20 Reasons Why Performers Never Make It

Ever wonder why some talented local musicians never find the audience or get that elusive record deal? Or why some signed artists' careers stall out just past the starting gate? It's not just "bad luck." Here are 20 common reasons why some artists never make it to the next level.

1.Poorly-defined goals. Even if they're too modest to say so in public, successful artists have a solid answer for the question: "What are your goals in the industry?"

2. Band members with different goals. In order to succeed, you have to be on the same page. It's tough to stay on track if some band members know what they want and others want different things or don't know what they want at all.

3. Lack of musical focus. Creativity is good, but in the mainstream music industry, only artists with multiple past successes have leeway to gravitate toward other musical styles. Different musical genres involve different business contacts and working methods. Artists whose styles are too diverse have difficulty achieving consistent contacts and working methods...and it takes consistency to break a new artist. (Newsflash for artists who think playing a lot of different styles makes them unique: it doesn't. We see artists with this "unique" talent all the time. In fact most artists can play or sing in more than one style but publicly focus on one they do best.)

4. Poor work ethic. The old saying that harder you work, the luckier you get is true.

5. Waiting to be discovered. People who are "discovered" make it happen instead of waiting.

6. Ineffective artist management, or not listening to good management. It sounds simplistic, but it's where many artists go wrong. In order to be effective, your management has to know what they're doing. If you have good, experienced management but don't listen to their advice, they can't help you.

7. Working with people who don't have contacts in the industry. Ideally, the people you start with should be constantly building better skills and contacts along the way. If that doesn't happen, you'll need to work with people who have contacts at the next level.

8. Signing with a label with inadequate funding or poor distribution. If you want a record deal, the goal isn't "a record deal." The goal is the record deal with the most potential for long-term success.

9. Lack of live following. Especially in rock and country, no draw means no deal.

10. Artist "settles" too much; recording quality, image, stage presence, photos, and demo packaging, and overall presentation are all "OK." Successful artists are more than just OK and never settle for it. Nor do their managers.

11. Poor networking skills. Successful artists constantly seek new networking methods and know how to use them.

12. Hanging onto ineffective band members. Many artists have trouble separating business and friendship, at the cost of their careers.

13. Dated musical style. (Sounding like Pearl Jam or 'NSync probably isn't going to cut it.)

14. Dated image. If you still dress the same way you did 5-10 years ago or have the same hair style, it's time to freshen up. If you're fond of the clothes, wear them on your own time--not when you want someone to invest money in your music being the hottest thing since sliced bread.

15. Lack of radio-friendly songwriting. No hit potential, no deal.

16. Bowing to peer or family pressure not to change. Doing the same thing the same way brings the same results, so in order to improve something, change has to occur; it literally can't stay the same. But that's not necessarily a bad thing: if you put icing on a cake, the cake changes but is still the same underneath. (If it's bad icing or you do something stupid when frosting it, the cake falls apart. Fortunately, that doesn't happen too often.)

17. Drug or alcohol issues. Many artists with easy access to drugs, alcohol, and groupies at the local level have the distorted impression that they've "made it" and lose motivation to go any further.

18. Spouse / child obligations. Putting together an entertainment career is expensive and requires a major time commitment. The same is true of spouses and children. We're not saying it's impossible, but it's definitely more difficult.

19. Impossible to work with. Being impossible to work with doesn't necessarily mean the artist isn't a nice person; one very nice artist has had seven managers in the past ten years. We like this artist just fine as a person, but in order for a team to become successful, it needs time to gel. With a rotating litany of band members, managers, and agents, that's not likely to happen.

20. Not understanding how the industry works. You have to know how the game is played in order to move the right pieces.

Get This Write!

I’ve been listening to songs in a professional capacity for over
13 years, as a songwriter, An A&R executive, a manager, a producer and as an artist developer. Along the way, I’ve learned some simple
tests you can perform on your songs.  Using these tests as you're
writing will help you to craft songs that create more than a
passing interest from listeners.

