Home Music Industry News 10 Rules of Success in the Music Industry

10 Rules of Success in the Music Industry

There are certain rules that music and radio pros MUST follow if they are to have long-term success. These are the ones I find most helpful. I’ve made some of these mistakes but thank God I’m a person who learns lessons quickly. Hit “NEXT” above or below  for next segment.

Know that it’s Business FIRST

I cannot tell you how many people I have seen DESTROYED who can’t separate the business from the personal side of the industry. Their whole lives are based on the industry, no personal friends or personal life. As I have stated before, this is a lifestyle industry, one that we may be around each other all day and even at night and then see again at events. There are VERY few TRUE legends in the industry, I’m talking about those who are immortalized and get the ultimate respect like Frankie Crocker. So be prepared just because you make millions today and are loved by everyone doesn’t mean you won’t be collecting unemployment in 10 years.


Always be Professional

Trust is something that it takes years to earn in the industry. Never hang out with industry people at a bar or let them in your personal space. This, once again, is where you are crossing the lines of business and friendships and truth be told, you are MUCH better off making friends like this who don’t work in the industry. You are always working in the music industry, especially in cities like Los Angeles where you could see industry people in the grocery store. When money is involved and your career try your best to keep it pro.


Diversify your Skills

If you do one thing your entire career you will either age out or be phased out for whatever replaces it. I see a LOT of this, people in their 50 and 60s still doing what they did in their 20s. This is the best way to have a very short-term career. The more you do when you are younger, the more leverage you have to remain employed when you are older. Today, you can even learn things when you are older if you are willing to not think that your way is the best way. If you are older and not able to find work, your way is NOT the best way.

Stay on Top of Technology

Many and I mean MANY people over 40 think they don’t need social networks. What they are really saying it, I don’t know how it works so they give up. This is the absolute dumbest thing I have ever heard and seen. Tech is here to stay and it’s something that takes time to grow and establish. If you ignore it today it will cost you tomorrow. Make it easy on yourself, take a class at a place like General Assembly in LA that teaches you how to master social networks. There are companies like this all over the country that can jump-start your knowledge and ability to tackle the social network world.

Young lady typing on the computer
Young lady typing on the computer

Hoarding and Dominating

It took me many years to understand that just because others hoard and hold information,  you don’t have to be that way. If something is meant for you it will be yours and if it’s not it won’t be but greedy people always suffer in one way or the other. Even if it means they don’t grow. When you look at some of the most successful companies like Google, Facebook and Yahoo, they share the wealth with employees by giving amazing vacation packages, having nap rooms at the office, giving them great pay, sometimes free child care and free lunch. They are NOTHING like a Wal-Mart whose employees constantly struggle to make ends meet and they have a higher turnover rate but the board and upper level management are outrageously rich. If you are a person who doesn’t want anyone else to be successful, go ahead, hoard and be greedy. I promise you will never grow. Also, don’t use others to help you and not return the favor, you will quickly develop a reputation of someone who cannot be trusted and it will stick with you. If you ask an established industry exec to help you vs asking if you can take them to lunch… you will get a LOT more taking them to lunch. You get much more time to ask questions and you develop a relationship. I’m sharing for FREE information in this story that it took me 30 years to understand and others would charge you for this with less experience than I have. I’m doing it because I understand the best way to get what YOU want is to help others get what THEY want.


Have a Plan

Go into whatever you do and make sure you give yourself a time limit to be where you want to be. If it doesn’t happen, move on but work with 1 to 3 year limites and you will move up much quicker in the industry. Take chances and apply for bigger jobs each time. When someone offers you something that indicates you have leverage, never accept the initial pay. ALWAYS ask for a day or two to think about it (so you don’t appear desperate). Lateral moves are a waste of time and NEVER and I mean NEVER take a gig that is a step backwards in order to move up.  That is never to your benefit but more so to the person hiring you. I fell for this once and it took me 3 years to recover from that. The one person who should always have your absolute best interest at heart will always be YOU first. There are older industry people who will mislead you, not always intentionally but sometimes that is the case too and they will give you the worst advice. Follow your gut.


Surround Yourself with the Best People

…and not always the SAME people. There is always a way to meet newer people who have more insight and more to offer in the way of business. Make sure you bring something to the table too. Don’t make everything about YOU and YOUR dreams. Show interest in what others are doing a well.  If you connect with the right people and you assist each other one of you will eventually be in a position to help the other one. In the music industry strength CERTAINLY comes in numbers. People move up very fast in the industry and you want to make sure you have plenty of contacts so meet as many people as possible.


Have a personal life

Industry work can dominate your entire life by day and night. It’s great as long as you are being productive but the moment you are no longer in pocket and nobody has any use for you it can be devastating for many people. This is ALWAYS the result of poor planning and a lackadaisical approach to one’s career in the industry. They think their jobs will last forever. Make sure you have a good balance in your life of people who are connected and not connected to the industry and try to not combine the two.


Treat yourself

Take a vacation or a trip every year or twice a year.  Hell I know people who take a trip every other week. Reward yourself for your hard work, life is not guaranteed and neither is your career. Enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Photographed by Rance Elgin
Photographed by Rance Elgin

Save some of your money

One of the best investments you can make early on is real estate, paying rent after 35 is just not wise and it’s not a good set up for retirement. Own some property put some money in mutual funds and invest in yourself and for an emergency down the road. If you have really hard time-saving, open an online account or another bank account and take a percentage of each check and put it in the other account. It’s like having a piggy bank you are rewarding yourself each time you make a deposit and you will be surprised at how you never miss it. One other rule of money NEVER let people know you have it. That’s YOUR business and for YOU not for a long list of sob stories to separate you from it and to turn friendships upside down. .


Control your own destiny. (bonus)

Drive your OWN career vehicle. Leave your career in someone else’s hands and 99% of the time you will be deeply disappointed. Everyone has their own agenda and that’s fine just don’t get caught up in it. Make sure YOU know what YOU want to do and follow your plan at all costs.


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