4 stages of fame – dealing with success 5

Music business and fame

What do Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse have in common? Yes, they all died at 27. They also probably committed suicide, and they all struggled with dealing with their success and fame. They all had a team of dedicated people around them: at their management, agency, record label and more. But the music business doesn’t really know how to help artists in dealing with their success and fame. And as artist it is not ‘cool’ to ask for help in that matter. Everyone in the music business seems to supports the myth that once you (the artist) are successful, all problems will disappear. But reality proves to be different, time after time.

I have graduated as master in psychology and I have more than 15 years experience in the international live music business. There are many coaching techniques for business managers in general. Some of these can be very useful to artists, so I transformed these techniques for the music business. Here below I will give you more information on this new, unique service for artists.

4 stages of fameTo give you an idea of the broad spectrum of fame and success, I’ve defined 4 stages of fame. There is no logical order; every step has its own opportunities and disadvantages. Artists use to switch from one stage to another, skipping some stages, jumping forward and backward. There is no set time frame associated with the stages either. Take the British band Pulp for example; it took them 16 years to reach the third stage. It doesn’t surprise me that it took them that long, but it does that they persevered!


Most artists start at a stage that I would like to call ‘hobby’. This is the stage where you love what you do, to make/write music, to paint, to write poems, to perform, or whatever your passion is. You want to spend as much time as possible with your art. There is no pressure; art at this stage is fun. You don’t have to make a living with your art. And when you start to perform or to show it to others, you look for the people that will love your art. This motivates you to go on and get better and better in your art. While you want to spend as much time as possible with your art, you enjoy getting better and better at it, but you also have a job or education to spend time on.

Many artists do not get beyond this stage and look for a job related to their art. In the music business you will find them working at record labels or working at managements, agencies, labels, venues and festivals. One of the promoters at the famous Paradiso venue in Amsterdam for example is playing in a well-known Dutch blues band. Some artists choose to return to this stage after they have reached other stages. They enjoy the financial independence a job gives them, and are able to free their art from any kind of pressure. At this stage art is about passion and the development of the craftsmanship that goes with your art.

The challenge at this stage is to develop the craftsmanship associated with your art and to find the right balance in time between job and art.


As a ‘Pro’ you have decided to make a living from your art. It can take a couple of months or many years before you dare to take this decision. You will discover many hurdles when trying to make a living from your art; there are always unexpected setbacks. And when you think that you can spend all of your time on your art, you suddenly discover that you have to become an entrepreneur too. You might want to try to do it all yourself, D.I.Y., only to discover that you have far less time left for your art than you thought you would have. You can also ask others to help you with administration, bookings, management, marketing and everything that comes with it. In that case the pressure of making a living from your art only adds up, your art has to make enough money to pay all those helpers too. Suddenly art comes with obligations and financially you have to deal with setbacks.

Most artists want to leave this stage as soon as possible. They return to the hobby-stage or try to move on to the fame-stage. But the pro-stage also gives you the opportunity to properly sort out your business. You can decide whom you want to work with. Your team should take care of your business, and you might want them to share your ideals too. You can also decide on a D.I.Y. approach.

The challenge at this stage is to earn your living with your art and to gather the right team around you.


Finally you have reached a certain amount of fame. The definition of fame can be very personal. Some artists feel they reach this stage when they are famous in their hometown, while others search for worldwide fame. Many people love your art now; it’s easy for you to pay your bills (as long as you haven’t by now developed a very expensive lifestyle). You get recognized at your daily visits to the supermarket, at a gas station, in the train. Your team works efficiently and provides you with the right marketing, the right shows, the right timing, coordinated in the right way. So now you think (again) that you can fully concentrate on your art. But then you have to show up for lots of promotional events. You are living a public life now and need to pay attention to the high expectations of media and fans towards your next piece of art. They expect you to ‘stay the same but then slightly different’. Major changes are not welcome; you have to repeat your hit-songs over and over again whether you like it or not. That happened years ago to the band Soul Asylum with their hit single Runaway Train. At a certain point they hated the song; it drained away all fun they had when making music. This stage also stands for the audience starting to stalk you. In the summer of 2012 Rihanna posted a photo of herself on Twitter, announcing that she was traveling from London to Paris. The photo also showed the time of the train leaving London, so in Paris masses of fans waited for her at the station. It made her furious.

This is the stage most artists really go for; this is the stage they want to reach. You don’t have any financially worries anymore, and you feel the rush of sitting on a cloud of success. At the same time it takes real guts to keep developing yourself and your art. Your fans, the media and even your own team might try to hold back any creative developments on your side, like Universal did with Prince. Fame can be addictive; you might need more and more in order to be satisfied.

The challenge at this stage is not to get addicted to fame, to protect your privacy and to keep developing yourself as a person, in order to keep developing your art.


As a VIP everyone knows you. But many people don’t remember your art anymore. They just know you. You have learned how to deal with being a public figure, and with the lack of privacy. Some artists know how to protect their privacy, like Bob Dylan; others enjoy to be in the spotlight the whole time. You want to get that rush of the fame-stage again and again. When you can’t get it with your own art anymore, you start to look around. You might want to try other arts, or appear in Dutch lotto TV adverts like David Hasselhoff. You need to get in the picture, to prove to everyone that you are still a Very Important Person indeed.

Most artists don’t want to get to this stage. They just slip into it after a successful career. This stage offers you the opportunity to explore all other arts, anything you want, like singer Herman Brood who focused more on painting, or like pianist Jules Holland who started to present a great talent show on TV.

At this stage you can re-invent yourself, start with passion again in another field of arts. Actually, when you start to develop another art, you start there at the hobby stage again. The challenge is to fight the addiction to fame and to discover your passion again.


Do you want to know what stage fits best with yourself and the ideas you have of life itself?
Do you want to find the right mindset to move from one stage to another?
Do you want help with the struggles and challenges at the different stages?
Do you want to find your own unique answer to use the opportunities that the different stages have to offer?
I can help you with this. I offer you my experience in the live music industry, my knowledge of psychology, as well as my passion for personal leadership.

I can coach you in personal meetings, by phone, or by e-mail. Coaching can be done in English, Dutch or German. The coaching method I use is client centered. Your questions, problems and personality will lead the way. In general we start with your current situation, establish the problem/question, look at its origin/history, develop future perspectives, work out how to get there, and get started.

Please contact me at hilde(a)compassforcreatives.com for more information. I’m looking forward to hear from you and to work out with you what way of coaching suits you best. Thank you.

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