Pursuing music in a serious way gives musicians proficiency on their instruments and specialized musical knowledge that they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives. But while we’re intimately familiar with the musical skills we develop as musicians because we rely on them so much, there are other important non-musical benefits we pick up along the way as well. Here’s a list of five of them:
If you’ve played thousands of shows throughout your lifetime, it’s easy to forget that getting up on stage and baring your soul to strangers takes a great deal of confidence to pull off. Confidence is a crucial skill for musicians. It gives us the bravery we need to share music with the world, shrug off negative reviews, and perform passionately when the shows we hoped would bring people out are sparsely attended. Nothing about pursuing music is certain, even for large, established artists. This means that everything we do is an investment into our creativity and an act of faith. The confidence you build through music can help you navigate and thrive in non-musical parts of your life like relationships and day jobs.
Writing and communication
If you’re the person in your band who frequently books shows, pitches music to playlists, and interacts with media outlets, then it’s safe to assume you’re doing a lot of writing. Writing is a fantastic skill to have because being able to describe your music in an artful and clear way often makes the difference between whether fans, venues, and music industry professionals will take you and your music seriously or not. But even if you don’t write, band meetings, contract negotiations, and the conversations you have with other musicians will help improve your communication skills, which are a huge help for all areas of life.
The second you share music and intend to earn a profit, either you or your band is essentially acting like a business. From routing tours to balancing the books before tax time, the business acumen you develop as a musician won’t be nearly as fulfilling or sexy as performing and writing music, but it will be hugely helpful for the non-musical parts of your daily existence. Even the most creatively pure musicians have to answer to money at some point in their careers, whether it’s figuring out how to finance an album or negotiating a contract with a record label. Serious musicians know that everything in their careers costs money, which is why business skills are so vital. What you learn from the business of being a musician can help you avoid signing off on bad terms when buying a house or put money in a savings account every month.
Some musicians are successful enough to have a team surrounding them that handles marketing tasks. But for the rest of us, DIY marketing is an unavoidable part of sharing music effectively. Luckily, the marketing skills we learn as musicians can help us write cover letters for non-musical jobs, fill out dating profiles in compelling ways, and allow us to successfully reach others with our ideas. For most musicians, being an advocate for their work is like second nature if they’ve been serious about music for a while. In light of this, it’s often hard to see that many non-musical people aren’t able to market themselves, their creations, or ideas very well because it’s something that has to be developed like any other skill.
Collaboration and relationships
Working with others isn’t easy, but it’s something musicians have to do frequently in their careers. Whether it’s a big solo artist having a meeting with their manager or a young band working together, relationship skills are crucial in music, as is collaborating. Some of the most well-known and impactful music out there was created by two or more musicians. With so much music being the result of collaborations, it’s easy but wrong for non-musical folk to assume that creating this way doesn’t take work. Collaborating demands compromise, restraint, and thoughtfulness, and embracing these things can help us thrive in all areas of our lives.
With creating and sharing music often being so difficult, many musicians forget how enriching it can be to them personally. Pursue music long enough, and you’ll soon pick up important skills that can improve not just your career but every aspect of your life.
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.