Musician, author, educator, and music industry consultant Bobby Borg outlines three important traits you need to have to make it as a musician.
I recently sat down with a student from my music business class who asked me questions about the qualities necessary to make it in the music industry
Hi Bobby. In your years is working as a music industry professional, what are some of the qualities you have recognized in musicians who have made it.
That’s a great question, and I’ve got three traits to point out. But, before I start, I just want to preface by saying that nothing I’m about to say is rocket science. Sometimes, the simplest things are the best advice.
Mansions and money?
Number one, don’t suffer from what I call “2M Disease”: mansions and money. Musicians who focus on mansions and money just want to get insta-famous and they’re going to get disappointed and quit when they’re not flying around on a Learjet in a year. That’s no recipe for success.
The people who suffer from “1M Disease,” the ones who are consumed by music, are people who are extremely passionate about music and their instrument. They’re just trying to get as good as they possibly can. They’re trying to figure out ways to do music full-time and quit their day job and typically these are the people that have the passion and what it takes to go the long-term. Ironically, they also end up being the people with the mansions and money.
The next musical genius?
Number two, we have people who suffer from what I call the “I’m legit and everyone else is shit” syndrome. People who have this are convinced that they are god and everybody else is wrong and they’re just trying to surround themselves with people who will confirm this — industry people, fans, etc. These are the people who are not open to criticism, they’re not open to change or growth, and one of two things is going to happen. Either they’re going to be recognized as the next musical genius, which, statistically, is not going to happen; or, they’re going to end up going nowhere, making enemies along the way.
Then there are the people who have an open mind, who are taking in feedback from the environment. They’re taking criticism, they’re trying new things, they’re evolving, they’re looking at analytics to see how they can better engage with their fans — these are the people who are typically going to grow and last in the music industry. Even if you get lucky and you have that one hit, you’re going to have to adapt as the industry continues to change. I mean, look at an artist like Madonna. She has changed literally on every record, and that’s why she has a multi-decade career. You have to be agile.
The third trait of a successful musician is amazing time-management skills. In this day and age, being a DIY artist means you have to be the CEO of your own company. You’re running everything. You’re A&R-ing, you’re managing, you’re the producer, you’re the engineer, you’re the art director, you’re the marketing director. It’s overwhelming. Typically, people do a lot of one thing and then they don’t factor in these other things. You have to be balanced, and you have to know how to manage all the various aspects of your music career. Time management is an important skill.
A little help from your friends
One more thing — you have to have great friends in the music industry! Which means you have to be someone people enjoy working with and being around.
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 physical or digital format. Learn more at www.bobbyborg.com.
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