As artists, we all want people to love what we do, support our journey, and have good reactions to what we're creating.
Unfortunately, in reality, it's not all sunshine and rainbows, and you're going to have some difficulties along the way in order to grow. I've been in the game a long time and it's taken me getting knocked down a few times along the way to learn a few of these lessons. Read on and learn vicariously, or feel free to learn the hard way if you prefer... Ok, let's get to it...
#1 Your friends and family aren't always your fans, and thats ok.
Was you mom your biggest supporter growing up? I know mine was, always telling me to keep pushing and chasing my dreams, and I'm grateful for that. I have a big family, and they are all music lovers. I'm also friends with a lot of music fans and other musicians. But you know what? They don't come to my shows very often. They don't listen to my music a lot. A lot of my DJ homies don't even play my tunes. I could take this the wrong way, feel slighted, and get upset about it, but I don't. Instead I focus on finding people who ARE likely to be my fans. One method I find particularly useful is reaching out to people that engage with me on socials, especially if they are new followers, and sending them my music directly. Many of my new followers find me because of my sustained promotion strategies, so when I DM them to say thanks for listening, I direct them to a website where they can get on my mailing list, download more free music, find more of my playlists, and get to know me as an artist. This way they're more likely to keep following me and listening to my music when I drop new releases.
#2 Not all you 'friends' want to see you succeeding, some actually want to watch you fail.
This was a difficult realization for me to stomach when I discovered it. Why would you friends want to see you fail? Most of the time it's jealousy, sometimes it's because it's showing them something about themselves they don't like. This can look a number of ways: Sometimes old homies act weird when you start making moves. People you thought were your friends start to unfollow you when you share your wins. You hear thru the grapevine that somebody was talking shit when your name came up. People in your circle go silent and stop supporting when they see your growth. Some people feel like the world owes them something. Some people get jealous of others success. Some people just love to hate. The good news is: it's not YOUR problem. If they don't support your growth, are they really your friends, or were they just acquaintances of convenience?
Kick some dirt over it and keep moving forward.
#3 If you aren't failing sometimes, you aren't setting your goals high enough.
This one might sound weird, but it's 100% true. Failure is part of life, and essential to meaningful growth. If you never fail, you're playing it too safe. All profit comes from risk, and everything you want in life is on the other side of something difficult. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Think about it like this: if you're playing a video game, do you always play on 'easy mode?" While it might be fun to use the cheat codes sometimes, and you might want to start out on easy mode, once you get the hang of the game it's not very gratifying. Imagine when you learned to swim that you just stayed in the shallow end of the pool with arm floaties on, or when you learned to ride a bike that you left your training wheels on forever. Imagine you never learned to use a toilet because you were comfortable wearing a diaper. Yikes. Who wants to play a game they're certain they're going to win every time? Sounds boring AF if you ask me...
#4 If you're getting mad when your peers are winning, it's probably because you know you aren't doing the work.
This one ties in with #2 in a significant way. Maybe you've found yourself on this side of the equation, talking shit about your 'friend' who's been making moves and seeing results. Maybe it's manifested in a more passive aggressive manner where you think something like "well it's easy to be famous when you're rich/pretty/have a network/etc." You know what that is? That's your ego's way of defending your lack of personal responsibility and unwillingness to take action to improve your own situation. This is unhealthy, and more importantly non-productive. Tell your inner lazy, entitled person to sit down, and YOU get up and get to work. It's easy to be a spectator, it's hard to be a player...
#5 There is no shortcut to building a real fanbase. It takes time and work.
