Success, that word, that idea that haunts the heads of so many people, including artists and musicians, that promises all kinds of benefits and joy. The formula for success, the price of success, commercial success, personal success,… Very good, but do we always refer to the same thing or are there different versions of what we can understand as success?

What do we consider success?

The first thing we should do, as almost always, is clear up the terminology a bit and agree on the meaning of success, to avoid personal definitions and make sure we are talking about the same thing.

These three meanings have in common their etymological root, exitus , which would become exit, final.

It is curious that over time, the use of the word success has been so strongly associated with something good, recognition, profit, fame, something that seems to have started as a simple getaway or the end of something. .

Since we don’t have any expert in ancient languages ​​at hand, we are going to leave this curiosity here and we are going to focus on today’s topic.

It must be recognized that, although the dictionary so directly relates the public or the commercial with this concept, we can distinguish different types of success.

But it is also often used in a private context to indicate the stages of learning or personal work that have been overcome, and it is felt as an intimate success that in this way can be, in the musical field, mastering a new interpretive technique, understanding a concept of musical theory, composing a song with which we feel satisfied and similar situations.

For the purpose of this article we are going to look at these two ways of perceiving success and some rather surprising contradictions and consequences.

Commercial success

Let’s start with public success, which is almost always understood as commercial success.

That kind of recognition is based on money, of course, and also on popularity and maybe even criticism from the media or so-called specialist experts, and often conditional on your salary or hidden deals.

For commercial success, the first thing necessary and essential is dissemination, that a song be heard by the greatest number of people possible, therefore, the traditional media, radio, the press and television for decades were the funnel that it had to be crossed to pass from unknown to known.

And the mass media were, logically, big businesses and their raison d’être, rather than transmitters of let’s say quality art, producers of benefits.

At the beginning of the 21st century, with the development of digital technology, this communicative power has been somewhat diluted and it is possible to achieve this diffusion through social networks in a more or less independent way.

Another issue related to public success is that, especially the performers, undergo a transformation, sometimes happy and other times traumatic. They go from being people to being characters. This is so, whether you like it or not, have an extroverted or introverted attitude, like fashion or hate it, want to be normal or special or dream of going unnoticed. It doesn’t matter.

Fame, popularity, being known through interviews, forums, videos or in any other way, results in a partial and distorted image of who we really are. It is inevitable, no matter how sincere you put into your media interventions.

The audience, each person who knows you through those channels, is going to get a certain idea of ​​you, and that you is going to be your character.

In addition, and related to these issues, is the issue of musical genres. If you are known for being a rocker , or making dance music, or a singer-songwriter or a trapper, it doesn’t matter, that is going to be the artistic label that is put on you and, once this happens, it will be difficult for you to get out of those coordinates and show very different works, no matter how much your creative spirit asks you to.

The commercial mechanisms, the customs of a good part of the audiences and, I suppose, the comfort or the powerful relationship that is often established between certain music and moments of our personal lives cause this type of situation.

It’s the dark side of commercial success, getting locked into one style or type of song. Being forced in quotes to always produce or create similar songs or, at least, interpret the old classics of youth to the detriment of the new compositions.

As you can see, many factors, most of them, external to the song itself. intervene in the commercial success or failure of a given music at a given time.

Personal success

On the other hand, as we have said, there is a personal, private, intimate environment, where a composer or songwriter is immersed when writing their works.

Although it is not a completely isolated place and the public or external infiltrates and is also part of it, to some extent, when we create a melody or write a draft of the lyrics of a song, it is assumed that we are dumping something from within, of our experience and vision of life.

That is also what is expected of us. Our personal stamp on those artistic pieces, our truth and, perhaps, what our public persona will look like if it comes to exist.

If we make songs thinking about fame, then that will be what validates our works. If we write with a more intimate focus, what we manage to print on them as something in which we recognize ourselves will be the measure of our judgment about them. If we think about composing complex things, the more complex and sophisticated the result, the more satisfied we will be. etc.

We could say that personal success is feeling accomplished, even momentarily. according to the effort or the work or the sincerity poured into a song.

But be careful, because sometimes expectations are wrong and we associate things that are not necessarily related to each other. For example, complexity and quality, or sophistication and recognition, or sincerity and quality, and a long etcetera.

That is, what is difficult is not good or bad per se. In the same way, the simple, neither. Therefore, when writing our songs it is better not to make these misunderstandings. Thus, we will save ourselves some trouble.


Well, then, considering all this, how should we approach the composition of our songs?

The truth is that each song is an opportunity and different songs can have different objectives and can give us different types of satisfaction.

You don’t have to be a commercial fundamentalist or an apostle of creative purity. We can be angels and demons, candid and twisted, we can be impure in many ways, nobody and nothing prevents us. And, furthermore, who is or wants to be pure?

And if you are concerned about critics, the poison of interested opinions, I have to warn you that no path is going to free you from them.

When we understand that pleasing everyone is impossible and that whatever we do, in whatever form and quality, we will resonate with some people, be ignored or hated by others, and be congratulated by a certain group, larger or larger. smaller, when we have this clear, we can already focus on what we are capable of doing for our songs.

Probably, the best thing we can look for when creating is to be true to ourselves, whoever we are, and show our personal sensitivity, our values, our artistic truth.

Seeking commercial success by betraying one or oneself is a very dangerous path that can lead to unhappiness or boredom.

The history of music, moreover, refutes that claim at least in every generation. New and new creators are looking for new languages, different and groundbreaking forms with the previous generation, at least. 

There are many influences and temptations during the creative process. Will they like our work or not? Will money and fame be conducive to us? You have to be careful with these issues and, as far as possible, leave them aside since the artistic value is very often in what is not yet popular, what has not been done exactly in that specific way, which has an old scent but looks like brand new.

With this in mind, understood and assumed, we can now return to our creative work and, since what is public or commercial depends on a thousand external factors that are difficult to control, we are going to put our effort and attention first to achieve private, personal success, we are going to try be satisfied with our works and gradually improve our craftsmanship.

The rest will happen or not, but our work, the mark we leave, will be worthy, to a large extent, and faithful to the person we are.