Musician’s Corner: Why Your Band Won’t Make It

Tommy Leu | 21 January 2016 | Musician's Corner® | 5 Comments   

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FYI – This post is long. It’s a rare exception to my typical Get In-Get Out blogging format. Know that upfront and decide whether to invest the time to read this in its entirety… you should; it’s good.

Disclaimer: Most bands, musicians, artists, and performers reading this will not be able to handle what follows. It’s too real, too raw, and too true. This will hit some of you where it hurts the most… in the pride. It may make you mad, discourage you, or hurt your feelings. If it does any of those things, it has hit a nerve that is sending you a strong message. A message that needs to be heeded in order to for you to make changes in your attitude and your approach to your “career” that will produce real progress… finally.

*It is my sincere hope that this article pisses some of you off to the point of doing something about it (something different than you’ve done) – because those of you that take offense to this are likely the very ones who Need it Most.

Here are the top 5 reasons why your band and/or your music won’t make it. Read at your own risk…

  1. You think you already know it all.
  2. You’re not objective about the quality of your music.
  3. You don’t treat your music like a business.
  4. Your communication skills suck.
  5. You don’t know how to sell.

1) You think you already know it all.

The problem: You’re unteachable. You’re probably already defensive as you begin to read this post. You’re intrigued, but put off by the title and can’t believe someone has the audacity to actually say these things. You’re convinced that you’re the exception to all that follows, even before reading all that follows.

The solution: Listen to that little voice inside your head, swallow your pride and read the following with an open mind. Suspend judgment and consider, if only for a moment, that you might not know it all or you’d be farther along by now. It’s not everyone else’s fault that you haven’t “made it” yet. It’s yours. It’s your fault if you’re successful and it’s your fault if you’re not.

2) You’re not objective about the quality of your music.

The problem: You have delusions of grandeur. Because you already think you know it all, you actually believe that your music is really, really good… maybe even great. You believe this largely because your friends and family have told you so. But Good Isn’t Good Enough. You have little if any, real objectivity about your music’s actual quality and marketability because you are too close to it. You created it, worked hard on it, and are emotionally attached to it. You mistakenly assume that other people are going to care about your music as much as you do.  Unfortunately for you, the rest of the world doesn’t really care. We’re busy doing what we’re doing. We are all not collectively breathing a sigh of relief because you suddenly have a band and some music out there just like ten million other bands and groups do. Right now, only a relatively small number of people actually know about you and your music; and an even smaller percentage of those people really care. It’s your challenge to change that. You have to make people care. You have to reach people on an emotional level. You have to make people pay attention when their attention is anywhere but on you and your little band.

The solution: Your songwriting needs to improve. Your lead vocals need to improve. Your playing needs to improve. Your arrangements need to improve. Your live performances need to improve. Your work ethic needs to improve. Your entire outlook on your music’s real quality needs a reality check. You need to seek out objective opinions, not from haters, and not necessarily from supporters, but from both average listeners AND music business “pros” who have no stake in your success, in order to get authentic, well-rounded feedback. Use this feedback to make improvements, not to get defensive. If you’re defensive right now, it’s because this is hitting home and ringing true deep down inside. Your defensiveness puts you squarely in the majority and serves as a huge obstacle to your progress. You’re proving my points, and probably will do nothing different except what you’ve always done, and then continue to get the same results. Good luck to you, you’re going to need it. For the rest of you in the minority… read on. Your humility will move you much closer to real progress than you ever imagined.

3) You don’t treat your music like a business.

The problem: Knowing how to play music is less important to your success than knowing how to manage a music business. Did you get that? Read it again. This statement is probably shocking to many of you, but true none-the-less. A lot of musicians believe that their great musical talent will carry them and exempt them from really understanding the business aspects of the music business. It won’t. If you don’t understand how the music business really works, it will never really work for you. You’ve never taken the time to really research and study the many intricacies that is the music business today. Even though there are mountains of resources out there, you consistently choose not to get educated on the very industry that you arrogantly believe is going to catapult you to fame and fortune simply because you wrote a few average songs.

The solution: Get educated. Read. Learn. Buy music business books and audio books. Go to the library. Search the internet for “how-to” music business-related articles and stories – there are tons of great resources out there. Talk to those who have been there/done that. Take the business as seriously as you claim to take the music. Keep doing this type of self-education consistently until you can afford to hire someone to do it for you… and even then, keep on learning yourself. Stay on top of things to stay on top of things.

4) Your communication skills suck.

The problem: You think you’re a good communicator, but you’re not. You think because you’re an artist, that you know how to get through to people. You don’t. You don’t know how to say, what you need to say, when you have to say it, in the way that you should say it, to produce the best results. And if you don’t get what I just said, it proves my point. You need to learn how to effectively communicate with all types of people in all types of situations. Creative communication (music/art) and effective interpersonal communication (personal/professional) are two different things. You have to have more than great lyrics; you have to be a master communicator who can read and respond to human behavior while interacting accordingly… on-the-fly. This is an art and a science that can take years to master. You allow your emotions to govern your behavior and often act like a jerk when things don’t go your way. You’re either writing bridges or burning bridges when you need to be learning how to build bridges. You need to learn to do these things better than your competitors.

