How To Make It In
Music By Eliminating Your “Risk”
By Tom Hess
Tom Hess, international music career mentor and guitar
player in the 1.5+ million album selling operatic metal band Rhapsody Of Fire
discusses what it takes to achieve success as a pro musician.
How is it that many people cannot seem to achieve success as
professional musicians, while some people quickly build and develop highly
successful music careers? One of the ideas that I continually stress in my
articles is how your success as a professional musician is directly related to
your ability to build value while minimizing risk (if you are not familiar with
this concept, take this music career
success building test now before reading this article). Once you have
become familiar with this idea, your potential for success in the music
industry will increase tenfold. However, to get everything out of your
potential, you must do more than simply ‘know’ about this concept.
As a trainer to musicians, the main thing I train people to
do is to learn how to become effective at offering maximum value with minimum
downsides/risk with every action taken. In my experience I noticed that most
musicians easily grasp the idea of lowering their risk in conventional/obvious
ways, however many people do not realize that even their ‘positive’ traits and
skills can hold elements of severe music industry risk. This lack of awareness
makes it much more difficult (if not impossible) to reach lasting success in
one’s career as a professional musician.
To end up as one of the few highly successful musicians, you
MUST find out how to reduce the inherent weak points that lie on the opposite
extreme of your music career strengths. As you read the rest of this article, I
will demonstrate how to do this and explain how this analysis will bring you
closer to the music career success that you want.
Character Of A Professional Musician
In the process of working towards a music career, you have
no doubt spent a lot of time to acquire skill sets with intention of using them
in your musical projects. At the same time, if you are like most musicians, all
your skills were acquired in a random fashion, lacking an underlying plan of
how these ‘assets’ will fit together to enable you to build a music career. As
a result of this random planning, it is more than likely that your positive
pieces of value will also contain contradictory weaknesses that can be
interpreted as damaging elements of risk if they remain unchanged. I observe
this unfortunate scenario very often in musicians in all areas of the music
business, and the most frustrating part is that this frequently happens without
them being aware of it.
To accelerate the advancement of your career as a pro
musician, learn to get the most from your positive attributes while minimizing
the negative/opposing weaknesses that they create in your music career
strategy. All musicians with a thriving career do/have done this at one point
or another, while those who fail to become successful continue to wonder why
some musicians can ‘make it’ in the business and they can’t. The good news is
that it is possible for anyone to get on the right track with their approach
and I will explain how to get started as you keep reading.
To begin, see the table below that lists (in the left
column) several music career assets/strengths that musicians typically have. In
the adjacent column, is an illustration of how a seemingly positive attribute
can frequently contain elements of risk/weakness that lies beneath the surface.
While giving music career
training, I come across the issues listed below on a continual basis (among
many others) and these are the reasons why a person typically struggles to make
it in the music business even though they possess many great skills and
Note: Of course as
a general rule, the items you will read about in the left column of the table
are good/positive (at least when taken in isolation). However as you will see,
when taken in context of your specific goals they also often contain unexpected
weaknesses that can hurt you unless you take proper actions to prevent this
Your List Of Music Career Values And
Your Assets’ Matching Element Of Risk
You are very friendly and
considerate of others.
Musicians who go out of
their way to be too accommodating often get taken advantage of when
negotiating contracts and business deals (that happen all the time in the
You have played, performed
and toured with many different bands.
This seemingly positive
thing can often be misinterpreted (by other people) to mean that you lack
loyalty or dedication to a single project (particularly as you seek to enter
a new, more successful band). Ironically, your true amount of commitment and
loyalty may be in fact very high, but the credential of having played in many
bands can often be perceived in the opposite way from what you intend.
You easily come up with new
plans and ideas.
Musicians to whom this
description applies often have a tendency to begin a number of new and
exciting projects, only to let them wither away, unfinished. Over time, this
leads to not only extreme frustration and overwhelm but also to a vicious
circle of taking actions in your career based largely on emotional impulses
rather than rational thought.
You are a musician who plays
multiple different styles of music.
Unless you want to make a
living mainly as a songwriter for hire, it will be better for you to
establish your musical reputation as a specialist in a single genre of music.
