I'm sure at some point in your artistic life, you've looked at the songs going viral and realized that you could be really, really blindingly good at what you do as an artist, and still not get noticed. Why is that?
Surely talent is what every artist and band needs to be successful...right? Isn't it enough to work on your vocal and instrumental skills and hope to blow everyone away?
If you've ever wondered why talent just isn't enough in the music world, here are several reasons you should explore:
- Mind your business
Artists often divide music into the creative side and the business side. Then, they promptly tuck away the business side in the deepest, darkest corner of their minds.
The two halves are not as different as most artists make them out to be. But if you want to build a successful music career, you either need to get familiar with the business of music, or have someone help you with it.
- Work your butt off
So you can sing and play really well. Are you willing to work hard too? There are so many talented independent artists busting their gut to pay dues and sharpen their craft, but equally, there are so many acts who are convinced their incredible talents are a VIP pass to a life without blood, sweat and tears.
Even if you're insanely talented, if you don't work for it, you'll have a hard time building the career of your dreams. This is especially true if you're looking for a big-time record label contract, because labels are always looking for bands and artists that tour hard.
- Stand Out
When you're comparing apples to apples, it becomes really hard to tell the difference. Apples can all be different sizes, shapes, colors, and textures, but only within a small margin of variance.
The question is how to be an orange in a cart full or apples. The goal is to be sharp enough to cut through the noise so that you'll be noticed by the right people. This doesn't necessarily mean being gimmicky or forced attempts to be viral. Be creative with it.
Look at a band like Hiatus Kaiyote who have captured the public's imagination. They have stood out by simply embracing their natural quirks (i.e. the incongruence of being a future-soul band led by Nai Palm, their punk-meets-Earth-mother lead vocalist/guitarist with a Billie Holiday/Stevie Wonder influence) and thus creating something incredibly original.
It doesn't really make sense to match talent against talent. There is already an abundance of talent out there. Plus, playing the comparison game doesn't really help anyone (including you).
Recognise that there is already plenty of great talent out there competing for the same opportunities.
- You Need Good Marketing
This goes hand in hand with what was said earlier about being an orange in a cart full of apples. "We're a rock band" is a generic, non-specific statement that doesn't do anything for your marketing, because it doesn't tell anyone anything they would possibly care about.
You have to think about what you as an artist or band bring to the table. It might be an interesting back story, unique instrumentation within your music, or a band made up of siblings. Identify several engaging stories and facts about your band and use them to your advantage.
- Connections Matter Too
What you know is certainly important, but so is who you know. That can mean a lot of different things, but let's stick to the basics: people like to work with others they know, like and trust.
Want to play more gigs? Get to know other bands, event planners and venues. Want some help with marketing? Build friendships with music consultants, journalists, and so on.
- Focus and Grit
Not to say that there won't come a time when you'll need to switch gears and try something different, but in general, you have to stay focused and keep pressing on even when nothing seems to be coming together.
Most overnight successes - especially those in the music industry - tend to be 10 years in the making. There may or may not be a reason for the magic number, but there are a lot of examples to look to, so don't overlook the need to persist.
Don't get discouraged if you discover that talent just isn't enough, because there are sure to be plenty of other artists that can sympathize and even empathize with you.
Instead, start cultivating experience and other skills you need to succeed. Be willing to go at it a day at a time, and stick with it!
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