Ask Andrew W.K.: ‘How Do I Become A Successful Musician?
His response: “This is an excellent question and I’m going to answer it as simply
and as directly as I can, with the hopes that it makes the point as
clear and as helpful as possible.
The traditional modern concept of success — being the measurement of
monetary income as the primary indicator of effort and mastery in a
certain field — is essentially a scam, a con, and a lie. To equate
success with an amount of money earned, or an amount of fame achieved,
is at best an unfortunate miscomprehension of the very nature of
success. At worst, it’s a malicious distortion.
To truly succeed at something is to devote oneself to what one loves,
and to allow that devotion to bring out the best and most admirable
qualities one has inside of them, so that in the end, one ultimately
succeeds at the only effort that really matters: Becoming a better
person than you were.
The musician whose efforts in music only add to the size of their
bank account is a really just a business person — a successful banker,
and not necessarily a successful musician. If music is the means to an
end, and that end is money, than the music might as well be real-estate
investment, or commodity trading. Individuals whose primary interest in
music is positioning themselves to impress others with their style and
wealth may be successful marketers and salesmen, but they’re not
successful musicians, or even successful human beings. They’re just
The idea that making money is the best indication of success is
fundamentally flawed. Far too often the individuals who make the most
money are often the biggest failures in every other area of life, most
notably, the areas related to personal integrity, kind-hearted values,
and quality of character. Many people think that achieving material
success is worth total sacrifice in every other part of their life — but
it couldn’t be further from the truth. Success in one area of life
should enable further and more meaningful success in all the other
areas, too. Success materially and failure spiritually is no success at
Furthermore, success is not power over others, but discipline over
oneself. Success is not doing whatever one wants, but doing what one is
truly meant to do. Success is not fulfilling one’s most immediate
desires, but fulfilling one’s true purpose - and fulfilling it despite
obstacles, inconvenience, or how much it differs from what one otherwise
feels like doing.
At best, the typical material conception of success inspires the
shallowest and most superficial type of selfish ambition, and at worst,
it keeps one hopelessly locked in a cycle of perceived failure, vicious
competition, and unfulfilled lustful desire. It’s set up from the start
as a losing game, so that no one can ever really succeed, because in the
contest to see who is “biggest” or “richest” no one ever really wins.
You just keep scheming and clawing and battling, getting closer to
emptiness and further from the truly worthwhile things in life.Music, like all the arts, is a sacred pursuit. It is an end in
itself. The reward of playing music is in the joy of experiencing it,
and a successful musician is the person who becomes so connected with
that spirit of music that he or she becomes inseparable from it.
successful musician aspires to be music itself.So, for you to be a successful musician, all you have to do is really, really love playing music. Really, really, really
love it. Worship it and adore it and turn yourself over to it. And then
allow the music to make you a better person from the inside out, not
just a richer person or a more famous person, but a more valuable person
to the people around you and to the world, and to yourself.
Now go put all the energy you’ve spent worrying that you’re not
successful enough into just playing and loving your instrument. If you
can say that you’re in love with playing it, you can say that you’re
successful. Never give up on what you love. It’s what makes life worth
living.” Your friend, Andrew W.K.
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