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There are various types of success, and there are bad ones as well as good ones. Of course this will all depend on what you will be looking for, but I would like to give you some general recommendations anyway.
A “not so good" type of success is the one that one hit wonders or most talent show winners will have for example.
They will become famous rather quickly, and often they become successful because they are being heavily promoted, and not because of their actual talent. A talent show contestant doesn’t become successful because of his or her talent, but because the show is heavily promoting and pushing the artist – at least as long as the show will be running, as well as for a short period of time after the release of the initial record. The showmasters repeatedly insist that the artists in the show are talented and that people should buy their upcoming record, and as people watching the show are followers they will actually buy them – not because the records are good, but because those fans are lemmings. After a short period of time, the artist will be dropped and dumped by the show creators, he or she will have no idea about the music industry, songwriting, production, or anything else, and his (or her) career will be over, unless the artist will be able to break out of that pattern, which is very unlikely. The same is true for most one hit wonders that had their hit by accident, as well as for most YouTube stars. The resulting career curve will look more of less like this one:
One hit wonders may make a bunch of money in a short period of time, but they usually quickly adopt an expensive lifestyle while their fall is inevitable.
If you want to measure the total success of the artist, then you have to take into account the surface of the white area. If the white area is only a single spike, like the one you can see on the image above, then the total surface is quite small.
If we consider the surface to represent sales, then you’ll see that this is a solution with quite low total sales. If you take into account that one hit wonders mainly sell singles, then you may actually reduce this by a factor of almost 10.
A traditional pop (or rock) star career looks a bit different already – it takes a bit more time to become successful, until the artist reaches a peak.
Sometimes the peak will already be reached with the first album, sometimes it will take something like 5 or even 10 years. Record companies will try to push artists that have not yet reached their full potential, and they will be allowed to produce a next album using a bigger budget. If the record company believes that an artist has surpassed the peak, then budgets for upcoming albums may be cut, unless they hope for some miracle that will revive the artist’s career. At this point the record company may come up with the idea to hire some well-known producer(s) to make sure the next album will be a success, or they will completely ruin it by adding cheap rap parts and famous R&B starlets singing some irrelevant bullshit over the song’s bridges. If it’s obvious that the artist is on his way down, then it’s usually time to release a “Best Of" album. Then fame will vanish, and many artists will not be able to recover if they have been going downhill for some time. Especially if they have been puppets, as they will not be able to create a record on their own. Without the support of a record company, they will no longer be able to create a hit record. As you may see, the white area surface is much more important on this image already:
A typical rock or pop star career doesn't start by a single spike - their career takes longer to really take off, and they also won't be forgotten as easily as one hit wonders.
For some artists, the peak comes right after they released a very successful album. While fans are completely excited about an insanely great and highly successful record, they will be bitterly disappointed by its follow-up, and the main reason for this is quite obvious: The artist has been working very hard to reach the top, and after having peaked there will be no new goals. Everyone’s just hoping that the next record will be almost as good as the current one, while the artist is touring like crazy and hardly realizes that he (or she, or even the band) has become a millionaire overnight, without having an idea about how to handle all of this. Pressure will be high, alcohol and drugs may seem to be good solutions, while both mental and physical conditions will suffer. Depressions and anxiety disorders are common problems that almost nobody’s talking about in this business, and a number of top artists have been (or still are) in therapy and / or on medication. Hitting the peak can hurt a lot sometimes. And the higher you climb, the deeper you may fall, so be careful. Luckily, most amateur artists will never have to worry about that problem, and their possible peak is even hard to identify on their success curve.
Your own success curve will look like this, at least if you don’t take action and if you won’t do something about it:
As an amateur things can be quite depressing, because without a record company you'll never have a real impact and you'll never sell a lot of records. This has to be changed of course.
So if you just do what all other amateur artists do, then your success curve will look more or less like the one above, which is quite depressing. Of course it’s fun to make music even if you only have only few fans and if you sell only few albums, but I can tell you that it’s much more fun to be involved in a project that’s successful, that many people will really love, and that will even bring in some cash you may use in order to start your next endeavour.
So I would recommend that you should try to become successful, but to start things SLOWLY.
Starting slowly will allow you to learn a lot, which again allows you to master things and to keep everything under control. Such a strategy will prevent you from getting overrun, and you will not burn out quickly. A slow start will result in something like a bell-shaped curve, you will reach your peak after a longer period of time, which will also prevent you from falling down quickly afterwards. Here’s an example of such a curve:
This is the road you should take. Start your career slowly, so that you have everything under control. Get better with every album, until you finally reach your goals.
Of course this image is not overly realistic, which is also the case for all graphs I showed you so far, as all of this shall just give you an idea of what things could be like. The following image may allow for a more realistic view of an artist’s career. With each album release you reach a small peak, and after reaching that peak you will release an even better album that will build upon the success you’ve already had.
The goal will be to restart working on new stuff and to keep innovating as soon as you’re on a downhill, with the goal that every album will be better than the last one:
With each album you will improve, and your audience will grow. This is how most of the Masters Of The Past reached their goals, and in the end that's also the road you should take.