Why is it so hard to make a living out of Music?

Do you happen to think that it is extremely difficult to make a living out of Music nowadays?

I'm sure you feel that living out of your own passion is extremely difficult and frustrating. Surely, you have thought that someone is to blame because your music is not noticed, it does not grow and therefore you cannot count on a stable economy derived from your artistic activity. Is it really like that or are we looking at the issue from the wrong side? I decided to write an article on a subject that has moved me for a long time and still moves me: the mentality of the artist who wants to become an art professional.


First things first: everything I will say in this article and the harshness with which I will address some aspects, I AM THE FIRST TO BE BLAMED! There is not one of the following things that I have not gone through or have not used as an excuse for myself. It seemed a due mention to me, before starting 😉

I will now make a list of what I consider to be the main points of UNDOUBTED difficulty when it comes to turn your music passion into a profession.

1. What makes things easier also complicates them

Everyone makes music today. In the middle of 2022, we hit the threshold of 100k songs published per day. And do you know why? Because technology today allows anyone to release music, with little or no budget.Until 20/30 years ago, more than 80% of our ideas NEVER SAW THE LIGHT! It was unthinkable to produce and publish as an independent artist, you just couldn't afford it. Even so, among the few that managed to join the "club of the luckiest" you didn't have a guarantee of success either, once the album was recorded. So let's start accepting this reality: since everyone can make music today, the difficulty is no longer recording/producing/publishing, but standing out and being able to create/represent value in an ocean of options on a daily basis. More options means more competition. So the first question is: do you accept the fact that you are going to get into something extremely competitive or do you really not like to compete?

2. Lack of Musical Education and Knowledge

Strictly related to what we have just said, the artist seldom spends less and less time to refine his technique, his talent and his tools. However, inversely proportional is the part of the ego that leads him very soon to think "I'm ready: I now deserve attention and exposure. THIS IS NOT THE ERA WHEN IT IS BETTER NOT TO KNOW. Despite what it may seem on social networks where mediocrity is rewarded, when competition rises, the best long-term strategy is to be extremely good at what we do, constantly updating and improving, because we live in a world and in a sector that moves at an impressive speed; if you relax for a moment, you are already history (and a story that was never told). The same happens in any sector. At one point everyone was looking for you because having a beautiful voice was an achievement and a highlight, then suddenly it no longer makes a difference. So, invest in your knowledge, in your talent and in what you really know about music and this world: because this is what will guarantee a spot. If you want to be a doctor, you already know that at least 10 years of your life will be spent studying and training, and then continue doing so until you retire. Do you seriously think that this is not necessary in music?!

3. Changing Monetization Landscape

The music industry moves a lot of money. 2022 closes with an estimate of about 26 trillion dollars. However, the state of health is not good. The labels no longer recover their investments as before and in general, what worked between the 50s and the 90s/2000s is no longer viable. The digital world opened gigantic doors in terms of opportunities and circulation, but it also contributed to inflating the music market and reshape the concept of value around a record. As it happens when demand exceeds supply, unit prices go down and inflation goes up. For this reason, the music sector suffers from the devaluation of its own good: music. Don't you understand this? Very easy: as an artist you complain that your art is not valued and you are not paid what you want. But that very artist is also a listener who is more than glad to pay a few bucks per month to access all the music in the world. See where I'm going? None of us is giving the proper value to (somebody else's) music. 

4. Productivity vs. Quality

As the cages were "opened", we all began to flood the lives of others with our music, giving very little thought to how and what values to create. If the records that made history sometimes literally took years of work, do we really think it was just because technology was slower? The fact of being able to create something in a short time does not make us an artist (and a valuable one). Let's not confuse productivity with value and quality. Art by itself does not have a value; it is what we humans attribute to it. Our task as artists of a new era is to create value around our creations. It's our problem, no one else's. Value is something that is built, it is not intrinsic or delivered by a superior force. If you're not willing to work hard at building your own value, chances are no one else will.

5. Arrogance vs. Proactiveness

In the era of the centric "I", we are all more exposed to the temptation to demand that they listen to us, look at us, applaud without asking ourselves why they should do it. My personal opinion is that too often the artist confuses recognition with visibility, external validation with satisfaction and self-esteem, and for this reason he ends up in a loop that leads him to approach art for the wrong reason. Most of the artists in the past lived and died in poverty. It was history that made them immortal and delivered to next generations. For this reason, we should understand that no one forces us to do this life and that, like when you fall in love with a person, if it is true love you accept the whole combination, especially the sides that you like the least. When you start looking only at the negative, it is obvious that you begin to see no sense in it and that it is better to give up. BEING AN ARTIST IS A WAY OF BEING, A LIFESTYLE. Before anything else, you have to love that or the rest will never come.

6. Realizing Dreams May Require Acceptance

I have always thought that one of the most difficult aspects of adulthood is having to recognize when what we dream of is actually beyond our reach, present and future. I had a hard time accepting that after playing professional basketball for over 10 years, I was not going to be the NBA player I dreamt I was going to be. It was a very hard blow. However, the reality is that not all of us can be professional artists, professional soccer players, presidents of a nation, international businessmen, etc.

It is absolutely true that no one has the right or the authority to tell another whether or not they are going to achieve something: in the same way, each of us must keep in mind that wanting and wishing for something does not necessarily make it a reality. And that, in any case, if it will come true, you will know after a long time. Undertaking this life is ACCEPTING THE UNCERTAIN, cultivating the mentality of someone who decides to start because you love it, but the truth is that you don't know what will happen and how far it'll take you.

I fully understand that this vision (which is still personal and counts as one) can sound quite brutal and more severe with artists than with the rest of the world. It's simply because it's what I believe. As I told you at the beginning, I have thought about each of these things and even more. But I can also tell you that when I started to change my mentality, it all changed for good and it led me to have my position in the music industry, constantly growing, living with dignity and passionately doing what I love most in this world. So I will never again argue that we have to rebel, overthrow the system or whatever: because we are the system and we are the artists who want to be heard and respected.

In order to gain respect and ask to be valued, we first have to become, embody and constantly improve whatever it is that we want to be recognized for. Art and music have A UNIVERSE OF THINGS TO GIVE AWAY and whoever does it for the right reasons and with the right mindset, will eventually succeed.


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