The first thing you need to know about “making it”?
What it means to you.
All of us want to be successful. We want the recognition, the impact, the notoriety that goes with having made a difference in someone’s life. We want to be able to do the thing we love, full-time, and be able to make enough money to support ourselves and our families doing it.
But rarely, do we break down what that means.
In the last 10+ years in this industry, I’ve seen so many artists talk about how badly they want to “make it.” And yet, they aren’t doing the things they need to do to make it—so one has to wonder—is it actually what you want, or is it just the idea of it that you like? Because those are two very different things.
So how do you start to define success in a way that’s tangible and gets results?
How do you want your life to feel?
We spend so much time thinking about what we WANT, when the reality is, we ought to be focusing on how we want to FEEL. Because what we want and reality aren’t the same thing, and going after what you want vs. how you want to feel will produce very different results.
For instance, I might want to eat a whole chocolate cake. But eating that entire cake will probably make me feel bloated, guilty, and give me a major sugar crash that leaves me exhausted. Is that how I want to feel? No? Then I probably shouldn’t eat the entire cake, even though it’s what I say I want.
The same goes for your career. You might think you want to tour full time but think about what that takes and how that feels. Touring full time is going to require you to be away from your family a lot. How does that feel? It’s going to require long days in the van. How does that feel? It’s going to require you to get on stage and give it your all and your full energy night after night, even if you had a bad day. How does that feel?
If the answer is that more of that fills you with joy and excitement than the part that doesn’t, then you’re on the right track! But if the answer is that 10% of the time you’ll be elated and 90% you’ll be miserable, then maybe touring isn’t for you after all. And that’s ok! It just means you have to start to focus on what makes you feel the way you want to feel regularly and create your career around that.
What do you want your days to be made of?
Think about what excites you more than anything. Is it the rush of being on stage? Is it the warm feeling you get from fans telling you how amazing you are? Whatever they are, those things are magic, and you need to remember them because they’ll drive so much going forward. But you also need to know those things are the outliers. They are not what 90% of your day will be made of. 90% of your day will be behind the scenes to make those things happen, and you need to decide if the 90% is something you can get behind for the rest of your life.
So think about what you want to do on a day-to-day basis. For instance, when do you lose time? When do you feel yourself lighten? When does your body relax? When do you feel yourself smile?
If you’re the kind of person who feels this way when you are:
-writing a new song
-learning something new on your instrument
Then the life you want is probably a lot different from someone who gets their energy from:
-talking to new fans on social media
-coming up with awesome marketing ideas
So you need first to figure out what is lighting you up and then create a career that supports that.
Example: If you love writing and learning and those quieter reflective moments, you probably don’t want to go after a career that has you touring and in the public eye 24/7. You might instead want to look at making money through publishing or licensing with just a few small intimate shows here and there.
What will it take to get there?
This is a big one—you’re going to have to make some moves to get the things you want, and part of that is deciding what you’re willing to do to get there. The truth is no one is going to do this for you—you have to be clear on what you’re ready to do, sacrifice, and be to get what you want.
If you want to sign to a major label, you’re going to get a lot—but you’ll also give up a lot. You’ll have to decide if not having control over what you record, when you release it, how you release it, and the messaging you put into the world, is worth what a major label might bring to the table (security, expertise, built-in fans, etc.). You’ll also have to decide if that means you’re willing to go at it 110% from now until that label notices you. This means continuously working towards your dream—not for one hour a week or 5 hours a week but for 10-20 hours every week doing marketing, talking with fans, building relationships. It means you’re willing to work extra hours to make the money you need to hire a publicist, to do marketing, have strategy coaches, and so on. You have to WANT THIS more than you want, your excuses—and that goes for everything.
If you don’t want to do all that, it’s ok! There is SO much you can do, including making enough money to make music your full-time career, without ever being “famous” or signing to a label or touring full time. This is not the only option for success.
But this is why knowing what you view as success is so critical. You might think right now that success is signing to a label, or touring full time, or playing the festivals all summer. But if you know that what you value more than anything is your family, your independence, and your freedom, then those two things might not line up. And that’s ok. It just means you get to create a career that feels in alignment with what you want and how you want to live your life. And that’s a beautiful thing,
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR and THRIVE mentorship community. Grab her workshop ‘How to Make Money Online in the Music Industry’.