7 Things Musicians Do Out Of Order - Music Industry Mistakes That Lead To Music Career Failure

by Tom Hess
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To build a successful music career like other pro musicians have done, there are many things you need to know and do. This includes:

  • The right steps to take to become successful in the music industry and reach your specific goals.
  • How to take each step in the best, easiest and most effective way to get the results you want.
  • What order to take the steps in, so you can build your career most quickly. The order in which you take your music career steps is extremely important.

Many musicians take the steps out of order and do the right things at the wrong time. Their music career decisions are guided by fear, wrong assumptions and advice from non-experts vs. a proven strategy. 

Question: “Tom Hess, what do you mean by “advice from non-experts”?”

Answer: Non-experts include musicians who have never been in the music industry or musicians who failed to become successful. To build a thriving music career, you need expert advice from people who are successful pros in music. (Ideally, these experts have also trained other people to become professional musicians.)

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These music industry mistakes make it hard to reach your goals with a music career:

Music Industry Mistake #1: Contacting Record Companies For Record Deals Too Early

Many musicians want to get a record deal, but few understand what record companies actually look for in musicians they work with. Record companies invest money and resources into musicians the same way people invest money in the stock market.

Investors in the stock market look for businesses that show proof of success (profits) and potential projections for future growth. Empty promises and emotional rhetoric don’t attract investors… track record of profitability does.

It's important to provide verifiable proof of your music career accomplishments and your potential to achieve future success to record companies you contact. This makes record companies confident that their investment into your career will be profitable for them. Contacting record companies before this proof can be established is a waste of your time and theirs.

7 Strategic Mistakes That Lead To Music Career Failure

Your music career accomplishments don’t need to be massive before you contact record companies. However, your achievements need to leave no doubt about:

  • Your ambition to become successful in the music industry.
  • Your work ethic (your ability to actually get things done that move your career forward).
  • Your perseverance (your ability to keeep going and not give up in the face of challenges).
  • Your music industry mindset (this includes your worldview about business, money & capitalism, as well as your general business skills).
  • Your ability to sell your music to your existing fans.
  • Your ability to get gigs in your local area (if this applies to your music career)

Question: “But Tom Hess, how can I achieve any success in the music industry without money or resources? Musicians need someone to give them a break to become successful!”

Answer: Wrong. You can achieve a lot of success using your own resources and initiative. You can easily learn to get more fans and sell your music to them. You can learn to get more gigs in your area. You can build freedom of time and money to pursue any music career opportunity that comes your way. These achievements show proof of your commitment and make record companies more interested in working with you.

This video shows 22 things musicians should do right now to show record companies you are ready for a record deal:

Music Industry Mistake #2: Trying To Master Your Instrument Before Starting Your Music Career

Many musicians are afraid to start building their careers because they don’t think their musical skills are good enough. They want to reach musical mastery on their instrument before they feel ready to enter the music industry. This mindset cripples your chances for success, because:

  1. You need a lot more than good musical skills to build a career in the music industry. Too much time spent practicing your instrument takes away time and energy from working on other aspects of your music career.

  2. Musical mastery is a goal, not a destination. No matter how good your musical skills are, you always feel that you want to be better than you are right now.

Start building your career when your musical skills are at an intermediate level or higher. Keep improving as a musician while you’re building the rest of your music career.

Question: “Tom Hess, how much time should I allocate to my musical skills vs. other aspects of my music career?”

Answer: This depends on your specific music industry goals and your current skill level as a musician.

Determine an objective level of musical proficiency needed for your specific music career goals. (An expert music teacher helps you do this.) The closer you are to that threshold, the less time you need to work on your musical skills. The further away you are from that threshold, the more time you can spend developing as a musician.

As a general rule, at least half of your music-related time needs to go towards building your music career.

Music Industry Mistake #3: Waiting Too Long To Get Music Career Mentoring

Most musicians have zero training on how to become successful in the music industry, because:

  1. They aren’t aware that music career success training exists.
  2. They lack ambition that’s needed to become truly successful in this industry.
  3. They think: “I can’t afford music career mentoring right now.” Or “I need to become more successful in my music career first, before investing in mentoring.
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This mindset is wrong.

Music career mentoring is an investment into your success, not an expense. It helps you earn a lot more money than you ever invest into it. Here is how:

  • You take out all guesswork from the process of building your career. Having a music career mentor saves you time, money and effort you waste trying to build your career through trial and error.
  • You learn how to promote yourself and your music most effectively. This helps you earn more money in your music career with or without a record company.
  • You learn how to create your own opportunities out of nothing. This makes your music career a lot more secure and puts you in total control of your success. 
  • You learn how to build multiple streams of income in the music industry that allow you to support yourself without relying on a non-music related job.
  • You learn how to avoid most challenges musicians typically face in the music industry. This makes your path towards your goals less challenging and less risky.

