Innovating Through Artistry

What is Takes to Succeed

In Author: David Cutler, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Tool Box on August 30, 2009 at 2:28 am

What does it take to succeed as a professional?  This is a question I’ve posed to several groups of young (college age and emerging professionals) gifted artists from around the country. Some of the points they have identified include:

  • Talent
  • Excellence
  • Professionalism
  • Reliability
  • Dedication
  • Flexibility
  • Likeability
  • Networking
  • Luck
  • Passion
  • A solid plan
  • Determination
  • Time management
  • Versatility
  • A good resume
  • A website
  • Money

Each of the aspects above is indeed important. 

Now, just because they made our list doesn’t mean that everyone in the room was actively prioritizing them.  But, at the least, one of the attendees knew enough to submit the concept. Someone was at least contemplating the weight of these issues.

Far more interesting to me, however, are the absolutely critical aspects that failed to make the list.  This means not a single participant had even a peripheral awareness that these kinds of priorities would help them thrive.

  1. An entrepreneurial mindset.  The ability to problem solve and create opportunities.
  2. Creativity. To my great surprise, creativity is often omitted.  A creative approach impacts every aspect of your career: artistic, marketing, projects pursued, etc.
  3. A strong brand. A brand is much more than your name and logo.  It is the sum total of how others perceive what you do.  What makes you stand out from the pack, and how will potential clients know that?
  4. Risk taking. Many artists are terrified of failure.  They play it way too safe, buying into the myth that anything less than perfection reflects poorly upon them. Unfortunately, an overly safe approach often results with a failure of the largest order—artistic and professional goals. If you want success, be willing to fail.
  5. Financial literacy. Prospering financially doesn’t simply mean raking in piles of cash. Success requires a deep understanding of the money game—earning, spending, and saving.
  6. Research skills.  The most successful musicians do not constantly reinvent the wheel.  Instead they take advantage pre-existing resources. They establish relationships with mentors, embrace artistic modeling, follow helpful blogs, visit libraries, and devour relevant magazines/books.
  7. Internet savvy. Most artists understand that without a website they don’t exist, at least not in the eyes of the world.  But the Internet offers many other incredible opportunities through social networking, blogging, podcasting, viral sensations, etc. And it’s not enough to simply “do” these things.  You must find ways to use them strategically.
  8. An understanding and interest in the world. Only those who are engaged in the challenges, values, and realities of their communities are able to create products and services that resonate with others. Successful artists are relevant.
  9. Leadership. Those with the courage to lead will be rewarded with success on many levels.

Artists who aren’t even aware of these paramount issues operate with a severe handicap. They attempt to play the game, but don’t know the rules. Obviously, this makes the probability of success exceedingly difficult.

That’s why I’m calling (along with many fellow bloggers on this site) for a new breed of artist—one who thinks bigger and broader and deeper and harder. A savvy artist, if you will…


Visit for information about David Cutler’s book (now available!) The Savvy Musician: Building a Career, Earning a Living, & Making a Difference. It addresses the types of issues addressed here in great detail, along with many others.


  1. Well done, Mr. Cutler. I very much enjoyed this blog.

    Jim Hart

  2. Thank you kindly, fellow savvy ones.

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