Trust me on this one. I've listened to all the gurus, I tried all the 'hacks' I could find, I tested out a lot of bad advice, and I learned the hard way. Everyone is looking for a magic pill they can take and 'presto' you're famous, and marketers with something to sell you know this and leverage it to get you to buy their course, coaching group, book, etc. They promise you a shortcut to the dream, all you need to do is buy their product. Here's the truth: IT DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY. Many of the gurus out there are selling outdated information, or regurgitated info they've never successfully applied themselves. Lots of the people out there ARE selling stuff that will help you speed up the process, but reading a book, buying a course, or joining a group only work if YOU DO THE WORK. Wisdom > Knowledge. It's literally the difference between talking the talk, and walking the walk. You can read all the books on how to make music, watch all the tutorials, buy all the gear, etc, but until you sit down and apply the things you've learned and practiced it, you're still not going to be a good musician. Marketing, branding, and promotion work the same way. You've got to put the reps in and do the work if you want to see results.
#6 If you have money to party, but no budget to promote yourself, you don't believe in yourself enough to win.
Let's get this straight, so you know I'm coming from a genuine place when I say this. I LEARNED THIS THE HARD WAY. When I was a young man, I was a wasteman. I used to spend hundreds of dollars at the bar every week drinking or other 'party favors.' What do I have to show for all this money output?
Most of the time, best case scenario is fuzzy memories, depleted serotonin, and/or a hangover. Don't get me wrong, I was having fun, but there was no measurable results or progress to show for it, except the steady depletion of my bank account balance. Over time I realized that I was prioritizing having fun over my career goals, and that if I could be ok with blowing $200/week on beer and other substances, that I could be ok with spending that money on improving my craft, learning to make better music, developing my skills as a designer, and learning how to promote myself. As those base skills improved, I started to believe more in my abilities, which then gave me the confidence to go make more things happen for myself. Once I knew my music was "good enough" I had no problem allocating a budget towards getting it out into the world for people to hear it. Self-confidence and the feeling of making progress is 1000X more gratifying than any substance you consume could ever make you feel, and you can quote me on that.
#7 If you have time to spend on social media and watching TV, but can't find time for your art, are you really an artist?
This one is particularly difficult for many people to hear, because they've been telling themselves the lie that "I don't have time to work on X," when what they really mean is "I'm more comfortable being a consumer than a creator."
Everything you want in life is on the other side of something difficult. Creating is HARD. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Consuming is easy, and the current media machine makes it even easier to be in a state of consumerism for a reason- THAT'S HOW THEY MAKE MONEY. Basic user experience principles say to remove friction between actions the user/consumer takes and the behavior or action you want them to take. Today's media platforms are exceptionally good at this. That's why you scroll forever looking at posts, reels, and TikToks and all your favorite shows autoplay the next episode without you doing anything. If you can't muster up the willpower to get your ass in the studio and create, but you can waste 30 minutes several times per day scrolling thru socials, or blow an entire weekend watching shows, leverage this principle in reverse. CREATE friction between you and these consumer behaviors. Shut off your internet when you're in the studio. Leave your phone in another room. Better yet, cancel your Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, HBO, and Apple+. Delete Facebook, Instagram, TikTok from your phone entirely for 30 days and see what happens. Suddenly you'll find all sorts of time to work on your art, watch. Because, face it- if you aren't creating art, you aren't really an artist.
Feeling some feelings after reading through any of these? GOOD! Now you know what you need to work on.
I warned you up front, these are HARSH truths, jagged little pills to swallow.
But swallow them you must.
Once you've accepted these truths it's time to get cracking, because like I said, wisdom is better than knowledge and you only get wiser by applying what you learn.
Ready to get started working with pros who have done it before and have proven, repeatable results?
Drop your info in our Contact Form and we'll get in touch to schedule a call and learn if we're a good fit to work together.
You can learn more about how we work by reading our Case Studies to see other artists we've helped, or read thru more articles here for some additional breakdowns of music marketing strategy, examples of strategies we've created and executed, as well as cases examined from afar and dissected to determine what made them successful, and other insights gained from 20+ years in the entertainment industry so you can benefit from our experience and take the shortcut to the Big Show.
Want more articles on mindset, marketing, and making music?
Subscribe to get notified when we drop our next article!
Tons more coming, see you soon!