Today’s musicians are constantly barraged with the idea that their music won’t find an audience without it being promoted. We’re lead to believe that if we convince listeners that our work is worth hearing, they’ll eventually believe it too. And so many ambitious musicians focus their efforts on shaping chic images aimed at reflecting success, confidence, and style. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be successful in your music career and promoting your work. However, adopting the quiet confidence of humility will help you to keep creating and performing no matter how the world receives your music.
The power of humility
Your goal as an artist should be to create and share great music. That’s an obvious statement, but the music industry we all work in clouds this goal in subtle and overt ways. For example, if one artist racks-up millions of streams and another doesn’t, only one is succeeding in their work, right? This oversimplified way of assessing music’s value is something that’s dangerous to the creative integrity of music and the longevity of our careers. Embracing humility can help us understand that creating and sharing music is a gift whether or not our music is popular or unknown. It’s a character trait that imparts clarity, patience, and groundedness, and we need those to lead healthy, long music careers.
We’re making music at a time when the word “authenticity” is being marketed as a promotional tool in our industry. Yet, we’re collectively misunderstanding what it means to be genuine in a huge way. Showing your fans idyllic pictures of your band hanging out by the beach before a show is marketing. Feeling distraught about something and creating music about it is authentic. Striving to be humble in your career will help you to learn how to separate the two. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t share your successes or captivating photos of your band. Authenticity is a trait that shows the flaws and challenges someone faces, not just wins and cinematic moments you can capture to rack up attention on social media. By thinking more about what it means to be humble in your work, you’ll learn to show the sides of you and your music that are truly genuine.
Humility helps us to be secure
There’s no getting around the fact that the industry surrounding music is brutally competitive today. Yet, we can ensure our careers will be long by keeping our mindsets healthy. Humility does this by giving us perspective about our work. If you’re obsessed with the number of streams, views, likes, and follows you and your music receives, it’s likely the traction your work generates won’t ever be enough to make you satisfied. What begins with a genuine desire to share work that connects with people often warps into an unsatisfying, unending numbers game. Embracing humility might make you realize that numbers can’t assess your value as a musician. You should want to be successful. This being said, it’s only natural to want to see evidence that people are enjoying your music. However, putting too much stock in the numbers can damage your career and stifle your creativity. When we focus on being humble in our careers, we end up feeling more secure in our work. Rather than trying to generate more streams than another artist, we can drown out the noise and focus on making meaningful work. It’s not easy.
Since the tech-driven music culture most of us are currently immersed in is brimming with glamorous social media posts and one-upmanship, constantly not focusing on making you and your work look marketable might make you feel like you’re missing out on ways for your music to get heard. The truth is that humility will help you strike a balance between giving your work the tools and space it needs to find an audience and letting your music speak for itself. All the most sublime sunset selfies in the world won’t help your band if your music isn’t memorable. Adopting a humble outlook will help you to focus on your music and share it with the world in a more genuine, revealing way.
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.