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7 Signs You’re On Your Way To Musical Success

Signs I wished someone had told me when I started making music.

Photo by Austin Neill via Unsplash

The music industry is a tough place. There’s so much competition out there that only 1.1% of all artists today can be categorized as famous/mainstream, according to Next Big Sound.

Chances are you’re never going to “make it” as a musician. I’m not trying to discourage anyone, I’m just trying to say that people should get at least some information when choosing their career path.

Now, you might even not want to become a rockstar and do it because there’s nothing else that makes your heartbeat so fast. Keep going! There’s an extra 8.2% of all artists that are in that extended middle range success.

There’s always the debate on how you measure success and there are multiple answers to it. The ones I’ll tell you about come from both personal experience as a musician and what I’ve researched throughout the years. I’ll lay out the ones that set you in this more realistic middle range musical success.

I would have loved to get an insight into this industry when I started making music. So here I am, telling you things I wished others have told me.

These are 7 signs that will tell you you’re going in the right direction:

  1. You are networking a lot.
  2. Your audience is increasing rapidly.
  3. You are not losing money.
  4. Your schedule is actually full.
  5. You are getting noticed by fans and people from the industry.
  6. You have other people working for you
  7. You can really focus on the music.


This is the first and most important thing you should be doing or you’re already doing. It’s a pity but without having the proper contacts you’re less likely to make it in the music industry. You’re looking for people that will get you:

  • TV time and other mass media exposure to grow your fan base. Remember that this is a business so your fans are your main bargaining chip. With my band, we had to spread out and network all the time. While I was trying to reach different radio stations, another band member was attending a music business workshop, and a third one was meeting people at artistic social events. Spread out to conquer.
  • Music collaborations with known artists. Again, getting a bigger fan base. People that already listen to these mainstream musicians get the chance to listen to you too. Plus you also get to be judged more positively by associating yourself with more liked artists. And lastly, you get a portion of the copyright of the song which leaves juicy royalty revenues.

    My band got a great hit when we made a video with a higher profile band. We somehow ended in a mainstream playlist and got thousands of people to get to know our music.

    E.g. Here’s an interesting article on today’s overuse of musical collaborations.

  • An important producer to listen to your music. That’s just the first step to getting his/her support. It will help you place your music in high places, and you have someone recognized in the industry to vouch for you. Like and endorsement.

    E.g. Here’s an article about Usher helping Bieber’s career take off.

Audience Size

You start seeing more and more unfamiliar faces at your musical gigs. That’s a great sign! People are starting to notice your music outside of your usual circles and the word is spreading out.

Your fan base will have a huge toll on where you get your gigs. Producers want people to come to their festivals and if you or your band can attract more consumers, they’ll happily offer you a place in their lineup.

If my band wanted to go to a music festival we had to submit not only a dossier but say how many people attended our concerts on average, how many subscribers we had on Youtube, and how many likes on Facebook. You’re not really considered if you don’t have the numbers on your side.

There are different milestones depending on what stage you’re in your musical career. Here are some metrics that can give you an overview of audience engagement with your music.

  • Likes (Facebook/Youtube/Instagram/etc.): this is the weakest metric because it gets a low-level engagement from your audience. From a fan’s perspective, it’s pretty easy to like a track or a post, no compromise there. According to Next Big Sound, 80% of artists are getting less than one like on Facebook per day. On the other hand, Shakira got 50,000 likes per day in 2013. Let that sink in.
  • Reshares and comments: this is a higher level of engagement since your fans are actively engaging with your music. Moreover, they’re helping you share your work! A ratio that hints towards success in Youtube videos is when you compare comments to views. The ratio should be 0.5%. Multiply your views by 0,005 and see if you hit the rate of comments expected for a successful video.

    E.g. If your video gets 1,000 views, you should have at least 5 comments. If you get 4,000 views you should have 20 comments.

  • Attending concerts: now this is the real thing, people are actually buying tickets and going to your concerts. That’s a very high-level engagement with the artist. And this is where they get most of their income. If you see the highest-paid musicians, you’ll notice that most of the money comes from tours. That is, live concerts.

    E.g. Here’s an example for the highest-paid artists in 2018 and where did this money come from. They share the top 4 revenue streams. Look at their revenue distribution. Touring is always at the top.


There’s a lot of money involved when trying to make a breakthrough with your brand. Money is spent on millions of things: recording, marketing, touring, rehearsing, video clip making, etc. They just pile up and before you know it, you’re deep in debt.

We regularly played on the streets to get money to pay for our albums or sustain ourselves while touring. We sometimes started playing 3–4 songs at a restaurant, then went to another one, then got a small gig from someone in the audience, and then back to the main plaza to finish the day. It was tough.

Snarky Puppy’s leader Michael League once told in an interview that their bank account stayed in negative numbers for the first 10 years of the band’s trajectory.

Are you able to go through it yourself?

