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Why Louis Tomlinson’s post about commercial success in the music industry is something we can learn from

Singer/ songwriter and member of One Direction Louis Tomlinson recently took to social media to get something off his chest. In a frank and unnervingly honest thought-provoking post, Louis spoke about what commercial success as an artist means to him.

I’ve been thinkng a lot more about what success means to me. I feel like I’ve ben mistranslating it for the last three years.”

He went on to explain his thoughts in more detail.

Someone recently said something very interesting about how so many people focus on the “end game” without enjoying the doing.

Louis found fame as part of the worldwide phenomenon that was One Direction. For five years the band dominated the charts not just in the UK but internationally. One Direction produced five hugely successful albums of which Louis wrote a staggering thirty-seven of the songs featured on them.


Having been formed on the TV Music talent show The X Factor the band didn’t have the most traditional starts when it comes to a career in the music industry. They became famous overnight thanks to social media. They went viral as footage of them on the show gained them fans all across the world.

The band had huge commercial success being played on radios worldwide. As Louis rightly says in his post the band’s music was pop. They released fun and catchy songs that their fans loved.

Everything I have ever known in my career is straight down the middle pop. All my aspirations and expectations are all shaped around my experiences, as much as I try and stay realistic I couldn’t help but crave a “hit” single.

An unflinching and honest statement, something that Louis is known for. His words are not dissimilar to what Harry Potter star Rupert Grint said at the world premiere for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2, the last movie in the blockbuster hit Harry Potter series. In front of millions watching, he said he was going to treasure this experience as he would never have it again at that level.

I’m never going to have this again. This is-, we are never going to have this again. So we are going to have to make the most of it. -Rupert Grint.

Louis has been chasing something he likely won’t find again, even when One Direction comes back from their extended hiatus. One Direction is a group that cannot be replicated, what Louis did as part of the group was magic. Louis is one of the most underrated singer and songwriters that the music industry has in its grasp. Louis knows who he is in the industry as part of One Direction. But what Louis appears to have been struggling with who is Louis Tomlinson, the solo artist? 

Being big music fans we decided to ask some of the team here at CelebMix, just what they thought made an artist commercially successful? The general consensus was that commercial success in the music industry isn’t about radio play or chart positions, it’s about the artist connecting with their fanbase with their music and through interactions with them on a more personal level.

To me, its always been the impact. I love a lot of smaller bands, and if their music is able to hit people and support them or relate to them, then that’s the ultimate success. A great song isn’t how many ‘na na na’s Rhianna can fit in, it’s about how it leaves the listener feeling.- Niki Smith

  An artist may not have number ones but if they have a fan base around them who connect with them and are there for them, they will always be successful even if it isn’t number one on the charts.-  Ellie Nicholas

For me, these days chart positions mean zero. It’s all about streaming numbers now and worldwide success based on views and streams. Tickets sales are also a much bigger indicator of success-  Laura Klonowski

Longevity in the industry and the ability to continuously develop and evolve as an artist. A number one single doesn’t automatically make you successful – in fact, the pressure to get a hit and then another and another is often an artist’s downfall. Sometimes artists become dependant on that number one and struggle to fulfil their full potential after that  For me, success is seeing an artist develop over time and continue to grow with their music whether they’ve been around three years or 30. Staying true to themselves and releasing the music they truly believe in means more to me than just releasing what they think will be the next big thing.- Katrina Rees

There are numerous artists over the years who while they may not hit the top of the charts with their music, have a solid fan base and are able to tour and continue to make music which fans love, show that longevity within the music industry isn’t all just down to chart positions. Daughtry, Lifehouse and Shane Filan are all examples of this. Whereas on the flip side of the coin you have artists that do get that elusive hit single and struggle to replicate it, some being labelled ‘one hit wonders’. Many of the artists go on to continue to release music, just never seeming to be replicate the chart position of that one hit. Dexy’s Midnight Runners – ‘Come On Eileen is a prime example of this.


We also asked a few people within the industry on what they thought commercial success means for an artist like Louis Tomlinson.

From my many years in the industry, I’ve seen far too many artists adapting their sound to fit the most popular style and to be suitable for charting but this always backfires. If an artist succeeds in a genre they hate, they’ll have to stick with it, eventually lacking any motivation to create music. When a musician loves the music they create, it shows in their live performance, their overall branding and is the reason they’ll succeed. Maddy Raven, Co-founder and Head of Music Promotion at Burstimo

As an artist, being true to yourself is the most important thing of it all. Lyrics and performance offer the opportunity to share your voice and message with the world; if you are untrue to yourself you risk losing its meaning. In this era, we’re bombarded with news and information every minute, so we need to ensure our words add value to the world, otherwise, silence is probably a wiser choice. I believe we are all born unique and with a specific purpose to fulfil; we have a duty to pay attention to our higher purpose and remain focused – life tends to carry us away and divert our path. Only those who are deeply bonded with their true self and knows where they want to go can shine and therefore uplift others. Being a musician, or an artist in whatever form, is a big responsibility: we name things that didn’t have a name before we bring them into manifestation. Whether this happens through notes, or paintings, or any other form of art, we create a still image of our life experience, which will live forever. We challenge time. We challenge death. As long as we play our role as the Universe wants us to in its mysterious yet perfect puzzle.- Diego Soncin, frontman of Indie/Rock band Dramalove

‘ In simple terms, commercial success is based on profit and hits are based on, nowadays, nothing less than Top 5 in the charts. However, one of the biggest trapdoors that face any recording artist is misunderstanding the difference between a hit record and having commercial success. Commercial success is generated by clear sales and profits, like any business. You go on tour, you play to your crowd and that tour needs to make a profit. If you sign to a major label and believe that having hits is the same as commercial success artists will soon discover that record labels look at profit and loss as much as they do talent. Over the years when working at major labels, myself and the team would be working hard to gain media attention only to be told 2 singles in that the band, the label believed, would never make a profit, so the plug was pulled! Matters have only been made worse in many ways by streaming, where an artist will look at the number of streams they have had rather than the amount each stream returns in revenue, hence why major labels make such enormous financial amounts across all their artists streaming, giving them record profits whilst the individual artist gets their royalty’s cheque that sometimes may not add up to much more than a family meal at McDonald’s!!The difference between success and hits is why so many artists are turning their backs on major labels and trusting themselves and their own teams to gain  success that they control financially as appose to hits that end up costing them money.’ –Pete Bassett – MD Quite Great PR & Marketing

Louis Tomlinson recently released one of the most talked about songs of the year, the video and lyrics of  Two of Us resonating with people on social media all over the world. The supporting music video for the track moved many to tears.


Louis may not be getting to the top of the charts with his music in the way he did as part of One Direction and in the music industry today that doesn’t matter.

Louis Tomlinson may have struggled to find who he was as an artist. But anyone who listens to his music can tell you, he is an artist who writes songs that are relatable, that people connect to and ultimately can help people overcome things they are going through.

He may not ever get that elusive “hit” he’s been craving like he did in the band, only time will tell. He has a rare and unique honesty in his writing that connects with his audience in a way which makes chart positions and  “commercial success” meaningless when you have the ability to use your talent to help others. Louis Tomlinson is a secret weapon that the industry needs to hold on to, as it seems artists like him are the future, and who everyone can learn from.

You can read Louis’s post in full below.

Let us know your thoughts on Louis’s post over on @CelebMix!


Written by Kelly McFarland

Likes to post in black and white on Instagram. Avid Tea drinker, preferably Yorkshire Tea or Lipton Iced Tea and lover of Pop Culture. Contact: kelly@celebmix.com