Look at the first two lines of your lyric and only the first two
lines. Imagine yourself walking down the street and having a
perfect stranger come up to you and say those two lines.  How much
of the "who, what, where, why and how" of the story/message of your
song has been communicated?  If you don't know much from the first
two lines, i.e., if you don't know enough to care what's going to
happen to the protagonist, a record executive, producer or casual listener will most likely not be interested to listen further.

Dean Pitchford, who wrote "Flashdance," gave us this one. I know what you’re thinking, “Why is this jackass referring to ‘Flashdance”? It’s because even if you don’t like a particular song you can learn from those songs that for whatever reason touched A LOT of people.  Each
lyric line (and its accompanying melodic phrase) is like a present
tied up with a bow. Neat and complete.  That means, if you say that
line alone, it's completely understandable on its own.  It doesn't
need the next line to have it make sense. Look at each of your
lyric lines separately and make sure it presents a complete,
independent picture.

Type/print your lyric sheet flush left (all the lines starting on
the left margin) on a sheet of white paper.  (By the way, if your
lyric doesn't fit on one sheet, you're in trouble.) Can you draw a
rectangle around the lyrics of the verses?  In other words, are all
your lines exactly the same physical length?  How about your chorus
or bridge?  Can you draw a box around them?  Now, can you draw a
big box around your verses and chorus and have most or all of the
lines touch on the right side of your box?  If so, it's more than
likely that your song will sound monotonous because you do not have
enough variety in the lengths of lines and patterns of lyrics.
Look for a really ragged right edge as a sign that your lyrics are
conversational and interesting rhythmically.  Also, look for the
box around the chorus lines to be of significantly different size
than the box around the verses. It's an indicator of sufficient
variety between the chorus and the verses.

Part 1: Albert's right about that, but some of what counts can be
counted.  For instance, count the number of lines in each of your
verses. Now, count the lines in your chorus.  If they're exactly
the same, e.g., 4-line verse, 4-line chorus; or, 8-line verse,
8-line chorus, you probably haven't made enough contrast between
the two sections.

Part 2: This is one we see all the time!  Count the number of beats
in the lyric of verse 1, line 1.  Then, count the number of beats
in verse 2, line 1.  Do they match?  Sometimes, we need to insert a
little pick-up note for an extra syllable and it's OK because the
rest of the line falls naturally into the accents of the basic
pattern.  But, we often see 8 beats in verse 1, line 2 and 13 beats
in verse 2, line 2, for example.  No way those extra 5 beats are
going to fit comfortably on the melody you worked so hard to
establish in the first verse.  Count all the beats in all the lines
and make sure they match from verse to verse, so they can be sung
on the same melody with ease.

You may have heard of the saying, "Position is everything in life."
In the life of your song, the position of your title tells the
listener what your main point is.  There are certain power
positions in a song. What they are, depends on which structure you
choose when you write your song.  

Is it a verse/bridge structure (a.k.a. A, A, B, A)?  Then your
title will be in the verses.  It will be in the first line of the
verse or the last line of the verse.  These are the power positions
in that structure.  Example: "Yesterday" by The Beatles. (There are
exceptions, but they are rare and compensated for by strong melodic
emphasis when the title is not in the natural power position.)

In the verse/chorus structure, the power positions are at the top
of the chorus and the last line of the chorus.  Your title could be
in either one or both of those places, and repeated more often if
the repetition works. Example: "Yellow Submarine" by The Beatles.

Look at your lyric and see where the title is.  If it's buried in
the middle somewhere, your listener probably won't be able to
identify it, i.e., know what the song is about, how to ask for it
to be played on the radio, or find it at the store.

