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How to Be a Successful Musician

by Venus Sanders

It’s the era of streaming, and many musicians are feeling the burn! But why?

THE STREAMING ERA: HOW CONVENIENCE HAS CHANGED MUSIC CONSUMPTION

Has convenience ruined the way we consume music? Artists see their albums the way authors see their books—as a business card, something that can generate revenue and grow a dedicated fan base. However, the real goal is to earn direct revenue from sponsorships, ads, speaking engagements, cinema, and more. Your talent doesn’t pay you, but having a “talent” can get you paid. Let me explain.


Over the past few years, we’ve seen the emergence of female hip-hop artists, pop artists, and country artists. We’ve even seen, at one point, reality TV personalities Alexis Skyy and Joie Chavis attempt to sing. Needless to say, many social media users were shocked and unimpressed.


The reality is, while they may not make a significant amount of money from streaming revenue, they can use that as an opportunity to present their stats to brands and earn lucrative brand deals. Whether or not their music has any replay value, it’s usually that initial push that helps them garner new followers and higher engagement on posts.


This is also why you will find many artists conjuring up “beefs” with other artists or influencers. Let’s face it, artists who have great investments, a good team, and a successful music catalog they can use as an asset to acquire business loans—ahem, Beyoncé—do not have to spend their time online chatting with fans or arguing with bloggers.

Related articles: How To Get Your Music Heard


THE FORMULA FOR MODERN ARTISTS: A PATH TO BRAND DEALS

It goes like this:

  • Make a song (call yourself an artist).

  • Get it posted on The Shade Room or TMZ/People.

  • Track the engagement from their post and your socials.

  • Send the stats to brands.

  • Secure a brand deal.

  • Rinse and repeat.


This formula has become increasingly difficult for artists to achieve success with due to the rise of influencers who are significantly cheaper to work with and more likable. The competition is steep, and pseudo artists who were once using music as a stepping stone to garner more brand deals are having to step back, seeing as they do not have the stamina or real talent needed to actually grow in the business.


You cannot become a successful musician using this formula. What will happen is that you may secure a lucrative brand deal and then experience lifestyle creep. This occurs when an increase in income leads to an increase in spending on living expenses and non-essential items. By the time many artists experience this, it starts to feel like a drug—needing a hit every day, a hit of cash.


SOCIAL MEDIA CAN HURT YOUR CAREER

When you rely on social media engagement to present to brands for a deal, it becomes mandatory for you to upkeep a certain image or lifestyle that got them interested in you in the first place. When or if you ever start to slow down or downsize, your followers will no longer see you as otherworldly, and their interest will start to wane. Less engagement means fewer brand deals and less income. This is problematic for an artist who was using their “talent” to get paid but had no real talent to begin with. You will notice these artists are usually at the head of controversy, going live, ranting on socials, etc.


I think the perfect example of this would be Cardi B. Yes, Cardi has no doubt improved as a rapper—her cadence and pronunciation—but she is not very interested in being a musician; she is interested in being an influencer. She understands that being an artist gets her engagement, which can result in lucrative brand deals. For her, it’s brand deals > music. For someone like Beyoncé, it’s music > brand deals.


Let’s discuss the latter, since you’re interested in becoming a successful musician (music > brand deals). Social media, while important, is not a necessity for you as an artist. What is necessary is treating your career like a political campaign. You need to go out and engage with the people. The problem with musicians today is that they no longer want to take on gigs—performing at your local mall, bar, restaurant, and more is what you have to do to grow a fan base.


With companies like Branndet, they sell their artists to the public via personal interactions, not social media. Free performances, being an opening act for smaller to larger acts, traveling, and finding a good management team who is willing to put their money behind you is the first place to start—everything else will come. Similar to authors who are required to do book tours at independent stores or shops for no cost, you can expect to invest more in the beginning with both your talent and your time.


Traditional media is still the best way to get your music heard—visit radio stations, do magazine interviews, attend events, and so on. Nowadays, if you want to be taken seriously as a musician, you should get the cosign of other reputable platforms. Media outlets now have social media platforms such as Twitter and YouTube where they can share your interviews and your music with the general public. Your job as an artist is to create—you are a brand; certain actions can taint your image and will follow you for the rest of your life. So, as someone who is just starting out, it's important to be humble and put your talent first; everything else will fall into place.


HOW TO LAND INTERVIEWS

Interviews, interviews, interviews—maneuvering this can be tricky because almost everyone has a podcast nowadays and an audience. But, here’s the thing, you should align yourself with outlets that are specific to you as a brand. So, for example, if you are an emerging pop artist who likes to make music for single women and you’re a girl's girl, then you want to for sure land the cover for She’s SINGLE Magazine, Cosmo, Women’s Magazine, and Elle. Then you want to do interviews with podcasts such as:

  • Stuff Mom Never Told You

  • LadyGang

  • After Work Drinks

to name a few.


Each time you’re putting out a new project, be sure to revisit these places because familiarity leads to trust, and trust leads to sales. Trust is one of the biggest things you need to learn as an artist—you need to trust your team, and your fans need to trust you. Do not promise new music if you cannot deliver, do not cancel shows, do not overexert yourself, and do not compromise your morals and disappoint the people who support you by going another route and then blaming the consumers for not supporting your ‘growth’.


Media training, which is also something you receive from Branndet, is crucial for your development as an artist, and so is patience. Nothing is going to happen overnight, and while it may appear as though other artists such as Sexxy Red or Ice Spice have a blossoming career, they are not playing the long game. They will cancel themselves out eventually and be stuck with a lifestyle they cannot upkeep.


You can either choose the narrow road or the wide road, but anything worth having requires hard work, and it’s better to see the fruits of your labor as you progress, versus seeing it in the beginning and having no longevity as an artist.

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