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Top 10 Music Industry Mindset Tips Vol. 2 with Marko DeSantis (Sugarcult)

Ever wanted to know what type of mindset it takes to survive and thrive in the modern music industry? Point Blank LA’s lead music business instructor, Marko DeSantis, has composed 10 more great tips for achieving success in this ever-changing industry. If you haven’t checked out the first installment of tips, make sure to read it here.

Marko is best known as the lead guitarist for the rock band Sugarcult, who released 3 studio albums (including their RIAA-certified Gold® Record debut Start Static), headlined festivals such Glastonbury, Reading, and Warped Tour, and toured internationally with Green Day and Blink-182. He has also produced radio shows, podcasts, and worked as a DJ in Japan, Russia, Mexico, Australia, and across America. Check out Marko’s tips below.

Tip #1

Do a self-SWOT analysis. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Identify existing opportunities and threats. Ask yourself: What are you a “natural” at? What special skills have you developed? What are you bringing to the table? What do you struggle with? What do you need to work harder on? What are your bad habits and tendencies? Are you lazy, do you procrastinate, or are you an over-thinker? Are you still at a beginner level with whatever it is you want to do? Are you a slob? (If so, clean up your act!) What’s currently happening in the culture that you might be a perfect fit for? What problems can you help solve? What does the competition look like? Don’t overthink it. Avoid “analysis paralysis” and be a first responder. Go… now!
  • “If more information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.” – Derek Sivers (Founder of CD Baby)
  • “Bring something to the table other than just wanting to be at the table.” – Jennifer Horton (President of Matrix Artists)
  • “Understand that getting help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.” – Michelle Obama

Tip #2

Do a bit of soul-searching. What do you actually want/love to do? What’s your secret sauce? Ask yourself: are you doing music as a means to an end to attain fame, fortune, clout, and access to VIP parties? These things can be byproducts of a music career, but they become problematic when they are end-game goals in and of themselves. Your music should be an ongoing practice, and a journey more than a destination. Life is often a process of elimination. We find what we want to do by trial and error, and by seeing what we definitely DON’T want to do. Then, lean into whatever lights you up!
  • “First say to yourself what you would be, and then do what you have to do.” – Epictetus
  • “To find your fans you don’t need a telescope, you need a mirror.” – Marko DeSantis 
  • “Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything.” – Napoleon Hill (author)

Tip #3

Trust your instincts. In an increasingly data-driven industry, don’t discount instinct and feel. Don’t limit yourself to doing only what others are saying makes the most sense or what you THINK others will love. If you’re not sure, then feel out some different music biz spaces – big/small companies, record labels, live music venues – and examine what moves you the most. Proceed with an unbreakable optimism that suggests that if success in your field is possible, then it can (and most certainly will) happen for you. Give yourself permission to do what can’t be done, because it’s always been done a certain way.
  • “Don’t care what they may say, we got that attitude…  Hey we got that P.M.A. (Positive Mental Attitude).” – Bad Brains (from the song “Attitude”)
  • When you’re young you run on intuition, when you’re old you run on experience (if you run at all!).” – Robyn Hitchcock
  • “I don’t care about what people think, because people don’t think.” – Kanye West

Tip #4

Pay things forward. Aim to add value and be of service. But, understand that life is not always fair and there isn’t always quid pro quo. Don’t keep score, especially in your early stages, and don’t expect to always be properly praised, credited, or have your back scratched and your favors returned. I like to believe that karma exists, and if you pay enough goodwill, value, integrity, and quality forward, that same energy will come back to you eventually.
  • “We’re in this period where we have this enormous capacity for altruism. I think a lot of people right now are looking for a way to help. They just don’t necessarily know where to start or what to do.” – Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie)
  • “I never had the feeling I ever had to make a dime doing anything.” – Rick Rubin
  • “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” – Muhammad Ali

