Being rejected can be a devastating experience. Most of the non-creative world associates rejection with unrequited love expressed as a teenager, or being passed over for a promotion at work. Rejection is painful, so it makes sense why most people avoid it at all costs. Musicians who are serious about creating meaningful work don’t have that luxury.
Creating and performing music leaves musicians vulnerable and tied to risk through things like playing shows in front of hostile crowds or getting nasty reviews. Unfortunately, you risk being rejected for your work each and every time you choose to share it. Learning to cope with rejection is crucial if you want to sustain a meaningful career in music. Here are three reasons why:
Rejection is inevitable in music
There’s no way to avoid rejection if you create or perform music seriously. Posting music online, booking shows, pitching music to blogs and playlists, getting up and playing on stage––these are all activities crucial for sustaining a music career that can leave musicians open to rejection. Since we can’t avoid being rejected in music, we have to learn how to deal with it. It might feel like it, but you aren’t your music. You might love making music more than anything else, but it doesn’t mean that someone not resonating with your work is a rejection of you as a human being. You won’t last long in the current music industry if you let things like harsh criticism or seeing your music be ignored get to you.
Rejection helps us evolve as musicians
We can use rejection to our creative advantage if we’re brave enough. It can be terrifying and painful to receive harsh criticism for your music or to ask why it’s being turned down for something, but not doing so deprives us from the best benefits of rejection. This doesn’t mean writing your next album based on what critics had to say about your last release, but instead being open to the fact that your music can always be better. Taking criticism and being ignored seriously while not letting it shape your music in negative ways is a tricky balance, but it’s one you’ll need to find if you want to get the most out of rejection in music.
Rejection is crucial for helping us find our audience
There’s this idea that the truly brilliant music-makers are able to rise above rejection because their music is so good that they don’t have to face it. Let’s get rid of that misconception, shall we? No one’s music resonates with all audiences in 2019, and if you quit the second your music gets rejected, you’re barely going to make any music. We can use rejection to help us find listeners who resonate with our work by paying attention to who passes on it. Instead of taking rejection personally, try using it to narrow down listeners to reach your core audience.
Rejection is a tough pill to swallow whether you’ve been making music for a couple of months or a couple of decades. But instead of running away from and resenting it when it inevitably comes your way, your career will be better off if you face it with grace, understanding, and a creative openness.
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.