The year is coming to an end and it’s time to look back at your achievements and mistakes. Measuring success as an electronic music producer or DJ isn’t as easy as it sounds. What does success even mean to you? In this episode of Pick Yourself, I’m going to share three dimensions of success you should look at.
FYI: This is the last episode of season 1 of the Pick Yourself Podcast. I’m going to take a break until the beginning of 2020. Apart from just getting some rest, I’m going to use that time to plan new episodes and invite some exciting guests. Watch out for season 2 of Pick Yourself, we’ll have a lot of fun together!
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How do you define success as an electronic music producer?
When it comes to measuring success as an electronic music producer, you first want to find out what success means to you. In other words: What is an achievement for you? Is it the number of shows you’ve played last year? Is it the gross revenue you’ve made with your music? Maybe you care more about the feedback you’ve received from other producers and DJs?
The problem with measuring success is that we often have the wrong things in mind. We either look at things that are easy to measure or aspects that please our ego. In my opinion, these are the wrong things to look at because they rarely make a difference in the long run.
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The three dimensions of success for electronic music producers and DJs
I believe that if we want to measure success as electronic music producers or DJs, we need to look at three dimensions of our career that really matter. If your goal is to build a meaningful electronic music career, you should analyze your last year by reviewing these aspects.
Dimension 1: Creative Output
You’re a creative professional so the first thing you want to look at is your creative output. No matter how much you think marketing and promotion matter, in the end, it’s all about your musical achievements. So let’s find out how you can analyze this dimension.
The quality factor
You first need to assess the quality of your creative output. The following questions can be a good starting point:
- What did you do to work on your signature sound?
- How unique is your music on a rating from 1 (=not unique at all) to 10 (=there’s nothing like it out there)
- Does your own rating match with how other people perceive you? Ask some whose opinion truly matters to you.
- What was the reaction of your promo-send-outs this year? How have other DJs and producers reacted? What did the blog and magazine reviews say about your music?
This is super hard to do, I know. But if you have a decent level of self-awareness (and aren’t shy of being brutally honest with yourself), this exercise can help you gain a clear vision of your creative achievements.
The quantity factor
This one is a bit easier. Quality matters, but if you only release one EP every couple of years, chances are that you won’t gain much traction with your music. So let’s have a look at some numbers:
- How many singles, EPs, and albums have you released last year?
- Was it more than the year before?
- How does your output compare to the number of releases other producers at your level are putting out?
- Have you released too much music (resulting in a lack of quality)?
- Was it too little because you were stuck in perfectionism?
You see, the number of releases has to be put in context with the quality of your creative output. Simply because you’ve managed to release two songs a month doesn’t mean that this has been a successful year, creatively.
Dimension 2: Meaningful Relationships
Measuring success as an electronic music producer and DJ isn’t only about creative output or how many fans you have. I believe that the number of deep and meaningful relationships you’ve built with other people in the scene is one of the most important factors for success.
If you’re playing the long-term game (which you should!), the connections you build today are the foundation for success in the future. Superficial “networking” doesn’t help you here. It’s all about helping other people who you truly care about achieve their goals. Remember: A rising tide lifts all boats. So don’t see other music producers or DJs as competitors. In the end, you all share the same vision: Bringing great music to people.
You can measure this dimension by asking the following questions:
- Which people in the electronic music scene have you started a deeper relationship with this year?
- In which ways have you improved and deepened your connection to people you already knew?
- What have you done to help others achieve their goals?
- To which degree have you adopted the go-giver mentality?
In case you’ve just started with the go-giver approach, try to analyze the last year by thinking back to the honest and deep interactions you’ve had with other people in the scene. This is a good starting point to find out who you truly want to help in the near future.
Dimension 3: Awareness & Fanbase Growth
This dimension of measuring success as an electronic music producer or DJ is really important. It tells if what you’re doing actually matters to people. There are two different levels: The overall awareness and the growth of your true fanbase.
This factor can easily be measured by looking at some common stats:
- How many new followers (real people, not bots, of course) have you gained on social platforms?
- What do the numbers say on streaming platforms like SoundCloud, Spotify, etc.?
- How many reviews, interviews, or other journalistic articles were published about you in blogs, podcasts, and magazines?
- How many unique visitors did you have on your website (if you have one)?
- How have these numbers changed from last year to this one?
This “top-level” broad awareness only tells you if you’ve managed to get more people superficially interested in you and your music. What’s way more important is how many of these people have actually turned into true fans and might follow your journey of the next five years or so.
The only really important number, when it comes to growing your fanbase, is the number of “true fans” (if you’re wondering what that is, go back to the 1000 true fans episode).
Start analyzing how your fanbase has evolved by asking yourself these questions:
- How many new “true fans” have you gained this year?
- What actions have you taken to deepen the relationship with your fanbase?
- Which limited, high-quality products have you put out as an offer to your true fans?
- How was your direct communication with your fans? Have you managed to lead your tribe in a meaningful way?
Now it’s time to put everything into context: How do the three dimensions line up and cross-influence each other? Make sure you assess your last year on micro-level, but also from a macro-perspective where all these things come together.
What about financial success?
At this point, you might be wondering why measuring success as an electronic music producer or DJ doesn’t highlight the financial side. That’s a valid question, so let me share a few thoughts with you.
I believe that financial success is a natural outcome of what you’ve put into the three dimensions above. The problem with financial outcomes is that they often come with some delay. Therefore, it’s quite stupid to put this year’s financial success (or failure) in context with what you’ve done in the three dimensions.
A better way to approach it is this: Focus on what you’ve done to improve in these three dimensions. Track your income and spendings for your artist career yearly as well, but don’t try to draw any conclusions yet. After three years, you can start analyzing the financial outcomes. Only after five or more years you are going to see how your efforts truly influenced your income as an artist.
There are exceptions, of course. But I’d rather see you succeed in the long run than having a lucky break and then disappear again next year. So don’t be frustrated if the financial side of things still means more investment than returns. Stay calm and keep putting out awesome music.
Putting it into action: How to measure success as an electronic music producer or DJ
So how can you implement this now? I believe that measuring success as an electronic music producer or DJ comes down to analyzing the three dimensions and making plans on how to improve your performance next year. These three action steps will help you get started.
1. Analyze the last year using the three dimensions
- It’s super important to do this in written form (pen and paper or digitally) and store it in a way so you can look at it again next year.
- How has your creative output developed in quality and quantity?
- Have you managed to improve building meaningful relationships in the industry?
- How has your broad awareness developed and did you increase the number of true fans?
2. Get some external perspective
- Challenge your own perception by reviewing your analysis with someone whose opinion matters to you.
- It should be a person who is honest and has a deep insight into the electronic music scene.
3. Start planning for the next year
- What can you do to improve in all three dimensions?
- Which mistakes have you made this year and how can you avoid them in the following year?
So that’s it for the last Pick Yourself episode of this year. It’s also the wrap up of season 1. Don’t be sad, I’ll be back with more in-depth content next year. Season 2, here we come!
I’m now curious to hear from you: How was your overall performance in these three factors this year? What are you planning to do differently next year?
Let me know in the comments, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!
As a little goodbye-gift until season 2 starts, I’ll leave you with my “Seven Strategies of Highly Successful Electronic Music Artists” guide. It’s a free pdf filled with tips and wisdom from my most successful studio clients. Click the image below to download the pdf: