[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Angela Mastrogiacomo.]
Have you ever worked so hard towards something, only to feel like no matter what you do, you can’t get any traction?
After being in this industry for over a decade, I’ve learned that for most artists, this becomes the reality. You work so hard to build a name for yourself, only to burn out and stall—but as I’ve noticed, it’s almost always because of the same five hang ups.
So today, we’re breaking them down and talking about how to overcome them. These are the things I hear struggling musicians say the most (and for the record, have never seen a successful artist say).
“But I just want to focus on the music.”
This is the #1 thing I hear from artists.
You just want to play your music, and all the rest seems like an exhausting game that you didn’t sign up to play.
I hate to tell you this, but you kind of did.
Now, I know—you got into this because you love playing music. But the reality is, being a musician these days is about so much more than the music. It’s about connecting with fans, and creating bonds. It’s about having a business model that scales. It’s about creating impact.
There’s no use fighting this one—if you want to be a successful musician, you have to embrace the business side of it and see it as just another means of spreading your message and changing lives.
“I don’t have a budget.”
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this! First of all, you do have a budget. You might not want to spend it on whatever is being presented to you right now (PR, new merch, marketing help, etc.) but you have a budget. Do you know how I know? Because you found a way to go out to eat or grab a drink last week. Because you found a way to get to your favorite band’s concert. Because I see you ordering all that stuff off Amazon that you probably don’t need but really really want.
Look, I get it. I’m not shaming anyone here. You should spend your money however you want to spend it. But don’t tell me you don’t have a budget when what you really mean is, “I don’t want to spend my money on ___” Because that’s what you’re really saying.
And maybe there’s a good reason for that. If you’re just starting out you might not need to hire a team. You might not need new merch. But at a certain point, if you want to grow, you’re going to have to hire help, and you’re going to need a reasonable budget for that.
Simply saying you don’t have a budget doesn’t excuse you of the responsibility, or provide a cushion of excuses for why you aren’t progressing. If you’re serious about growing, and you know a team and the various other things that will require money (touring, merch, recording, etc.) are needed to grow, then figure it out.
I firmly believe that we always find money for the things we truly want and see value in. If it means picking up an extra shift for a few months, canceling a few subscriptions, going easy on bar nights, whatever it is, if it’s important to you, you’ll find a way.
“Ok but what I really want is to get on that Spotify playlist!”
Artists are dying to get on Spotify playlists and see this as the be all end all of success.
To be honest, I’m not totally sure why. I think there’s a myth out there that you’ll get on the right playlist and the right person will hear you and suddenly your career will explode. But unless I’m mistaken, I haven’t actually heard of that happening, certainly without all the other pieces in place first, (strong fan engagement on social media, strong draw at your shows, etc).
Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome to land on a Spotify playlist. It can lead to incredible things. But only when it’s paired with the rest of the ingredients. Landing on a Spotify playlist when you have no social media engagement, no press, and only 15 people coming out to your shows, will not change all of that.
Instead of being insanely focused on playlist placement and hoping it’s your easy way to success, focus on all of the other things that will help you to really capitalize on that that exposure when it happens.
“I’m just not into being personal on my social media”
You and everyone else. Look, if you want to connect with your audience, you have to give them something to connect to.
Gone are the days when bands can be mysterious and garner more attention, or where it’s acceptable to only post about your music. If you want to see your career grow and…sign to a label, play a festival, get major press, tour, etc. you have to create an engaged following, and that happens through genuine connection.
It is not enough to just post about your music and ask fans to go wild over it. Take a look at some of the most successful indie artists. What do you see them doing on their social media? It’s not just posting their song and telling fans to listen, it’s giving fans a behind the scenes look at who they are, their life, their dreams, their fears—it’s letting people in and allowing them to be a part of the journey.
You can do this in your own way and at your own comfort level but you have got to give people something human to connect to.
“I’ve tried all of that! The system is just rigged.”
Oof. Talk about some harsh denial.
Sometimes, when things get really hard and we get super burnt out and frustrated, we tend to feel like we’ve done all we can do and if it isn’t working, then either the system must be rigged or we must just suck. Thankfully, neither of those are true.
If it’s not working, it’s because your strategy is off. That’s all. It doesn’t mean you suck. It doesn’t mean the world is against you. It just means you need to adjust your strategy a little bit and try again.
The most important thing to remember here is that action inspires more action and that the most successful people are the ones who are always pushing forward, despite the obstacles. This is a hard industry, there’s no point in sugar coating it. But if this is what you want to do with your life, you have to embrace it all. The good, the bad and the ugly. Because I know you got into this for a reason and I know you have a message to spread—so don’t give up on that.
Join me for my free masterclass, How to Grow Your Career Without Spending a Dime to learn what to post on social media, how to get more fans, how to pitch the perfect outlets, secure festival spots, and more.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR, where her artists have seen placements on Alternative Press, Noisey, Substream, Spotify and more as well as the THRIVE mentorship community—an online community that provides indie artists with affordable year-round mentoring from music industry experts, and much more.