If you’ve found this post you’re probably wondering how to be successful in the music industry. I hope you’re not looking for a magic formula; there isn’t one. Oddly enough, or not so oddly, tips for success in music are very similar to tips for success at anything. So it seems right to start with common sense tips that apply universally. And then I’ll share some of what I’ve gleaned after a few decades of success as a pianist and hit songwriter.

Okay; this joke is so old I shouldn’t share it. But it’s so right that it needs to live on so here it is, just in case you haven’t already seen this one. A tourist stopped a passerby on the street in New York and asked, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The wise New Yorker replied, “Practice, practice, practice”. It may seem boring but tip number one is hard work. My friend, co-writer and hit songwriter, Fred Knobloch, has a sign in his studio that says, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Tip number two is not giving up. The son of a friend of a friend had recently graduated from college. He wanted to make it in the music business. He met me for coffee and shared his plan with me, asking for advice. His plan was to give the music thing one year and if it didn’t pan out he was going to law school…If you need a good lawyer, I know one! For me, and for most of my friends who know how to be successful in the music industry, giving up was never even considered. Timelines? Forget them! It never occurred to me to pursue anything other than music, and that’s a key contributor to success. Creative people know that failure and rejection is a part of the journey.

How To Be Successful In The Music Industry

Get out and make it happen

Can you be objective about your work? The answer should be yes and no. None of us can be totally objective about our work. And when it comes to art, objectivity is subjective anyway. But, successful musicians are able to be objective in analyzing their work in context of other accepted work. Be honest about whether your song or your performance is at a professional level. Be very very very very open to feedback, input, critique from others and always emulate the best. The most successful artists pride themselves on their ability to ‘steal’ from the great works that come before them.

How To Be Successful In The Music Industry Today

  • Build Relationships; When I started making the rounds of publishing companies years ago I met with lots of rejection. But I took that rejection and those critiques and evolved my craft. And then, I knocked on the same doors over and over again. By the time my work was good enough to be recorded, those doors I’d been knocking on were already open – all I had to do was waltz in.
  • With online access, social media and home recording studios that sound great, there’s no excuse not to be heard. Don’t wait to be discovered; go out and make some noise.
  • Don’t take no for an answer when you believe strongly in what you’re doing. But keep doing new things. In other words, keep evolving by making the next song, the next performance, the next recording.
  • Be where the action is. At some point you need to be visible. For some people that means moving to Nashville or LA or wherever. For some people that means blowing up on YouTube. But YOU need to make it happen.
  • Keep an open mind and remember everything is always changing. People who know how to be successful in the music industry know that one day you’re a star, and the next day the phone isn’t ringing. Ultimately, you need to do the work because the work is what you love. Otherwise, you’re just faking it.

About Billy Kirsch

Billy is a Grammy & Emmy nominated, CMA & ACM award winning songwriter with numerous Top 10 hits to his credit. His team building programs and keynote speaking presentations help people tap into their creative abilities to become more innovative and engaged in their work. Clients include Fortune 100 companies and organizations throughout the world.