You work hard to make great music.
You try to create a connection with your fans. You play shows, post to social media and send emails.
Day in and day out, you put your best foot forward. Yet, it seems like the more you do, the less you get for your efforts. It seems like no one cares.
It’s no fun to be in that space. But it doesn’t mean you can’t do something about it.
In this guide, we’ll explore why nobody cares about your music and how you can navigate these waters.
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If You’re Still Developing As An Artist
Admittedly, this is just a less harsh way of saying “you’re not good enough yet” with “yet” being the keyword.
There’s plenty of time to develop. All you need is a long-term mindset.
I remember when I was working on my second solo album. The producer said I needed to work on my voice for three hours per day the same way I practiced guitar for three hours per day.
He also told me to get some vocal coaching.
I didn’t exactly like hearing that news. But in the coming days and weeks, I spent at least an hour per day in my basement going through vocal warmups and practicing my songs.
There was no immediate reward for putting in the effort. My voice stayed about the same.
But because I kept singing and practicing, I started noticing a difference.
I wouldn’t call myself the best singer in the world. But I’m comfortable with my voice as well as its limitations. I do just fine.
There is no way to speed up the process, except to work with a knowledgeable teacher or coach.
Additionally, if you practice too much, you will injure your voice. So, you must avoid over-practicing.
The same goes for playing your instrument for too long. You can end up hurting yourself.
Now, I will not discourage you from booking gigs and performing in front of an audience, even if you haven't reached the pinnacle of your creativity.
I believe live performance is the best kind of practice there is.
But I would recommend spending most your time in your practice closet. And, if possible, don’t come out until you’ve put in your 10,000 hours.
Solution: If you’re still developing as an artist, there’s only one thing to do – keep practicing.
Take advantage of the many resources available, whether it’s YouTube tutorials, books, guitar tabs, teachers or otherwise.
If You Only Care About Yourself, Not The Music Tastes Of Others
I’m sure you’re going places, kid. The only problem is you’ve got a bad attitude.
The music industry is home to a variety of personalities, whether it’s well-publicized jerks, mysterious introverts, costume-donning eccentrics or other.
And, there is a place for you too. But I would encourage you to tune out the jerks. You’re not going to go far in the music industry if you don’t treat others well.
It’s altogether too easy to get fixated on yourself and your own affairs without any consideration for others. This, however, is a mistake.
It is possible to get a bad reputation and once you’ve been “black balled” by others, you’re going to find it harder to find viable opportunities.
Ever watch the SHOWTIME original series Californication (it's one of my favorite shows, so I reference it often)?
Protagonist Hank Moody (played by David Duchovny) is a writer and he depends on his agent, Charlie Runkle (played by Evan Handler) to get him jobs writing scripts and the like.
By the seventh season, Moody has left such a bad taste in people’s mouth that virtually no one is willing to work with him.
This is exactly the situation you want to avoid.
If you haven't noticed, there are plenty of conversations today around “being a good hang” and “finding the win-win” in the industry.
This is important. Don’t ignore these discussions.
If you’re professional, reliable, mindful and empathetic, you will go far in the music industry.
Solution: Be professional in your interactions. When following up with people who don’t get back to you, always be polite. When hanging out with others, be personable and show some interest in them.
Write “thank you” notes and hand them out when and where relevant. Attend other people’s shows. Look for the win-win in every situation. Give people a reason to care.
If You’re Not Putting Any Time, Effort Or Money Into Music Marketing
Do you find it sad that putting no time, effort or money into promoting your music doesn’t lead anywhere?
Maybe the rare (and I do mean rare) artist finds traction and success with their music by working hard on their music without marketing it.
But even the best, most talented artists will generally never be heard or seen by anyone if they don’t market their works.
Honestly, I can only guess that labels put more money into marketing pre-internet than post-internet, because of how inefficient it was.
They had to get their artist’s music out to newspapers and magazines, radio and TV stations, venue owners and event organizers and more. There was a lot of leg work involved.
I'm not saying they don't still do that, but these days, reaching a global audience is easy. If you’re willing to set aside a bit of a budget for Google or Facebook ads, you can reach just about anyone.
In my opinion, there’s something that comes even before marketing, which is branding, but I’ll talk more about that in a moment.
The key point is that you must market yourself.
Also recognize that this does not mean you must do it all yourself.
But you can’t just release music and expect everyone to hear it.
Solution: If you’ve got the time and energy to take this on, then study digital marketing. We’ve got some of the best free marketing resources available right here on Music Industry How To.