The word "ultimate" has several meanings. 1. last, 2. decisive, 3.
most desirable, 4. basic, etc.  This test encompasses all those
meanings.  It was taught us by two songwriters in Nashville, both
of whom claimed authorship!  Take your typed lyric sheet.  Write
(or imagine writing) your title after each and every line of lyric.
Say the line of lyric, then say the title.  If the two hang
together and make sense, then your song is about the title.  If you
go for lines and lines without the verse lyrics having much to do
with the title—meaning they don't make sense when you say them next
to each other—it's time to go back to the drawing board.  Your song
is not about your title.

Take an overview of your rhyme scheme.  If you've established an a,
b, a, b, c, c rhyme scheme in verse one, do you keep it up in verse
2?  In other words, do the lines rhyme with the same pattern (not
the same sound) in verse 1 and verse 2, and verse 3, if there is
one?  Now note the sounds of your rhymes.  Are they all a long o
sound?  That can get pretty dull.  We've seen songs where every
line ended in the long ee rhyme.  The ear gets tired of that very
quickly.  If you've inadvertently rhymed everything with the same
sound, you might consider going back and creating more variety in
your rhyming sounds.

This is the name for the confusion that results when, in mid-song,
someone who was a "she" becomes a "you." Or, all of a sudden, "he"
switches to "me." Or, there are three "I's" in a row, referring to
three different people and we're supposed to know which one is
which.  Or, someone starts to quote someone else, the pronoun
shifts, but there's no way to really tell a quotation has begun.

Scan your lyrics for pronouns.  If you've made one of the changes
we describe, it's probable your listeners will go straight to
pronoun hell.  There are always exceptions, but, for the most part,
it's best to have one person represented by one pronoun.  If a
quotation is part of your song, make sure you introduce it with a
clearly audible, "She said" or "He said" so your listeners can
understand when the "I" singing the song begins to be addressed as

Part 1: Sing your melody a cappella (with no instrumental
accompaniment) and without the lyrics.  Sing it into a tape if you
have trouble being objective about hearing what you're singing.  As
a stranger to your song, could you honestly tell where the title
would sit on your melody without ever hearing the lyrics?  If the
most outstanding part of your melody is where you did put your
title, give yourself a pat on the back.  If not, your title needs
to be moved or your melody changed.

Part 2: While you're singing your melody a cappella, does it have
emotional dynamics?  Is there a variety of lengths of notes and
intervals between the notes?  Or, does it sound like a sing-songy
nursery rhyme; the same rhythm pattern over and over?  If someone
heard just your melody, could they make a pretty good guess at the
emotions in the story of the song?  If your melody is not emoting,
you need to write it once more ? with feeling!

Your chords give shadings to your melody.  Each chord has an
emotional tone.  Minor chords tend to express doubt or sorrow.
Major chords have a happy, positive feeling. Adding 6ths, 7ths,
9ths, suspensions, and inversions, gives the basic chord still more
nuances of feeling.  Is your song down home country or uptown
sophisticated?  High-power rock or soft mellow jazz?  Appropriate
choice of chords will bring the message of your song into sharp
focus.  The frequency of chord changes and the style of playing the
chords are both important considerations. Style examples on the
piano: arpeggios, block chords. On the guitar: all the strings at
once, some of the strings, one string at a time. Listen to the
chord changes in your song.  Are they distracting because they are
too rapid and complex?  Are they boring because they don't change
enough or your strum is too repetitive? Do they work against the
emotional message of the song or support it?  Look at each chord
individually. Try an inversion for a different coloring.  Leave no
chord unturned in your search for the perfect setting for the
message of your song.

Making Your Own Luck

Every day is an adventure. One in which we can write a story line filled with new life experiences - Positive relationships and newfound success. Or it can be one in which we see little joy in and sit back believing that success is something that is reserved for only the lucky few.

Truly, the choice in which we see our potential in life is our own. Greatness and abundance is yours as much as it is anyone’s, but you must be willing to believe that is so, as well as be willing to do the things that are necessary to attract greater success in your life.

Always keep firmly in mind that we create our own luck through a four letter word called "work" and six letter one known as "effort".

