It’s on your mind everyday, the Rockstar dream. You know it’s just around the corner because you deserve it and it has happened for so many, overnight. Are you sure about that? The myth of the overnight Rockstar has been perpetuated by the seemingly instant fame of musicians exploding on the internet. If you look behind the veil of fame, you will find a war-weary artist who spent years starving, sacrificing and working their butts off for their day in the sun. Sure there are one hit wonders who hit on something bizarre that catches fire but even the majority of these artists spent some time in the trenches. Finding a couple hundred fans on twitter and playing a few gigs in a year doesn’t mean you have paid your dues. DIY artists, the few of them that do break through, frequently spend decades playing crappy bar gigs for no money and eating spam for dinner every night. Could you really live a poverty level lifestyle for years and work at your craft 15 hours a day in order to achieve the dream? How much is enough when you are dreaming about fame and fortune?

There are Grammy nominated and winning artists out there who are still struggling to get attention and pay their bills. Fame can be fleeting and there are countless stories of artists who were at the top of their game and then disappeared into obscurity and poverty. It’s no picnic out there. Musicians can be so delusional about the reality of the business. Everybody is always getting signed…any day now. Dream On.

Record companies don’t have any resources to promote or develop artists anymore nor do they have the interest. Once you have hundreds of thousands of fans and are making a ton of money you might hear from them. You also might not care. So, what does it take to “make it” in the music business?

People talk about the overnight success of Miranda Lambert. Over ten years of being on the road in beer soaked dives is hardly overnight. She did a great TV interview where she talked about her rise to fame. She was already singing and performing at the age of nine and went to Nashville from Texas at age 14 for the first time. During her teenage years, her father accompanied her to play in restaurants and clubs for no money and little recognition. She spoke about the exhaustion of constantly gigging, no sleep and singing nightly whether anyone showed up or not. Her father asked her several times if she wanted to pack it in, but she was a warrior determined to find her place in the sun. Most people first became aware of Lambert during her time on “Nashville Star,” but she had already paid some dues. That’s the part that escapes the majority of musicians;the years leading up to an artists “overnight success.” Even teenage phenoms generally have given up their childhoods to practice non stop, perform at every county fair, festival and school event, and missed out on just being a kid. Are you willing to give up all your other extra curricular activities and devote every spare moment you have to your music career? How driven are you to succeed? At what cost? If you are serious about making music your lifetime career, the sacrifices are endless. Cancel that party you were going to tonight, you have work to do! It’s also a matter of later rinse repeat. The work you are doing today, has to be repeated tomorrow and every day after that. There is no end, so if you aren’t up for the challenge, quit now while you are ahead. Go back to your friends, parties, vacations and time by the pool. This business is not for you. You really can’t have it both ways, if you are serious about success on an international level. It doesn’t take months to make a Rockstar, it takes years.

Even when a musician gets a possible game changing opportunity, it doesn’t guarantee fame. Many musicians have found themselves on national stages opening for major acts and then five minutes later they are back to the local coffee shop gig. Your music might not be good enough, fans may not connect with you or you have failed to capitalize on the opportunity. Every detail of your career needs to be mapped out and strategically planned in order to stay the course. Where is your plan? How realistic is it? Tell us how you plan on making that cross country tour a reality. There is such a thing as taking your shot too early. If you push for attention from an Industry pro before the music or the business are on a really high level and they pass you over, you may not get another shot. Get advice from a trusted objective Industry veteran to know when your time has arrived. Just because you are impatient and want it now, doesn’t mean you are ready. Be real with yourself and be aware of what’s happening as the music industry shifts and morphs every day. There are millions of really talented DIY artists who want their shot, so you have to work harder and smarter than they do every day.

