There’s something so exciting about when a band transitions from looking for opportunities to getting asked to be a part of them. From other bands hoping you’ll open for them at a show to local nonprofits asking you to donate your music for a good cause, play music long enough and you’ll start to get lots of people asking you for things. But while some opportunities can be good for your career in music, others won’t be worth your time.
How saying no can help your music career
Saying no to things is often one of the best things you can do for your music career. No gives you the power to turn things down and focus on your priorities as a musician. But if your band is new and short on experience, it can be tempting to take every opportunity you can get when it comes to sharing your music. Discernment here is key because your band will inevitably be asked to do things that won’t help you in any way whether you’ve just started making music or have been a serious band for years. Saying no to things that will take your time, energy, and money without giving you anything back is essential for serious musicians, but figuring out what opportunities to take or turn down isn’t always easy.
If you’re a new band looking for shows and chances to find new fans, you’ll probably end up saying ‘yes’ to a lot of opportunities in the beginning. But there comes a point in every serious band’s career when they simply can’t keep taking every opportunity that comes their way. Eventually, a mental switch has to occur in your band where you start seeing your music as something valuable in order to figure out what things are worth committing to and what things aren’t.
What’s in it for you?
Asking yourself what you’ll get out of a potential opportunity will help you decide whether it’s worth committing to or not. If someone asks you to do something, it’s because they see value in what they can get from you. What value will you get in return? This is where that whole “you’ll get paid in exposure” thing comes into play. If someone asks you to do something for free when it comes to your music, always be leary, even if it seems like it’s for a good cause. Giving your music or time away for free for exposure is rarely a good bet for musicians.
There’s a serious problem in our culture when it comes to valuing music. Non-musicians rarely consider what it takes to become a serious musician, so when someone who doesn’t play music gives you an opportunity, think long and hard about if it’ll be worth your time or not. You’ve worked hard to make music you care about, so it’s okay to only say yes to things that will end up benefiting you. Believing that your music has merit and value will help you decide what things you should say no to as a musician.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.