Tag Archive for: how do i succeed as an artist


Too many of you get hung up on the how you’re going to get your dreams accomplished.

How Hung 1

You should only be focused on the why right now.





How the-climb-600x315-download-now


Because if you’ve read my articles and listened to The C.L.I.M.B. Podcast you know that the “how” is going to change early and often.



That’s a promise.


That’s a fact.


So explain to me logically, how does makes sense to dwell on it?




YES, you have to think of the next logical step.


YES, you have to be smarter than the average bear.





Being smarter means you don’t dwell on the “how”, just focus on this:






Just do it.


Your ideas, best-laid plans, dreams, thoughts (and thoughts are things), hopes, songs, shows, recordings, and energy don’t mean a damn thing to the world without execution.



They just don’t matter.




For instance, thinking about driving to the store, while it’s an imperative part of the process, doesn’t mean squat without execution.


Until you actually get up off your couch, grab your keys, get in the car, insert the key and turn it, and then step on the gas, you aren’t driving, are you?



You’re thinking about driving.


Painfully simple analogy, but without execution, you simply won’t get to the store, will you?


Thinking about it isn’t enough.


Every day, my whole life, I’ve seen people who pride themselves on being “good researchers”.

How pay-me-meme-entitled



I feel that too many kids coming out of college today feel entitled to a well-paying job simply because they have an education.




I remember one of the Tai Lopez modules he was discussing his experiences working on a farm with (if my memory serves me correctly) a billionaire. This billionaire focused on farming and providing good, clean food to people.



Tai was explaining to the billionaire how he had this friend that was really smart, really educated, with a great personality, blah, blah, blah.


The billionaire’s response was, “Yeah, but is he worth a damn?”



Get it?


All that talent, all that knowledge, all that research, all that education, and all that personality doesn’t amount to a pile of crap if the person isn’t worth a damn.




Translation:  Can they execute?


Deeper translation:  Can they execute well?




how-thinking-isnt-enoughThat’s all that matters.


That’s LITERALLY all that matters!


Get shit done!







Every semester I get a booth at the Belmont Internship Fair at the Curb Event Center in Nashville.





Now we are interviewing tons of interns to decide who’s a good fit.


I’m trying to filter out who will be worth a damn.






I always ask what questions they have for me and this is the most popular question:


How much experience are you looking for because I don’t know anything about this or that?




My answer is that it’s your job to execute and be worth a damn, it’s my job to provide you with the knowledge and experience.


I pick interns and hire based on personality.




I want you to be worth a damn.


I don’t care about what you know or don’t know.




If you’re worth a damn, we’re going to make mistakes together.


That’s ok.


If you’re worth a damn, we’re going to figure it out because we execute and learn.





That’s faith.



Don’t suffer paralyzation-through-analyzation.





All the knowledge in the world, from the best books, the best mentors, the best institutions, isn’t going to manifest itself in the form of a perfect plan.


There’s no such thing.




You don’t go to Berkeley School of Music in Boston and learn how to play music, you learn about music.  Maybe you also learn about an instrument.


You can only learn HOW by practicing and playing with other musicians.




in other words, execution is the how.



You can’t read The Craft of Lyric Writing by Sheila Davis and write a hit song. You can only do that by writing songs and figuring out what works and what doesn’t work.




Every artist is different.


Therefore, every plan is different.






Knowledge is supposed to help you think and problem-solve.


Application of that knowledge helps you gain experience.


Experience helps you waste less time and execute better.




Experience gives you the “how”.





But the plan is always different and the artists who are worth a damn, execute, get knocked off their horse, and get back up again with a new plan.



A tweaked plan.


Momentum is key.


Any kind of momentum trumps the best plans.


You do.



That’s what you do.


You make mistakes.


That’s ok.




You learn.


This is called figuring it out.


But you always have to be moving.




There has to be constant progress.


how-excellenceFocus on the pursuit of excellence rather than perfection because perfection is unattainable.




Unattainable perfection easily becomes an excuse to wait.


Doing more research to become more perfect means you don’t have to execute right now.





Every plan for each of my artists is a living breathing thing and changes constantly.



We always start with social media. That takes time. Time to grow the accounts. Time to hone in on each artist’s tone. Time to theme the accounts.


They couldn’t break Wham! In the United States even though they were a huge sensation in Europe.


It took a maneuver where they booked a tour in China becoming the first western act to tour communist China to get the press they needed to get anyone to care about them in America.





