Things successful artists do is a response to last week’s episode on what they don’t do. Now that you know what behavior you should avoid, it’s time to talk about what you can actively do to push your music career in the right direction. You’re going to learn 7 things music producers and DJs with some level of success are doing to make things happen.
Self-optimization, but in a mindful way
If we talk about things successful artists do, we have to be careful not to lose ourselves in an exhausting discussion about self-optimization. Yes, I could tell you that you need to get up at 5 am, work out like a special-forces soldier first thing in the morning, and then win the day by doing so again and again. Well, this is at least the stuff you read everywhere online as well as in various books. Some people swear by the “miracle morning” or whatever other flashy self-optimization trends.
While I don’t necessarily want to dismiss any of these techniques, I encourage you to be cautious with this stuff. As an artist, you have to carefully listen to yourself and be mindful when it comes to setting up certain routines and practices. There is no “miracle” recipe that works for everybody.
Even if this episode talks about things successful artists do, I won’t analyze people’s morning routines or similar self-optimization talk. Instead, I’m going to cover certain underlying principles of success in the music industry.
7 things successful artists do
If you’ve already downloaded my free “Seven Strategies of Successful Electronic Music Artists” guide, you already have a good idea of what you need to put in place. You can see this episode as an extension that helps you get a better understanding of the success factors in the music industry. So there you go, enjoy the seven things successful artists do. And in case you want to want the free guide as well, go get it below.
1. They go all-in on their unique strengths
“Jack of all trades, master of none”. You’ve probably come across this saying. It means that specialization is a good thing, and that’s also true for music producers and DJs. Successful artists have found out what they’re really good at and they know exactly how to capitalize on their unique strengths.
You don’t have to be a master of every form of synthesis. There’s no reason you need to learn programming weird Max for Live patches in Ableton if that’s not your thing. You don’t have to enter the world of modular synthesizers to be successful.
Find a few things that you really like and go all-in. If you love mashing up field recordings, then that’s your thing. Dominik Eulberg has built an incredible career out of his inspiration from nature (and the field recordings he grabbed there). Richard Devine, instead, is known for his ultra-deep understanding of modular synthesis.
Your goal should be to experiment with a lot of styles and techniques early in your career and then dive deep into the things that resonate with you the most. I’ve put this as number one on my list of things successful artists do because that can be a game-changer and helps you stand out as an artist.
2. They eliminate, automate, or delegate things that are holding them back from achieving their goals
You might have heard of the book “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss. Yes, I know it’s a stupid clickbait-type title but the content is actually quite good. One of the things Tim preaches is to remove the things from your life that you either can’t do properly, hate doing, or don’t have the time for.
Successful artists have understood this (even if only few of them have read this book I guess). They focus their time and energy on the things that they are good at, love doing, and create massive value for their fanbase. From writing new songs to playing shows and sharing their journey on social media or in interviews.
But do you think they all mix and master their own songs, do their taxes manually, or clean their studios? Hell no, why would they waste these valuable hours in such a way? You might now say: Well, they at least have the money to pay someone to take care of these things. But actually, a lot can be achieved without any investment at all.
In his book, Tim Ferriss suggests three methods of dealing with this. The first one is elimination. You have to ask yourself: “Do I really need to do this?” If the answer is “no”, or a very unconvincing “maybe”, then you might as well eliminate this from your to-do list once and for all. A good example of this would be adding random people on SoundCloud or social media, hoping that they will follow back and increase your number of fans. Honestly., this is a pointless tactic and you should eliminate this right away.
If you can’t eliminate something, you might want to check if you can automate the process somehow. Robots are taking over the world anyway so you might as well just try to benefit from the technology. A good example would be bookkeeping. You could, of course, collect receipts, put them in a shoebox and manually design a spreadsheet in which you enter your numbers. The better way of handling this is to use a digital bookkeeping software that automates most of the tedious tasks and integrates directly with your bank account.
Sometimes it’s necessary to delegate things. Whether this is paying someone to clean your studio once a week or sharing part of your revenue with a booking agency so they do the heavy lifting for you when it comes to playing more shows. You will have to outsource some aspects of your artist career so you can focus on adding maximum value to your fanbase. The main reason why I get paid to mix and master other people’s music is that they have completely lost all objectivity and want to move on to the next song. Plus, they enjoy the feeling of relief that their music is in good hands and is going to sound great in the club as well as on Spotify and Beatport.
3. Successful music producers and DJs say “no” very often
In last week’s episode, I’ve explained why successful artist don’t say “yes” to every opportunity that comes their way. But not saying “yes” is one thing, saying “no” intentionally is something else.
Saying “no” is one of the things successful artists do because they have to make clear and conscious decisions about their music but also their artist brand again and again. Many of these decisions require a clear “yes” or “no”. The latter is the default answer in most situations, believe me.
“It’s either ‘HELL YEAH!’ or no.” – Derek Sivers
I just love this quote by Derek Sivers as it sums up what I want to share with you here. Saying “no” is painful, but not as painful as a “yes” you might regret real soon.
Just to give you an example: An old friend of yours is inviting you to play at a party. The money isn’t bad and apart from that, you feel like you owe him a favor. Most of us would say “yes” to this but cringe a little when we think about that party: Not the right audience, bad sound system in a club with a bad reputation, “please don’t play too hard/too soft” type of comments before the gig… you know what I mean.
