THE SECRET TO SUCCESS IN MUSIC

Jimmy Buffet said something 20 years ago that (in retrospect) I believe is BS. But for the sake of argument, I’ll repeat it.

  1. You need to have talent.
  2. You need to be persistent
  3. You need to be Lucky

#3 helps, but Mr. Parrot head said you had to have all three. 2/3 doesn’t work.

I call BS on #3. Yes, #3 can be what you owe your success to, but I wouldn’t make it a part of my business plan.  If you have a following, you’re doing something right and success will find you.  Even if it’s just one song or painting.

If I wanted to make this article really long; I would have written on things that kill a career in the arts.

So here’s the secret. (Something I learned too late in life).  So here it is.  This will probably be the most important post regarding a career in music and I think the principles apply in general.

  1. You need to have talent (*Buffet rule #1)
  2. You need to be Passionate about your music or art.
  3. ***MOST IMPORTANTLY ~ You need to focus on ONE AREA or GENRE.

I don’t care if you’re Barry White or Rammstein. #3 is the MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT.

What sucks is if you are a really good singer, chances are you Love Frank Sinatra and Luther Vandross as much as you do Freddie Mercury and Luciano Pavorotti. If you’re a music lover; you Love Glenn Miller as much as you do The Ramones.  A true Music Lover has the worst chance of being a successful musician.  It’s fine if you want to be the next Lee Ritenour. (A studio Musician) But you’re not going to be the next Ramones if you want to play “Rage against the machine”.

One thing Dan Baird, the Lead singer of the Georgia Satellites said was when he decided to play roots rock, (Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly) He had to put away his “YES” albums.

A Brand name is probably more important than skill. Take Buddy Holly for example.  And Buddy is a roots rocker that I love, but his songs are mainly 3 chord songs in A.  But what he was doing was HIS.  (His other amazing contributions to music notwithstanding).  Buddy Holly is arguably the most important person to affect modern music.  Sure he did what Les Paul was doing, but Buddy changed the Industry. But I digress.

Very few bands can pull off the Chameleon reinvention genre that Queen did. I doubt anyone else ever will.

If you love Metal music AND you can appreciate Johnny Mathis, you’re going to struggle gaining a following. What’s worse is, even if you have the skill to be the next guitarist for Metallica, if you still love The Eagles, you’re never going to be happy.  Let me give you food for thought.

Look at Weird Al Yankovic. He’s creative.  But if he ever tried to go legit, he would lose his loyal audience.

Metallica cut their hair and their audience started calling them sellouts.

I’m not saying you need to be the musical equivalent of AC/DC or the Ramones or even James Taylor. But when you hear the name James Taylor, you know what you’re getting.  I doubt John Fogarty would be successful today if not for CCR.  If he had kept doing the Bayou music, he would have been “The Man” at Gumbo festivals.

As long as your musical style is consistent, you can be George Thorogood and play a Hank Williams song (Move it on over) and have a hit. You can be Little Richard and play a Hank Williams song (Love sick blues) and have a hit.  When both artists did their Hank Williams covers, the song sounded like them, not Hank Williams.

Can you imagine going to see Stevie Ray Vaughan and having him come out and play Barry Manilow?   Or go to a YES concert and sit through 2 hours of country music?  Anyone that’s ever made it, made it because they were associated with a genre.  Even if you were the Rolling Stones playing Robert Johnson blues songs, you were a British invasion group.

As for Jimmy Buffet’s rule #3, tell Kurt Cobain he was lucky.   He was brilliant.  Kurt and other coffee addicts in Seattle created a genre that hit the charts like a cruise missile.  Then Hollywood had to find their own clones (or clowns) to mimic the grunge sound.  And in 3 years you had Grunge in the music rack with Glenn Miller and Elvis.

Pick one genre and stick to it. Give the people what they came to hear.  The more you enjoy what you’re doing, the less like work it will be and you will become the definition or Icon of that genre.  When you start your career, approach it like you want to be the new “King of _____ music.  BB King was called the King of the Blues.  James Brown was the godfather of soul.  Elvis the King of Rock.  Michael Jackson was the King of Pop. Nirvana  is the King of Grunge. Sinatra was the king of the Standards. Hank Williams is the father of country music.

Pick a sound you love and go with it. Live it.  If you’re a punk; wear a leather biker jacket to weddings and Levi jeans with holes in the knees. (And always wear a spiked wrist band) BE THE FIRST GROUP OR SINGER THAT PEOPLE THINK OF WHEN THEY MENTION YOUR GENRE.  THAT’S THE SECRET TO SUCCESS.  Be Monet’s Lilly pads.  Be Michael Jackson’s “Moon Walk”.

When someone asks: “What kind of music do you play?” Be able to answer it in less than 3 words and 5 seconds. Preferably one word.

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