3 Things That Can Destroy Your Music Career

Even without today’s modern and unprecedented challenges, sustaining a career in music can be a monumental task. Every serious musician’s definition of success is different, but it’s safe to assume that most of us want to create music and have our work connect with audiences in a meaningful way. That overarching goal sounds simple on its face, but every artist faces massive threats to their career that they’ll have to take seriously if they intend on creating music over the long-term. Here are three to look out for:

Self-neglect/burn out

Many musicians feel like their work is worth sacrificing everything in their lives for: relationships, non-musical careers, their health. Sadly, this all-or-nothing philosophy usually leaves musicians in a bitter, damaged state where they can’t or no longer want to create music. Music isn’t a conventional job that promises returns and recognition for you to sacrifice because there are no guarantees in making and sharing art. Instead of neglecting your needs for the sake of your music, you’ll have a better shot at building a sustainable career and a happy life if you take care of yourself first. Setting up the time and space in your daily life to devote to music consistently is something that will end up rewarding you far more than martyring yourself on behalf of your music career dreams ever will. 

Staying creatively stagnant

Why does someone quit making music? Many give it up in their twenties after serious careers and relationships enter the picture, but other musicians quit out of boredom. Embracing creative newness and risk-taking isn’t just a good idea in music; it’s absolutely essential for staying challenged and engaged. Musicians who still write from the same music-making playbook they looked to early on in their careers are more likely to give up and less likely to find success than the ones who continually make an effort to explore, improve, and embrace new ideas. Becoming a cover artist over your own work can deflate your passion and destroy your career.  

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Fighting, grudges, jealousy

Being on a tour that never seems to end or stuck in a music studio trying to finish an album tends to bring out the uglier side of human nature in a person. Letting your emotions get the best of you is something that can damage crucial music relationships and leave you isolated and bitter. Solo musicians aren’t immune from these issues, whether they show up in the form of feeling jealous of another artist’s success or in disputes with local venues or hired musicians. Personal skills, like knowing how to communicate and resolve issues, aren’t musical in nature, but they’re paramount in sustaining a successful career. 

Turning a passion for making music into a career has never been easy, and most people aren’t cut out for it. But by taking care of yourself, embracing creative risk-taking, and focusing on maintaining harmonious relationships in your musical life, you’ll have the best chance at sustaining a thriving career. 

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.

Rebecca3 Things That Can Destroy Your Music Career


Join the conversation
  • Jaysopoetic - October 22, 2019 reply

    Hey, I’m a Artist from Louisville, Kentucky wanting to become better with my music & reach further people.

  • Lori Lynn - October 23, 2019 reply

    I agree, in order to grow as an artist, a person needs to have new experiences, travel if possible, meet new people and be inspired. Bad experiences can make great songs as well. It always helps to go outside and take a walk or go to the gym if you are frustrated. When you inhale some fresh oxygen, your brain is reset, ready to take on new challenges. Having a holistic approach to music works well for me.

  • stanley card - October 23, 2019 reply

    I’m a solo artist and yet the fighting, grudges and jealousy raise their ugly heads.

    Jim - October 24, 2019 reply

    fire your band. Your a solo and these are problems with who? Backing musicians?, studio managers? Just saying it seems you have problems with yourself???

  • KolbyWyatt - October 23, 2019 reply

    Make sure you stay true to your sound work hard ask for no favors go get it your self. Stay humble to your fans. Then and Then only will you be successful in your music career. You’re friend always KolbyWyatt