If you follow Derek’s principle of HELL YEAH! or no, you know exactly what to do in these situations. Some of my close and very successful artist friends have fired their booking agents because they wanted them to play at clubs that paid good money but had a very bad reputation. Saying “no” is one of the things successful artists do a lot better than unsuccessful ones, even early on in their careers.
4. They focus on strategies rather than tactics
These days, it’s easy to get lost in tactics. We’re being bombarded with ads that try to sell us the “three-step secret success formula for Instagram ads” or clickbait articles that present shallow information as the next big thing.
Focusing on strategies rather than tactics is one of the most important things successful artists do. It allows them to think bigger and put their energy into what is going to make a difference in five to ten years from now.
Tactics are flashy and sexy because they’re close to the current trend. It’s fun to engage in tactics and get quick results. Strategies, on the other hand, are slow burners. They require a lot of mental energy and you have to fully commit to something for a longer period of time. By definition, strategies are more complex and harder to implement. But keep this in mind: Tactics might win the battle, strategies are going to win the war.
Let me give you an example: You can either put your time into following the latest hacks to gain more Instagram followers or you can invest all your energy into carefully refining your artist brand. The first one is a tactic that is going to give you quick results in the form of 1000 new followers on social media in the next month. The second one is a strategy that is going to help you grow a tribe of 1000 true fans over the next five to ten years. Now, what is going to make a difference in the end?
5. They put music creation at the center of their lives as well as in their calendars
I’m sorry I have to say this but f you have a full-time day job, it’s going to be tough to follow this advice. One of the things successful artists do is that they build their schedules around the creative process. They know exactly at which times every day and every week they’re most likely to make full use of their creativity. Everything else is irrelevant during these “deep work” hours.
Truly dedicating your life to music means that your daily life consists mainly of things that have to do with the creation of music as well as the promotion of it. Just dreaming of having more time for it (while having a full-time day-job) simply isn’t the same thing. You have to dedicate the most precious time slots of the week to the things that are most important for your artist career. I’ve shown you the principles of proper time management back in episode 25.
But please bear with me here. Even if you have a day job, it can be part of a bigger plan that ultimately makes it possible to put music creation at the center of your life. You could be saving up for a sabbatical where you focus on your music career or slowly transition into a half-time position in your job.
6. Successful artists surround themselves with like-minded people who push and support each other
This is one of the most powerful things successful artists do but really easy to implement. What’s important here is that you don’t see other artists in your league as competition. You’re maybe not sitting in the same boat, but you’re sailing in the same storm. It’s fantastic to have a support group of like-minded artists who help each other.
The main reason why I’ve decided to create the Pick Yourself Community on Facebook is that I wanted to facilitate that exchange between artists who are interested in supporting each other. I know that my blog readers and podcast listeners are different from most upcoming artists so I believe that you should have a chance to meet each other.
As discussed in my episode on networking (and why that’s a stupid tactic), I believe that you shouldn’t just be “friends with everybody”. This would be just another short-sighted tactic. Instead, I’m convinced that you need to find a close group of people that is interested in giving back to that small community rather than just taking from it.
7. They build up grit to persevere in tough times
It’s a long road to success in the music industry and your journey won’t be easy. “Grit”, which is the power to persevere, is one of the most important skills you need to develop and train. Also, it’s something that makes you very attractive to work with, from a music industry perspective.
Of all the things successful artists do, this is the one that ensures a long-term career instead of a short moment of stardom. Building up grit can happen in many forms. Most importantly, you have to adopt a growth mindset that allows you to believe in unlimited self-growth rather than fixed limits of skills and talent. If you’re facing an obstacle, don’t complain about it, figure out how to make the best out of the situation.
This is also the main reason why I’m preaching to invest in learning and self-growth as well as coaching. It allows you to open up your mind to new possibilities and let go of limiting beliefs. Many of my coaching clients are super talented, ambitious to learn new skills, but lack that important bit of self-esteem that’s necessary to build a successful career. Believe me, this is something you can work on and grow beyond your self-imposed limits.
Putting it into action: Things successful artists do
Now that you have a good overview of the seven things successful artists do, let’s take a look at how you can work on this. I’m giving you three dedicated action steps that you can implement right away.
1. Identify the areas that are going to help you most in your current situation
- Maybe you’re good at building great relationships with other people in the music industry but you have a problem with saying “no” in the right moment. Maybe you haven’t figured out what your unique strength is but you have other boxes ticked in this list.
- Whatever it is, analyze which aspects might offer you the biggest growth potential right now.
2. Map out how you’re planning to address these points in a strategic way
- Clearly prioritize which of these points you want to address first and how you want to do it (do this in written form).
- Make sure to integrate them as much as possible in your day-to-day.
3. Take the first step of the first item on your list right now
- You don’t want to procrastinate on this so walk the walk and don’t just talk the talk. Pick the first and most important thing on your list and commit to taking the very first step of it right now.
- Let’s say you struggle with the point of elimination, automation, and delegation. Your first step could be to create a list of things you’re not doing properly, you hate doing, or don’t have the time to do.
Alright, that’s it for this week’s episode, I hope it has helped you! I’d love to know from you which of these things successful artists do is most important to you, personally. Where do you see the biggest growth potential for you as an artist?
Let me know in the comments, I read everything.