If you can’t do it yourself, consider who you need to enlist or hire for your project. Make a note of the tasks you need them to handle. Then, start interviewing and hiring people.
If You Don’t Have Your Branding Figured Out
Defining yourself and your purpose can be difficult.
But when people know exactly who you are, what you stand for and the impact you want to make in the world, they will find it easier to rally around you.
If they don’t “get” you, they will find someone else to follow and listen to.
Artists sometimes think branding is all about what they wear, how their logo looks, what accent color they use and so on.
All of this is important but it’s not where branding starts.
Proper branding requires a “top down” or “inside out” approach.
First, you must determine who you are, how you want to influence people and who your target audience is.
Once you’ve clearly identified these elements, your branding efforts will go a lot smoother. You’ll be able to brand yourself in a way that appeals to the right people.
Branding isn’t complicated, and it doesn’t require you to pigeonhole yourself.
Pigeonholing is probably the top objection artists have with regards to branding themselves, but truly you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Solution: Get back to the basics and dig deep. Who are you? What difference do you want to make? How does that connect to the people you want to attract to your art?
Once you’ve answered these key questions, you’re ready to brand yourself in a way that leads to exponential results in your career.
Soon, every decision you make will connect directly to your brand, which is what you want.
If Your Music Serves No Purpose
This goes hand in hand with my last point.
If you aren’t clear on your identity, your career choices will be random and scattershot.
On the other hand, if you know who you are, you can make laser-focused decisions that help you create a strong and connected fan base.
Your music, as you can imagine, is one of the most important areas to consider.
If you make music that’s about something, it’s more likely to appeal to the right people, because it’s aligned with your brand and your audience’s values.
I understand that there are plenty of top 40 hits that are essentially about nothing. And, because they are general instead of being specific, they have the potential to appeal to everyone.
But everyone isn’t quite right – just the largest music buying demographic.
I think it’s much easier to find your audience early on by catering to a niche instead of trying to appeal to the mass market.
Naturally, this goes back to your branding.
But it's important to understand there are a lot of things you can do with your music, whether it’s donating a portion of your proceeds to a cause you care about, making music that appeals to video game nerds, writing about your political views and so on.
I understand that even music with “no purpose” technically has the purpose of entertaining people.
But in a time with so much music, if you want to stand out from the crowd, you should find your niche.
Solution: Align your music with your brand.
If you love to party and that’s what you’re about, make your music fun and easy for people to dance to.
If you care about the homeless, then take a percentage of your proceeds and donate to a shelter.
If your music is for people who love to paint, then talk about how your music helps people get into flow state and produce some of their best artistic works.
And so on.
Consider That It Might Be All In Your Head
Sometimes, artists assume everything will go according to a specific timeframe they've mapped out in their minds.
Be honest. Isn’t there a part of you that thought you would have hit it big by the time you were 25 or 30?
Or, you thought you’d be in the papers and on TV after releasing your last album?
Whatever the assumption is, we must give it up and take an honest look at the stats and numbers available to us.
You shouldn’t compare yourself to some other artist that hit it big. First and foremost, you should compare yourself against your past self. That’s the only way to know whether you’re improving.
It’s easy to feel like you’re going nowhere fast, but do you have any evidence to support that theory?
Sometimes you must take a cold, hard look at the numbers. It could be anything, including:
- Revenue from year to year.
- Increase or decrease in concert attendance.
- Increase or decrease in digital sales and streams.
- Video views on YouTube.
- Listens on SoundCloud.
- And so on.
You know better than I do what stats you could look at right now to get a good sense of how you’re doing and whether you’re making any progress.
I know it might seem like you’re struggling at times and you may even feel like your already small fan base is waning.
But that may not be the case and you won’t know for sure unless you look at how far you’ve come and what you’ve accomplished to this point.
Solution: It’s entirely possible that you’re already on the right track and you don’t need to adjust anything besides your attitude.
Practically every “overnight success” was 10 years in the making. You may have many more years to get to that point.
So, don’t forget to take a long-term view.
Why Nobody Cares About Your Music, & What You Can Do About That; Final Thoughts
Every business is a people business, including the music business.
As a musician, you might assume your job is to make music. It’s not. It’s to connect with people.
If you are skilled at connecting with people, you should experience more success in every part of your career.
This does not mean you need to be an extrovert. If you are thoughtful, mindful and empathetic, you can go places. And, you can cultivate these skills.
Stop making everything about you because you wouldn’t have a career without others.