10 Smart Ways to Become a Successful Singer-Songwriter

4 min readNov 2, 2017

by Mary Toolan

Every artist’s career journey is unique. While there is no 10 step plan to follow in order to be successful in the music industry, there are smart ways to go about it. I’ve curated the top 10 of these from working with and listening to artists and music industry experts with the intention of making your route to success, a whole lot simpler and easier. Here we go….


Work on your mindset EVERY DAY. What we believe affects how we think which affects our behaviours and how we act which affects our results. [ Beliefs — Thinking — Behaviours — Actions — Results ]. Question what you believe to be true.

I’ve heard music industry people say ‘it’s really difficult to make it in the music business’ and conversely I’ve also heard other music industry people say ‘there’s never been a better time to have a career as an artist’. If you’re influenced by the naysayers, that will definitely impact your results. Don’t be influenced by the naysayers.


Never dilute your art, artistic growth or vision for fear of losing original fans. This is a scarcity mindset and you’ll be compromising your creativity. Trust that your right fans want you to develop, grow and evolve. Don’t be a slave to them. Put you and your artistic integrity first. Question to ask yourself: ‘How can I be more ME in my art and release any attachment to outcome?


Play to your home crowd. Don’t seek fame outside your home if you have not sold out all the small venues in your vicinity. This is great news and takes the pressure off. Start with a 50 seater venue, sell that out, then go on to a 100 seater and up and up. You’ll progress gradually and it’s a great confidence builder.


If something isn’t working, don’t keep pushing it. Know when to stop. But HOW do you know when to stop and change direction? Ah, this is a question for your intuition. Develop your intuition and trust your gut more. It’s important to note we live in a culture that does not value gut intuition so this is a reason it may seem foreign to you.


Get a mentor. It doesn’t have to be someone in the music industry — this is great for cross pollination of ideas. Who is the most successful businessperson you know in your network? Ask them. Most people will be flattered. Set up monthly calls, use them for accountability, perspective, business planning, advice and support. Keep it a formal arrangement and set boundaries and agreements in place from the first meeting. With the right relationship in place, watch your progress take off faster than Usain Bolt.


Be okay with ‘rejection’. You’ve heard this one before but it’s worth repeating. Be okay with doors (seemingly) closing in your face. Understand that it is a compulsory part of the journey and no great artist has avoided this. You’re in good company. Reframe rejection and turn it into a fun game. How many no’s can you get this week?! Buddy up with one of your peers and support each other. One of the reasons people don’t take action is ‘fear of the No’.


Know that there is no one defining moment when an artist gets their break. That’s a romantic myth. You can take great inspiration from this because it means that every action step you take each day is leading you closer to that tipping point where everything starts flowing and working in your favor. Baby steps all the way. Have patience; a 985 page novel is written one word at a time.


Your aim shouldn’t be to get signed. Your aim should be to monetise your craft to pay for your lifestyle. 98% of artists who get signed are later let go with a legal headache to boot. That means that 2% of artists who get signed to the majors, succeed.


Look after your super fans. They are one of your best marketing tools — not that you look at them with dollar signs in your eyes, but you do have bills to pay and your art is also your livelihood so ya gotta treat it, in many respects, as a legit business. Be creative in how you interact with them e.g. perhaps you could respond to some of their social media messages with video versus written message. Imagine how you’d feel if you received a DM video reply from one of your music idols!


50% of your time should be spent on marketing. If you bring out an album but nobody knows about it, Houston ya gotta problem. Same with budget. 50% of your album budget should be for marketing. Take note from the majors — they spend millions on marketing. (crediting Ari Herstand for this one).

And there you have it — my top 10 smart ways to becoming a successful singer/songwriter. Which one resonated the most for you? Can and will you take action on it?

Best of luck!


Mary Toolan is a success and mindset coach for ambitious singer songwriters who want to empower and inspire with their music, create their dream career and lifestyle.

You can find her hanging out in the following online hubs:

Web: http://marytoolan.com

Youtube: http://bit.ly/2lbCOmk

Instagram: https://instagram.com/marytoolan.successcoach

Facebook: https://facebook.com/MaryToolan.success

Online Community — GPS (GoProSingersongwriters) — Navigate your music career while staying authentic

Link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1655699464500356/

For further support, check out her:

Online Courses — money mindset for artists — ‘Overcoming Starvin’ Artist Syndrome’

Link: http://marytoolan.com/overcoming-starvin-artist-syndrome/


Private Coaching — transform your career and lifestyle in the direction you desire

Link: http://marytoolan.com/life-coaching/

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