I’m well aware that the title of this article looks like something out of a self-help book for musicians, but I’m ok with it because it’s true. Neglect your career, stop writing songs and putting energy into music, and your musical identity evaporates. But spend all your time touring and holed up in your music studio and things like the state of your close relationships and bank account are sure to suffer. Balance is vital for musicians because it creates a big, dynamic space for their everyday lives to exist in. It makes room for an ambitious, fulfilling career along with vital non-musical aspects of a musician’s life. Can you always have it all when it comes to balancing a music career with a marriage, mortgage payment, or dayjob? No! Of course not. That’s why balance is so important.
Define your goals
When you go on tour, write an album, or spend an ungodly amount of time pitching your music to blogs and playlists, what do you do it for? This sounds like a strange question, but take it seriously for a second. The answer you come up with, whether it’s because you want to be a pop superstar or simply because creating and sharing music is the only thing that makes you feel sane (that’s mine, hi), should be the anchor that helps you define all your musical goals, big and small. Once you know what you really want and have an idea how to accomplish it, you’ll be able to suss out realistically how much time and resources you’ll be able to devote to making music.
The music vs everyday life balancing act
Now, it’s time to balance out your musical goals with other needs in your life. For me, the greatest joy I get in music is by sitting down and creating it. Yeah, I love performing, but for me it’s secondary to songwriting. This means that, overall, my musical goals are much more manageable than those of a musician angling to be the world’s next great musical icon. But no matter the nature and demands your goals present, a working balance has to happen.
Whether it’s a steady job that keeps you fed and housed or the relationship between you and a loved one, your life can’t and shouldn’t be all music all the time. Music, like all art, reflects and dissects life. This means that you need to have some sort of a non-musical life in order to make music that resonates with people. Take that list of goals we chatted about earlier and break them down into manageable weekly tasks. Taking everyday life demands into account, how much time each week can you throw into making music? Use this information to create a schedule, and before you tell me your not the kind of person who makes a schedule, know that you’re probably the exact kind of person who’ll benefit most from carving out time for music and everything else. Learning to fight not only for your musical passion but also everything else good in your life will help you strike a sustainable balance that doesn’t leave anything or anyone out.
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.