  • Richard Ramirez - October 23, 2019 reply

    Great advise! Take it from someone who has had aspirations of becoming a professional musician and wanted to have a family as well.
    Not the easiest plan to put into motion, but, What the hell, I was young and in love with a beautiful woman, of who I am still together with forty plus years later. Long story short, we have two great adult children who have children and I’m playing more gigs than I ever did as a young man. One of the reasons for that, is, I ventured away from the Rock music I played when I was young. An, “Open Mike Night” ( of which I am not in favor of in general ) which a Bass player I was part of a project with talked me into,” ’cause it was his Birthday” , which ended up with a sax player, who was a friend of the bass player I knew, who was approached by someone needing a band for a wedding. The Sax player asked the Bass player, who asked me if I was available, to which I said yes. Their main genre focus was Smooth Jazz. For a Rock, Blues man like me who had never played Jazz but had always loved Jazz, I’m learning to play Jazz. You are right! Learn a style of music you’ve never done before! We do a mix of Jazz, Rock. Funk and Blues. That means we do everything from The Crusaders to the Meters to Dave Sanborn to Hendrix to Pink Floyd to Average White Band and Santana. All with no vocals and featuring Saxophone with solos by our Keyboard player and yours truly on my Fender Strat. We’re not getting rich. We’re five guys ranging in age from forties to me in my sixties. We gig in two states and love them all. Our last gig was the. ” Jazz and Beyond Carson City Music Festival”. You don’t need to give up a good woman or a good job to be a musician. If it’s your natural talent to play music. Focus. Learn to read music, (I never did) , don’t forsake a good opportunity believing you are going to be a Super Star, you don’t need to be a Super Star to be a successful musician. Also, as an old friend told me, “You can drink the whiskey, but when the whiskey starts to drinkin’ you, you got gotta stop.” Believe me, he couldn’t be more right. Being able to play music is a gift from The Creator. Music in everywhere. Listen closely, hear the shallow breathing of a rock meditating in your presence. It is the music of being.

    Logan D. - November 18, 2019 reply

    Very well put. I have noticed way to much obsession with “becoming a superstar.” (Dr. Phil has episodes from time to time that display this problem spot on.) At that point, are you in it because you like writing music and connecting with people? Or do you just like the idea of becoming massively famous. I’ve been an avid listener and a musician since I was a kid. I like a wide variety of genres, work on my music every day, or at least play an instrument every other day if time allows. I do believe with the rapidly changing landscape of the music industry today, that the average person has a better chance of doing music full time. But it is extremely important to set realistic goals and accept that the probability of becoming a “big” musician is a hard goal to achieve. Even if your music is gold and original doesn’t mean your set. it takes a lot of hard work to make it work. One of the best points (and one I can certainly relate to,) is not to let yourself be controlled by drinking. Drinking to much can and will utterly destroy any chance you may have at reaching your goals. My grandfather played music up into his eighties. Nothing serious, and usually not paid gigs. Just a few guys jamming at a bar or a party. But he enjoyed playing, and that to him was enough. If your goal is to be a superstar, there is nothing wrong with that. Just keep in mind that if that is what your goal is. You should probably set some smaller goals first.
    Thank you Richard for the great post.

  • Cameron Landrum - October 24, 2019 reply

    I make myself write a line or 2 of lyrics a day and gotta play for at least 30 mins. Have been doing this for a year now, you get out what you put into it. Thanks for the read! Great stuff

  • Joshua Gilliland - October 24, 2019 reply

    Don’t forget if you suck at music that will ruin your music career as well equity doesn’t go by how much people like you it goes by how hard you work in contingency.. Unless people actually do like you…

  • CELEBRATING JESUS CHRIST - October 24, 2019 reply

    Will keep praying playing and pushing up. Never be tired cause someday I must make it by the Grace of God. Thanks for the info.

  • Dave K - October 24, 2019 reply

    Your message is totally on point! I’m also a musician in my sixties, and I’ve been playing locally and nationally for almost 50 years, and in the same band for 40 of those years, although I regularly venture out to live side projects to keep things fresh. Doing original music helps too. It allows one to actually create something that wasn’t there before, and for me that’s a piece of Heaven! Doing covers with a different twist taps in on the same kind of creativity. Some bands think that they have to do covers just like the original. The world already has the original version. Give it something unique to your style. Keep it recognizable though so folks know what song it is. Success comes in all different forms. Playing for almost 50 years? Success. Still loving it? Success. Being in the same band for 40 years? Success. Telling folks that the band’s name is The Real Fugitives and to check us out on social media? Success. Do what you love and love what you do. You’ll be successful by some definition of the word.

  • Jackdaripper - October 24, 2019 reply

    I believe that all these things are real.talk

  • Kevin Mooney - October 25, 2019 reply

    This all just feels right, I believe I’ve found my Utopia.

  • Alex Cebe - January 23, 2020 reply

    It’s a long, long way…

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