Most bands and record companies prefer to work with someone who is an expert
in the specific music they do. Think hard about where you want to see yourself
in the music industry and take actions appropriately.
You are a jack of all trades
player on many instruments.
While having skills on many
instruments is often (but not always) important for being a session musician,
if you want to do anything other than work in the studio, in most cases you
will be better served by becoming an expert on your chosen (one) instrument.
Here you need to determine by yourself what it is you want to be known and
perceived as in your music career and act congruently with that vision.
Note: I don’t mean to imply that having general knowledge of more
than one instrument is ‘bad’, but there CAN be a problem (depending on your
goals) with trying to communicate to others that you are trying to make a
name for yourself as someone who plays many instruments.
You are good at thinking
People who are too
analytical in everything they do have a tendency to get stuck for too long in
‘planning’ and spend too little time actually ‘doing’ the things that will
move them forward in their music careers. Although it is good to analyze
issues from all angles, it is important to keep this quality balanced with
the ability to take consistent action on a regular basis.
You very self-reliant and
As valuable as it is to be
resourceful and independent, musicians who spend too much time working by
themselves often have a hard time working on team-oriented projects. This can
be very damaging for your music career, because being a professional musician
will require you to collaborate with MANY different people on a variety of
projects. Moreover, no matter how skilled you are, you simply cannot do
everything you must do in your career ‘by yourself’. To succeed in the music
business you must learn to love teamwork.
You have a high level of
work ethic and persistence.
All too often, people with
the best work ethic can become too stubborn to change the course of action in
their music career, even when the actions they are taking are not bringing
them the desired results.
You have great musical
Many musicians are
completely out of balance with the amount of time they spend developing their
musical skills and the time invested into building their music career. While
having high level skills on your instrument is definitely a requirement,
advanced musical skills by themselves will not give you the successful music
career that you want.
You went to college for
Unless all you want to do is
teach music as a professor in a college, a music degree is hardly worth the
MASSIVE investment of time and tuition money if you want to be a professional
musician. The reason is because in music school you are not going to learn
anything about building a successful career at the end of your education. In the
vast majority of cases, your resources will be better invested into actually expanding
your music career directly and receiving ‘specific’ music career training
from someone who is already a pro in the industry.
After having seen how and why your music career assets can
also become your weaknesses, there are a few things you need to do right now to
maximize your chances for success for doing music as a career.
1. Understand that not all elements of music career value
are ‘positive’ when taking into account YOUR long term music business goals. Certain
elements that may at first seem overwhelmingly positive can very often do more
harm than good (as you have seen in the above analysis).
2. Make it a high priority to get the clearest understanding
of your current risks and values in your music career. To get help with this,
fill out this quick music career
success building test.
3. Organize a music business plan detailing the goals you
want to reach. In the process, list the assets (elements of musical value for
the industry) that you will need to acquire and also make a plan for how you
will minimize their opposing negative side effects. To get help with doing
this, you should work with a proven music career coach who can guide you
effectively through this process. Additionally, through music career training
you will often discover new and powerful ways to make yourself more valuable in
the music business that you have not considered before.
4. Keep in mind that compiling a comprehensive plan for
reaching your music career goals demands having a clear image of what you want
to achieve and supplementing that vision through ongoing training. Fact is that
the majority of musicians are not hard-wired for thinking in this way. They, as
most creative business minds, tend to act on impulse and intuition. Although it
can be helpful to rely on your gut feeling occasionally, doing ‘only’ this will
make your music career results unpredictable and random.
Last but not least, remember that in your quest to build new
pieces of value for advancing your music career, your actions will be of
limited use until you complete the self-analysis of your strong and weak areas
in the way I explained here. After learning how to get the most from your
current potential, your progress towards a successful music career will become
To help you learn more about your current potential to build
a successful music career, fill out this free music career
success building test.
About The Author:
Tom Hess is an online guitar teacher, touring guitarist, and
a member of the band Rhapsody Of Fire. As a professional music career mentor,
he helps musicians from many countries break into the music industry. On
his music instruction website you can find
out how to become a pro
musician and learn how
the music industry works.
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