When it comes to creating and sharing music, there are few guarantees as far as fame, money, and fans go. But pursue music seriously and long enough, and it will end up enriching your life in other important ways. Making music makes us more human, interesting, and connected to people regardless of how conventionally successful we are. Here’s how:
Some of the friends you find sleeping on floors on tour and playing shows in town could end up lasting a lifetime. When coworkers develop friendships at conventional jobs, they might not have much in common with one another other than the fact that they happen to work at the same place. But serious musicians are bound together by the endless pursuit of creating something meaningful through music and trying to share it. It’s a powerful bond that has the potential to hold up over time and through the periods of stress and change that come along with it. If you tour regularly, an added benefit will be making friends far away from home. After the pandemic, some musical friendships will blossom over the internet, but that doesn’t make them any less important and rewarding. After years of making music, there’s no telling whether you’ll be rich and famous or not, and if those are your major motivations for being a musician you’re probably in the wrong profession. But if you’re open, friendly, and curious, you’ll end up with unique and rewarding friendships you wouldn’t have found otherwise.
The opportunity to travel and see the world in context
Most people take the occasional road trip or occasional summer vacation, but few travel nearly as much as serious musicians do. Traveling will absolutely make you a wiser, more interesting, and compassionate human being. A destination and its airport are all most people see when they travel, but musicians see the world in context. For example, some Americans think of their country as being a singular, homogenous place. But every musician who has played in both rural east Texas and New Orleans knows how untrue that is, and those places aren’t even very far away from each other. The people you meet on tour and the places you’ll see will stick with you for the rest of your life and shape the way you create music moving forward. You might hail from a big city, but that doesn’t mean you have the benefit of understanding what your country looks and feels like in context. Being a serious musician gives you that opportunity.
An outlet for human connection and empathy
If you’re a serious songwriter, then you’re in the business of dealing with humanity in ways that few others on planet earth are familiar with. This applies whether your music contains lyrics or not because music is a means of human-centered communication and creative expression. Living in this mindset year after year helps us to become more empathetic and understanding not just of other people, but ultimately ourselves. It’s a luxury that not many people are afforded, and you’ll receive it in music whether you’re a critically acclaimed musician or are working year after year to find an audience.
The ability to tell stories
Storytelling is a priceless skill that can benefit us throughout our musical and non-musical lives. It’s an asset that allows us to understand and connect with one another, whether we’re listening to a folk song about being overworked or a metal track about heartbreak. The storytelling skill we develop as musicians spans every genre, including instrumental music, because it’s the art of matching music with human ideas. At its core, storytelling is a form of communication, and it’s something everyone could benefit from being intimate with in their daily lives. The challenge for music-makers is striking a balance between creating authentically and telling stories in music that relate to people because during times when the two clash. Music gives us a way to express the seemingly unique things we feel through engaging, human stories that listeners can hear themselves in.
When times are tough in music, it’s easy to believe in the moment that it’s all a losing game. But the truth is that seriously pursuing music delivers the sort of benefits that money can’t give you. You might not ever get exactly where you want to be in music, but making it can improve your life in profound and enduring ways.
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.