Hint: investing in music career mentoring is the easiest thing you can do to build proof of your ambition and commitment to success. This credential says a lot (of great things) about you to record companies (and everyone else in the music industry).

Disclaimer: You may know that I mentor musicians to build a successful music career. So you may think that everything above is only written to attract you to join my Music Careers Mentoring Program. If you think this, you are only half right. I do want to help musicians like yourself become successful. But the benefits of music career mentoring are undeniable whether you work with me or not. :)

Music Industry Mistake #4: Not Training Your Mindset For Big Success At The Beginning Of Your Music Career

Your mindset determines your success or failure in the music industry. If your mindset is not rock-solid, you won’t do the things required to become successful.

How musicians become successful

Most musicians do nothing to develop their mindset. They think things like:

  • “My mindset is pretty good already. I just need to know where to send my music to get my name out there.”
  • “Mindset is not all that important.”
  • “Mindset is just about thinking positively.”

Fact: your mindset is much more than positive thinking. Success-focused mindset trains you to:

  • Persevere in the face of obstacles that cause most musicians to give up. (Hint: this is one of the things record companies look at when deciding whether or not to work with you.)
  • Easily transform problems into opportunities for great success.
  • Make the right choices every step of the way in your music career, even if these choices are unpleasant in the short term. This is what separates champions from the wannabes.
  • Take responsibility for the results you get in your music career instead of blaming other people or circumstances.
  • Do the work other musicians are not willing to do, so you can achieve success other musicians only dream about.

Start training your mindset from the very beginning of your music career. It builds the foundation for taking the right actions that lead to success.

Training your mindset consists of:

  • Studying books and resources about successful people and success psychology.
  • Learning how to apply the success principles you learn in your music career.

Both pieces are crucial to your success. Studying theory of success without applying what you learn is useless.

Question: “Tom Hess, how long do I need to keep working on my mindset to succeed in the music industry?”

Answer: For as long as you want to sustain a successful and lucrative music career :)

Music Industry Mistake #5: Focusing On Getting Fans All Over The World Before Becoming Well-Known In Your Local Area

Most musicians are attracted by the idea of having thousands of fans all over the world. They brag about the number of “friends” they have on Facebook and the views and subscribers they have on YouTube.

Fact: your music career grows faster when you build a fan base in your local area first.

Record companies are much more impressed by the number of fans you accumulate in your own town/city. It’s much harder to build a loyal local following than it is to acquire a few thousand followers scattered around the world. It’s also much harder to fake having a local following vs. a high number of likes on Facebook or views on a YouTube video.

Your success in your local area is ironclad proof of your potential to be successful anywhere in the world. It shows record companies that you can replicate this success in any city (or country) with their resources behind you.

Question: “Tom Hess, are you saying that social media promotion for musicians is unimportant?”

Answer: No. Social media promotion has its place in your music career…but it’s only one piece of a much bigger strategy.

Music Industry Mistake #6: Waiting Too Long To Build Freedom Of Time And Money For Yourself

You need freedom to accept music career opportunities when they come up. This requires both money and time.

Most musicians don’t think about this until it’s too late. They go to work at non-music related day jobs and try to work on their music career during nights and weekends.

Most day jobs require you to work on a strict schedule of 40-60 hours per week. This makes it impossible to create music career growth opportunities and increase your music career income. The majority of musicians get stuck at their day jobs until retirement and never go into music full-time.

Focus on gaining control over your time and money as soon as possible (from the very beginning of your music career).

The best ways to create freedom of time and money for yourself include:

  1. Building multiple streams of music career income. This makes all your efforts congruent with your music career goals. If you need a short-term part-time job on the side, find one with flexible hours that you can easily quit at any time. This eGuide helps you make more money by selling your music.
  2. Teaching your instrument. This is the best, most flexible and most lucrative way to support yourself in the music industry.

Question: “Tom Hess, how do I earn more money in the music industry besides teaching?”

Answer: This video shows why some musicians make a lot more money than others in the music industry:

Music Industry Mistake #7: Planning Your Music Career Forward Instead Of Planning Backwards

Plan out your music career with the end in mind. Ask yourself what your ultimate goal is and plan backwards to where you are now. This lays out the exact path you need to follow to get where you want to go.

Many musicians do the opposite. These musicians look at where they are now and try to plan out the next steps to take. This kind of planning often paints you into a corner and keeps you from achieving the success you want.

Want to get on the shortest path towards your music industry goals?

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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 fulltime careers in the music industry.

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