The solution: Book store shelves are sagging with great authors teaching the art and science of great communication. Go get some. Study written, verbal, and non-verbal communication styles, techniques and strategies. Heighten your awareness when interacting with others and start to “notice” what is really happening while it’s happening. Tune in and pay attention to body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures, word choices, what’s being said and what’s not being said. Uncover what’s really being communicated just below the surface; underneath the obvious. Are there always layers of hidden messages being conveyed underneath the words and behind the postures? Not always; but more often than you think.

5) You don’t know how to sell.

The problem: You don’t fully grasp the concept that we are all in sales regardless of our occupation. You’ve never really learned and understood the subtleties of sales, marketing, and promotion properly. You’re inconsistent, incomplete, and often inept about applying effective sales, marketing, and promotion strategies to your music business that will ring the cash register and keep you in the black.

The solution: Learn the science of persuasion. Study the secrets of seduction. Understand the art of influence. You’ve got to know how to get people to do, what you want them to do, when you want them to do it. You’ve got to get people emotionally involved with your product/music by convincing them that there’s something in it for them. You’ve got to foster a “feeling” in them that they want to experience again and again. You’ve got to answer everyone’s “WIIFM” question… What’s In It For Me? Answer this question effectively for people, and you’ll be able to sell anything to anyone, anytime.


Musician’s Corner® 77 minute CD or Download

So… now what? You’ve had the courage to read this far. What’s next? First, ask yourself this question: “How many of these honestly apply to me?” If you said none of them, you’re lying. They may not all apply to you, but some certainly do… to some extent. If they didn’t, you’d already be much farther along in your music career by now and would not be reading this article at this time. This is a critical juncture; a crossroad for you.

You’ve arrived at a moment of truth…

You have three choices staring at you right now:

1) Keep on doing what you’re doing and keep getting the same results.

2) Get honest and take action to change and improve your situation.

3) Quit.

That’s it, those are your choices. Whether being a Good Cop – Bad Cop, sometimes the truth hurts, but the courage to look at the truth is what truly separates the winners from the losers; the fledgling from the phenomenons. Which one are you? What are you gonna do? Below is a highly recommended list of resources to begin to seek out and study to accomplish all of the suggested solutions listed above. Most won’t check out, much less actually read these books, but the few that do will be miles ahead of their competition.

The Art of Writing Great Lyrics by Pamela Oland Phillips

The Craft and Business of Songwriting by John Braheny

Confessions of a Record Producer by Moses Avalon

The Psychology of Persuasion by Kevin Hogan

Writing Music for Hit Songs by Jai Josefs

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

Guerilla Music Marketing by Bob Baker

Low Profile Selling by Tom Hopkins

The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

The Dip by Seth Godin

**For 77 minutes of tips, techniques, and strategies to learn how to market and sell your music more effectively, more often… pick up my Musician’s Corner® New Band Tips audio book on CD or download HERE or on iTunes

Stay tuned-in…



  1. Critical Man on 25 July 08, 12:06pm

    I think your own band, Suite Oblivion, needs to heed this advice. Unless you consider that Suite Oblivion has “made it”.

    I’ve heard you guys live, and acoustic, and both were absolutely terrible.

    I seems like you guys need to relearn all of your songs in whatever key your singer can handle.

  2. Tom Leu on 26 July 08, 2:15pm

    Thanks for the kind words “Critical Man” – don’t know what the world would do without another critic, spreading the love. Would love to see/hear/read whatever it is you put out there and “do” so the rest of us could have the opportunity to comment. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I state mine often in my blog. Thanks for reading.

    Fortunately, the band (Suite O’) has done quite well in the area over the years, realizing of course that no one will ever please everyone. Nobody has ever claimed we “made it.” In fact, because of the mistakes and lessons we’ve learned over the years, I now work with other up-and-coming musicians to help them reduce their learning curve a little bit. Unlike you, my intentions are positive. The world has enough naysayers.

    All the best.

  3. Tom Leu on 29 July 08, 5:05pm

    In all fairness to “Critical Man,” here is his response to my response above:

    Friday, July 25, 2008 11:15 PM
    From: “Critical Man”
    To: “Tom Leu”

    Kudos! You were a little bit angry at the beginning, but by the end, you followed your own advice.

    Actually, after I sent the comment, I thought about it in the same terms that you stated in the last few comments. But, it was too late. It was “natsayish”, wasn’t it. I came across with it wrong, and owe you an apology. I’m sorry. My opinion should have been more constructive.

    Thanks for the feedback.

    All the best to you, too.

  4. Roger on 04 September 08, 12:40pm

    Love this! thanks!

  5. Sara on 29 October 08, 2:20pm

    Wow. My gut says that critical man is either A) a musician who was offended by the article, or B) he’s just salty because his girlfriend has a crush on your singer. Or possibly both. That’s the only possible explanation I can come up with for such a ridiculously inappropriate comment. Yes, it’s all well and good that he apologized to you and everything, but the term ‘internuts’ comes to mind. Urban Dictionary defines internuts as: “The phenomenon that occurs when someone becomes a badass when addressing others on a message board. It is a common practice for the reticent, meek, and cowardly to make bold statements, on the internet, knowing there is no way to be held accountable.”

    I think critical man’s post gives us a perfect example of this phenomenon.

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