3 Reasons Why Comparisons Hurt Your Music Career (And How to Stop)

Posted by Tyler Allen on Dec 18, 2014 11:00 AM
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Taylor SwiftImage via theguardian.com

When she removed her entire catalog from Spotify, Taylor Swift made musicians of all types begin discussing the effects of streaming on our industry. Her exit from Spotify also resulted in articles, blog posts, and calls from my clients asking if they should do the same thing.

"Should we still be on Spotify?"

"Should we be more careful about streaming?"

My answer: It depends – because you aren't Taylor Swift. You're a unique artist with unique marketing and business needs. Your formula for success won't be the same as anyone else's, especially not a multi-platinum recording artist's. 

Now, this article isn't about the good and evil of streaming music – that's a completely different topic on which novels can be written. This is about the self-imposed obstacles that will inevitably occur if you decide to plot your business moves solely based on what other musicians do. Comparisons are hurting your career and stunting your growth – and here's why.

1. There isn't a one-size-fits-all plan for success in music

As in my previous example, just because T-Swizzle wants to pull her catalog from Spotify, it doesn't necessarily mean that the platform can't assist you. If you're a new artist (or one that's profiting financially from Spotify), there's no reason to pull your work. Sure, it could set standards for fans to buy your music digitally, but we aren't all at that level. While streaming can be a poor financial choice for some mid-level or large acts, streaming can help some new artists build buzz. So choose wisely depending on where you are in your career

Spotify isn't the only example, either. Just like any other product or business, the consumer base and its interests change frequently. The cool thing about music is that, very often, you can be a trendsetter, but how the market reacts to your work and spreads it can depend on a large number of factors. Some artists are very much deserving of a deal or of mainstream appreciation, but they just haven't been discovered yet.

This can be fixed with the pairing of a good PR team or manager and, yes, even an A&R discovery. While goals are incredibly important, sometimes it's really tough to gauge just when things will pick up for you. That being said, it's crucial to find your own voice and to stick to it.

2. Comparisons distract you from your success

Whether you're working in an office or working in music, the above statement rings true. We're driven by the milestones we meet in our lives, and by focusing on the success of other artists, it takes our eyes off our own goals and successes. If you get discouraged because a similar act or an act you used to tour with just hit a big break, let it fuel you to work harder, but never let it discourage you or affect the path that you're on. Instead, focus on your last show's turnout or the great sound of your latest track. Focus on the good, and the good will come. 

3. Comparisons blur your view of success

While working toward mainstream success is always a good and solid plan, it's not always the gauge for your worth as an artist. Success can be defined in many ways. It could be getting on iTunes' top charts, scoring a recurring session gig, or even the mere fact that you can make money from your work.


Now that you know how comparisons hurt your career, here's how to stop making them: 

  1. Set goals and milestones, but also take note of all the accomplishments you make throughout your journey.
  2. Focus on the work rather than the results. Do good work, and have fun with your music – the rest well follow.
  3. And of course, have fun. That's why you got into this music business, so never lose sight of that!


As a music marketing strategist, Tyler Allen works with an extensive array of artists, labels, music tech, and music retail entities. Tyler began his music industry career with Sony Music Entertainment and RED Distribution, as well as the advertising industry. He is dedicated to giving veteran artists the tools to preserve their legacy, and new artists the tools to begin theirs (as well as everything in between). Learn more at wtylerconsulting.com.

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Topics: Musician Success Guide, Strategies for Success, Motivation & Inspiration


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