So when you start summing up to $0 and stop seeing red balance sheets, that’s a huge break in your career!


A full scheduled calendar musically related is what you’re aiming for. You’ve got lots of gigs, scheduled tours, radio talks, album promotions, and so on. It means you’re moving and getting yourself out there for people to see and listen. Think of a rough estimate of playing between 50 and100 concerts annually.

However, it’s not about the amount but rather the quality of the things you do. Aimlessly doing crazy amounts of gigs won’t get you to success. It has to be clever and meaningful.

A great example is the Emmy award-winning band The Civil Wars that did a lot of small gigs but also a great marketing stunt. They released a free EP in exchange for emails and zip codes of their audience. That way they knew exactly how to plan their next tour given the number of fans per area while also using those emails to easily connect with them. And they got 500,000 new subscribers from this stunt!

Incredible, right? Work hard AND smart.


Without exposure and fans, there’s no success in the music industry. You need to be recognized in order to get more people to listen to your music. A faceless band is the exception rather than the norm. Gorillaz is that exception, but this virtual band has amongst its team, members of the popular alternative rock band Blur.

That’s a huge advantage to start with.

As you get more notoriety, you’ll start getting the occasional giggle on the streets, a selfie request, fan email, and other fan interactions. It’s important to respond to your fans so that there’s a feedback to the appreciation they’re giving you. They’re your main supporters and they help you continue doing your craft.

I remember when people asked us for photos after a gig in a forsaken place. It was weird, but they were happy to get their photos taken with us.

Spread some love!

Also, you’ll get other people from the music business to try to reach you. It might be a record label, potential manager, festival producer, or any other person from the music industry.

That’s when you start seeing that things are getting serious.

Delegated Work

Photo by Marvin Meyer via Unsplash

It’s a time when someone outside the band comes to help out. It can be a PR, Musical Director, Manager, or any other role that specializes in an area that will make the band thrive. There’s a team in place, whether it’s just one extra person or more onboard.

You’re not doing everything yourself anymore, and it comes in hand with getting results. This person has knowledge and hopefully connections that will advance your career. He/she will get you to record deals, higher-profile music stages, organize tours, and many other things that help you focus on your craft rather than dealing with extramusical stuff.

When should bands get a manager?

Doc McGhee, the manager of Bon Jovi, KISS, The Scorpions, and others, says that when bands draw attention to themselves, having record companies contact them or drawing a larger local crowd to their gigs, that’s when a manager can help.

In other words, the manager will come to you.

Making Music

This one is the most difficult to achieve.

When you can truly focus on music, you are the king. Seriously, there are so many things an artist does at the beginning that they can be so drained when you finally get to the musical part.

Just have a look at the things you do until someone along and does it for you:

  • Outreach: contact a bunch of places, get rejected by most of them, negotiate (if you even can!), set the date, play, and get paid for gigs. Try to get meetings with producers, reach out to foundations, cultural organizations, music festivals to get a place on their stage.
  • Coordinate: rehearsals, arrival, and departure from gigs, recording album dates, interviews, radio/TV appearances, reach to other bands and organize joint gigs and/or recordings, music tours, video clip shoots, etc.
  • Marketing: make flyers to promote your concerts, set, record, edit, and launch video recordings of your gigs, post regularly on different social media, design or find an artist to make you EP’s artwork, send demos to radios, get someone to write about the band, and so on.

So you see there’s a bunch to do outside of practicing, composing, arranging, and having rehearsals with your band.

It’s tough.

When the time comes that you look around and you have a small team that manages the extramusical stuff, then you truly are a successful musician.

Quick Recap

Photo by Aaron Burden via Unsplash

The music industry is a fierce battlespace and very few make it. Musicians should be aware that there’s a high chance of failure, but that shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your dreams.

Success might mean something different for you than it does to the music industry, and it’s okay.

If you’re going towards this path, here’s the summary of 7 key points that will give you a hint that you’re going in the right direction:

  1. You are networking a lot.
  2. Your audience is increasing rapidly.
  3. You are not losing money.
  4. Your schedule is actually full.
  5. You are getting noticed by fans and people from the industry.
  6. You have other people working for you
  7. You can really focus on the music.

It’s a tough road to travel, and if you start noticing these signs, there’s something great happening in your career.

However, there’s always a very important ingredient that’s out of our reach, but it’s as important as what I’ve talked about in this article.

It’s luck.

Luck can come in many forms. It can come as great timing, things fit perfectly and you’re the surfer riding the perfect wave. It can also mean landing your own Brain Epstein (The Beatle’s miracle manager), or it may be any other thing that will change the stakes for you.

You never know, just keep going.

By Pavle Marinkovic on .

Are you curious about the world of sound and music? Learn how music can enhance a plant’s growth, the way sound changes our sense of taste, understand the music industry, and much more!Join my newsletter to embark on this journey of sound awareness.

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