This essay is about a particular lecture on “Success” by one of our favorite Mentors during our Music Success Seminar
These past few weeks at Segue 61, we’ve been taking a Music Success Seminar where we talk about what it means to be successful. This past week, our discussion on “Success” was led by the current tour manager for Weezer, Mr. Thomas O’Keefe. Thomas was once just like us; a young, hungry musician from North Carolina, who was obsessed with punk rock music. In fact, he loved it so much that he couldn’t do anything else. You’ll start to notice this repeating pattern in the successful professionals of the music industry; an infectious obsession for music.
“How do you define success?” Thomas asked each one of the students.
One by one he went around the room and asked, “What does success mean to you?”
The answers were all over the map; each student had his or her own perspective on what it meant to them. For some, if they could just make enough money to eat and pay rent while playing music that would be enough. For others, the bar for music success was set much higher.
Thomas went on to talk about who we look up to as musicians for inspiration; whose recipes for success are we modeling as we create our own?
If you’re a songwriter, for instance, you may study Bob Dylan and follow the path he took to get to where he is now. If you’re a rock star, you may study how Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones got to where they are, and so on.
This is all great, right? You want to be successful in music, so you follow the music successes for inspiration.
Thomas brought a more important question to the forefront: “What about the business part of it? It’s called the Music Business for a reason, right?”
I looked around the room and noticed the crinkled foreheads and slow nods as each one of us mulled this over in our heads.
As musicians and artists, especially at the young and hungry level that we’re at, it’s easy to forget that we are our own business. This is why some artists sign an agreement with a record label who has an entire team to “run” their business. Even then, the artist is still the CEO of the “company” and not totally exempt from the business side of things.
What about before the record deal? Or, what happens if a record deal never comes your way? Does that mean you can’t be successful? Absolutely not.
There are more resources available to us now than ever before. There’s nothing stopping us from creating our own music, publishing our own music, recording our own records and booking our own tours. When you think about it like that, it’s inspiring, but it also might be a wake up call. If you want to be a music success, you are the only thing standing in the way. Even if you’re only mildly talented, if you work harder you’ll likely be more successful than someone who is “better” than you.
Thomas laid out his most basic recipe for success: “Work endlessly at it every day—seven days a week, never stop, be smart, listen and learn, be awake when luck shows up, don’t waste time, and have fun while you’re doing it.”
Every day you should do something that takes you just a tiny step closer to your end goals. Whether it’s taking a lesson, playing an open mic night, introducing yourself to the band you just heard, or saying hello to the person sitting next to you at the coffee shop. It’s a “slow methodical march to success,” says Thomas and anything worth having usually is.
Segue 61 is called a “Success Certificate” program. That doesn’t mean that every student who graduates from Segue 61 will be a music success and that’s not what we’re offering.
It means that we are presenting each student with all of the tools and resources—and then some—that’s needed to carve out your own path to success. Whether that be a record deal, a publishing deal, recording your own album, booking a nationwide tour, or just starting a band writing and playing music that you love. However you define success, we’re giving you the tools you need to make it happen; It’s up to you how you utilize them.
So, how can you become successful in the music business? In the words of Thomas O’Keefe, “It’s simple: WORK HARD.”