Getting a foothold in the music industry has never been as challenging for artists as it is now. The current music climate is greatly affected by social media and online success, with millions of talented artists trying to gain an audience and retain it for the long run.

Add to that the ongoing challenge of staying relevant in a competitive environment, and artists have their hands full with a million things aside from their core interest of making good music.

The process of building a rewarding music career from scratch can be overwhelming, to say the least. However, with planning, persistence and an entrepreneurial attitude, you can be successful as an individual artist or band. Here are some tips you’ll find useful in your journey to find long-term success in the music industry.

Make music that will appeal to a niche audience

To be successful, an artist needs to be able to read the pulse of the masses, identify a target audience that they want to enthrall and produce melodies that will resonate with that audience. Whatever your genre of music, quality is what will help you build a strong foundation on which to base your career.

As record labels lose relevance, you’ll also need to be your own promoter and create a unique brand of music that your listeners can identify with. Once you’re sure that you want to monetize your passion, adopt a professional approach and find out more about your audience—who they are, where they are and what they do, what type of music they like, where they access their music and what they don’t like. The more you research, the greater clarity you’ll have to make decisions as a budding music entrepreneur.

Promote your music both online and offline

Most contemporary artists know the importance of promoting themselves online, but many don’t know how to go about it, which online channels to choose and how much time and effort they should invest in each platform. For instance, being on SoundCloud and Spotify is great, but you also need to have a professional-looking website and social media accounts where more and more people can discover you.

There are numerous channels to cover in terms of online marketing and building online visibility is the key to succeeding as an artist today; however, conventional resources such as radio and local DJs still play an important role, especially for budding musicians. So don’t just focus your efforts on online channels when you can also get significant local coverage the good old way.

If you’re confused about where to begin to promote your brand of music, or simply don’t have the know-how or resources to market yourself, it would be best to work with a trusted music PR agency that has been around for a while and has the right resources to help fire up your music career.

Build a relatable personal brand for your listeners

To be a successful artist with a large following, you will need to strike a fine balance between retaining your originality and uniqueness and cultivating a brand that will appeal to your audience. While this does not mean you should dilute who you really are or go overboard to be likeable, your public persona will greatly affect your salability as an artist. If you look back, all successful artists of yesteryears had strong personalities that people loved as much as their music. So create fresh music and back it up with a personal brand that people can identify with—and you’ll have won half the battle.

Prepare yourself for inevitable ups and downs

As you try to make a mark in the music industry, be realistic and remember that it may take longer than you thought. To keep things from going downhill, keep your day job while you create new music, find live gigs locally and establish yourself as a worthy artist in your local community.

Having a steady source of income will help you sustain and prevent you from giving up on your dream because you can’t pay the bills. Ask any successful artist and they will tell you that it can take years before you’ll get that one big break—and sometimes success can come knocking when you’re least expecting it. Preparing yourself for the ups and downs that come with following your passion will help you survive the tumultuous times as you strive to establish yourself as an artist that people will want to pay to hear.