Will you take responsibility for your music career?

Will you take responsibility for your music career?

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Will you take responsibility for your music career, or let excuses define your path? You have a choice.

There’s a story I once heard from a business coach. The coach was talking to his billionaire friend one day, he was endorsing another friend’s resume to the billionaire saying, “He has a Master’s degree from this amazing institution, he comes from this family, and blah, blah, blah”.

The billionaire responded: “Yes, but is he worth a damn?”

The billionaire didn’t care about his pedigree or resume or what he looked like on paper, he cared about his trustworthiness and common sense. In other words, what kind of responsible is this person?

The more self-aware you become, the more capable you are because you understand your strengths and weaknesses and can craft your life around these realities – at least to a point. You can also strengthen and deepen your character when you’re aware of your weaknesses and you take action to improve yourself.

When we’re not self-aware, we are probably bullshitting ourselves by creating fictional stories and deluding ourselves about what kind of responsible we are.

“What kind of responsible?” you ask. Yes.

There are three kinds of responsible.

1. Responsible (for real). Responsible people work hard, follow up, do what they say they’re going to do, and take care of business in every aspect of their lives.

2. Irresponsible. This is the opposite of responsible. We all have at least one irresponsible friend, the one who’s a hot sloppy mess. They’re always late, partying all the time, and they don’t do much of anything. Know anyone who fits this description?

Irresponsible people fail at functional reality and don’t find happiness or success mostly because they’re not willing to work for it. Sometimes it seems like they find happiness, it might even look like they do, but they don’t. This is that friend you have whose Facebook page is a complete fantasy – at least in relation to their actual life.

The definition of happiness is different for each individual, which means you have to work to find what it means for you. Otherwise, you’re just crafting your life to a societal cookie cutter. Society may respond with acceptance, but are you truly happy?

So that’s two kinds of responsible. Can you guess what the third kind of responsible is?

3. NON-responsible. What’s that you say? Non-responsible? These are the people who think they’re responsible but get nothing done, and if you ask them, they’ll tell you it’s not their fault.

Non-responsible people have an excuse for everything. Know someone like this?

Practice “no excuses”

I was raised by a Marine, and excuses were a luxury my sisters and I were never afforded. I would have conversations with my dad like this:

Dad: “Did you mow the lawn?” (knowing full well I hadn’t).
Me: “Well I was about to when this happened, and then I had to do this, and to top it all off, this other crazy thing went down.”
Dad: “Yes, but you didn’t answer my question. I understand what happened. I understand why it happened. But in regard to the lawn, did you execute or not?”
Me: “No, sir.”
Dad: “So why should I care about any of this other crap? Your creativity for birthing incredible challenges abounds, but the lawn isn’t mowed. So, what are you going to do right now?”
Me: “I’m gonna mow the lawn, Dad.”

It was either mow the lawn or get a size 11 up my kiester.

Non-responsible people aren’t capable of – or don’t care about – communicating. They get frustrated that people don’t understand what they’re trying to convey and ultimately blame these people and the world for not understanding. They don’t feel heard. The outcome is predictable.

I was watching an episode of “Shark Tank” the other day. After the pitch, each member of the panel passed on the offer, and as the would-be entrepreneurs were being led off the stage, one of them turned to the panel and said, “I don’t feel like you HEARD me!” Mark Cuban responded, “It’s not MY job to hear you, it’s YOUR job to make sure you’re heard!”

It’s the job of the communicator to ensure he’s understood. The moment the entrepreneur said “You didn’t hear me,” he revealed himself as a non-responsible person, which I assure you was a complete turn-off to the panel of very successful Type-A personalities.

Guess what? Booking agents, managers, record label execs, and every business contact you’ll ever meet don’t appreciate non-responsible artists. Neither do any of the business relationships you’re going to encounter on your way up.

I addressed this subject in “9 things NOT to do with your next song demo.” When a songwriter hands in a poorly produced, amateur-sounding demo and believes it’s the producer’s job to recognize his amazing song through all the sonic challenges, this is non-responsibility in action.

How about this non-responsible mantra: “I can’t find any good players where I live, so how can I put a good band together?”

I call BS on that. I grew up in a town with a population of 8,500 people. My graduating class included 189 people. Still, I managed to put a band together that made it to Florida by way of the Allman Brothers, worked with Rob Cavallo at Warner Bros. Records, and spent seven years on the road. That didn’t happen by accident.

Responsible artists understand that if the audience isn’t picking up what they’re putting down, they must change the content, the message, their approach, etc. This doesn’t just apply to their art, it also applies to marketing and everything else.

Non-responsible people complain that they’re never heard, and it’s probably true, but that’s only because their communication is lacking and they refuse to take responsibility for fixing it. And make no mistake, communicating effectively is an art form all its own. It’s what makes marketing music so exciting.

It’s time to evaluate everything in your life and music career and take a long, hard look at what you’re taking responsibility for and what you’re being non-responsible about. It’s the non-responsible elements that are keeping you stuck where you are. A non-responsible mindset will NOT put you in a position of growth and success.


Johnny Dwinell is a veteran Los Angeles artist/producer/businessman who created Daredevil Production in 2011 to provide innovative artist development in the new music business. In mid 2013 Daredevil Production started a weekly blog as a free resource for artists and songwriters to use for inspiration, advice, support, and knowledge. In late 2013 Johnny Dwinell wrote the bestselling Music Marketing On Twitter book. Thousands of artists and songwriters have improved their understanding and execution of social media with the help of this free book!

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