Having written hundreds of songs over fifteen years before one of my songs was recorded by an artist on a major label, I had a lot of time to think about what “making it” in the music business meant to me. Looking back now, it’s easier to appreciate that even though the outside world couldn’t see my successes, there were lots of indications that I was making it all along. I thought I’d take a moment to provide a little perspective for those of you who are frustrated by the amount of time it appears to be taking to have success in the music business. Below are a few ways that I would define “making it” that go beyond fame and fortune.
As artists, one of the best things in the world is being pleased with our work. We can be so hard on ourselves starting out that when we finally get to a place where we feel like we’re doing solid work, that should be celebrated. Better yet, when we feel like we’re able to consistently create great songs, that is an even better indication that we’ve achieved a real career milestone.
Another important indicator that we’ve arrived at a successful place in our careers is when we’re able to connect with others through our music. Whether this is moving one person by performing your song for them or having your song stream on Spotify for millions of listeners, the effect is the same. You’re putting a song into the world that connects you to others. That’s definitely the kind of career goal worth celebrating.
Given that the trade offs when choosing a career in music are pretty obvious, it doesn’t hurt to remember that in exchange for the lack of security and ups and downs, you have the opportunity to build a career – and life – on your own terms. Being able to pursue your passion is the kind of thing that most people never do. And, in case you were wondering, security is an illusion. You can just as easily be let go from a “secure” job as you can from any work you do as a songwriter or musician. All the more reason to take pride in doing what you love for a living.
Speaking of making a living in music, for most people, songwriting and music will only ever be a hobby. Having as a goal to earn your living in music is a big deal. In my opinion, anyone who earns their living in music has done what most can only dream of. That sounds like “making it” to me.
The problem for so many of us in music is that we look at the mega wealthy superstars in our chosen profession as the definition of success with anything less than that lofty peak representing failure or mediocrity. I couldn’t disagree more with this assessment. Take a moment to appreciate any and all of your successes and you’ll be much more likely to stay motivated and joyful in pursuit of your passion.