How Do Bands Know “They’ve Made It”?

If you’ve ever read a musician’s memoir, then you’ll know how difficult it is to break into the industry. Indeed, even when a musician has songs and tours, many of them doubt whether they’ve truly arrived on the scene. Imposter syndrome runs large in the arts, with many musicians living with a sense of insecurity. And you can understand why — many musicians simply disappear just as it looked like they were on the cusp of success.

But some artists do, of course, make it through. And they can use more than intuition to understand to determine where they stand. In this blog, we’ll run through a few telltale metrics that point to the arrival of a superstar.

People Come to Their Shows

A musician will know that they’re onto something big if people are coming to the shows. They usually follow a pattern. They begin with some clubs, low down on the bill. Then they move up the bill. Then they move to a bigger venue. Eventually, they’re filling reasonably sized venues at 80% capacity. Once they’re at that level, they can quit their day jobs for good and commit themselves to their craft.

They Have a Hit

Bands make the majority of their money from live shows. But if they’re going to attract a new, larger audience, then they need to have a hit song. Very few artists make it big without having at least one hit that appeals to both hardcore and casual fans. There’s often no way to tell what songs will be a hit — if you read the background story of some huge tracks, you’ll learn that the band themselves didn’t think it was worthy of inclusion on the album, let alone that it would take off. 

People Buy Their Merch

People might broadly like your music, but it’s hard to find long-term success without a loyal fanbase. Bands figure out whether their fans are casual or dedicated by, among other things, selling merchandise. If strangers all over the world want to buy your band’s t-shirt, you know you’re on the right track. And when people are willing to buy your bizarre band merchandise, such as branded cat headphones (Deadmau5) or a coffin (KISS), then your legacy is all but assured.

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Other Artists Want to Collaborate

Artists often look up to others in the industry, who they judge to be the measure of success. If one of those artists gets in touch because they want to collaborate, then that’s a pretty big sign that they’re on the way to long-term success. Some moderately successful musicians have gone on to superstardom, all because they were invited to make a track with an all-time great. 

They’re On the Media Circuit

Exposure is everything in the music industry. A band can receive some success via the internet, but to reach the highest levels, they need to be in the newspapers and on television. A band that plays one of the late-night television shows will find that it helps to take them to the next level. They’ll move even further up the chain if they’re invited for a performance and an interview with the host. At that point, they’ll be all but successful. 

They Get Criticism 

Musicians don’t want to get bad feedback. After all, they’re only human — they want adulation! However, receiving some negative criticism can actually be a good thing. The opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference. As Andy Warhol said, “don’t read what journalists say. Just look at how many paragraphs they write about you.” If a band is routinely being written about, then they’ve made it.

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