10 Things Musicians Can Do To Build A Sustainable Music Career (And Stay Inspired)

Making music can be a grind. Here's how to push through the challenges and distractions to turn your inspiration into a real music career.
April 26, 2018

-Guest Post by Jake Broido aka @thetruthexperiment

There are obviously tons of ways musicians can empower themselves to live the life they want. Here are just 10 to help you along your own journey.

1. Be what you need

Let’s start here. If you’re going to make it in music you’ll need to “be” a lot of things. You’ll need to be extremely hard working, dedicated, creative, intuitive, resilient, forward thinking, understanding, patient, motivated, etc. Everything starts with the inner self, and only you know what you’re truly made of / feeling on a daily basis.  

This starts by being aware and using mental focus to develop your psychology in the ways that will benefit you most and support your career. This is true across many disciplines, but even more so in music I think.  

My path to independence as a musician has been filled with tons of self improvement which is to be expected if you become successful yourself. Becoming a special artist / person takes time and patient cultivation. Try to enjoy the process and take frustration in stride.

Being what you need isn’t only psychological... it’s tactical. If you want to be an artist these days you better learn how to use a camera / edit videos, produce your own records, make graphics for your socials, etc. Instead of looking around for someone to help you, get your thing off the ground and spend time learning skills that will enable your career to progress no matter what the circumstance.

We live in a day where technology has enabled artists like me to make all the materials that go along with the music, and that’s not something to take for granted.  All the great musicians that came before us would have killed for the tools we have at our fingertips today so there’s literally no excuse to not utilize them.  

2. Let the songs come to you

If you make / release eight great songs a year for 10 years straight you’re going to have a career. Don’t chase down songs 5 days a week or over stress about coming up with ideas. Rather, live your life and be aware of what’s worth writing about, what’s important to you.  

All my best song ideas have come to me when I’m not actually making music. Allow yourself to be open to your emotions and experiences and let them determine the songs you make, not vise versa. Once you get into this flow it actually becomes more and more natural.  

The brain can be trained to be aware of what’s actually worth writing about if you patiently develop that ability. These days I’m writing what I would consider to be 2-3 amazing songs each month, and that’s more than enough to keep me going. Work up to your song goal and avoid the burn out.

Making music should be fun and exciting when you’re doing it right. It shouldn’t feel like a grind during the writing process at all. If it does take a break.  

Business aside, I think art in its true form is a representation of self. Keep up that relationship with yourself and wait for your soul to tell you what it most wishes to express any given week.

3. Always learn from others

I cant stress this enough. The only reason I’ve gotten this far and been able to do this full time is because of the knowledge I’ve picked up from others. Since I was 12 I’ve been a sponge for musical / creative wisdom in the most literal sense of the term.  Creativity is so fluid, something we all share, and theres never a situation where you cant soak up greatness from those around you.  

Seek out artists and business people you respect and spend as much time with them as possible. The goal shouldn’t be to “take” knowledge by asking questions, but rather to connect with people and more fully understand their process / approach. I learned the right way to take meetings from watching others do it well. I learned to record music by spending thousands of hours in the studio witnessing other people's creative process. The way I run my socials / visual aesthetics, I learned from constantly watching the greats letting their success be my education, etc.  

And it's not just learning from other musicians. You should be learning from all types of people. Being an artist gives me the freedom / time / access to get to know successful people from all walks of life. Whether it be tech, finance, non-profit, the service industry, literally anything… I’m always trying to be aware of what makes successful / positive people tick and how I can incorporate some of their qualities into my own life. It helps make the music better, trust me.  

4. Take care of yourself

No seriously. Take better care of yourself. They lump "sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll" together for a reason. If you’re not careful and proactive those very things won’t only cut your career short, but it could end your life.

Being “successful” in my opinion includes living past 40 and having a family. Far too often I see my peers missing out on their adult lives, so 20% of my time at least is devoted to self care because of it. Mental and physical health have an immense affect on the work I do. The better I feel, the better the music tends to be.

