If you were to ask 10 artists to define a successful career in music, you'd most likely get 10 different answers. In fact, you would get 10 different answers.
Last week, we spoke with 10 artists under the age of 30, asking each to answer the following question: How would you define a "successful career" in music?
While some artists expressed a desire to be considered "the greatest," and others to achieve maximum monetary gain, almost every creative we spoke with stressed the importance of simply knowing that their craft will allow them to pay their bills, put food on the table, and take care of their loved ones.
Aside from providing a bare minimum level of financial security, which was the most common answer next to having fun and making an impact, almost all of the artists we spoke with stressed the importance of full creative control and artistic freedom as it relates to success. For many, the very idea of success begins and ends with not having to ask others for permission.
Below, you will find the complete answers we were provided, which have been edited lightly for clarity.
Hometown: Newport News, Virginia | Age: 24
"Success to me is creative fulfillment, financial freedom, and the power of worldwide assembly. If you wake up everyday equipped with what you need to create whatever’s on your mind, you win. If you can buy what you truly want and take care of your loved ones, you win. Finally, if you can assemble people anywhere in the world—for example, a show—nobody can tell you that you’re not successful."
Crystal Caines (@CrystalCaines)
Hometown: Harlem, New York | Age: 26
"Being able to do what you love for a living as well as 'gettin' the bag' brings fulfillment and inner success. The praise and recognition are great, but what success in the music industry means to me is being able to inspire other young women starting out. When they write me and tell me things like 'You're the reason why I didn’t give up' or asking for advice, it makes me see my role is bigger than anything I could even imagine. I’m no role model, but I’m happy that my level of success can inspire others to never give up on things that they love or dream about because they've seen me do it."
Sylvan Lacue (@SylvanLacue)
Hometown: Miami, Florida | Age: 27
"A successful career in music essentially comes down to your trajectory and what you seek to attain. If what you're doing fulfills your own expectations, then, in my opinion, you're successful—whether you're a grassroots 250 to 500-cap touring artist, a pop phenomenon, a once in a blue moon drop a tune, or a one-hit wonder. No matter what, if you're satisfied with the trajectory you've set for yourself in the music business, you've achieved a successful career in music."
Jez Dior (@jezdior)
Hometown: Los Angeles, California | Age: 25
"Music has always been about therapy for me. The fact that sharing my darkest places and deepest secrets have helped other kids who were in similar places to me feels like a huge success. Of course, signing to a major label was a dream that I’ve had since I can remember. A [desire] to craft chart-topping singles and garner mainstream notoriety is a major aspiration of mine, but in my eyes, that’s only a piece of what defines a successful career. Getting messages from these kids saying my music saved their lives is the ultimate level of success for me."
Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin | Age: 21
"I'd define a successful music career as one with no expectations, limitations, or regrets. Remembering the SOLE reason you BEGAN creating and once it begins to alter, knowing when and how to find that reason. Understanding things can get out of control, and accepting that, but ultimately knowing that you are in control of your destiny. Speaking for myself, I did not get into music for anyone or anything except myself. It was a hobby that became a career once it started affecting lives. The success that starts to come with it definitely can be overwhelming but remaining happy until the day you decide to stop making music is a successful career for me."
Brian Fresco (@BrianFresco)
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois | Age: 24
"I would say that a successful career in music is based on a number of things. You, of course, have to have the numbers, but also if you are having fun. Music is therapeutic; that's success in itself to me."
Fat Tony (@fattonyrap)
Hometown: Houston, Texas | Age: 29
"A successful career for myself is being critically acclaimed, earning a healthy living from my music via syncs (licensing) and performances, continuing to pursue projects as an actor and writer, and living somewhere affordable and comfortable outside of the Los Angeles-New York bubble."
Hometown: Berkeley, California | Age: 24
"Being able to live how you want to. And still do music whenever you choose, how you choose. Like Big said in Notorious, if I could make a garbage man salary rapping, I'm cool."
Hometown: Lake Wales, Florida | Age: 27
"I define success by being able to take care of my family, being able to touch and help others, and putting my talented homies in position to do the same, all while making the music I believe in."
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois | Age: 21
"A successful career is one where you can take care of your family and survive off music. I mean, the whole idea of being a superstar is dope, but in actuality, if you can actively tour when you like and have a core fan base that will always pay and be interested in your music, and you and your family can live comfortably off the words you write, that's success to me."