Life is a series of habits. Most of what you do throughout the day happens semi-unconsciously.
Have you ever driven home from a familiar location only to realize that you don’t remember a moment of your drive? That is the result of a habit. Your brain shifts its focus to other matters when you are engaged in a habit.
Habits can be enormously beneficial in every day life – both at home and working at our jobs or passions.
But bad habits can also sabotage us.
Bad habits work against you subconsciously which make them hard to detect. Often it takes an outside perspective to point out bad habits.
Receiving news from someone about one of your bad habits is hard to take. What if we did a little self-reflection today to try and tease out some of the toxic habits getting in your way? What is stopping you from achieving what you set out to do?
HOW TO IDENTIFY TOXIC HABITS
For this exercise you will need to set your ego aside. Suspend your current understanding and way of doing things.
What’s the harm? Feel free to disagree with me. I don’t care, my feelings won’t be hurt.
Over the years I’ve watched many talented artists shoot themselves in the foot. Over and over again.
Sure, many of them were talented. Many even had the support of major labels and top level mangers and agencies.
What went wrong? Well first, no one really knows which artists will make it and which won’t. But beyond that, I believe that they all held firmly to certain bad habits that acted as roadblocks to their success.
We all have flaws. Self-reflection and self-evaluation is part of becoming a good human.
We all want to be good humans. Well, at least I do!
23 TOXIC HABITS THAT CAUSE ARTISTS TO FAIL
1. LISTENING TO OTHERS
Don’t get caught up in what fans, critics, family, the industry, media, etc has to say about your music. The more popular you become, the more criticism you will attract.
New artists who let the criticism affect them become like a leaf falling from a tree – blown every which way the wind is blowing at the moment.
2. NOT LISTENING TO OTHERS
BUT, even though it’s harmful to internalize all the criticism you receive, it’s also harmful to ignore advise from industry experts, advisors and other mentor figures in your life.
This is your career. It doesn’t belong to anyone else. You are responsible to make it happen.
That said, take the advise of people you respect and trust. They are often looking out for your best interests.
3. COPYING POPULAR ARTISTS
Don’t become a “me-too artist.” It takes thousands of hours to become truly amazing at anything. Once you dedicate yourself to a particular sound and genre, make sure you focus on becoming the best.
See also: How Not To Make The Mistake Of Becoming A “Me-Too” Artist And What Are The Best Types Of Music Artists
If you are looking at industry trends to guide your direction, you’ll always be one step behind.
When you are running behind the train you never get a chance to hang out in the dinner car drinking champagne.
Make sure you are driving the train. People will either get on or they won’t. Copying popular artists is a sure-fire way to become runner-up at best.
4. NOT CAPTURING EMAILS
Of course it is important to build your social network profiles. Every artist should stay on top of the latest social media platforms.
It’s important to be where the fans already are.
However, you don’t own those lists. If Facebook or Twitter went out of business, or changed their terms, all that work was wasted.
Offer fans an exclusive song or something else if they subscribe to your mailing list. Email is still a very effective marketing tactic.
5. REFUSING TO CO-WRITE
Co-writing is a hot topic. This “habit” relates to artists who have goals of mainstream, commercial success.
Face it, most songs on the Top 40 charts are either written by, or co-written by professional songwriters.
This is only my opinion based on experience, but co-writing makes an artist a better writer. I’ve never seen an artist become a worse writer as a result of co-writing.
Try it. You may love it.
The point of this is to suspend your ego and experiment. Don’t be so precious and expand your options.
6. BORING LIVE PERFORMANCE
You don’t need me to tell you that people have shorter attention spans than ever.
If you establish a fanbase that is willing to pay money to see you play you will never go hungry.
People could be doing anything else other than watching you perform. They could be out at a bar, home watching Netflix or hanging out with friends.
Give your all in every performance. Transport people out of the experience. Give them a magical night.
If you are performing at a festival and it’s 100 degrees, never complain from stage how hot it is. Never complain about anything from stage. Never complain in general, it’s unattractive.
Do you get the picture?
7. PERFORMING TOO OFTEN WITHOUT GOOD SONGS
This bad habit is committed by bands more often than solo artists. It’s usually easier for bands to get out and perform as opposed to a singer who needs to put together a band for every performance.
Why is this a bad habit?
As we discuss over and over again, having great songs is crucial to gaining and sustaining success. Nothing else matters as much.
Focus on writing great songs before you tour.
8. FOCUSING TOO MUCH ON “GETTING SIGNED”
If your goal is commercial success, you will probably need the help of radio. This means you will probably need the support of a major label.
Getting signed to a major label is a result of amazing songs performed by an interesting and talented artist.
Spend your time on improving those things. Don’t worry about trying to get a million meetings or showcases.
The industry will find you if you are really that good. Getting signed to a major also doesn’t guarantee success. It’s only a step in the right direction.
