If you’re serious about writing music and performing, you already know how hard pursuing music can be. Musicians wrestle with a great deal of doubt that comes from things most of us have experienced, whether it’s playing night after night to empty rooms or investing lots of time and money into a new album without any idea whether anyone will listen or care. For serious artists trying to make something substantial happen with their music, the work of navigating a career in music can seem bleak and hopeless at times.
Making every effort you can to get in touch with what you love about creating music is essential no matter what your goals are. Finding genuine hope and excitement in your process is a crucial part of this. While hard work, talent, and tenacity boost your chances for audiences discovering and resonating with the work you create, ultimately, you have no control whether your music will be conventionally successful or not. You do, however, have a say of how you view and engage with your process and whether hope is a part of it or not.
Hope is what motivates us to keep working on a song when we’re backed into a corner and out of options. It’s what keeps us playing our hearts out on stage whether we’re playing for packed rooms or the uninterested venue staff. It gives us the reliance to weather negative reviews, bruising fights with bandmates, and the inevitable uncertainty that comes every time we write new music.
But for how important hope is in a music career, it’s not talked about much in the music industry. It mainly gets associated with young musicians who want to defy the odds and “make it” in the industry. The truth is that hope is a lifeline you’ll need to prioritize and rely on in your musical pursuits whether you want to become the most successful artist in the world or your complete focus is making meaningful and creatively fulfilling music as a hobby.
While most of us hope our music will go on to reach audiences and become conventionally successful, the act of embracing hope from the beginning of the creative process is something every musician needs. It’s the faith that you’ll be able to create something special out of thin air from things that only you can access––the unique way you play your instrument, your chord and melody choices, what you talk about in your lyrics. There’s an immense amount of hope in creating something out of nothing because every new idea has limitless potential. Every time you start a new song, what you work on could result in a piece of art that is strong enough to stand by for the rest of your life. It could go on and hold a special place in the hearts of audiences and help define your career. Or, it could be something that brings you fleeting joy and fulfillment while you work at it and not much else.
Hope holds massive importance when it comes to summoning the courage to write music over and over again, especially after facing disappointments. Since music is a pursuit where you can do everything right and still fail, we need to access hope in order to recognize that everything new we make has potential. If the last piece of music you released fell flat creatively or was something you were proud of but never connected with audiences, hope sends you the message that your new music doesn’t have to follow that same path, but there’s a catch. Repeating the same actions over and over again will get you the same results in songwriting. This means that if you can identify specific areas that were lacking in your old music, hope won’t do you any favors unless you address them in a meaningful way. When you create authentically and ambitiously and do everything in your power to give our music what it needs to succeed, hope is a powerful and essential asset that can sustain your musical pursuits for the rest of your life. Alongside embracing creative curiosity and constantly focusing on writing better music, it’s one of the best things you can turn to as a musician.
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.