One of the musicians in a coaching session this week wanted to know why he couldn’t expect to “get huge” in the next thirty days before his unemployment ran out. He got a little upset when I suggested he might have bigger things to worry about in the short term than completing the music industry equivalent of the “Hail Mary Pass.”
Unless you stumble upon an extraordinary amount of media coverage in a short period (a la William Hung), it doesn’t work like that. And even then, that flashpoint of attention doesn’t convert to a stable, long-term music career. Look at the real success of folks like Gwen Stefani, or Collective Soul or any of the folks I wrote about in Grow Your Band’s Audience, who were grinding it out for years in order to reach real solid success.
A few of my regular coaching clients talked to me this week about using their day jobs as incubators — we make sure they’re learning great skills during the day that they can use to advance their music careers at night. And it’s that slow, building success that allows you to make a healthy transition into full-time musicianship without enduring the rollercoaster.
Put another way, anybody that tells you that you can go from zero to 100% success in the matter of one radio promotion campaign, or one tour of a foreign country, or one appearance at an industry showcase doesn’t have your interests at heart. As Seth Godin points out, the big, dramatic push you’ve been sold doesn’t have a lasting effect. Yet, many of the questions I’m asked at live events are things like, “I know you don’t like [this strategy], but because we’re really going to make it work, how can we…” And that’s usually the point at which I storm out of the room. Sometimes, we let ourselves get sold on what’s easy or what’s expected because it’s what we see everybody else doing.
If you do what everyone else does and expect a better result, you’ll be the first in line to kick yourself in the butt later on. Instead, focus on the small things you can do differently every day to move yourself forward. It may take a little longer than you want right now, but your gains will be real, and you won’t endure the shock of a crash when your real, perfect audience is there to support you.