Whatever you do: yoga, running, meditation, weight lifting, playing a sport, listening to meditations, listening to self care podcasts, reading books… take breaks from partying and living the “lifestyle” and take care of yourself. You can turn a  five-year career into a 20-year one if you do it right.  

5. One week at a time

In music it’s easy to get caught up in the long term vision, which can create dissonance in the short term. I try and live my musical life one week at a time, one song at a time.  

A successful music career depends on a lengthy recurring process of making creative material and releasing it. Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be. If you do everything right week by week, the long-term vision literally comes to reality on its own.  

I stay realistic in terms of what tangible things i’m going to set out to accomplish each week. I write them down and stick to the list (although I don’t specify which days I’m going to get what done). When you are a professional creative, you realize that you have to do the important work at the right times, when you’re in the right mood.

Those moods are hard to predict, but if you become aware of them you can use them to your advantage. You can't schedule creative greatness. But if you prepare your psychology and take care of yourself you can make meaningful pieces of art week in and week out. The trick is being aware and sitting down to do the work when you’re best able to create.  

As a musician it’s OK to do things at night and on the weekends. Just make sure you’re getting important things done each week whether it be preparing for your next release or helping promote your last one. Once you organize your life in this way, you’ll experience less resistance, make better art, and have more fun doing it.  

6. Listen to more music

I’m often blown away by the superb music taste of my non-musician friends, who actually listen to more music than some of my artist/producer/biz friends in many cases. Personally I listen to music all day, which keeps my appreciation of the art form flowing just the way I like it to.

Stay up on new artists. Never stop listening to the greats. Don’t be afraid to learn a thing or two from someone else each and every day of your career on a musical level. After all, the answers to the test you’re trying to pass are already right there on Spotify.  

Active listening is important as well. If you like a song, seek to understand the emotional state of whoever wrote the song when they wrote it. It well help you understand how to go through the same motions yourself. Through studying other artists on a daily basis, I better understand my own energy and how to share it via song in the exact way I’d like it to be perceived.  

And don’t forget to just let music be something beautiful that doesn’t stress you out. Sometimes I find myself wrapped up in the “grind” and that's when I know I need to stop for a second and remember why I got into this. Hour by hour, day by day, try not to lose touch with the magic of music. It’s unlike anything else in the universe.

Also, go to more shows. The easiest way to get inspired is to see someone crush it right in front of your face. I got to at least twp shows a week in Austin. If you live in any sort of major or mid-major city, chances are there are tons of amazing bands / artists you haven’t seen.  

7. Always be cultivating that wolfpack

Your network is your net worth. Your network is your net worth. Your network is your net worth. Had to say it three times because it’s so outrageously true / important.

Work on your charisma, learn how to make things happen for other people, and before you know it you’ll be helping  movers and shakers by connecting them to each other.  Start out by getting to know important / dedicated members of your local music scene and go from there. Nothing makes a better impression than when you can introduce a person to someone already established that can help them. It’s definitely something anyone can start to do and I’ve seen connectors make careers out of it in a matter of years.  

In the end you’ll attract people that can eventually help with your own creative goals whatever they may be, just don’t be in a rush. I’ve been cultivating my wolfpack for five years now and I can honestly say it’s the best thing I’ve got in my life.  My circle of industry folk have become my best friends and enable me to live out my dreams on a weekly basis. Without them I’d be broke.  

It’s ok to depend on others, learn to depend on others, and get as good at it as you can. No one ever took over the music industry alone. This also goes back to learning from others. Not only will you be creating a diverse business community, but you will also ensure that your peers will be constantly teaching you things for years to come.  

It's scientifically proven that teams who work together longer do better as time goes on, so never give up on those around you and endeavor to make a team that lasts for years to come. It will pay dividends.

