Let’s talk about things successful artists don’t do. Why? Well, because you will probably find some things on this list that are holding you back from building a meaningful, long-term career in the music industry. In this episode, I’m going to show you the 7 things successful artists don’t do.
First of all, let’s talk about self-awareness as an artist
Having a high degree of self-awareness as an artist is probably the most important meta-skill of all. If you can look at yourself and be objective about what you see, you’re more likely to recognize healthy and unhealthy patterns. Based on the findings, you can take action and adjust things. This enables you to achieve your goals much faster.
There are certain things successful artists don’t do because they have the self-awareness that tells them to avoid these patterns or habits. They know that certain behaviors or actions stand in the way of their music career. Therefore, they intentionally decide not to do certain things. Which brings as to another important aspect.
Self-awareness + strategy = longterm success
I can almost guarantee that this formula will lead to a successful music career in some way, shape, or form. Self-awareness alone might not help you since this is only the aspect of recognizing what’s right or wrong with the path you’ve chosen. Strategy alone won’t help you either because you might be creating a flawed action plan due to your lack of self-awareness.
But if you combine self-awareness with strategy, you’re setting yourself up for potential massive success in the future. Let’s now take a look at some things successful artists don’t do because they have that self-awareness and strategy in place.
The 7 things successful artists don’t do
I encourage you to watch your heroes closely. Chances are that they don’t do all (or at least most) of the things you’re about to read here. Of course, there are always exceptions but you shouldn’t use these as an excuse to continue with behavior that hurts your music career. So there you go, enjoy the 7 things successful artists don’t do.
1. They don’t brag about “that big new project that’s coming up” (which is never going to happen)
I’m seeing this pattern a lot among upcoming artists. They talk the talk but never walk the walk. This means they’re pretty bold when it comes to telling everybody about that new EP which might feature remixes by DJ Awesome (replace this with whoever is the new hot-shot in the scene right now). Strangely, nothing will have happened when you ask them six months later. These people will come up with excuses or tell you an even weirder and bigger new plan. But you will never see any of this come to fruition.
This is definitely one of the things successful artists don’t do because they know that bragging about stuff that’s unlikely to happen is going to disappoint their tribe of true fans. It’s hard enough to build and grow a fanbase, but it’s even harder to keep it.
Moreover, this behavior could potentially damage their reputation among music industry professionals. We’ve all seen enough big mouths disappear over the years so every pro sees the red flag hanging high above the person why constantly brags about that big new project.
2. Successful music producers and DJs don’t lift themselves up by holding others down
This should be a given, but sadly, it’s not. One of the most unhealthy behaviors of upcoming artists is to talk crap behind other people’s backs. Especially while they’re talking to someone influential in their local scene. They’re trying to improve their own reputation by holding other people down.
The same goes for sharing opportunities in the scene. Most producers will try to secure the biggest part of the pie for themselves and even try to hide opportunities from other artists. Only very few have adopted the go-giver mentality (and will most likely succeed in this industry).
Holding others down is one of the things successful artists don’t do. First of all, they already have established themselves so things like sharing and providing mentorship become more important. But interestingly enough, the ones that are now successful have most likely acted in the same way when they were still nobodies.
3. They don’t constantly compare themselves to others
Comparing yourself with others is a pretty dangerous thing. Yes, we’ve all been guilty of this but this doesn’t mean we can’t take control of this behavior. Do you sometimes find yourself comparing your success to the one of this other local artist who seems to get all the gigs, know all the people, and get signed to that prestigious label?
Well, it might feel unfair sometimes because you’re obviously putting in the same (if not more) amount of work into your artist career. Still, it doesn’t help you to compare yourself to others. Your job is to focus all your mental and physical energy on your own growth as well as nurturing the growth of people you care about.
Comparison is one of the things successful artists don’t do because they know that it only costs valuable energy and won’t help them achieve their goals. Don’t get me wrong, even successful artists have these moments of self-doubt and will most likely compare themselves to others. The difference is that they’ve learned to quickly come back to their strategy and don’t obsess about that comparison.
4. Successful artists never blame the circumstances when something goes wrong
Blaming the circumstances when something goes wrong is the default-option most upcoming artists choose. I understand it, we all have that self-defense mechanism installed in our mental operating system. But that system needs a major update from time to time.
