Here’s How to Fail as a Musician…

by John Oszajca on June 2, 2011

How to fail in your music career.I try to avoid ever writing anything when I’m in a “mood” but today is a bit of an exception…

Here are 3 ways to absolutely guarantee that you will fail as a musician.

No musical legacy, no limousines, no fancy house. Nada!

Just follow these steps and you will almost certainly get to spend your life working that crappy “day job” and talking to your friends about the good old days when you used to be cool.

If any of that stuff touches a nerve, you might want to rethink what you’ve been doing so far to get your music career off the ground.

1. Expect Someone Else to Make Your Career Happen For You…

Ever notice how many musicians state that they “hate marketing”, or, “hate business”?

I think I might throw up in my mouth if I hear one more musician state that they are “an artist”, and that they don’t want to have to pay any attention to the actual business aspects of music. It’s as if they think they are somehow above it all.

I can’t tell you how many musicians defiantly state that all they want to do is focus on writing, recording and performing, and that they want a manager or a label to take care of everything else.

Here’s the thing… No shit!

Who wouldn’t like that? Sounds friggin’ awesome. I’ll just sit around and be too-cool-for-school and wait for someone to realize how completely rad I am. Let me know how that works out folks. And we wonder why there are so many homeless jokes about musicians.

I have worked in nearly every corner of the music business. I’ve worked as a club promoter, a producer, a music marketing consultant, and of course as a major label recording artist just to name a few. I can tell you first hand, the people who succeed work their asses off… and it’s only getting harder.

With the amount of passion, talent, and sheer love of the craft that so many of my fellow musicians have, I can’t for the life of me figure out why more musicians aren’t also learning the craft of marketing and making it a major part of their career.

Marketing is power, don’t confuse it with the message…

We hate marketing because so much of the marketing we experience as a consumer has a crappy message behind it. But if you are sincere about your product and respect your audience, marketing is simply a tool of expression.

By becoming a student of music marketing and the various facets of the music business, you are empowering yourself and taking responsibility for your own destiny – as an artist as well as a human being.

We are still at the dawn of the technological revolution. Never before has a musician had as much control over the circumstances of their own success.

I think many musicians suffer from a bit of confusion about what marketing actually is. Marketing is not Facebook, or Twitter, it’s not how your website looks, nor is it whether or not you get reviews in magazines or spins on the radio.

Marketing is understanding who you are ultimately selling to, and then presenting your music in a way that aligns perfectly with the needs and wants of those people, with the ultimate goal of closing the sale. Everything else is just a tool with which you can accomplish this.

2. Obsess Over Making Everything Perfect…

Another great way to fail is to never get your music out there in the first place.

Too many musicians spend years trying to get their product absolutely perfect. I can think of one musician I know, (I’ll keep his name private), who has been working on his album for over 10 years now. He’s currently re-recording it for the 3rd time. I don’t have the heart to tell the guy, but with his current attitude, it just ain’t gonna happen.

Your music is your story. Tell your story at all costs. That is what you do… or, at least, what you are supposed to be doing.

If you have an A-list producer and $300,000 budget then by all means, make yourself a kick ass big-budget record. But conversely, if all you have is “Garage Band” and an acoustic guitar, make a solo acoustic record on your computer for God’s sake. Hell, I don’t care if you can even play guitar. You’re a musician! Make music any way you can.

It doesn’t matter if you tell your story with a vintage Less Paul or a friggin’ leaf blower. Just tell your story. Create art that is “cool” and present it to the world in an interesting way. If you have something special in you, people will hear it and you WILL be on your way.

At the very least you will be one step closer to creating your masterpiece. Nothing helps you develop faster as an artist than recording. It externalizes the process and causes you to learn and grow as a result.

From a marketing standpoint, having product allows you to go out there and start building that fan base now and after all, that’s the point; to be heard. Do it, and do it now. Be whoever you’re going to be. Life is not going to wait.

And finally, if you really want to make sure you fail as a musician…

3. Resist Anything That Requires Actual Effort…

At the risk of being obnoxious, I do REALLY well with my online businesses. In fact, over the last few years I have generated over $2 million in sales. As a consultant I have orchestrated campaigns that have broken various sales records.

As a result, I get approached nearly every day by musicians and even friends, asking if they can hire me to consult for them and handle their entire marketing campaign.

The reality is that my plate is just too damn full to take on many individual clients, so for the most part, I am forced to politely decline.

However I typically try to suggest that anyone can do this themselves and that all you need to do is build a list and learn some basics of copywriting. I explain the “sales funnel” and talk about how well it’s worked for me.

I can see people start to get excited. Their eyes get focused; they start to visualize a future where they are able to quit their dreaded day job.

Then they ask the big question… How much work is involved?

I tell them the truth…

If you’re just starting out you’re going to need to really put in a few months worth of work or so until you have the hang of it. You’ll need a squeeze page and you should really get a blog going as well. You’ll need to set up an autoresponder and learn the basics of direct response marketing. Once everything is in place you want to really monitor your results so you can get a good read on your conversion rates and subscriber value. Once you have that info you can outsource the whole thing and get back to focusing on the music… or whatever business the person happens to be in.

