Thursday, August 4, 2011

Why I Failed (It’s the Music BUSINESS)

(c) 2011 Steve Grossman
Eleven years ago,my music career collapsed. After a moderately successful 20 year run,and for reasons I did not understand at the time,I had to face the reality that my time as a musician was over and it was time to move on.
It was time to get a job in the…REAL WORLD!
Over the course of the following years working my way up the corporate ladder I discovered why I failed in the music business,why I was passed up for certain gigs,why I never had much money and why my phone didn’t ring even after I was told I was “the best drummer they had ever heard.”
I discovered why most musicians will fail,too.

The Arts vs. the Real World
“Real World” is a term people in “The Arts” use to mean anything outside of the entertainment industry. They use it in phrases such as “this sure beats making a living in the real world” or,“it didn’t work out,so I guess I’ll get a job in the real world.” When people in the real world tell people in the arts to “quit dreaming and get a real job,” people in the arts say,“don’t be a sellout.”
These terms imply that these worlds are mutually exclusive and that “The Arts” and the “Real World” are divided by a wall. A wall that should not be climbed or looked over because the rules and rewards of each world are different and separated by clearly defined lines that cannot and should not be crossed.
And that is why most people in the arts will fail.
How Not to Follow in my Footsteps
Once I made the painful decision to leave music,I climbed over that wall and learned everything I could about the success and business principles of the real world. And after countless “I wish I’d have known THAT!” moments,I realized there is no difference between the real world and the arts. I also realized that even though none of these principles are taught to musicians,any person I’ve seen succeed in music has used them all. And I realized that without this critical information,most musicians will follow in my footsteps and fail too!
What Information?
First,you are pursuing a career in an industry that is as much of a business as what Henry Ford started over a century ago. There’s a reason it’s called the music BUSINESS. I realize this is hard to comprehend when all musicians use the term “playing” to describe their work,but the quicker you grasp this point and understand its ramifications the more success you’ll find. It is not called the music try,or the music game,it’s the music business,which means it’s about the money. But that’s okay because I know you want to make money playing music.
Second,every person who has achieved any measure of success in their chosen career has used the same business skills and principles. Period! In fact most successful people have been tireless students of them and I recommend you do the same thing. It’s important to note that these principles are not tricks or manipulative tactics. Just like the principles of playing music,they are based on established facts about how things work.
Third,and most importantly,this is your life we’re talking about! You matter and the hopes and dreams you have are worth pursuing. And since they are worth pursuing,they are worth achieving. Devote yourself to your career as if your life depends on it. It does.
Climb Over the Wall
So I encourage you to climb over that wall too. Information about business and success principles are everywhere if you set your mind to going where they are:successful people you already know and business books,magazines,blogs and podcasts.
I encourage you to think about people you know that are successful in what they do. Is there a part of their life (or their whole life) that represents where you want to be? If so,get around them and ask lots of questions. Often. Most will be happy to share what they know with someone eager to learn.
One of the questions you want to ask them is what they read and listen to on a regular basis. You’ll find that every successful person reads and listens to other successful people and you’ll need this guidance because there are WAY too many books,magazines,blogs and podcasts to sort through on your own.
Once you have this info,check out the resources yourself. You’ll quickly know which ones are right for you and which are not. Stick with the ones that (a) make sense to you and,(b) work with your lifestyle (don’t have time to read? Listen to podcasts).
If you’ll do these two things,I know you’ll have many “ah ha!” moments of your own and you’ll be one step closer to the career of your dreams.


  1. wow this really hit home. we kinda felt the same way about music. read our executive summary on We talk about going back to school for business. Circle of Friends was a product of that experience. We had the same "I wish we knew that" moments, only we started applying them to our latest project.

    great blog.

  2. This is great advice. I think one associated problem is that musicians assume that because they are excellent musicians they will become successful, but unfortunately musical talent and ability are not always the decisive factors. Promotion of your music and yourself is equally important. At we try to help unsigned acts promote their music.