This is on my list of things successful artists don’t do because it has to do with taking ownership of your music career as well as your life in general. You can’t control the circumstances but you can definitely control how you react to a situation and how you solve a problem.
If you focus mentally on the circumstances, you might give up more easily because many things are outside of your control. If you instead put all your mental energy and willpower on the things you have control over, you are more likely to find a solution for that obstacle.
Let me give you an example: You might complain about streaming services not paying artists well enough. That’s a fair discussion to have but does that mean you won’t ever be able to make a living off your music? What if I told you that sync royalties (meaning: licensing your music to TV shows, commercials, etc.) have gone through the roof in the last years? I’m not saying you should adapt your music to fit with the latest BMW commercial but I want to open up your mind to new perspectives on the music market. You can blame the circumstances and keep complaining or you can figure out a way to make the best out of the current situation. This is what successful artists do.
5. They don’t say yes to every opportunity that comes their way
Oh, this one hurts. I’ve been guilty of this myself, big time. I was a constant “yes”-sayer when a new opportunity had popped up. Please don’t be that person.
When we’re talking about things successful artists don’t do, then this is a must-have on the list. Time and energy are more important resources than money. So if an opportunity pops up, even if it offers you good money, make sure you balance this with how much time and energy goes into it.
To give you an example: Many upcoming artists accept shitty DJ gigs at local pubs, bars, restaurants, or even hotels. Some of these jobs actually pay quite a decent fee and that’s great. The downside of this is: You are unlikely to play the style you’re usually known for, you won’t be exposed to your ideal audience, it might hurt your artist brand, and you will lose valuable time and energy.
6. They don’t surround themselves with people who are holding them down
Sadly, there are many “lost” characters in this scene and some of them are friends or good acquaintances. The problem is that these people tend to react very negatively when somebody in their circle tries to do something with his or her life and take control over it.
If you’re trying to build a meaningful artist career and you put a lot of time, money, and energy into it, some people in your circle are going to feel offended by this. They won’t express it openly, but you’re going to notice them joke about your efforts or even worse: They’ll try to give you bad advice. Most of the time, they aren’t bad people, they just don’t have the same willpower as you and they hate seeing other people build something they can’t.
There’s a saying that goes something like this:
“You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
Love it or hate it, I found this to be extremely true. If you surround yourself with people who are living a very unhealthy lifestyle, chances are that your lifestyle is pretty similar. The same holds true for building a meaningful artist career.
I’m not saying you should end certain friendships but we need to have some real talk here: You have to set up certain boundaries so people won’t have the power to hold you down.
7. Successful music producers and DJs never stop learning
I know it sounds cheesy but it has to go on my list of things successful artists don’t do. They never stop learning. And by that I mean they invest in growing their artist career and build new skills every single year. If you stop learning, you stop growing. Successful artists know that this is dangerous.
Things are changing fast in the music business but also on the artistic side of things. With new technology and techniques, there’s so much room to expand your horizon and redefine your vision as an artist. You can, of course, stick to your signature sound and your core principles. But that doesn’t mean you should restrict yourself too much creatively.
Most artists in my circle who have built a longterm career (take Christopher Jarman aka. Kamikaze Space Programme for example) have managed to reinvent themselves over and over again thanks to their curiosity. They just have this natural urge to learn new things and they won’t stop. Neither should you!
Putting it into action: Things successful artists don’t do
So now that you have a good idea of what things successful artists don’t do, it’s time to lay out your action plan. Here are three steps that might help you get started.
1. Start an honest self-assessment (maybe with the help of others) to find out which points you’re still struggling with
- Go through the list above and rate yourself on a scale of 0 (= not guilty of this) to 10 (= very guilty of this).
- Then let somebody close to you have a look at it and tweak your ratings for brutal honesty.
2. Map out (in written form) how you’re going to address these issues now
- Remember that self-awareness + strategy = longterm success.
- If you go back to our episode on goal-setting, you could turn this into a measurable goal for this year.
3. Start noticing the situations and moments when you run into one of these issues and try to find other options of reacting
- This is the hardest part: You have to start rewiring your mental operating system.
- When you notice that you blame the circumstances, hold others down, or get held down by people close to you, decide what your alternative reaction could be and experiment with it.
Alright, that’s if for this week’s episode. Now I would love to hear from you: Which of these points are you most guilty of? What are you trying to do differently now?
Let me know in the comments, I read everything!