That tour happened, we paid attention to the press, and Wham! Broke in the USA and then George Michael went on to even greater heights.


China wasn’t part of the initial plan.  I promise.




I regularly get emails from aspiring artists with amazing plans.


All of them seem to entail waiting in some form or another.


I don’t get it.


I don’t get how anyone can just…wait.


You have to have faith.





I’m on a plane back from Las Vegas right now…slightly intoxicated.


I saw Elton John at Caesar’s Palace.






So many songs.


I knew so MANY songs…ok, ALL of the songs.


They meant something to me and I didn’t even know it before seeing him perform.


I like Elton John but I wouldn’t say I was a freak about him.


How powerful is that?




We need music.


That will never change.





Music brings beauty, love, and joy into our lives.


Consumers aren’t buying music today because it’s being marketed to them incorrectly through their smartphones.





They will buy music again.


Once they’re made to feel that it’s worth it.



It’s your job to make them feel that it’s worth it.


That is going to require you constantly executing.



You’re going to fail a few times


You’ll figure it out.



Think of it like a puzzle.


Then you’ll start to create momentum.


Once you get a small portion of people you don’t know to love you, expand.




Make a living.how-truck-meme


Focus on the “why” and execute.


The how will come. I promise.













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Artist Success Approach Feature MEME

There is an over-promise of artist success amongst allArtist Success Hand MEME artists in all genres like country, rap, rock, pop, etc. This over-promise has become the key ingredient to your failure.


It’s causing you to lose.


I give credit where credit is due and this article was inspired by this 3 minute video from Gary Vaynerchuk called, “Reframing Entrepreneurial Success”.

Gary Vee Reframe RESIZED


The over-promise is so prevalent that when I write articles geared around “artist success” I’ll inevitably get a few emails chastising me for selling some idea of success and attaching it to millions-of-dollars kind of success; which I never do, by the way.


It’s the over-promise that has been drilled in their head so much they just assume that when I mention success it must mean selling out, fame and fortune, and of course that’s bad for the art.


Artist Success Ball Rolling STRUGGLE

To be clear, those of you that actually read my articles (and don’t comment solely based on your reaction to my title which is idiotic, but I digress) know that I define artist success as being able to make a living doing what you were born to do; the opposite of living the dichotomy.


What do I mean by that exactly?


Well, I remember moving a 17-year-old, phenomenal guitar player down from Detroit Michigan back in 2010 (ish?). His grandfather is my father’s best friend and someone I grew up with and respect immensely. I remember having a conversation with this man, someone I referred to throughout my life as an “uncle”, and someone who is extremely intelligent (a dentist), about whether his grandson had what it took to “make it”.


I asked him what his definition of “making it” was.


Naturally, it was attached to fame.


You have to remember he’s a dentist and completely unfamiliar with the entertainment industry and how it works.

Artist Success MTV

His only experience with the entertainment industry is with the entertainment. The entertainment is served up to his awareness by the famous entertainers. This is MOST people’s grasp of the industry who operate outside of it.


His response was something along the lines of “will he be a star” or “will he be on MTV” aka will he be famous like all the entertainers that have come into his awareness.


Now you may laugh at this, but some of you who BELIEVE YOU’RE IN THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY are just as naïve.


To be clear, my uncle is an extremely intelligent man who built and sold an amazing dental practice, he knows nothing about the inner workings of show business.


YOU, on the other hand, have zero excuse for being naïve in this regard because this is the business which you choose to want to dominate. You’d better know how the hell it works, but again, I digress.


Anyway, I asked my “uncle” if he’d heard of Danny Elfman. Of course, he said, “No.”Artist Success Danny Elfman


I said, “Well, you’ve definitely heard his music and he could buy and sell you and your impressive success 1,000 times over. Danny writes music for feature films. He makes about 4 million dollars per movie.


He does a LOT of movies.


My uncle’s jaw dropped.


That was the opener to my point.


The next point was that there were tons of really talented people here in Nashville for Artist Success Homeinstance who make a good living doing what they were born to do; making and playing music.


I described “A good living” as a job that allowed them to own a house, have a family, put their kids through college, and take a vacation once a year. These are people that he would only know if he was deep in the industry.


My uncle immediately understood my point.


I then told him that, yes, his grandson had all the talent he needed to “succeed” by our newly refined definition and it would be up to his work ethic and his brain to actually provide the execution necessary to turn an idea like that into a reality.Artist Success Labor Day


By the way, he did just that landing a gig with an indie artist tour that paid about $45k-60k per year…he was 19 at that time, I believe. Not too bad for a guitar player with no college education if you ask me.


