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.
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.