Do You Have What It Takes To Make It In The Music Business?

by Tom Hess
Do You Have What The Music Industry Looks For In You?
What Does The Music Industry Look For In You Assessment
2-Minute Music Industry Quiz
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Many musicians have no idea what it really takes to break into the music industry. 

Some think luck plays a major role. 

So, they do little or nothing to actually break into the music business (aside from dreaming about it and talking about their big plans to become a pro musician on social media).

Others think that making it in music is all about musical talent.

So, they focus only on their musical skills, hoping to catch a lucky break once their skills become good enough.

Yet others are convinced they need to be in the right place at the right time.

Do You Have What The Music Industry Looks For In You?
What Does The Music Industry Look For In You Assessment
2-Minute Music Industry Quiz
Take It Now

And many others don’t even know where to start... as they are paralyzed by self-doubt, fear of failure and by the well-intentioned (but wrong) advice from friends, family members.

(As well as trolling from the doubters and haters.)

Ready for the truth on how to start a career in music?

Here’s what it takes to make it in the music business:

Can I become successful in the music business

1. Good Musical Skills

The fact that ‘musical skills’ are on the list of skills needed to make it in the music industry shouldn’t surprise you. But the problem is...

... most musicians (who want to start a career in music) focus way too much ‘only’ on this piece. 

That’s why I “musical skills” are just one item on a long list of elements that help you become a pro musician. 

My advice (on the topic of what it takes to make it in the music business) is...

Focus on your musical skills 100% until you get to an intermediate level. Once you do - begin working on the other pieces of music career success and focus less on your musical skills.

This is the most effective way to become a pro musician.

2. An Empowering Success Mindset

Your mindset (a fancy name for “how you think”) controls 95% of what it takes to make it in the music business. 

When you have a strong success mindset, you choose the right actions and – because of that – are more likely to break into the music business and become a pro musician.

And if you don’t know what to do to grow your career, the right mindset motivates you to look for the answers in the correct places (or from the right people) and not stop until you find it.

3. Commitment & Determination

Commitment & determination help you to think long-term and be able to delay gratification, so you can achieve the success most people only dream about.

Here is why this quality is an important part of what it takes to make it in the music business:

When you start a career in music – things won't always go your way. You will have people ignoring you and doors getting metaphorically slammed in your face. (That’s why it’s very helpful to know how to effectively grab attention from record companies and managers in the music business.)

Rejection can be very disheartening when you are just trying to make it in the music industry. And fear of rejection has stopped many a person from becoming a pro musician.

But those who ‘do’ manage to break into the music business are able to use rejection as fuel to keep going and reach big success in the music industry. 

Commitment & determination are also closely related to...

4. Perseverance

Perseverance is key to overcoming the challenges and the short-term setbacks that affect everyone in the music industry.

Alas, this is where many musicians sabotage themselves. Whether it’s trying to get a record deal, booking gigs or joining a band, when something doesn't go their way the first time, they conclude that ‘it’s never going to work and give up’. 

Meanwhile, musicians who have perseverance are much more likely to become a pro musician and make it in the music industry.

5. Knowledge Of How The Music Industry Works

The more you know about what record companies, bands and other musicians look for in you, the easier it becomes to break into the music business and become a pro musician. 

What ‘do’ record companies look for in you?

Think of it like this:

Record companies want to sell records and concert tickets. 

So, they look to invest in bands and musicians who will help them achieve those 2 goals. 

That’s why, if you are trying to get a record deal, you should only contact record companies when you can prove that you can help them reach their business goals. (And if you can’t – it’s still too early to reach out to record companies.)

6. Insights Into How Artists Make Money

These insights help you build multiple streams of musical income and make it far easier to break into the music business.

Unfortunately, most musicians never achieve true security when they start a career in music, because they go in looking to ‘find work’ (aka: a job) in music. The problem with this is, no job is secure.

True security comes from having a variety of streams of income that are:

- Passive (at least in part). Meaning: the amount of money you make isn’t correlated with the amount of time you spend on them. 

- Independent (at least in part). This means: if something happens to one of your income streams, the other income streams will support you in your efforts to make it in the music industry.

- Leveraged. Meaning: as one source of income grows, it enhances your ability to make money from the others – helping you to make it in the music industry. 

Note: teaching music (in a leveraged way – where you teach group music lessons) checks all of those boxes.

That said, there is nothing wrong with also having some active sources of income. (The ones where you have to actively work to generate money). 

A very common example is getting gigs.

That said, the goal for anyone looking to make it in the music industry is to rely on these ‘active’ income streams less and less.

