshake up into your mouth.  You can’t see the straw, so you imagine the frosty treat climbing up the straw with each inward draw between you and your success. Although the cool reward gets closer and closer as you labor to bring the thick shake up the straw, you start to lose your confidence, thinking the straw is just too thin or the shake is just too thick or you just don’t have the strength to do it.  You give up, only to discover that once you look at the straw you see that the shake was a mere millimeter from the top of the straw and had you only kept up your efforts for one second more you would have been rewarded with what you had been dreaming of all along.”  Patience is more than a virtue it is a MUST HAVE if you want to “Be IT!”

6. No Resources

Ok.  So you have money to spend on your career development.  But where do you find the right places to spend that money? Let’s say you understand you need 3 songs to create a demo CD, but you don’t know how to write songs. You will need to know where to find quality song writers. You need to know how to structure and protect the rights to the songs, whether the writer retains full rights, you share as co-writers, or it is a work-for-hire. Now let’s say you have the songs, but how do you turn a song composed on piano or guitar into a song like what you hear on the radio?  That’s where producers come in.  Many times producers are associated with recording studios, so if you find the right producer they can help hook you up with a quality studio and engineer. Again you may have money, but that will not always assure quality results. Resources are not always just about money, they are about experience and knowing the right people.  This is where the following statement really makes sense, “It’s not as much what you know; it’s who you know… and who they know.” It’s all about networking.

7. Lack of Real Talent

If you don’t possess phenomenal talent, then don’t expect to be recognized as such.  Otherwise, you will end up with disappointments later. Younger artists have a better shot at developing their talent. But in reality you either have it or you don’t.  Equally as important has having talent is using your talent to present originality and creativity. Many aspiring artists tend to mimic what they hear on the radio.  Unfortunately by the time that particular trend has hit the general public it has most likely already had its time behind the scenes. For instance, if girl groups are hot right now, unless you’re existing girl group is ready to jump in with the whole package ready to go, then don’t waste your time developing a new girl group, because by the time you do have it ready that trend will have passed.  It’s best to be ahead of the trend but also remain true to yourself as an artist and be classifiable into a marketable genre.

8. Bad Business Decisions

The music business is a series of opportunities and distractions, and a pure test of tenaciousness.  Not knowing the difference between opportunities and distractions is a common reason for artists to fail.  Artists can get caught up in pursuing every single knock at the door, because of their desire for recognition, so much so that they lose sight of their original goal. Many an artist has been lost in this abyss.  It’s important to keep feelers out, but it’s even more important to chart a course and stay that course no matter what comes your way – good or bad.  The idea is to pull outsiders into your dreams and not the other way around.

9. Stage Parents

Lack of knowledge about music business roles and personalities: This means you do not know the protocol in the industry and you offend the often fragile, yet gigantic egos of the “people at the top”. Parents of young artists are a huge part of this point of failure. There is a right and wrong way to present an artist.  Respectfully, no one likes an annoying stage parent.  Of course your child is the best, mine is too. But industry professionals don’t find credit in a parent singing the praises of their child. Nor do they care to deal with the demands of a parent who simply does not know how things typically progress in the music business.  Having an overzealous parent in the picture, even one with the best intentions, can stop a deal before it even starts. Word gets around quickly to the people at the top of this business. Spend any time working this business and you find it really is a small circle of people running things and they tend to be in communication with each other either directly or through staff members who deliver pertinent field information to them.  So if you’re really good and think you have a shot at landing a deal with a record label, get your team in order.  Know who’s who and what’s what or better yet find someone who is plugged in to be on the front lines with you or for you. One burned bridge in this business can burn all the others in an instant.

10. No Money

Although you really can’t buy your way into a successful music career, you do need money to make things happen.  There are things you need to spend money on like great songs and quality equipment.  But there so many more things that you don’t need to spend money on or at least not as much as many service providers will try to sell you.  This is where a keen sense of business is handy or you know a trustworthy consultant who can help you set up an action plan and budget for it accordingly.  Many consultants and managers have resources available to them and can ask for favors for the right artist. Equally as important as money is time.  Money helps to balance out the time spent on things where there’s a learning curve, like creating a website. If you do not have the skills to set up a website, you will need money to pay someone to do quality work for you, as your time is be better served writing or recording a new song.
Shawn Bray
Owner: SBray Productions, LLC
Co Founder: “Be IT!”