I’ve been cogitating on this…

I love Bluegrass music. I have a Bluegrass radio show. I’m an emcee at a large Bluegrass festival twice a year. I’m friends with Bluegrass musicians and bands, a few of which are very successful and many who just barely get by trying to make a living playing the music they love.

The one thing that has always intrigued me is why there are always one or two artists who are equally as talented and gifted as the top stars but are struggling and even on the brink of quitting the business?

Sure Bluegrass is a small market music genre but there are a few artists who are succeeding and developing lucrative careers with an amazing fan base. So what is the secret? Is there a magic formula for becoming successful in Bluegrass?

Certainly if i had the answer to those questions i would be very popular and could leverage that knowledge into great financial reward. I’m not an expert nor do i have any answers. I just have some observations and much concern for those at the point of giving up.

I’ve noticed the most successful bands have strong leaders. Leaders with vision, goals and a plan to reach those goals. These great leaders also have standards that others in the band must commit to. The way they dress on stage, the way they conduct themselves offstage, the way they interact with the fans are all a part of achieving success.

There are bands who play great, sing great, write great songs but never break into elite status. So it’s not “all about the music.” If you don’t put on a show, if you’re boring on stage or if you don’t connect with the audience during your show you won’t succeed, no matter how great your music is. It takes the total package.

That includes the way you dress onstage. The old saying “dress for success” is good advice for Bluegrass bands. Just think about the big star bands that you’re envious of. How do they dress on stage? You get my point?

Successful bands and artists take advantage of social media. Staying in touch with your fan base is imperative. Everyone in the band should be working Twitter and Facebook on a daily basis! Artists resistant to technology and social media are missing out on a free personal way of endearing yourself to fans.

Success in Bluegrass means being involved and being pro-active 24/7. Self promotion is something most artists don’t enjoy but it must be done. Managers, booking agents and producers have their place but there are some things you must do yourself.

Attitude is everything. It’s so true. When things get tough it’s tempting to let bitterness and resentment control you but you must stay positive. Reach out to family and mentors for support. Faith in God is most important. If you believe your calling is to play Bluegrass music then never give up. God is faithful.

I believe if you look at successful Bluegrass artists you will discover that all of them have endured hard times. The ones who stayed true to their calling, didn’t compromise principles, took care of business, treated others the way they wanted to be treated and didn’t quit are the ones who eventually worked through the hard times to reach their goals.

Finally, politics always seem to play a part in business and the Bluegrass industry has not escaped the effects of politics. It’s always frustrating when those with money can seemingly buy their way to success when everyone else has to earn it. So if you’re struggling, keep your eyes on your goals and don’t let the “fat cats” influence you to compromise your principles. Look for ways to create unity among your peers and success will come.

I recently had a great Bluegrass artist on the verge of giving up tell me, ” I feel like a failure.” The only thing I can say is, if you quit you’ll miss out on the success you’ve worked so hard for. The darkest hour is just before dawn. So go on to the next  festival, put on a great show, and as Minnie Pearl said, “love your fans and they will love you back!” Just don’t quit.

Cogitate on this.

Gene Reasoner

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