7. Insights Into How Most Artists Don’t Make Money But COULD Be.

One philosophy I have when it comes to the music business is: “there is always money being left on the table”. 

And one thing I always do out of habit (whenever I find myself in any music career project) is ask: “what are all the ways this could make more money?”

After many years of doing this, I have accumulated so many money-making ideas musicians could use to break into the music business (that 90% of musicians never even heard about)...

... that I built an entire live event called Music Career Money Magnet (where all I do is share those ideas for 3 days straight).

But what if you’re still trying start a career in music and are unsure of what it takes to make it in the music business? 

One good exercise is to sit down and simply think of all the various ways you could earn money as a professional musician and then ask: “how many of these can I implement right now to help me become a pro musician?”

Better yet – get a music career mentor who can simply show you the most powerful ways to earn money in the music industry... AND help you install them into your career. 

That will not only help you discover new ways to make money in your own music career (as you work to break into the music business)...

... but it’ll also help you to help others you work with to make more money (or get something else they want).

8. The Ability To Make Yourself Invaluable

Your musical value comes down to your ability to solve problems for others, help them make more money and reach their goals. The better you can do this – the easier it is to become a pro musician and break into the music business.

Examples of this last part may include: 

  • Helping your band’s promoter find and book new gigs. This not only helps your grow – it makes the promoter’s life easier (making them grateful to you and more likely to help you with your other goals).

  • Thinking of new experiences to offer your fans that they will be excited about (and thus – be eager to pay for).

  • Looking for ways to improve your band’s album sales. (Hint: most bands struggle with this. So, if you come in and are able to help a band you want to play in sell more albums – imagine how much that could help your chances to break into the music business and become a pro musician).

  • Discovering the challenges faced by the record company you want to work with and creating solutions for fixing them.

This video shows you in more detail how to use these ideas to start a career in music:

9. The Least Amount Of Risk Possible

The less risk you bring to the table, the more other musicians and companies in the music industry want to work with you over other musicians.

What are the most common risk factors that can wreck your chances to become a pro musician?

Here are a few:

  • Lack of skills outside of playing your instrument. I'm talking about any skills that might be useful in business, such as knowledge of marketing, sales, graphic design, copywriting, public speaking, etc. You don’t need ‘all’ these skills to become a pro musician. But you need more than ‘zero’.

  • Drug, alcohol, or legal problems. This one should be self-explanatory.

  • An anti-capitalism and anti-money worldview. The reason this can impede your chances to make in the music industry is: it puts your life philosophy at odds with the philosophy of the companies you want to invest in your music career.

    Their goal is to make money. 

    And they avoid working with musicians who think this goal is bad or immoral.

Speaking of money...

The next thing on our list of “what it takes to make it in the music business” is something most musicians don’t think about at all, until it’s too late. 

(Which means ‘not having it’ is another risk factor for your music career.)

10. Be Able To Say “Yes” To Music Career Opportunities

This comes down to having the freedom of time and money to travel and spend time on projects that may not pay you (a lot of) money right away, but will likely grow your career in the long-term. 

True story: 

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I was once offered to join the band Iced Earth (which would’ve been my first big opportunity to break into the music business and go on tour).

But there was a problem.

The tour didn’t pay enough money for me to leave my job and survive financially.

So... like an idiot, I turned it down.

Since then, I’ve focused on building my music career to have time, freedom and money to say “yes” to opportunities when they came up. 

(And when the new opportunity to go on tour presented itself years later – I was able to jump on it.)

That is also why I spend so much time training musicians to have the same freedom to say ‘yes’ to music career opportunities, instead of awkwardly turning them down when they come up.

And speaking of training musicians... 

One thing that makes a whole lot easier to break into the music business is...

11. A Music Career Mentor

A great music career mentor can help you reach your music industry goals much faster and easier than you could on your own.

How a music career mentor helps you

And sure...

Since I have a mentoring program for musicians, this sounds like a very self-serving thing to say. 

But it doesn't make what I'm saying any less true. 

Imagine if you had someone who has done the things you want to do in the music business and has already helped hundreds of people to make it in the music industry help you do the same. 

What would be the downsides?

Exactly :)

Now that you know what it takes to make it in the music business, the next step is to find out just how many of the music industry success qualities you ‘already’ have. I can help you with this in my free music career test titled: “What Does The Music Industry Look For In You?” Test yourself now and get more clarity on how to make it in the music industry and live your music career dream!

Free Assessment

Tom Hess
About Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He trains musicians how to leave their day jobs and build successful full-time careers in the music industry.

Want some help with growing your music career? Check out this proven music business training program.

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