1. You've lost your motivation and are procrastinating
Most artists embark in this industry fuelled by a huge passion for music. This passion motivates them both to work hard and to take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way. At first, everything is new, everything is wonderful. Even when things don't go their way, they see each setback as a useful experience that could help them in the future.
However, over time, their life moves on, they gain new responsibilities and discover new passions. Thus, inevitably, as time passes, they dedicate less time to their music and begin to get discouraged. But the fact is, that if you want to mould a career worthy of the name, you have to be 200% involved in the process.
The good news is, motivation is cyclical. Sometimes we're very motivated and sometimes we're on the verge of giving up. The trick is in realising that these highs and lows are dictated only by a small voice in our head. We can choose to ignore this and continue to work on our career whatever happens.
In short, behave as if you were already at the top of the music business, work on it daily and don't let yourself be controlled by your mood swings and emotions. The point is to be consistent, even if you're not always at the peak of your motivation. Don't be derailed by laziness and inaction.
2. Your branding is confusing
Clearly identifying and successfully putting your brand out there is one of the first (and most difficult) steps in a music career. It can be confusing, even a little uncomfortable, having to put into words who you are and what you want to be but it's a vital task you must do.
You need to have a clear idea about your brand so that you know how to promote your music online, what opportunities to take up or turn down and what to do next. Your branding is not only the foundation of your marketing strategy but it's also vital so your fans and music professionals are able to grasp your market position in just 10 seconds.
In short, decide on your branding as quickly as possible if you want people (including yourself) to understand the identity of your music career.
3. Your online presence is wrong
Yes, social networking can seem like a time-consuming and unnecessary burden. Yes, it requires putting yourself forward and showing, at the very least, a little narcissism. But, mastering your online presence and learning how to use it as a tool for building your career and communicating with your fans is one of the key differences between having a career that is barely alive and one that takes off at great speed.
Having an optimised online presence and strengthening links with your fanbase will also attract the attention of the press, programmers and music labels. It also acts in promoting all aspects of your career: acquiring potential fans, gaining their loyalty, the strength of your project and its monetary value. Above all, always keep in mind that your fans are everything to you. Learn how to take care of your online presence and your fanbase and musical career will have no limits. Hint: it starts with social networks.
4. Your concerts aren't attracting interest
One often hears that it's better to focus on developing a local fanbase, before aiming for a regional or national one. This is true. Although the Internet offers fantastic international opportunities, I recommend that at first, you expand your online presence locally.
Naturally, you dream of touring and probably feel that an ideal fanbase can be located anywhere, but at the end of the day, there are numerous advantages to conquering your home region (if you're still there) and perfecting your art before exporting it here, there and everywhere. And, of course, if you do not manage to attract a noisy and enthusiastic crowd locally then it's probably because... your performance itself is the problem.
Film your concerts and be objective about your live performance. Is it actually engaging? Is it boring? Do you say something to your audience? Do you interact well with the crowd? Invite friends and family along and ask for their honest opinions. In fact, even before D-Day, you should be looking at how you sell your show. What are you doing to promote it?
Simply posting "Come and see us perform on Saturday night..." on Facebook will not work. Can you be more pro-active in your promotion? Can you make it more personal? What can you do to make this concert a landmark event? Experiment with new techniques on and off stage until you find what works.
5. You lack professionalism
Stage presence is one thing, but your professionalism off the stage is another matter. Artists and bands that do not show respect to managers, engineers, programmers, fans, the media and other musicians cannot expect to make a breakthrough. For example, you should always be punctual and ready to go on stage as promptly as possible. Then, when you finish playing, leave the stage directly so as not to overrun your allotted stage time.
Another thing: no matter what has happened or what you think, do not run down the performances and careers of other musical artists either online or in real life. The only thing you will accomplish by doing this is destroying your own reputation and your chances of working with other artists or professionals.
Is a musical venture you dislike seeing success? It is the public alone who decides what they like and while it can be unfortunate to see other musical careers receiving more attention than yours, it should only fuel your desire to work harder on your own career. Have a professional attitude at all times and seek only to improve yourself rather than focusing on putting others down. This behaviour won't always be obvious to others, far from it. But doing this certainly won't hinder your progress. These are just some specific examples but aim generally to behave like a professional in every circumstance (social networking, interviews, on stage, backstage, contacts, etc.)
6. You have no definite goal
Having specific and achievable goals will help you move forward in your daily life as an artist or band while avoiding stagnation. When I talk about goals, I do not mean vague things like "becoming famous" or "living my music". Certainly, you might want these things but they are not definite goals.
Good goals are specific such as "organise a tour next year" or "release an EP in March". Once you have set yourself a goal that inspires you, you can start working backwards from it to set mini-targets designed to help you reach your final goal.
Above all, be realistic. You may want to fill a stadium with 10,000 people, spend on NRJ and get an article in Rolling Stone in the next year, but if it is early in your career and you only have a few thousand fans or fewer on social networks, you will quickly become disillusioned. Set yourself achievable goals within a relatively short time span (say six months to a year) and don't forget to structure everything around your mini-targets. This will make all the difference.
7. Your expectations are disproportionate to your investment
Many artists dream of celebrity, hoping that one day they'll win a contract with a prestigious record company where they will have all the support they need and can focus solely on their music. Many artists would like to get to this position, but to achieve these goals you have to work hard and be prepared to invest a lot of time, energy and money.
Why? Because the competition (if we can call other bands and artists that) will not be waiting around for you. Some will be willing to work day and night on their projects in order to break through and won't complain if at first their concerts and albums make a loss. It is often those who invest the most, who reap the most later on. A word of warning though. I'm not saying you have to kill yourself on the task or accept anything and everything just because you're an emerging artist or band.
On the other hand, however, if you want to stand out from the crowd it's important that your work and your strategies match up to your ambitions. Don't wait for others or sit around waiting for a miracle, just get serious about your career. To do so, do not be afraid of investing in your career by spending your time and money (on skills, advertising, PR, merchandising, concerts, etc.)
If you still have doubts, I suggest you reread this article to see where you could improve further. Take some time to understand the ins and outs, (re)create the foundations of your music career and stay professional. Then take one step at a time. Do all of this and your music career will soon be soaring.
Read more: Crowdfunding for musicians
Stay in the loop
Keep up to date on all the latest music business news, tips, tricks, and education. Everything you need to grow your music business straight to your inbox.