By this point the spark has already begun to fade. Their eyes glaze over and their expression says what they’re actually thinking.

Fuck it… That sounds like too much work.

I want you to think about how insane this is for a moment.

I basically tell someone how they can accomplish their life long dream of building a real audience, selling albums, and quitting their day job. But the second they find out a little work is involved – screw it.

People are literally choosing a life of artistic obscurity rather than putting in a bit of hard work.

Most musicians spend 3 or 4 years at a minimum learning their instruments before they even dare join a band or perform live. They’ll drop tens of thousands of dollars on gear and recording costs, but a few months of learning about the actual business of music – forget about it.

It honestly doesn’t make much sense to me.


And there you have it folks. A fool proof, three step plan for failure in the music business.

No time, energy, or money required.

All you need to do is hold on to that belief that marketing is evil, stay away from anything remotely difficult, and wait around for some savior of a manager or record label to show up on your doorstep and make you a rock star. Instant results are guaranteed.


Why the rant?

You may be aware that I recently opened the doors to Music Marketing manifesto 3.0”.

MMM 3.0 is a complete home study course which lays out a systematic approach to selling music. It’s based on PROVEN marketing strategies and is focused on generating an actual ROI (return on investment).

The course contains over 40 videos, a custom MMM website template (powered by WordPress), PDF workbooks, email templates, case studies, bonus audio interviews, and an interactive members area were you can ask questions along the way and get direct assistance from me and my team.

Imagine that… musicians who want to take their careers into their own hands, roll up their sleeves and do a little hard work to turn their music career into a lasting, viable, and, of course, PROFITABLE affair.

That is what Music Marketing Manifesto 3.0 is all about. It’s a program for musicians who understand what marketing is, and how essential this stuff is for our careers.

Now – as I’ve already touched on – Music Marketing Manifesto 3.0 is not for everyone.

If you’re still of the mind set that “marketing is evil”, or that you would rather wait for a record label to come along and make you a rock star, this is probably not for you.

Music Marketing Manifesto 3.0 is for musicians who are serious about making a life in music. It’s a program for musicians who understand what marketing is, and how essential this stuff is for our careers.

As excited as I am about the Music Marketing Manifesto 3.0, I’m also a bit disheartened.

I have received thousands of emails from musicians over the last few months. While I truly dig hearing from you guys, I’m surprised by how many barriers to success many musicians throw up for themselves.

I see people skipping an important strategy simply because they can’t figure out a way to come up with $20 a month for an email management system. I also come across many musicians who are convinced that a record label is the only path to success. Many musicians don’t see that the very attitude they have about how a career in the music business is “supposed” to be, is the very thing holding them back from success.

I don’t doubt that many of you reading this are amazingly talented people. I’ll bet that a few of you reading this will go on to be big stars. I’m just concerned that perhaps some of you are waiting for the world to come to you, when in fact; you need to be taking your gift to the world.

I’m going to end this rant with a question, and I’m being completely sincere here…


Or do you find it easier and safer to just say that the music business is fucked up and if you don’t succeed it’s the fault of the industry or the collective bad taste the masses have in music?

I’m honestly not being facetious or sarcastic, in this last bit here.

In fact, if you’re struggling with your music career and you genuinely want to succeed, but maybe you just need a little bit of guidance…

…then post a comment below and let me know what you’re having trouble with – I’ll answer your question here on the blog promptly.

Forgive me if a lot of the post came off as overly sarcastic or even arrogant. Most of it was meant to be playful. With that said, I do see a lot of frustrating characteristics amongst my peers. I sincerely want to help change that and help you guys succeed. Despite my flippant attitude in this post that is truly all I’m trying to do here.

Here’s to your music career and a SUCCESSFUL future.


– John Oszajca

Music Marketing Manifesto 3.0 is now open to the public. Click here to learn more >>>

{ 111 comments… read them below or add one }

Jonathan February 13, 2015 at 10:15 am

Hello John

Loved the post, so much do it’s convinced me to join up so I’ll see you soon.



John Oszajca February 14, 2015 at 6:48 pm

Hi Jonathan,

Really happy to hear that you’ve been digging the posts. Thanks for tuning in. Looking forward to seeing you in the members area soon.

Please let me know if I can ever help with anything.


Robert Koyich December 20, 2014 at 3:58 pm

What if the want is to sell albums, though the fear of fame and being well known conflicts with the heart in whether to sitch into a mass marketing effort?


John Oszajca December 23, 2014 at 1:37 am

Hi Robert,

With this approach, you are selling directly to your subscriber list and your sales numbers will be in direct proportion to the size of your list.

As your list grows, so will your sales. So while you might get famous within your own email list, this approach is quite different from a mass marketing campaign, like you might see from a major label. This is strictly an online model for selling music.

That said, this model for selling is scalable, meaning you’ll be in control of how much exposure you are giving yourself.

You can find out more about MMM 3.0 here:

Thanks and let me know if I can ever help with anything else.


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