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Success Leaves Clues

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So you want to be a rock star? Or perhaps you want to sell 5,000 copies of your CD? Or maybe you just want to pack the house for your next gig. “How do I do that?” you ask. In this life, there are no guarantees, but one way to become closer to your goals is to study how other successful musicians and performers got where they are. I’m not just talking about “Behind the Music,” although those shows are an education of their own. I mean studying the techniques that others have used to become successful.

We live in a wonderful time where information is as close as our fingertips, thanks to the Internet. A visit to the Google search engine can lead you to new ideas to take you closer to your dreams of success. Reality shows such as “American Idol” and “Making the Band” give you a private (although biased) peek into the world of the platinum plated music industry. If you’ve decided that you want to reach the top, then you have to do your research before you get there.

In Anthony Robbins’ groundbreaking book, “Unlimited Power,” he writes, “Success leaves clues. It means that if I see anyone in this world producing a result I desire, I can produce the same results if I’m willing to pay the price of time and effort. If you want to achieve success, all you need to do is find a way to model those who have already succeeded.” This is a brilliant concept. Even if you tried, there is no way that you could really be a clone of anyone else. However, you can still learn skills from the best if you’re willing to put in the time. Be original, but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Try these strategies on for size:

Honestly Assess. Ask yourself, and possibly a trusted friend, which areas are strongest and weakest for you. Do you need to work on stage patter? Could your songs be better? Do you feel that you don’t move enough on stage? Do you wish you were more business savvy? Which areas could use some help? To admit weakness is the first step to becoming stronger.

Check it Out. Immerse yourself in all forms of media to find heroes and muses who excel in those areas. Read books, surf the net, watch movies that inspire you. For an extra punch, find biographies of great people outside your industry. If you’re a producer, learning about great inventors and politicians, for example, can lead to new ideas.

Do Your Homework. When you find one or two muses to inspire you, pretend you are a reporter assigned to interview them for Rolling Stone or Vanity Fair. To prepare, you’d study their body of work, from the beginning to the present, and perhaps read biographies and interviews. When you learn as much as you can about them, you soon find that they were no more human than you are. They just kept going when times got rough (and they always do!), putting one foot in front of the other. Let their stories inspire you but also let them teach you.

Visualize. Imagine, using all of your senses, what it must have been like for your muse to create that masterpiece. What did he do? How did she react? When you are ready, insert yourself as the hero in this daydream. What does it feel like when you are the one reaching that goal? Allow yourself to imagine many wonderful things happening to you.

Work It. Don’t be surprised when you start trying new habits in real life that improve your skills. Have you learned to kick around a mic stand from your rock idol? Are you trying a makeup tip that your muse tried? Are you sending thank you notes because your favorite band sends them? Good! These methods work for a reason, and there’s no law saying that you can’t add on techniques that work for others. Try them out, and take your music to the next level.

Excerpted from The DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Guide to the Music Biz by Carla Lynne Hall. Available at

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