The Importance of Staying in the Game: The Story of Anvil

Anvil Stayed in the Game for 35 Years...

I just watched the Story of Anvil.  I’m not gonna lie, I cried a little.  Not a “sad cry” – it was mostly a therapeutic type thing.  Like what I had spent time doing the last few years wasn’t so unlike what everyone else tries to do.

Plus, it really reaffirmed a belief I’ve had for awhile.

There are lots of ways to “make it” in this business. There really are. From landing that rare elusive record deal that so many still seem to chase, to playing cover songs locally and pulling in $30K a year…there IS a middle ground with music now.

Some give themselves a time frame.  “If I don’t make it in 5 years, I’m done.” Many of us get frustrated when we hit a wall and see no fan growth and we feel like giving up.

For me though, success in this industry has always boiled down to longevity.

What?  Not skill?

Nope.  I can name a ton of guys that could smoke my ass on guitar/vocally/songwriting.  Yet, I made a living and they didn’t.  Why?  They gave up.  For whatever reason – they just gave up.

If you look at most truly successful indie bands with a strong roots following – most took at least 10 years to get where they are.

Even the guy playing 5 nights a week locally.  I betcha he’s been at it for awhile as well.

Check this video out real quick.  It’s short.  Note:  You really can’t see the crowd until the end.  Just listen for them singing along.

That took me the better part of 6 years in the same project to pull off.

Why did I show you that video?  I’ll actually reveal the answer to that in #1 below 😉

Because every year since I decided to make a living as a musician, there was some point where I decided to quit.  Some point where I felt like “success” wasn’t coming fast enough.  And that is a dangerous place to be because you get desperate.

I had a buddy recently call me to chat and manager he talked to had told him to spend $15,000 on a radio campaign.  And my friend was seriously thinking about doing it!  And yes, I’ve been there…so I’m not judging.  But he was getting desperate and impatient.


Listen, you are in for a long ride.  I’m telling you.  Very few people in this industry make it to the top in their respective careers without going the long haul.

And the people who do make it with little effort are flimsy and ill-prepared.  They aren’t hardened by the miles on the road.  The nights of hecklers and getting paid nothing.  The nights where you drive 8 hours to play for an empty bar and then the bartender even goes in the back during the set.

THAT SH*T MAKES YOU WHO YOU ARE.  Embrace it.  Keep your head down and move up the hill.

Here are some tricks you could try:

1.  Challenge Yourself Constantly

That venue in the video above holds 1,200-1,500 people.  We, along with 2 other bands, put about 800 in the place.  We knew we could not sell that place out or even come close. But we gave it a shot.  And you know what?  We felt pretty damn good about that 800 – it actually came during a period of “stagnation” for us and helped push us on through mentally.

2.  Keep Things Fresh

Ever done an acoustic tour?  If you are a solo act, have you ever performed with a band?  How about doing your own version of a local storytellers show? Thrown your own festival?

If you are in this for the long haul you are going to need to keep it interesting for YOU as well as the fans.  Yes, just playing music every night is fun enough – but come talk to me after you’ve played 175 shows in one year of the same old stuff.  I bet you’ll feel like mixing it up then.

3.  Break From Touring

Maybe you don’t need to do this.  I sure wish I did though.  I burnt myself out many times playing 20-25 shows a month with zero breaks in between.  I wrote a blog post on releasing steady content – and I think touring is kind of the same.  Especially now in the age of digital when you can stay in touch with and engage your friends/fans just by uploading a Youtube video or commenting on their pages.

4.  Be Realistic When Defining Success

No, I’m not telling you to sell yourself short.  You can still shoot for the stars.  But keep that as an “un-official” goal.  Instead just make a goal to “make a living playing music.” Before you know it, you’ll have accomplished that one.  And it will push you forward to hit the next milestone.

Whatever you do just hang in there.  Again, I will argue with the best of them that the biggest factor in bands not “making it” is that they gave up too early.

Not because they weren’t “good enough.”  They just quit because it’s a really hard thing to do.

Embrace the struggle.  Follow your gut.  And have a ton of fun.  Worse case scenario:  You’ll have a TON of great stories to tell one of these days.


tweet:  @davemhuffman

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3 Comments on “The Importance of Staying in the Game: The Story of Anvil”

  1. Blaine Says:

    He speaks the truth!

  2. timathyas Says:

    cause’ if your big star bound let me warn you it’s a long, hard ride – David Allen Coe

    not my favorite artist but truer words have never been spoken. Keep it up brotha this is good stuff!

  3. Oh man, I forgot about that David Allan Coe lyric! haha…good stuff man.

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