Tip #5

Be PROactive, not just reactive. You’re either going to MAKE history, or history is going to make YOU. Work on developing a compelling story and try to collect impressive stats, such as things you’ve done and acts you’ve championed early on. Broadcast your successes! Don’t be shy – shamelessly “humblebrag” post and properly tag! Set the trend and MAKE the wave. The world catches up to YOUR ideas. If they work and gain traction it will be hard to imagine what life was like before. After all, what was life like before cars, computers, recorded music, and streaming services?
  • “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they’d have said: ‘faster horses’.” – Henry Ford
  • “It’s always irritated me that people say, ‘Where’s the action? Oh wow, there’s no action here; let’s go somewhere else.’ These people will never find the action.” – David Lee Roth
  • “I finally decided to give music my all. If it didn’t work out and I had to move home, fine. I had to give it 100% first.” – Saweetie

Tip #6

Learn from your mistakes. Become good at losing if you want to win! Use your failures and mistakes as fertilizer to grow better next time. Don’t abandon your aspirations if things don’t play out exactly as you had hoped for. The music business is a long game with ever-changing rules and moving goalposts. You’ll never get it all figured out, so learn as you go; crash and learn… don’t crash and burn.
  • “I haven’t failed yet, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. Success is almost in my grasp.” -Thomas Edison
  • “Doja Cat was an overnight success story… 9 years in the making!” – Yeti Beats (Producer/Songwriter for Doja Cat)
  • If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you!” – Steven Wright (comedian)

Tip #7 

Stay focused and grounded. The current culture of constant business, “over-achiever/sleep-when-I’m-dead” mentality, and bottomless to-do lists is undesirable. Echo chambers like social media create an always-on, refreshing/replenishing addiction to make you compulsively crave something new. Resist the gravitational pull of these conditions and instead focus on what works for you and your goals. Learn your threshold and rest and reset as necessary. You are your habits, and your life will be a culmination of these actions.
  • “Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty.” – Frank Herbert
  • “If this company is about anything, it’s about discipline and staying focused.” – Jimmy Iovine (Interscope Records/Beats)
  • “The line between being an artist and being delusional is thin.” – Brian Koppelman (A&R Rep/Record Producer)

Tip #8

Own your story. Start at the bottom. Remember people’s coffee orders, assistant’s names, etc. While no one notices as you pay attention and learn the ropes, people will tell you all about the experience you don’t yet have… but what about the experience you DO have? That’s what sets you apart! That said, remember that your personal journey can meet your professional journey, but it doesn’t have to define it.
  • “You can start making music in your bedroom for next to nothing and hang some blankets on the walls and reach millions of people nowadays. And I find that particularly inspiring.” – Jack Conte (singer/songwriter)
  • “No person has the power to have everything they want, but it is in their power not to want what they don’t have, and to cheerfully put to good use what they do have.” – Seneca
  • “Rock’n’roll works as a common experience and private obsession. The two can’t really be separated. – Jann Wenner (Rolling Stone Magazine)

Tip #9

Envision your mission. Try to see your music-related goals and ambitions as something bigger than just you personally. Instead, see it as your contribution to the ongoing continuum of music’s overall story. Striving to become the best version of yourself and reaching for your potential as a music professional will ultimately affect the greater good of the music industry. Become obsessed with a sense of obligation to all of those that came before you, those doing music alongside you, and those that will eventually come along after you.
  • “We imagined ourselves as the Sons of Liberty with a mission to preserve, protect, and project the revolutionary spirit of rock and roll. We feared that the music which had given us sustenance was in danger of spiritual starvation. We feared it losing its sense of purpose…” – Patti Smith
  • “The two most exciting days of your life are the day you are born, and the day you discover the reason why.” – Mark Twain
  • “Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.” – George Bernard Shaw

Tip #10

Memento mori. You already know how the story ends, so strive to take the windier, more interesting, scenic route and aim to create a thick autobiography!
  • Our chances of being born are about 1 in 400 trillion. You’re not special, but you are f**king lucky. Enjoy your amazing life…” – Ricky Gervais
  • You’ve got to handle the curves…” – Tom Waits
  • “Don’t waste your death on a half-assed life!” – Nikki Sixx (Mötley Crüe)

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