Why Linking Your Music’s Success To Your Self Worth Can Ruin Your Career

In 2019, there’s no shortage of ways to measure a musical artist’s success. Between public play counts and the growing private listener analytic data that streaming platforms now give to artists, musicians have ways to see how well their music performs in real-time. This unprecedented reality clearly brings artists some sizable benefits. For example, a small, unestablished band doesn’t have to fork over cash for an expensive radio campaign to learn what cities listen to their music the most because streaming platforms give away that information for free.

But there’s some significant drawbacks to consider in today’s data-driven, instantly gratified music culture. There are constant, unavoidable reminders of whether an artist is conventionally successful or if their music isn’t being heard. Drawing a connection to your self worth and whether your music is successful or not is a recipe for the sort of creative-killing frustration that can do serious damage to not only your career, but also your personal well-being.

Why you shouldn’t let poor music performance get to you

Music has always been a difficult pursuit, but things are especially tough in 2019. We have every reason to believe that more music is being created, recorded, and shared now than at any other point in human history. This means that finding listeners for all the new music being perpetually released just isn’t possible. Whether it’s through dumb luck, smart music promotion, appeasement of streaming algorithms, or simply because it’s really good, some music manages to rise to the top right away. Other songs build slowly over time in popularity, but others never manage to find an audience.

Taking it personally, giving into resentment, or throwing in the towel completely are some of the ways musicians react when they put so much creative and personal investment into a project only to see it fail to connect with listeners or find an audience. The truth is that there are many reasons why music doesn’t take off in 2019, and many of them have nothing to do with the quality of the product. But whether it’s because you didn’t promote your work well enough or because you need to put more work into creating music that people will want to listen to, putting too much emotional investment into how well your work gets listened to is a bad idea.

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Grow or die

When you work falls flat or never manages to attract listener attention, you can entertain negativity, or you can do everything you can to learn from the experience and grow from it. If you let failures that are in or out of your control steer your life, then you’ll probably quit making music before you have a chance to truly develop something unique and meaningful. Many great musicians failed over and over again until they finally were able to create something incredible. It’s the sort of patience that yields rewards after years of falling down and getting back up again.

Music is too unpredictable to stake your happiness on. If you love creating and sharing it, then your best chance of being able to create music over the long-term is to develop resilience when it comes to coping with disappointment and rejection.

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.

DaveWhy Linking Your Music’s Success To Your Self Worth Can Ruin Your Career


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  • Ruth Huttr - August 28, 2019 reply


  • Mark Groody - August 28, 2019 reply

    I’ve been at it for 50+ years. When It comes to Original Music and not cover bands the things I believe in are: music is what you do and not who you are. Really successful songs sell themselves. They don’t need visual aids or ‘Kabuki’. Too many unsuccessful artists concoct an elaborate almost religious shrine to their ‘thing’, so much so, that it blinds them to the feedback needed to alter and adapt their music to have emotional connection with others. A message or word picture that is overall relevant succeeds more than preaching an esoteric point of view. I encounter many musicians who remain stalled at a lower success level because of rigidity and hyper sensitivity that is born of insecurity. Sound and look alikes rarely work. Objective help in producing your art is important with a person you trust, as is a willingness to experiment with your ideas in different forms. The dirty industry secret is that 5% of recorded music gets heard, and out of that 10% is promoted by others on your behalf who will share in the financial gain. This is all said of course for those who want to go beyond the house concert level.

  • coleman D. rhudy - August 29, 2019 reply

    this is good, i’m interested to hear the next points. you’re literally blogging some of my thoughts from the last few months.

  • Tony Stephens - September 1, 2019 reply

    I have always thought that doing well in music is a matter of being “discovered.” Some people are and some people are not. After playing since I was 10 and then starting up again 5 years ago, I was finally discovered. Five years ago I was told time after time that my voice sucked. I couldn’t get into a band or anything. But the phrase, “I give up” is not a part of my vocabulary. I practiced singing every single night for 5 years and took voice lessons. Now people all over tell me how great I am. But still don’t give up. I was discovered last week when a producer heard my Frank Sinatra. They are curating my song. I’m excited but realistic. I’ll see where it goes. They may decide not to carry it, but you know what, “I don’t give up.”

  • Joel - October 22, 2019 reply

    I tried doing the “single” musician thing. Writing my own music, and then recording each instrument separately and mixing everything myself. I gave up when I couldn’t get my songs to sound the “way i wanted”.
    I kept thinking to myself, “why bother if i cant get the songs to sound the way i want, no one else is going to listen to them either”. I still have yet to finish the album i started.

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