Success in the music industry means different things to different people, but regardless of what your goals, aims and aspirations are, there are some habits that everyone will benefit from developing.
Below are my top 10 success habits to achieve your music dreams in 2021 and beyond...
Here's a quick breakdown of the top 10 ways to succeed in the music industry in 2021 (or indeed any year)!
(Scroll to bottom for the video version)
Top 10 Music Industry Success Tips:
1. Quantity over quality.
In the words of Ed Sheeran, "Run the tap 'til the dirty water runs clean!". This means you have to output a high quantity of music before the good stuff starts flowing. It's like Malcolm Gladwell's famous 10,000 hour rule, which states that is takes 10,000 hours of practise to become an expert at something. Whilst I think there are ways to cut down this amount of time (mentorship and course-taking being two of them), the general idea rings true.
Also, if you start and finish more music quickly (rather than obsessing over one song for 6 months), you'll multiple the practise you have at creating each element in the song, e.g. 6 songs finished means 6 bass lines written, 6 drum patterns written, 6 melodies written, etc.)
Start developing the habit of high output today (my free Ultimate Speed Writing Cheat Sheet will help with that).
2. Make music that you like – not what you think other people with like.
It's an easy trap to fall into – chasing popularity and fame, rather than following your heart when it comes to the music you produce. But, if you always produce music that you like (or at least strive to), it's a win / win situation. If no-one else likes it, yes that can be painful, but at least you've expressed what you wanted and enjoyed the process. If you just try and follow the latest trend, the chances are no-one else will like it AND neither will you!
Music production is a time-consuming endeavour, so it makes sense to enjoy the time you spend.
3. Be consistent – Consistency is key!
Gaining any traction in the music industry is a game of consistency. If you release a couple of tracks, then nothing for a year, you'll lose all the momentum / following you may have gathered. It's important to keep showing up, putting the work in, and it's also a good idea to have 3 or so finished songs for a release schedule so you've always got a few months breathing space if needs be, where you can keep releasing music.
4. Set goals, but it's essential to build systems that will help you form good writing habits.
I'm as guilty of writing big audacious goals as anyone else! I am a huge believer in the power of goal-setting, but goals without any system for fulfilling them can end up being a painful reminder of what you HAVEN'T done.
Goals are reached by developing good habits, and good habits are developed by systems that support those habits (I don't recommend relying on will-power too much – it runs out!).
An example might be:
Goal: Finishing 2 tracks per month.
Habit: Producing for 2 hours a day, 5 days a week.
System: Setting a daily alarm for 5:45am, and letting anyone who needs to know that you are unavailable from 6 - 8am from Monday to Friday. Go into your studio for those 2 hours each morning, leaving your phone somewhere else so it doesn't distract you.
On Friday feel free to reward yourself with a pizza or some beer or some other treat!
For more on developing insane music productivity, check out my book here.
5. Spend time producing rather than money on plugins.
Sometimes a new plugin will inspire us, but more often than not we buy them hoping it'll "fix" our music. It won't. If you learn the stock plugins than come with your DAW - inside and out - you'll be amazed at the world-class sound you can achieve. What's more, you'll learn what the limitations of those stock plugins are, so when you do invest in a new 3rd party premium plugin, it'll be for a specific reason.
6. Turn your social media followers into email subscribers.
I learned a hard lesson a few years ago: I had over 20,000 followers on Soundcloud, and I uploaded a remix (that I had permission to upload from the original artist). Soundcloud flagged it up as breach of copyright, cancelled my account, and overnight I lost all my followers. Ouch....now that REALLY hurt.
You can then use that email list to keep your fans updated on your music, sell merchandise, let them know of upcoming gigs, etc.
Even if you're just starting out, I recommend starting to build an email list as soon as you can – you won't regret it.
7. Contribute to the music production community
The music industry is all about relationships! Music production can be a lonely activity, so reaching out to like-minded people online is a great way to start making connections.
Rather than asking and taking, try contributing, too – someone might really appreciate your help. Here are a few places you can start to make connections.
Sure...ask questions – people love to help – but remember to answer questions, too, or link to resources you think other producers will find useful.
8. Be bold!
Don't let fear of criticism stop you from getting your music out there. You WILL get criticised from time to time...that's essential, and it's absolutely fine.
There are three types of criticism:
1. Constructive. When you get feedback on your music from people who know what they're talking about. This is essential for improvement, and worth listening to.
2. Misleading. This is where you ask your Gran if she likes your filthy, X-rated, porn sampling industrial drum 'n' bass track. Spoiler alert: she doesn't. Similarly, if you ask a friend who's only into Norwegian Death Metal whether they like your Deep House track, chances are they won't. Not because it's not good – just because it's not to their taste. So seek feedback from the right people.
3. Destructive. From trolls and haters. This hurts, but try to remember it really isn't personal. Delete, block, move on. It's from people who don't know you – most likely lashing out because they're a) jealous that you're trying to do something with your life or b) frustrated with their own life.
Once you accept that you can't achieve anything without criticism, it makes it a little easier to bear when it (inevitably) happens.
9. Enjoy yourself - it will shine through in your music
This is key! Try not to forget when striving for your idea of music success that you started this journey out of a love for music and production. Feel the love, baby – life's too short not to enjoy making music.
10. Look after yourself
A bit of an obvious one, but easy to forget. Stay healthy, stay well, and don't cane it too hard (too often!). It's much easier to produce music if you're not perpetually tired. Yes, a few beers and a couple of big nights out can be really inspiring, but too much, too often, and you won't have the energy to write your own music.
Oh, and high quality ear plugs for loud gigs are a must! Tinnitus is not – nor will ever be – your music production friend.
And there you have it! Let me know what you think in the comments, and don't forget to share if you dig 🙂