If your music isn’t incredible, undeniable and innovative, it ain’t going to happen. You can kid yourself but in the end it’s still about the music. Your moms opinion doesn’t count. So you hate the music of a current artist who constantly has billboard top hits? Obviously you are in the minority. Art is subjective and you never know what will make fans get excited. You think you blow that artist away? Great!Where are your hits? If a song is undeniable, it will catch fire rapidly after your fans hear it. You won’t have to convince anyone. You do have to get in this millennium and be active on social media. No way around it, the machine still has to be built. So you hate twitter, facebook, soundcloud and ReverbNation? That’s fine, the musician coming up behind you is all over it and gaining fast. They’ll be happy to take your place. Take care of the music and the business every day, be realistic, work like a maniac and then work some more. Stop complaining, you chose this life. Embrace it, dig in and get it done. You can throw money away on internet schemes and empty promises from a myriad of scam artists lying in wait to entice impatient artists, but all that will get you is broke. There is no substitute for hard work and diligence…lather, rinse, repeat.

waitsWithout charting on billboard and having a “hit,” even musicians with amazing careers don’t become household names. Tom Waits is one example of a musician with an illustrious and successful career but you may not have even heard of him. IMO you are living under a rock, but we all have our icons. Even after being nominated for a Grammy and playing stages all over the world, Bonnie Raitt was only known to her cult following. Decades of touring, TV appearances, and recording didn’t pay off in a big way until she won four Grammys for her album, “Nick of Time.” So you see, becoming a Rockstar takes forever. It literally is a forever proposition. Once you reach the top, you have to work like mad to stay there. From all of that work comes more work. If you aren’t in it for the long haul, be honest with yourself and get out now. You are in the wrong business.

It’s funny, when bands or younger musicians ask me: ‘So, what does it take to make it?’ Well, first explain to me what you mean by ‘making it’: Do you want to be a rock star or do you want music to be your livelihood? -Eddie Van Halen

10 Responses to Overnight Success

  1. Nikki says:

    I’m so glad I revisited this blog article. I needed to read this again and again and again to come back to the reality of it. The best artists are the ones that do it because they have accepted that is what they are. They are artists, and fame and fortune isnt exactly what fulfills them within. Its the dedication of the goal to play music. On the positive side, if you work hard enough with the intentions of staying an artist, success does come. Whether its playing with your ultimate hero on stage or paying off a few bills. But its whats within that makes the artist, and what makes them succeed. Fantastic article, and will read it over and over again!

  2. MROSCAR says:

    Wow,once again you hit it out of the park.
    Ghezzi,on my bucket list is rerecord “TELL IT LIKE IT IS” by The NEVELLS
    that is what you just did to that info ball,i’m glad I am on your team. Thanks!!
    o

    • Ghezzi says:

      Hi There. Glad this one resonated with you. YOU know what it takes, and it ain’t happening overnight!:-)

  3. Ghezzi, you are such a great writer. I personally hate reading and always have but when I read your material I truly enjoy it. Everything you said here was a great summary of how much “making it” has evolved over the years. The Eddie Van Helen quote is fantastic. Long-live the wonderful words of Ghezzi.

  4. Scott Alexander says:

    10-20-30 yrs is hardly an overnight where I come from, but maybe my life span is just shorter than most.WORK-WORK-and more WORK year after year and then sometimes it NEVER comes. You must always try, and try you must.

  5. Fortunately, I have never fallen for the “overnight success” fallacy as I have obsessively read dozens of biographies and autobiographies of musicians, managers, road managers, anything I could get my grubby little mitts on, and they all outline the years of scrounging for food and living in squaller until a combination of hard work and a little luck get them on their way to stardom. Being a musician is such a roller coster ride… one day I’m playing a huge outdoor festival for hundreds of people, the next I’m playing a dingy decrepit pit for a couple drunks staring at me glassy-eyed and a bunch of chairs, the latter of which are paying much more attention. Ah, but for the love of music! 🙂

  6. Adam says:

    This is a pretty cool article. So many people think that you get a lucky break and a big record company signs you and its happily ever after. I know it is a lot of hard work and perseverance to make it in the music industry but we persevere because it is our passion. Please “like” us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/forwardmomentumprophecy) and send your links so we can help each other out!

  7. Shecky says:

    Absolutely! It is work and then more work and then working in ways you never imagined. And then more constant attention to detail. These words speak to me. Thank you Ghezzi.

  8. Buck Reed says:

    I am making everyone in the band read this. Thanks for posting!

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