How Taking Time Off From Music Can Hurt Your Career

If you’ve just wrapped up a two-month tour with your band, taking a long break from music might sound like a good idea, but it could end up hurting your music career. Other than the lucky few musicians who’ve found ways to sustain themselves purely through music, the rest of us have to engage in a delicate balancing act that often pits our musical ambitions against the very real and pressing needs of everyday life, including careers and relationships. Taking a week or two off of music after a long tour is essential, but take too much time and you might never get back to seriously making music. Here’s why:

It kills your routine

If you’re a typical musician in the fact that you’ve got obligations in the form of a non-musical career and relationships to think about, then building and maintaining a routine for your work in music is absolutely crucial. And for everyone who has ever tried to stick to non-essential work or relationship routines knows, falling out of habits is incredibly easy to do, even if they’re incredibly important.

It’s good to avoid taking long breaks from music because for most people, routines are fragile. Taking a week off here and there is mandatory, but if you can, set a reminder in your phone for a date and time when it’s time to get back to get back to making music.

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Too much time off puts you at risk of losing focus

Just like an athlete training for a competition, musicians and songwriters are better at what they do when they’re focused and engaged in their craft. Taking too much time off of music weakens the musical muscles needed to write music, maintain chops and keep a project afloat. If you want to keep focusing on your musical goals, it’s important that you don’t take too much time off between tours and releases.

With so much new music coming out, your fans may forget about you

Between an increase in the world’s music-making population and today’s single-driven culture, more people are making more music than ever before. This means that if you’ve managed to build some momentum around your music, you’ll risk losing it if you take too much time off between releases. In 2018, the music industry functions in a completely different way than it did even five years ago, and unless you’ve got a massive and loyal following, you’ll need to make writing and releasing music consistently a top priority if you want to sustain a thriving music career. In order to preserve your finances, relationships, and sanity, you’ll need to shift your focus off of your music from time to time, but if you wait too long to release music, you’ll risk losing the interest of your fans and any momentum you’ve worked so hard to build. So the next time you plan on taking time off your music, make sure you solidify and stick to concrete plans to get back to work.

Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator currently residing in the great city of Philadelphia. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

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RebeccaHow Taking Time Off From Music Can Hurt Your Career

14 comments

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  • CJ - May 2, 2018 reply

    Sounds too much like working for THE MAN, and that pays better! No thanks.

    Ryan Kirwan - May 2, 2018 reply

    Amen! 👍🏼

    Robert - May 4, 2018 reply

    Agreed! Why take something you love doing and turn it into a job. Sounds like a lot of work to me. If you’re in it for the money, you’re in it for the wrong reason, imo.

  • Ryan Kirwan - May 2, 2018 reply

    I agree with the fact that you need to keep at your craft , and one should always be looking for new creative outlets. But this idea in America that you have to work something to death, is what’s ruining our country and society and music in general. Too many bands playing too many shows, is just cluttering up the gene pool of what there is to offer out there. No doubt the professional stick to your commitment and promote yourself. But this idea of endless promotion bombarding people with useless shit day in and day out is really hurting the music process overall . Let shows with more quality music, would be stronger alternative in my opinion .

  • RbT - May 2, 2018 reply

    Sounds like working for the main man….aka yourself. Show up to work everyday if you want to accomplish anything.

  • John Manion - May 3, 2018 reply

    Any thoughts on staging a COME BACK after time off – the last few years have sidelined me due to health, work and travel – I am jumping back in the water this summer.. and it is an effort.

  • Dave Oz - May 3, 2018 reply

    Take LOTS of time off whenever possible. If you write/perform music, your inspiration comes from personal experiences, not sitting in a hotel or 8×8′ windowless room. Most creative writers take alot of free personal time to gain ideas and situtions that make the writing process better. That should carry over to musicians as well. The idea of ” practice, practice, practice” should be modified to “Learn, Practice, Play” to thwart burnout, very common among musicians as well.

  • James Carbonaro - May 3, 2018 reply

    I think some people may confuse composing & practicing with performing & touring. There is an expression I learned from a former classmate of mine who had ambitions to become a classical pianist. She said: “If you skip practicing for 1 day, you can hear the difference. If you skip practicing for 2 days, the critics can hear the difference. And if you skip practicing for 3 days, the audience can hear the difference.” On the other hand, I cannot imagine anyone going out on an endless tour of 1 night stands.

    Robert - May 4, 2018 reply

    “an endless tour of one night stands.” Sounds like a Paul Simon song. 🙂

    Robert - May 4, 2018 reply

    I lived in a townhouse at one time. My next door neighbor had aspirations to become a classical pianist. Her practice routine (on top of a full-time job) consisted of six hours practice per day, Monday through Friday, and eight hours a day on Saturday and Sunday. I can’t imagine she was enjoying life with that kind of schedule. After enduring her practice routine for a year, I couldn’t take it anymore. I asked her to curtail her practice in order to preserve my sanity and she became angry. Finally, I had to threaten her with legal action. She sold her townhome, blaming me for driving her out of her home, and bought a single-family home. I never understood why she thought anyone wanted to listen to her practice for several hours each day, every day of the week. This is a bit off-topic I guess, but your comments brought that experience to mind.

  • Renn Loren - May 3, 2018 reply

    There are far more than enough musicians, bands, and artists out there — can’t even keep up with ’em all!
    In today’s world and the future, one’s energies and efforts would be far better spent pursuing science, technology, engineering, and math!

    Beth - May 8, 2018 reply

    Sounds like fun!$

  • Robert - May 4, 2018 reply

    And one other thing before I go: If you’re not having fun with what you’re doing, you’re doing it wrong.

  • Robert - May 4, 2018 reply

    Best to all.

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