Y’all are too worried about being famous and you’re making bad decisions because of it.


You need to reframe your idea of success.


This will change your approach.


Which will change everything.


Some of y’all are impeding your potential and you’re currently at a very coveted level, playing with the big boys, talking record contracts, and dealing with real industry professionals.

Artist Success YES MEME

What I mean by impeding your success is that without sales, without any resemblance of a profitable small business, God help you if you if they say “YES” and you get your deal.


Sounds crazy but money talks and bullshit walks (h/t to Bobbi Fleckman). A less talented artist with more hustle and business experience is going to get the entire label team more excited and command more label resources than someone with astounding talent and no cash flow.



Artist Success Money Talks MEME




This model means you’d have to be developed and the labels just really don’t do that anymore.





Artist Success Lotto

Oh, and they’re people so they’re naturally lazy like you. Getting behind the other guy is going to make them look better quicker.



I’m generalizing to be sure. However, basing your future on a plan requiring the label to do all the work is like basing your next rent check or mortgage payment on whether or not you win the lottery.



It could happen.


But it’s lazy and unrealistic.


Artist Success Stack The Deck

If making a living and getting a record deal is THIS important to you, why the hell wouldn’t you want to go in stacking the deck with every advantage you have to ensure your artist success?



Granger Smith did exactly this. He created an online 1.8-million-dollar-empire, completely independently. The labels wanted to sign him a couple years ago but they kept saying no until it was time to get the #1.



He was so undeniable as a business force that when he finally did sign he had the hearts and minds of everyone at the label. The entire team was committed to making him successful or die trying. That’s a buy in.

Artist Success Granger Smith

Consequently, his first single went to #1.


I doubt that would’ve happened if he was signed by the label and required them to develop him.




Most of you are not at this level yet. You’re just trying to get the ball rolling somehow.


Here’s the take away.


Focus on getting one new person to like you every day.


Artist Success Money 100k


Focus on creating a business built around your music and creative efforts that generates $100,000 per year.




That’s impressive to me.


One step at a time.


3D Twitter Book Cover image

VALUE BOMB:  Try the same approach with your social media. Master ONE PLATFORM first. Master Twitter because you have my free book (GiftFromJohnny.com) and then build from there.


Once you master creating $100,000 of revenue per year, which equates to 1000 fans that are willing to pay $100/year to an artist, the next $100,000 is a lot easier, I promise.


Why the hell is this article important to you?


Because when you framing your “success” as multi-platinum record sales, custom tour busses, and millionaire rock star friends, you’re not thinking about the little steps required to create a career like that.


Artist Success Tour Bus

You begin to get in your own way and allocate precious resources like money and your limited time to the wrong things. I actually know an artist who blew a privately funded $750,000 record promo budget on a freaking tour bus! A 1.5 million-dollar depreciating asset with a $6,000/month overhead burden for a business that has zero dollars in monthly cash flow.




I guess he wanted to feel famous or something.


Now he’s still not famous, has a record deal, and a bus, which he parks in his driveway and plays video games in.


Artist Success Compromise Dogs

To be multi-platinum, yes you’re probably going to need radio at some point. But if multi-platinum is your only definition of success it’s super easy to quit because you don’t have $500k to invest in a radio tour that will promise NOTHING but give you the opportunity to make a play.


If you reframe your idea of success, which for a lot of you should be as simple as replacing your crappy day job that makes you $20,000 – $60,000 per year with money from sales from your artist career, it becomes doable.


Try that first.



How much money do you need to make to afford to be a full time musician?


Some of you write me and tell me you’re currently making $80,000 – over $100,000 per year and would have to at least start there.


To me that means the money is more important than the music.



This is ok, man. I get it, believe me.


Just be real with yourself. With THAT kind of discretionary income, you could orchestrate a pretty sick little business but it would require you to be willing to step back on your revenue for a while to get the ball rolling.


Start with making your first $1,000.

Artist Success First 1,000


Then move on to replacing that money your making at your current job.


Then move on to the $100k mark.



Then move on to bigger things.


Don’t let hype shut you down or make you feel like It’s impossible to achieve the dream unless you’re famous.


Artists are creating small functioning businesses every day and you certainly don’t want to give up only to find out that everybody is doing it 10 years later and you hate your current job.


No matter how much money that current job is making you, that would be the opposite of success.


At least for me.








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