Strategy for Success

John Paul Getty became the richest man in the world by practicing a few basic principles of risk-taking and reward throughout his life. You’ll learn his key insight to risk reduction and success and how you can apply it to any decision you have to make right here. You will also learn a series of additional ideas that can help you to make better decisions and reduce the risks associated with success.

The Winners Strategy for SuccessRemember Murphy’s Law: “Whatever can go wrong will go wrong.” There are several secondary laws to Murphy’s Law, such as “Whatever can go wrong will go wrong at the worst possible time” and “Of all the things that can go wrong, the most expensive thing will go wrong at the worst possible time.”

Another sub law is:

“Everything takes longer than your best calculation.” In advising Artists and musicians, I suggest that they take their very best estimate of any task and then triple it to arrive at a more realistic number. Whenever Artists and Musicians follow this advice, they are amazed to find that, in spite of their best initial calculations, it indeed takes about three times longer than they thought it would to start making money.

Always Add A Fudge Factor

“Everything costs more than you can possibly anticipate in advance.” In minimizing risk in any recording project, always add a “fudge factor” to account for the degree of uncertainty. Whenever I do a recording plan, I always add 20 percent to the total of all costs that I can identify, to come up with the probable cost. Anything less than this, whether in your band or your personal life, is likely to be an exercise in self-delusion and open you up for some unhappy surprises.

Once you have identified the worst possible things that could go wrong, make a list of everything that you could do to offset these negative factors. Engage in what is called “crisis anticipation.” Look down the road, into the future, and imagine every possible crisis that could arise as the result of changing external circumstances.

Be Intensely Realistic

Artists who have achieved a high level of success are intensely realistic. They do not put their trust in luck. They carefully calculate every possible risk, and then think about what they would do should it occur.

Do The Things You Fear

One of the very best ways to develop your ability to take intelligent risks is to consciously and deliberately do the things you fear, one step at a time.

A very good way to overcome the fear of risk taking is to set clear, written, measurable goals for yourself, and then to review those goals regularly.

When you have clear goals and plans, and you continually work on them and evaluate your progress each day, you will see what you’re doing right and how you could improve your performance. You’ll feel more competent and capable and better about yourself. You’ll become more thoughtful and reflective and willing to take on even greater challenges. You’ll feel like the “master of your fate and the captain of your soul.” And your likelihood of success will become greater and greater.

Action Exercises:
Here are three steps you can take immediately to put these ideas into action.
  1. First, take any worry situation in your life today and ask, “What is the worst possible   thing that could happen?” Then go to work to make sure it doesn’t occur.

  2. Second, look into the future in your life and determine the worst things that could happen. Engage in “crisis anticipation” regularly and continually be taking steps to guard against them.

  3. Third, work from clear, written goals and detailed plans. Review them regularly. Consider alternatives and always look for ways to increase the likelihood of your success.

How Saying it Makes it So

By Tony Robbins

Each New Year brings us another opportunity to rededicate ourselves to those aspects of our lives that we are most passionate about but may have neglected in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. While we certainly have good intentions, we often attempt to refocus our lives by devising lofty resolutions with which we don’t follow through. An alternative to this frustrating annual tradition is to create an incantation.

An incantation is an empowering phrase or language pattern that you verbalize loudly and with absolute certainty. When incanting, you are engaging your entire nervous system with the full force of your focus, emotion, and body to induce a new physiology and instantly cultivate new beliefs.

In creating your own incantation, consider that when you verbalize it you are reciting with absolute emotional intensity what you wish to become. Refer to the following examples in constructing your own incantation:

  • “I’m writing the best songs of my life”

  • “I’m so happy I can’t stop smiling.”

  • “Every day I’m learning how to be a better Artist.”

Your incantation doesn’t need to rhyme or even make sense. The only requirement is that you say it consistently and feel it in your mind, body and soul!

