Important Tips to Consider on your Path to Success

By Bobby Borg

I once heard someone say that pursuing a career in the music business is no different than learning to cook. You can follow a specific recipe to the very last ingredient and still end up with unsatisfactory results.

Although there are no rules or guidelines that can ensure a prosperous and long lasting career in the music business, there are number of proven tips passed down from seasoned professionals that will at least point you in the right direction. This month's topics include: "Analyze your career motivations and goals," "Develop a realistic outlook by ignoring the media hype," and "Make realistic career decisions by educating yourself first."

Whether you're a musician trying to make connections and get gigs or a band trying to get signed, these motivational tips apply to you!


Understand what truly motivates you. Do you want to be rich? Do you want to be famous? Do you want to be both rich and famous (the two do not necessarily go hand in hand)? Are you pursuing a career to attract the opposite sex? Or to party? Or are you pursuing music for spiritual reasons, for the art and for the love of creating, to make a valid contribution to the world of music?

Your answers to these questions are ultimately going to affect the career decisions you make. For this reason, you need to be totally honest about your goals. That said, it's also extremely important to interpret the goals of the people with whom you may become professionally involved. What motivates them? Do you really want to do business with these people? Do you truly respect and like them, and do they in return truly respect and like you? Tour manager /agent/ promoter Chris Arnstien calls this approach to self-awareness the "decision making tree." Your decisions (or branches) are based on the core (or root) of who you truly are as a person. Have you given this some thought? If you haven't, now is a good time.


Don't be blinded by media hype or glamour. It's no secret that the expensive houses, the cars, the yachts, the beautiful girls, and the large screaming audiences that you see in the videos for most new bands are actually rented. When you're signed to a record company, these expenses (sometimes up to as much as $500,000 or more) are all charged against your future earnings. The majority of artists are never able to pay these back and are eventually dropped by their label. Singer John Rzenik of the band the Goo Goo Dolls says, "Record companies sell the dream. They never talk about the struggle."

It's important that you completely understand the realities of the music business. Are you willing to give it your all, sleep on floors if needed, work odd jobs just to survive, perform for free, and take rejection after rejection for a crack at the big time? Even then, your break may never come. Most successful artists have lived and breathed music with no thoughts of ever turning back. Is this for you?


Understand how the music industry works behind the scenes. Learn the business inside and out so that you can make realistic and educated business decisions, rather than decisions based on dreams.

Read music trade magazines such as Billboard and Hits. Read music books like The Musician's Handbook by yours truly, The Craft And Business of Song Writing by John Braheny, Music Money and Success by Todd and Jeff Brabec, and Going Pro by Kenny Kerner as well as books on the life stories of popular artists; Motley Crue's book The Dirt chronicles the band's rise and fall and makes for very interesting reading.

Check out the VH1 video series Behind the Music for a dose of reality television. Take a music industry course offered at a nearby college; both New York University (NYU) and The University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) offer excellent classes. Speak to others in the business who have more experience than you and have been in the trenches themselves. Make sure you're willing to make the major sacrifices and take the risks necessary in pursuit of your goals. The life of a musician is not an easy one. As Billy Mitchell says in his book The Gigging Musician, "The music business is a living thing, a beautiful yet vicious animal that sometimes eats its young. It is important that you know what it [the business] is... and who you are."

Bobby Borg is the author of "The Musician's Handbook: A Practical Guide To Understanding The Music Business," published by Billboard Books. For more