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10 Reasons Why Musicians Fail (And How To Stop This Happening To You)

  • Damian Keyes
    Damian Keyes
  • Oct 22nd 2021

90% of ALL artists fail.

Yes, even the talented ones.

This is because your success as a musician isn't down to talent.

Mindset, hard work, patience, consistency... all of these and more are what shape successful artists.

Failure is all too common and I see artists making the same mistakes every single day.

There are reasons why the most successful musicians have achieved their goals, but what about the musicians that fail?

Here are the top reasons why so many musicians never make it, and how to avoid this failure in your own career.

1. Not Taking Marketing Seriously

Marketing your music isn't an option if you want to become successful.

It's a necessity.

A lot of bands and musicians are clearly aware that they need to adopt music marketing strategies in order to reach the right people and gain new fans.

But there is a difference between being aware of it, and actually taking it seriously.

How are you supposed to grow your audience, get more Spotify streams, more views on your music video, or more followers on social media if you aren't marketing your band or solo project effectively?

I'm going to assume that you understand the importance of having the foundations of amazing music.

In fact, I think all musical people understand that to make it in the music industry, you do need to have talent and the ability to create art that resonates with people.

What contributes to the failures of these musicians is not being fully committed to marketing that very same talent, or taking the concept of marketing seriously.

Acoustic female musician

2. Expecting Music Success Overnight

There is no magic hand.

You will not get famous overnight.

You will fail over and over again until you get there.

The truth is, growing a music fan base from scratch takes time.

We're not just interested in any fan base. We want to create a legacy, one that stands the test of time. Doing this comes from showing up every day and consistent actions that ultimately lead up to a larger sum.

It's also important to talk about what your measure of 'success' is.

  • Fame?
  • Money?
  • Record deal?

Redefining 'success' for musicians is one of the best ways to avoid failure.

If all you're interested in is fame and money, you might be in this game for the wrong reasons.

You have to love what you do and enjoy the journey.

Being a musician isn't a game that ends with the final boss of getting a record deal.

Redefine success and don't expect it to happen overnight.

female singer on stage

3. Releasing Content Inconsistently

Inconsistency is one of the most common reasons for bands and singers not making it.

Consistency isn't an interesting topic, I know.

But it is the most important difference between making something of your music career or not.

Growth. Real growth comes from consistency.

World domination doesn't happen without hard work and consistent action.

The problem is, musicians are the worst at showing up in 'waves'.

They'll post on social media really frequently in the lead-up to their new album or single release, and then go missing in between.

How are people supposed to connect with you and join your journey if you keep going missing?

If you struggle with not hitting your social media goals, here's what to do

  • Create a calendar.
  • Plan your content ahead of time.
  • Set deadlines.
  • Break down existing content into smaller pieces.

Get into a rhythm of providing quality content for the world, your fans, and your followers each day.

Singer bedroom recording

4. Taking Fans For Granted

A fast track to failure for any musician is not recognizing the value in their fans.

Not seeing them as individuals.

Staring at their Instagram follower count and only seeing the number, not each person behind it.

If you want to grow properly and have a proper career in the music industry, you need to make connections with people.

Not just likes, follows, and comments.

Real connections with real people.

Musicians are obsessed with numbers. They'll put loads of hard work into trying to increase their Instagram following, looking at Spotify algorithm hacks, or getting more subscribers on YouTube.

All of this is great, but the value behind those followers is sometimes missed.

Look after your fans. Take a genuine interest in them and they will, in turn, take a genuine interest in you and your journey.

Always remember to give more than you take and show your fans that you actually do care.

Musicfansconcert

6. Not Taking Risks & Playing It Safe

I always find it interesting how artists and musicians see themselves as creatives but are so afraid of doing anything different, exciting, or taking risks with their content.

Here's the thing. There is NO rulebook as a creative.⠀

At the moment it can feel like you’re scared to do something differently, because you’re scared whether it’ll negatively impact your numbers, not realising it’s going your own different path that really elevates you.

When you truly know who you are and your reason for doing what you do, this is where your creativity shines through.⠀

And believe me, the numbers follow.⠀

Don’t always play it safe in music.

Stand for something. Be different.

Be unapologetically you.

7. Always Looking For Shortcuts

Artists fail normally because they're constantly looking for shortcuts and hacks.

Just think, if you put this effort into actually releasing music properly, you'd see way more results.

The 10% of successful artists understand that experience is built over time and repeating the process.

Results come from painstaking practice, hard work, learning, and education.

If you understand and accept this, you're already bypassing the 90%.

Let that sink in for a moment.

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8. Spending Too Much Time Comparing To Other Artists

At the heart of it, each of us are completely individual.

So comparing yourself to someone else doesn't mean anything - your aim is to be the best version of you and to compare yourself against past you.

Comparison is good in small doses. It helps you understand who you are up against and what you could do better.

Too much of it though can spoil your enjoyment.

If you compare yourself too much to others you just can't enjoy yourself as much. It means you'll regret what you aren't, rather than celebrate what you are.

Remember, people only post their best selves on social media. You're not seeing the full story and to spend your time focusing on someone else's highlights is time wasted.

How many times have you not released that song because comparison put you off? ⠀

Or haven’t promoted your music properly because you after seeing what others have achieved, thought that was unachievable for yourself? ⠀

Don't let comparison lead to paralysis.

The time is right now. Don’t waste it.

Musician recording

9. Making Excuses

I understand why we make excuses.

We're scared of failing, we're fearful, we don't know what to expect, we're scared of making mistakes, we think we don't have the resources or we compare ourselves to others and think we can't make it.

But excuses ruin your career.

How many times have you thought "the Instagram algorithm means that my content doesn't get seen" and leave it at that.

When instead you should work out why it's not working and how to find ways around it.

Or how many times have you thought "Facebook ads don't work"

The world's largest companies spend billions on Facebook Advertising every year.

Could it more be you don't know how to execute it properly or you haven't tested enough to work out what actually works for you?

Or "I haven't been able to make more music because I haven't felt inspired"

The problem is, whilst you're making excuses you're not taking action and this holds you back from making real progress. Perfectionists often make excuses and this leads them to not take action on shaping their future.

The harsh truth is when you make excuses, you're just one more excuse away from giving up.

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10. Waiting For ‘Approval’ From The Music Industry

I believe the best time to make music and be an independent artist is now.

Why?

Because there are no gatekeepers anymore.

It used to be the case that you'd have to wait for the 'industry' to let you know whether you were allowed to have any musical future or become a famous superstar.

Whether this was getting signed on a record deal, being noticed by 'the man', or getting a music manager, there were real barriers towards making it as a musician.

Things have changed.

Too many musicians are still chasing approval from the music business, but it's a free for all now.

Directing all your energy towards this instead of focusing on your craft, your content and your audience is a path towards failure.

With the right mix of talent, strategy, and work ethic, musicians are able to be all they want to be, without the need for industry 'approval'.

Stop chasing validation.

Build your own audience. Then the industry will take notice.