Once you’ve created it, recite your incantation to yourself loudly and with passion, placing emphasis on different words. Condition it so that it becomes part of you, helping you to transform your life in the New Year. Reciting incantations helps move you to create the emotional intensity you need to have an outstanding quality of life! 

You Are Who You Want to Be

You can't become a legend in your own time until you first become a legend in your own mind.

"Picture yourself in a boat on a river … " — The Beatles

It's that time of year again — New Year's resolutions, goal setting, and updating your mission statement. However, this year make sure you graduate from random daydreaming about life to visualizing. In everything from sports to business, effective visualization is often the thing that separates the best from the wannabes.

Visualization is the ability to mentally rehearse successful outcomes in a relaxed state before they actually happen. All great athletes, from golfers to hoopsters to Olympians, practice visualization as part of their training regimen as well as when competing; so why not musicians? For example, have you ever watched an NBA game on TV when one of the players is shooting a free throw?

You'll notice on a close-up shot that most every player has a little ritual he performs before tossing the ball up — he bounces the ball a certain number of times, takes a deep breath, and then looks up at the basket in a trancelike state. You may even see him move his lips as if to mumble some words to himself just before shooting, then, hopefully, a swish. He is coached on this technique to improve his performance at the free throw line. And this same technique can work for you in your business or career.

But before I get going, let me address a possible concern you might have — a reluctance to embrace becoming "a legend in your own mind." I'm not suggesting you become arrogant, egotistical, self-absorbed, or narcissistic — I like to believe I'm none of these. I consider myself just another kid from the neighborhood — I graduated from a Los Angeles public high school with a decent GPA … I was definitely not knocking the ball out of the park.

Now you may have experimented with some form of mental rehearsal in the past, perhaps with mixed results, so you might be feeling some resistance. Perhaps you doubt that you can even do it — "I can't ever seem to SEE anything when I try this!" If this is the case, let me gently correct your thinking — you're ALREADY using visualization — you're visualizing "FOOD" three times a day, right? That'd be breakfast, lunch, and dinner — tell me you never dream of that juicy steak you're gonna have for dinner that has your mouth watering at 2 p.m. The truth is, most people put more effort into picturing what they're gonna have for these three daily meals than they ever put into picturing success.

Also, you may have a concern that going into a relaxed state might be a black-magic meditation for some wacky new age religion or brainwashing cult. No — you don't have to shave your head, chant a mantra all day long, or send me all of your money (although my bank account would love it …).

Let me share with you my simple way of visualizing. Follow along with the process below — it should take you no longer than 10 minutes. (I recommend you keep it short and sweet in the beginning so you don't feel the burden of yet another task on your "to do" list):

Put Yourself in a Relaxed Seated Position

Sit upright in a comfortable chair, on a sofa, or on the floor. (I do not recommend you lie down, as the desired state is conscious relaxation, not sleep.)

Close Your Eyes and Take Several Steady, Slow Deep Breaths

Four or five should do it — perhaps count to seven for each inhale and exhale. Then just relax and breathe normally through your nose.

Notice Any Distracting Thoughts or Sounds, but Let Them Pass By

Since the desired mental state is focused concentration, you'll need to ignore distractions. This may be the hardest part at first, which you'll overcome with practice.

Bring to Mind an Important Goal andPicture Yourself Going Through theProcess of Perfectly Achieving It

This is where the rubber meets the road in visualization — you want to create a mental experience of having already "been there, done that." Some examples:

* If you're a working musician, envision a picture of you and your clients agreeing to do record together, that they're eager to get started with you and are handing you a large check. Make sure you see the amount on their check written clearly, whether it's $100, $1,000, $10,000, $100,000, or more.

* If you're in a band, see your fans excited about your new record you've presented at a show and eager to have them hear it.

* In your creative life with another band member or collaborator, picture your relationship as happier, more fulfilling, more fun. See the two of you enjoying yourselves, having deeper conversations, laughing together, etc.