8. Create revenue streams

It’s important to be vigilant and diverse with how you create musical revenue streams for yourself. We live in a time where you can email / reach out to ANYONE with a Google search and an email / DM. I’ve made tons of cash in the last year getting my songs placed on TV shows, in commercials, on famous social media accounts, on podcasts, etc.  

Also, although this should go without saying, make sure you finish recordings and put the on Spotify / Apple Music. I’ve made thousands upon thousands recently just from Apple & Spotify sending my music out to people via their playlists and algorithms.

There are only so many opportunities out there for music makers to create revenue, so make sure you’re taking advantage of them all, looking behind every door. If you’re early in your career, it’s important to make revenue doing something that both makes you better as a musician, and moves your career forward in terms of relationships and knowledge. For me it was hustling until I got a label job at Atlantic, for you it might be getting a touring gig or working at a management or publishing company.

Whatever it is, if music is going to be your career, go all in and start helping other musicians / companies. It will eventually lead to your independence as a creative.  

9. Stop caring what people think, right the fuck now.

Know this, if you want to live a full time creative life it’s going to be devastatingly hard at times and there will be months when no one believes in you but yourself.  That's OK. That's part of the deal. Make an agreement with yourself that you will never care what someone else thinks about your work and stick to it. Put on the blinders and always be finding small ways to move forward.

If you spend your days worried about people's support or belief, you won’t be able to do your best work. It’s OK to make whatever music you want. It’s OK to go through a learning process. It’s OK to take five years to become who you need to be for people to start believing in you.  

In fact, accept that maybe people shouldn’t believe in you until you prove to yourself that you’re the real deal. It kind of goes hand in hand. These days, I’m getting tons of supportive texts that I never used to get and that’s because I didn’t let other people's opinions slow me down or affect my emotions along the way.  

I often watch behind the scenes videos of athletes to stay in this mindset, because they are so good at quieting the negative talk around them. Always feel like you have something to prove, because you do, and work hard enough to get the results you want. If you fail, it won’t be because of the doubters, it will be because you didn’t work hard enough to prove them all wrong.  

10. Date with caution

If you are in full-swing grind mode trying to make your music career happen, be prepared for romantic situations to go badly. Don’t let it phase you. Your boo thang won’t like being your second priority and it will manifest into tons of issues which you need to be realistic about and prepared for.  

This lifestyle comes with uncertainty, long hours, and tons of opportunities to meet cool new people. Stay single if you can and always be open with a partner about your priorities if you move into something more serious.  

For me i’m staying single for now because I don’t think someone else would ever want to be a second priority in a real relationship, which is completely reasonable. So feel free to just avoid the issue and have fun for a while :). I’ve seen musical careers get held back and even stopped because a relationship took priority. Decide before you start if you’re willing to sacrifice your music dreams for “the one.” If you’re not, just move forward accordingly.  

Personally I enjoy letting music be my first priority. It gives me breathing room to not take romance so seriously. One of the perks if you do it right.

Get after it y’all! Peace and love.

Jake Broido, aka The Truth Experiment, is a producer/songwriter/artist living in Austin TX. His recent work includes collaborations with Charlie Puth, Rihanna, and Jason Derulo among others. His "The Truth Experiment" project (funded in part through Royalty Exchange) strives to enrich the lives of young men and women through music, art, and innovation. Find more from The Truth Experiment on Spotify & Instagram.

Become a Royalty Exchange Member
Sign Up
Get An Instant Catalog Analysis & Valuation
Sign Up
Interested In Royalty Investing?
Sign Up

Creator Resources

What's Behind The Music Catalog "Gold Rush"
A presentation made to entertainment industry business managers and advisors at the Trusted Advisor Royalties Summit.
Read Post
The Big Break Season 2 #19: Ant Martini
Drive and Hustle
Read Post
What Royalty Investors Look For In Catalogs (And What They Don’t)
Investors are snapping up catalogs left and right. Why?
Read Post
No items found.