It’s the ugly truth.
Pundits tap dance around it. There are hundreds of music blogs that tell you all the Important Things You Need To Do To Make It Big, but they all noticably ignore one big thing.
Obviously, nobody wants to talk about it, because frankly it’s depressing as hell. But 99% of success in the music world isn’t about how great you are or what gear you use or how awesome your live show is or how many followers you have on twitter. It’s pure. Stinking. Luck.
Circumstance, being at the right place at the right time, call it what you will. It is a testament to the power of sheer chance that there are many, many really great bands out there, touring constantly, working hard, playing the game, exploiting the long tail that will never even have the chance to grab the big brass ring. Meanwhile some ingeneue with a smattering of talent will get a platinum record because she happened to sing in front of an A&R guy who liked her “look.”
The easy way out is to blame your label/distributor for not pushing you hard enough, or the public for not recognizing your appeal and talent, or a promoter for putting you in a crappy venue, whatever. That’s a dodge. Success in music follows no predicatble path, and all you can really do is just keep at it and hope the right opportunities come along.
No, it’s not fair. But then, if this were easy and straightforward, few of us would be doing this, right? And certainly there wouldn’t be blogs devoted to success tips.
Lots of those success tips boil down to “work hard” and “tour a lot” and “don’t be a jerk to people.” This is all good advice. It’s not particularly specific advice. Nor is following it to the letter any indication that you’ll do well, build a fanbase, etc. Stuff like “stay tuned-in online” is a little more specific, but only just. This sort of stuff has its place, as it’s good to be hard-working and focused and have a plan and all that. It is not however, a direct means to an end. Hard work, talent, and planning alone do not equal success at any level. What they do equal is preparedness and awareness, so when a good opportunity does come along, you can recognize it for what it is, be ready to grab it, and then have the skills to mkae the most of it. That’s really the trick.
It’s kind of both depressing and uplifting to consider, because it means that all your hard work may not amount to much, but it also means that even if things look grim something amazing could happen around the corner. The odds aren’t necessarily in your favor, but still.
Of course, if you’re in this game for fame and fortune and opportunity, not for the sheer joy of creating art, you might want to look for an easier path to fame.