successful musicians

Seven traits of successful musicians

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Musician, author, educator, and music industry consultant Bobby Borg gives advice about the qualities you need to find success in music — or anything you set your sights on.

Adapted from the video, “Why Most Music Artists Fail – Don’t Do This!”

One of the best books written about achieving success is Napoleon Hill’s Think And Grow Rich. It’s a classic you definitely need to check out, and I’m going to highlight a few things from the book about traits successful people have, which can easily apply to successful musicians.

1. Learn to cooperate

Being able to work with people and find your network is very important, especially in the music industry. You’re going to be working in bands and collaborating with other musicians, you’re going to be working in partnerships and teams if you’re working in the industry — working at a record label or publishing company or marketing company — and you have to be able to work cooperatively and learn how to listen. You’ll also need to learn how to take criticism, how to motivate others and be motivated by others, how to make people feel accountable and be able to have people hold you accountable.

Even if you’re working on your own as a solo artist, you’re going to have to be able to work cooperatively with the other people. You might outsource work to web developers, work with distributors, etc., so this is extremely important because some people just have a real difficult time dealing with other people. This is going to hurt you badly if you don’t figure it out, so you really have to learn how to be cooperative and work productively with others.

2. Never curb your enthusiasm

If you don’t have a fire burning within you, you’re in trouble. If you’re just focused on the gold at the end of the rainbow, as soon as there’s any trial or tribulation, you’re going to bail. You need that fire and belief in what you’re doing to want to keep on going. You have to be extremely passionate about what you’re doing, and finding that is sometimes very difficult to do. But once you find something you absolutely love to do, man, there’s no stopping you!

3. Hone your focus


If you have a difficult time staying focused on what you need to do, you’re going to have a difficult time succeeding. There are so many obstacles and distractions in life — there’s relationships, family issues, friend issues, social issues — and the music business has a way of taking those and compounding them and adding plenty more on top. Life is complicated and you need to be able to focus on your music and career without letting those things get in the way. If you can do that then you can stay in the game and hopefully achieve what it is you want to achieve. Things don’t happen overnight, so patience is also an extremely important part of staying focused on your goals and doing what you need to do to achieve them.

4. Be decisive

You need to be able to make decisions rather quickly and you need to be able to stick with your decisions. In other words, you’ll often have to be able to spot opportunities and jump on them right away, because if you wait, they’re going to pass you by. When you do jump on things, you’ve got to be able to stick with them. Too many musicians do just the opposite — they have trouble making decisions and they let opportunities pass by and then, when they do make decisions, they bail if things don’t work out their way immediately.

5. Find your specialty

Instead of being a jack-of-all-trades, king-of-none, be the king you know you can be. Learn something that you can do really well, and in the best-case scenario, do it in a way that nobody else can do it. Find something you love to do, and then find a unique way of doing it. Now, you have a specialty. Otherwise you’re going to blend in with the masses and never make a name for yourself.

6. Set manageable goals

To succeed, you need to have very specific goals. You need to set your sights on something specific and measurable, because when goals are measurable, you can manage them. Weight loss is a good example. If you say, I want to lose weight, you lose a pound and you’re done. But if you’re going after something very specific, I want to go from 210 pounds down to 185, you can get on that scale and track progress from 210 pounds to 205 to 200… you can manage that progress and you can ask yourself, “What am I doing right? What am I doing wrong? What is and isn’t working?” Then you can adjust. That is extremely important. If you’re just doing things haphazardly and hoping it’s all going to work out, that’s not a strategy. Like I always say, hope is not a strategy.

7. Cultivate healthy relationships

Surround yourself with people you love and who love you. Try to get involved in situations where people care about you and lift you up. A bad relationship can set you back in so many ways. Of course, it’s easy to say and harder to do, but work to avoid bad relationships, bad friends, bad bandmates, and learn from mistakes and recognize signs so you don’t just keep repeating them. Bad relationships can drag you down, negativity is infectious, and you want to stay away from that.

Want more music career advice? Don’t just read it… watch the videos on Bobby Borg’s YouTube channel.


Bobby Borg is the author of Music Marketing For The DIY Musician (Second Edition), Business Basics For Musicians (Second Edition), and The Five Star Music Makeover (published by Hal Leonard Books). Get these books at any fine online store in both physical or digital format. Learn more at www.bobbyborg.com.


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