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How To Define Success

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Most music companies around America participated in #TheShowMustBePaused movement and gave their employees the day off to do THE WORK. But some did not.  Last Saturday I attended the Black Lives Matter peaceful protest in Los Angeles. It was very inspiring. For the first hour in Pan Pacific Park right by CBS studios and The Grove (and Canter’s Deli - my favorite), we listened to speeches by black community members. Namely, we heard from family members of people who had been killed by the LAPD and have yet to see justice. We all said their names together over and over again. There were so many names I didn’t know. 
Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

Photo by Abbyshoot Photography

Very often, people like to try to bring me down and diminish my standing based on their metrics of success.

Today I popped over to Amazon because a friend told me my book was still the #1 Best Seller in the Performing Arts Industry category (!!) – 6 months after being released. Of course I immediately went to the negative reviews because aren’t we all somewhat masochistic at heart? One 3 star reviewer, “Charlie,” said that he loved the practical advice but couldn’t get past “the author’s lack of credibility” and then went on to compare our Spotify and Soundcloud stats and was aghast that I hadn’t released a song in two years even though I advise to release content frequently. Exclaiming that because he has 50x the number of Spotify monthly listeners as me he can’t trust the advice in the book or something.

 

Putting aside the fact that you can’t measure merch revenue, gig revenue, past sales, synch licensing revenue, show turnouts or songwriting credits based on Spotify numbers. And putting aside the fact that, just like I illuminated in my How To Get Music in Spotify Playlists Digital Music News piece, Spotify streams do not equal fans (i.e. tons of artists have hundreds of thousands or millions of streams because their songs got included on popular playlists – but they have no real fans). And putting aside the HUGE fact that the book isn’t about me (It’s not called How I Made It…), but written based on the hundreds of people I interviewed and the thousands of hours of research I put into writing this thing. And putting aside the fact that, yes, for the past two years I have taken a little detour from my music career to work on this book and get it out (I’m only one person!). AND putting aside the fact that I have actually been in and out of the studio over the past year working on my new funk project which I will be launching later this year.

 

It did illuminate something very telling that I felt inspired to relay.

You cannot allow other people’s metrics define your success.

Anyone who feels the need to downplay others’ success is unhappy with their own. We should be celebrating one another’s success, not diminishing it. Clearly “Charlie” didn’t read the, uh, Introduction to the book because he would have very clearly learned how I built my career – but that’s besides the point.

Surround yourself with positive people.

Inspiring people. People who encourage you to keep going. People you can brainstorm with. People who challenge you to get better and reach higher. Avoid negativity. Do not engage in the ‘local band’ commiserating sessions about how everything sucks. Everything does NOT suck unless you allow it to. Those who bitch fail. Those who believe they can be, WILL be.

No one can define success for you.

Success is extremely personal. Especially in the New Music Business. Is someone who has 100M Spotify streams successful? It seems to “Charlie” they would be. But what if I told you this 100M streamed artist cannot draw 100 people to their local shows (or any show). Are they still successful? What about someone with a mere 50,000 TOTAL Spotify streams, but is making 6 figures a year getting their songs synched to commercials, TV shows and films? Are they successful? Or how about the person with a mere 1,000 YouTube subscribers but is making $90,000 a year playing colleges and house concerts? Is their success not worthy? What about the musician with 100,000 Instagram followers, but can’t pay her monthly bills?

I define success as living the kind of lifestyle I’d like to live doing what I love.

I don’t need to be a superstar. I don’t need 3 houses. I don’t need 100 million Spotify streams. When you set arbitrary benchmarks of success, once you reach them, you realize that they don’t actually bring you happiness. Making a good living from doing something you love is what will bring you unending fulfillment and happiness.

 

It’s about the journey not the destination.

 

Photo by Abbyshoot Photography

About the Author

Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

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