If you’re a musician and you think all you need is talent, you’re dead wrong.
Some of you might think that as long as you are really good at what you do then no one would care if you are a whiny arsehole. So what if you are sputtering harsh uncalled for criticisms once in a while (hey, they deserve to know) or that you’re late most of the time for meetings and rehearsals (never heard of artists being spontaneous?!), what matters most is that you are good at what you do. Would they prefer someone punctual and pleasant but totally lacks in the talent department?
Uhmmm…sorry to break it to you, but they just might. If you’re not working for/with anyone, there is a chance you won’t be able to take off at full speed and your goals would not be met in this lifetime. There are so many talented people who are not successful because they think talent is all it takes. Yes, talent is golden but that is not all that matters in the music industry or any career for that matter.
So what other things do musicians need to succeed in music aside from talent?
To succeed in music, you need to be pleasant. You don’t have to be a kiss-ass or the most behaved musician, just be likable enough so that you won’t be offending anybody. Learn how to screen your thoughts and bite your tongue. Expressing your opinions and feelings are not all the time necessary especially if they’re negative. Some think they’d be doing someone good by giving “constructive criticism” but most of the time, it’s not helping especially if the timing is off. Doesn’t mean that you should be as calm as Buddha. Don’t be a pushover but don’t be too aggressive either. Just be assertive when needed. Pleasantness can’t be faked, though. You can’t be pleasant if your core is not pleasant or you really do not see something as pleasant. In order to be genuinely pleasant, you have to find the good, look for the good in every “bad” situation or “evil” person. It’s a habit, really. Once you start paying more attention to the good, then you will start searching for the good. And once you acknowledge that sure every person has bad traits but there are also a lot of good traits and that’s what matters most, being pleasant becomes natural. You need pleasantness to have deep, lasting relationships whether they help you with your career or with life in general.
To succeed in music, you must have GRIT.
Grit is a trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve it. This perseverance of effort promotes the overcoming of obstacles or challenges that lie within a gritty individual’s path to accomplishment and serves as a driving force in achievement realization.
Here is a great TED talk video about grit.
To succeed in music, you must be a team player.
You have to learn how to work in a team whether you have a band or you’re a solo performer because this career is collaborative and requires a lot of interpersonal skills even if you’re a solo act. Basic leadership skills is a must from giving tasks without being too commanding, being a good sport, accountability, not blaming others, setting clear goals, follow through, giving feedback, and a lot more. No superstar complex, no Ms. Bossy Pants, no lazy pants whatsoever. This is very basic but this makes a whole lot of difference.
To succeed in music, learn to market yourself.
I know some musicians who hate marketing as if it’s a disease. They’re scared of “selling out” and doing the “hustling thing” and whatever they may call it. Your music is your art but you have to sell your art for you to do more art. That simple. If you will not do this, if you rely heavily on possibility that people will discover your talent, it’s as if you let destiny decide what will happen to your career. Take charge now and let people know. You are still a man/woman of talent even if you market yourself.
James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD/vinyl and merch company in LA.