I don’t think it’s an easy question to respond to.
So here’s my best guidance/advice:
1. As you are in this position what is/was your plan or intention?
2. How close are you from actioning your plan?
3. If not close what steps do you need to undertake to get closer to realising your plan?
4.What role do other people play in this, if any? They can still be your friends but the question is to what degree are they invested in the project you have together and how do you think removing yourself from it would be received?
5.Question 4 is irrelevant if it doesn’t get you closer to your goal.
6. To what extent have you identified the sorts of skills/resources (including human) that you will need to access, to get closer towards realising what you wanted to do when you decided to study?
7. If you don’t or didn’t have a plan then points 2-6 are meaningless until you have something of substance.
Balanced with all of this is being able to produce material that works in whichever part of the Commercial Music field you would like to position yourself. Do you know yet? Who are the best players in that field, identify them, work out why they are top of their domain and try and be better. And if you can’t be better then be different enough to make a distinction and/or difference. It’s easy to dismiss another rapper, DJ, singer, metal band, producer etc and not comprehend the, whilst not uniqueness, a sufficient difference to make the abstracted artistic persona/identity, tangible. At the core of all of this will always be songs and performances that have something that are reasonably difficult to replace or substitute with. At least in the beginning. When you find out who the top players are in your field, listen to their early songs, the ones that got them noticed, signed, attention and think what would that look like now as the world has moved on and become that little bit more hip to the sound.
Here are two screencaptures from the Dylan book, Chronicles Vol. 1, that I think are worth considering during this process.
I’m not suggesting you write like Dylan at all but I think you should see the degree to which someone understands what it is they are attempting to do as they hone and narrow their craft.
There is a certain clarity, might well be the gift of hindsight but we will never know, but it demonstrates something that goes beyond economic imperative. You need to create something that’s meaningful which requires commitment of body and soul and sometimes you lose your friends along the way. It can get lonely but the better able you are to identify what you’re intending to do then you then need to maintain focus and momentum.
For example, Spotify have launched a new playlist, Release Radar, so you could use that to identify more quickly hip stuff in your field that’s possibly about to break. For example, if you identified the top 5 players in your musical style, played as many of their songs for a day, I’m pretty certain it would start to introduce you to your possible competitors or at least help you ‘scan the horizon’ better. It’s worth a try. It’s still not easy and you have to do all of the evaluation of strengths/weaknesses etc and also work out what it all means. Not an easy task.
I’m not sure I’ve answered your question but you should realise that you are making complex decisions but you can only go on what you feel. Rationality is OK but it really does boil down to ‘what do/did you want to do/achieve when you decided to work in music?’. Everything proceeds from there. The absence of knowing is what will cause turmoil and uncertainty. Remember that most artists are certain about some things and that they refine their offering over time, as they gather their various elements together that add up to a recognisable artistic identity. It’s tough regardless of whether you’re in the centre or on the fringes. Either there’s too much competition or no one’s paying attention.
OK, I hope some of this has helped. Feel free to write back if you need a bit more.
My favourite saying in respect of artistic identity:
It is time to cease to be a wandering generality and to become a meaningful specific.
My favourite saying in terms of working:
Daily participation to achieve gradual assimilation using performance as a means to refine composition.