See also: 3 REAL Ways To Get a Record Deal
9. NOT UNDERSTANDING THE BUSINESS OF MUSIC
There is no shortage of suspicious characters running around the music business. Don’t let that discourage you, there are many good people as well.
I only ask that you take the time to educate yourself. Don’t be a sucker and don’t get taken advantage of.
Every thing that seems too good to be true, is too good to be true.
See Also: Music Business Resources
Read up on the industry. Learn from practitioners, not the media. Read the book by attorney Don Passman “All You Need To Know About The Music Business.”
10. NOT TRUSTING THEIR TEAM
It baffles me how artists will sign with a manger or agent then actively try to undercut or sabotage them.
Your representatives directly benefit from your success. Why would they want any else besides that?
Be generous and a good partner and it will repay you a thousand-fold in the future.
11. PAYING TOO MUCH FOR RECORDINGS OR EQUIPMENT
Stop looking at latest microphones or a new cymbal for your drum kit.
As the joke goes: a band puts $5,000 of gear in a $1,000 van to drive 500 miles for a show where they make $100.
This is a business. Make smart decisions and focus your time and limited resources on things that will benefit your career the most. Hint, I’m talking about writing great songs.
12. SPENDING TOO MUCH TIME ON PRESS KITS
Artists should at least have some professional photos. Anything beyond that is a waste of time.
No one really cares about a bio. They don’t care if you met your bandmates in high-school and that Joey originally played the tuba in the marching band before becoming the bass player in your band.
All anyone (the industry, fans, etc) care about is that you have amazing songs, you perform them well, and you are an interesting person.
13. TAKING TOO LONG TO RECORD
We live in an iterative world. What does that mean? It means today’s successful companies release a “minimum viable product” and let the market help guide the improvements.
Times have changed. You don’t need to record a whole album before you share it with anyone. And you definitely don’t need to take a year to record your album.
Record a great song. Put it out. Repeat.
14. NOT PERFECTING THEIR CRAFT
Laziness isn’t a bad habit, it is a disease. Rid yourself of the disease of laziness.
Get up. Write another song. Practice singing. Start tweeting to fans. Pitch a story to media. Contact a songwriter you’ve always wanted to work with.
Be the best. Blow peoples minds on stage.
Do it now. Don’t wait. You are getting older and life is short. Make it count.
15. THEY JUST AREN’T INTERESTING
You want to be a star? You need to be interesting!
Love him or hate him, but Justin Bieber is interesting. Stars have a magnetic charm that draws people to them You can’t fake it, but you can cultivate it.
Live an interesting life. Be on the front end of a fashion, not the back end.
16. NOT OPEN MINDED
It is important to have a point of view. Develop your own perspective on the world and life, and make sure that filters through your music.
Don’t let your perspective blind you to other ideas though. If someone suggests something crazy, it just might be brilliant.
Don’t ignore ideas just because you didn’t think of them.
17. THEY MAKE EXCUSES
“I could have wrote an easy pop song but I choose to write something more ‘interesting.'” “My songs would definitely be on radio if I just had a better producer or a bigger recording budget.”
Maybe. Or maybe you are just making excuses.
You don’t get the benefit of the doubt by making excuses. Do the best you can and stand proud behind your work.
18. BEING A DRAMA QUEEN
No one wants to work with a drama queen. Even at the highest levels, if you are difficult to work with, you will loose opportunities (which means lost $$).
Strangely, some of the cockiest artists tend to be the ones with the least going on. Maybe they are trying to make up for something.
Be a nice person. People will remember it and tell others. It’s true, I do it all the time.
19. UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
So you expect to be on TV tomorrow and to get a Samsung endorsement? Get in line.
The music business is a tough path where most of the rewards go to a select few. Work your butt off, be a nice person and if you are great – you might have a shot.
20. NOT TAKING CARE OF FANS
Fans are the lifeblood of artists. Do everything for them.
Send them birthday cards. Pick a day and do short improv songs on Instagram for fans all day long. Make fans part of the process. Reward them for helping promote your music.
Over time your fans become your tribe. Without them you have nothing.
21. THEY SURROUND THEMSELVES WITH NEGATIVE AND LAZY PEOPLE
In the world of creative people there are a few rotten apples: negative and lazy people.
Some people say you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Take a minute and think about who those five people are in your life.
Life is short, way too short to listen to complainers and nay-sayers.
22. NOT POSTING ENOUGH VIDEOS
Make music videos. Share videos on Snapchat, Vine, Instagram and Periscope. Make road diaries when on tour. Make videos of cover songs.
The more videos you post, the more fans begin to know you. If you are interesting, they will stick around.
23. NOT PROMOTING THEMSELVES TO MEDIA
I’m not talking about sending out a press release about your new song or new album. That will go into a black hole.
I’m talking about a surgical approach to getting written about. Target specific writers, know their incentives, and do the work for them.
You may disagree with me. Thats OK.
We all can improve. If you take your career seriously, share one of the bad habits you are going to try and improve on in the comments below.
Let’s help each other.