Why Persistence is More Important Than Talent in Music
The road to success in music is often arduous. There is also no such thing as an overnight success. While many artists in the limelight seem to appear out of nowhere, I guarantee there are years of hard work and dedication, setbacks, and even failures that these artists have had to experience to get to where they are today.
What’s it called when you experience pitfalls, and when things don’t go to plan, but you dust yourself off and get back up again? Persistence. And there’s arguably nothing in the world more critical for achieving your goals.
Many talented musicians try and fail in the music industry, and there is no shame in that. Many musicians divert career paths to adapt to changing personal circumstances. But for those of you reading who endeavor to achieve your lifelong dream of becoming a full-time musician, I implore you not to throw in the towel just yet.
What Does Persistence Really Mean?
Does being persistent have connotations of being stubborn? Or perhaps even forceful? It might. Ultimately, you alone are responsible for your success. It’s earned. If you have a purpose and a passion for achieving your goals, then persistence is key.
Many musicians know what it’s like to receive little support from family members or friends in this industry. It’s not a “safe” career path. Especially not during an incredibly difficult period such as this one we find ourselves in currently. Times are tough; there’s no denying that. But while musicians face immense challenges in this modern era, we do have perks too in the form of technology, which we can use to our advantage.
For example, we now live in the age of affordability, and everyone has access to powerful recording tools at their fingertips. Powerful virtual instruments have made it easier for musicians and songwriters to create exceptional quality music from a computer. Billie Eilish’s chart-topping album was, in fact, recorded in a bedroom. Technology and connectivity nowadays allow people to create music with very few limitations.
Yet, persistence means to continue on a chosen course, despite difficulties or opposition, something all musicians experience. An unwavering determination and a willingness to succeed is the mindset that separates those who make it in music from those who fall short.
Those equipped with a persistent mindset are hungrier for success and will do what’s necessary to achieve their goals.
Persistence and Passion Combined
Music is one of life’s greatest pleasures. In reality, very few musicians actually reach stardom out of a desire to be rich and famous. That represents seriously misaligned priorities. What drives most musicians, and actors, artists, and even entrepreneurs is passion. A passion and love for a craft permits musicians to make the necessary sacrifices to bring a creative vision to life.
The creative process of writing music or performing is indeed real work, but it does not feel like it. I’ve been playing drums for 16 years now, and every hour spent learning my musical instrument has been a labor of love. The practice has been for pleasure, not reward. This ought to be the case for musicians everywhere.
Expectations and Fear of Failure
If you love what you do, it won’t feel like a chore. But chasing a dream can be difficult. I get that. Social pressures, self-doubts, worries, and the feeling of time slipping away from you can be overwhelming. The key here is to do your best not to let expectations get in the way.
When an artist begins to build a fanbase and starts to experience real growth, there is increased pressure to maintain this level with each new musical release.
Performance-based judgments regarding a fall in views, sales, fan engagement, or even a record label rejection can feel crushing. It can also create a very toxic atmosphere that challenges your purpose, whatever it might be.
In these situations, it’s essential to realign your priorities and purpose. Rediscovering this is also known as finding your why. Setbacks happen, but being driven by your love for what you do is what will allow you to press on.
Success Takes a Long Time
As mentioned earlier, there is no such thing as an overnight success. It takes a long time. The path is also rarely linear. There can be a million ways an artist can find themselves headlining a festival stage. All artists are subject to criticism, rejection, and haters.
Many of the world’s most popular bands and artists have experienced failures and rejection. Joe Hahn from Linkin Park explained that before their multi-platinum album Hybrid Theory: “We tried to get signed by every label, and every label turned us down. At the time, that was really frustrating.“
In 2008 Ed Sheeran moved to London, where he played small gigs and performed as a street busker for several years before he rose to stardom. He was even rejected at auditions. And Lady Gaga was dropped by her record label before becoming one of the most popular female singers on the planet.
Responsible Persistence and a Willingness to Adapt
Artists and musicians must be adaptable and versatile in the ever-changing music industry. To become a self-sufficient musician and generate revenue in music, it’s essential to be flexible to work around existing commitments and projects.
I would not advise any musician to quit their day job unless their revenues from music provided a full-time income. That would be wholly irresponsible. In these situations, you ought to weigh up what’s necessary to pursue your goals while also having security. Unfortunately, there is very little security in music. Musicians forego paid salaries and holiday entitlement. Diversifying revenue streams is an important way to safeguard income.
Musicians may also face particular challenges that will require planning a new route for success in music. Being agile and adaptable are essential qualities of self-sufficient musicians, and being open to exploring new opportunities can unlock more rewarding work in new territories.
Calvin Coolidge, a man who served as the 30th President of the United States of America, stated that:
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.”
I believe this statement rings true for the entire music industry. There is a tremendous amount of talented musicians in the world, many of whom lack the self-belief, confidence, and sheer determination to make something of themselves in the music industry.
It’s a cut-throat industry, yet there will always be opportunities for hungry and talented artists. But most importantly of all, for those who are focused and determined to achieve their goals, no matter what.
Gideon Waxman is a London based drummer and music educator who holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Westminster. You can find more of his advice over at his popular online music resources Drum Helper and Strong Sounds.