The One Big Thing That Determines Your Music Career Success (And How To Make It Work For You)

by Tom Hess


Question: what is the one thing that determines your music career success more than anything else?

Answer: Your mindset. Your music career success is a result of every action you’ve taken and every choice you’ve made in your life up until this moment. Your actions and choices are the product of your mindset.

Successful pro musicians are NOT born with more knowledge or with greater potential than you or anyone else. They simply think differently, take different actions and get vastly different results.

When you have an empowering mindset, you will choose the right actions that make music career success possible. If you don’t know what to do to grow your career, your mindset will help you to ask the right questions and look for answers in the right places.

When your mindset is just average, you may reach small success in the music business, but will struggle to continuously grow your career.

When your mindset is poor, you have no chance to get anywhere in the music industry…no matter what contacts you have access to or where you live.

Imagine 3 musicians at the same level in the music business, facing 3 very common music industry challenges (described below). Everything about these musicians is equal (their background, age, city they live in, and their musical skills). The only difference between them is their mindset. Musician #1: has a poor mindset. Musician #2 has an average (or slightly above-average) mindset. Musician #3 has a rock-solid, success-focused mindset.

Read the examples below to see how a difference in mindset leads to vastly different results in your music career.

The One Thing That Determines Your Music Career Success

Music Industry Challenge #1: Making Your Music Career Financially Secure And Stable:

Musician #1 (with a poor mindset) thinks: My first priority must be to build a secure backup plan in case my music career doesn't work out. I must do this first, before I begin working on my music career.

The above mindset is rooted in fear of failure, instead of desire for success. Musicians who think this, typically pursue a career in some field totally unrelated to music as their backup. They become trapped in their “safe and secure” job until they retire…or until they improve their mindset. Their fear moves them in the opposite direction from their music career goals and destroys any chance of success.

Musician #2 (with an above-average mindset) thinks: Backup plans are a distraction from my music career. I will do nothing but work on my main music career goal until it is reached. I won’t waste time going to school or getting any job that would get in the way of my music career ambitions.

This “sink or swim” mindset greatly increases your chances of making it in music. When your only options are to succeed or fail, you become driven to do whatever it takes to reach your goals.

That said, this mindset is also reckless. While it makes your success more likely, it does little to reduce your chances of failure. If you neglect solving your short-term financial or time pressures, it will be extremely hard to build and sustain your music career. Most musicians with this mindset will burn out (or give up) long before reaching their goal.

You May Also Like:
Musicians On StageFacts & Myths Of The Music Business
Learn how 3 big lies about the music industry can kill your music career.


Hands Playing A PianoHow Secure Is Your Music Career?
Test the effectiveness of your path

to being financially secure in music.

Image Of Plugs Going Into AmplifierWhy Only Few Ever Make It In Music
Learn why so few musicians make it
in music & how to do it for yourself.

Musician #3 (with a success-focused mindset) thinks: I must find a way to build my music career without putting myself through unnecessary financial hardship. I need to earn money in a way that: 1. Gives me freedom to work on my music career, 2. Is congruent with my long-term career goals, 3. Doesn't require me to work a lot of hours every week. This way I can focus on my music career goals for as long as it takes, without excessive struggle or risk.

Learning how to build your music career in this way is the easy part (you can learn how to do this easily by getting music career training). The hard part is avoiding the 2 mindsets above that cripple your chances for success.

Before reading further, test yourself to see how close you are to making your music career financially secure and stable. Take this music career assessment and get my feedback on your music career situation.

Music Industry Challenge #2: Getting More/Better Paying Gigs:

Musician #1 (with a poor mindset) thinks: I don’t get paid enough for gigs because booking agents/venue owners are paying me too little and are taking advantage of me (or my band).

Musicians who have this mindset will always struggle to find gigs (and get paid well for them). To be paid more for gigs, you must help the venues you perform in earn more money. Hint: simply “showing up and playing songs” doesn't do this (unless you are a mega-huge band with millions of fans).

Musician #2 (with an above-average mindset) thinks: I need to attract more of my fans to my gigs. This will help the booking agents and venue owners see that I deserve this gig and should be paid more for it.

This mindset makes it much easier to get the gigs you want. When you increase the value you bring to any business opportunity, your chances for getting what you want go way up.

However, this mindset doesn’t go far enough and limits the success you can achieve in this area of your music career.

Musician #3 (with a success-focused mindset) thinks: I need to attract more of my fans to every gig AND motivate them to buy my music/merchandise and support me/my band.

When you have this mindset, you will take VERY different actions to get and promote your gigs compared to the 2 musicians above. More importantly, you will get much different (and better) results.

This mindset helps you to:

  1. Bring more people into the venue and enable venue owners and booking agents to earn more money.
  2. Make a lot more money overall (from the fee you are paid for the gig + merchandise sales).
  3. Not be as concerned about how much money you are paid for the gig itself.
  4. Make it much easier for you to get the gig, because you can afford to do it for less money than other musicians.
  5. Build stronger relationships with booking agents, venue owners and your fans. This makes it easier to get bigger and better gigs in the future.

To learn more about this topic, read this article about getting more gigs.

Music Industry Challenge #3: Getting Opportunities In The Music Industry:

Musician #1 (with a poor mindset) thinks: Getting better opportunities is all about being a great musician, having lots of contacts in the music industry, living in a city with a great music scene….and luck.

Musicians with this cynical mindset shift responsibility for their success onto other people and circumstances. They make excuses, instead of taking personal responsibility and changing their situation for the better.

Musician #2 (with an average mindset) thinks: If I simply work hard for a long time, eventually I will get the opportunities I want.

This mindset reflects self-reliance, personal responsibly and work ethic (all of which are needed to succeed in the music business). This will help you get much further in your career compared to the cynical mindset above.

However, “hard work” by itself doesn't lead to long-term success. Many musicians fail to become successful in the industry, because they don’t know what to do and how to do it to build their careers.

Musician #3 (with a success-focused mindset) thinks: I don’t know what it takes to get big music career opportunities…but I must do whatever it takes to find out. I must get guidance from someone who is doing what I want to do in the music industry. I cannot assume without knowing or listen to advice of people who aren’t successful professional musicians.

It doesn't matter how much (or how little) you know about the music business right now. Success-focused mindset will help you learn what you don't know and get you on the right track towards your goals.

Learn how to get on the right track in your music career. Take this free music career plan assessment and get my feedback on how to become a more successful professional musician.


Learn what it really takes to make it in the music business.

Forward this article to your friends

© 2002-2017 Tom Hess Music Corporation