* Likewise, see your body in the best shape ever — your ideal weight, trim and fit. Draw forth images of lean muscles and toned abs. When you make visualization a daily habit, you'll stay mentally on track to achieve any goal you'd like.

This habit will then help you to follow through on your goals, as you'll have already "experienced" the results and the feelings associated with making things happen for yourself. You will start to have the feeling that you've been there before, as in the words of that great yogi, Yogi Berra: "It's like déjà vu all over again." You'll become a legend in your own mind, on your way to becoming a legend in your own time.

Jump High

Imagine, just for a moment, that you love track and field…particularly the high jump event…

Imagine that you’ve shelled out big bucks to sit right in front of the high jump at the Olympics…

Imagine that Javier Sotomayor, world record holder, is preparing to jump an 8.5 foot high bar…

He begins his approach, and…

Stops in front of the bar and starts complaining about how high it is!

“This is too hard! I can’t do this! I’m going home.”

What would you think…?

You’d probably think he had no right to complain. After all, he’s the one who got himself to this level of competition. And he chose this event – he didn’t have to be a high jumper.

Guess what…you are choosing your life.

Yup – we create our lives, and the challenges that come with it. So, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to complain about it.
If Javier attempted the jump, but didn’t clear it, we could forgive him. (Unless you had money on the event…) We’d applaud him for his effort, and still be impressed with what he had managed up to this point. And, we’d know there is always tomorrow.

What about when you hit the bar? Do you feel like a failure? You haven’t failed until you quit. There may be a limited number of attempts in a sporting event, but not in life. The bar may have been set too high – but better too high than too low.
What if Javier came out and successfully completed his jump… but the bar was only set at 2 feet high…?

You might be left with, “I paid good money to watch this…?!?”

What would you think if Javier insisted that he had only signed on to do the 2 foot hop, and also expected a huge endorsement contract for his achievement…?

How often do you look at what’s showing up in front of you and start complaining, insisting that you only wanted to do the 2 foot hop?

Now, it is also true that we don’t really want to see the bar set at 15 feet high - such that we are anticipating something astounding – only to watch Javier clear the bar … by going under it…! In the high jump, the bar is raised in increments of only a few centimeters from the last successful jump. It is not unreasonable for you to do the same.

Whatever the height of the bar in front of you – that’s what you signed up for. There were no guarantees that you would clear it the first time out – or ever. But part of you decided that was the challenge you needed.

Of course, it might not have been a healthy part of you. There may be some part of you that feels a need to fail – to be punished.

Either way, there is a gift in what is in front of you.

You run, you jump, and… either you succeed, or you learn. It’s win/win.

The lesson may be that you need to work on your technique. You may need to improve your training regimen, or your diet, or your coach.

The lesson may be that you’ve come as far as you can in this event, and there is another event where you will be more successful.

It may be that you learn that you never cared for the high jump, and only did it because your parents wanted you to do so – and with this understanding you can heal the past and find your own way.

And…well, there are plenty of ways to interpret the lessons – some more healthy than others. Choose the one that leaves you empowered to move forward, rather than the one that leaves you beating up on yourself.

We enjoy watching events where people give us their best. It’s not just in sports. No one wants to watch Robert DeNiro “phone in” his performance. No one goes to the ballet to watch the Baryshnikov jump in the air and spin just once.

So, why are we so surprised when we’ve set the bar higher for ourselves in this lifetime? Why are we shocked that we didn’t choose monotony?

And, if monotony is what we have, we tend to complain about that, too. It’s a sure sign we haven’t raised the bar high enough for ourselves.

Some people are never happy unless they are complaining. Don’t be one of them.

You chose to be here for the excitement – you signed on for the whole shebang. So…

Imagine that you are at the Olympics, preparing to do the high jump…

You chose the event, you chose the height, and the crowd is eagerly awaiting your attempt…

Be grateful for the opportunity, give it your best shot, and you are sure to be a winner.

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