For too long we've defined success in the music industry by popularity and sales. Neither of these are values that are inherent to art, so its not difficult to see why artists get discouraged at points throughout their careers. With constant pressure to be the next big thing, ride out trends, fill stadiums and shift units, we can't be successful unless we are the biggest and the best. Right?
Marina Diamandis is angry, feeling "more like a failure than a success". This is despite the launch of her career as Marina and the Diamonds with an album applauded by many, nominated for a plethora of accolades and winning an MTV Europe award. Her debut peaked at number 5 in the UK and made a splash in charts around the world. To many, this would be an achievement. But to Marina, she's a flop.
According to her interview on Australian radio, Marina's ambition is "to be one of the best artists of her generation". Great - but what does this mean? How does she define this success?
In the new industry, with decreased volume of sales, meaningless charts and more and more choice along the long tail, artists need to be able to articulate what success means to them personally. They must establish a vision for their work, with milestones to achieve along the way. For many this will continue to be money, fame, popularity. These artists will inevitably find their work unfulfilling with each missed goal. Only so many can reach the superstardom of The Beatles, Madonna, GaGa - this doesn't mean that other artists should just pack up their kit and go home.
A sustainable career, that allows the artist to continue to stay self-motivated, needs to have more than just goals. The vision must be supported by the artist's own understanding of what success looks like. In doing this they must get to know the feeling of success to them personally - not just create a list of achievements.
Marina wants to be the best of her generation - this may take decades to fulfil. Will she be miserable throughout her career until she is informed that yes, indeed, she is now the best artist of her generation? It sounds like she has a destination she wants to achieve, but still does not know how she wants to feel.
We become deluded into believing that our success is measured by criteria established by others. Its not your parents, your boss, your label, or your fans that give you success. Only you can define and ultimately recognise it.
The biggest failure is to not take the time to set out what success means to you up front - if you can't establish that, how will you ever feel successful?