It’s possible for musicians to find success with their music without the help of their friends and family, but it’s much, much harder without them. From showing up to your first concerts when no one else will to donating money to fund your releases, the community closest to you is a priceless asset for a developing artist. But if your plans don’t extend further than the people closest to you as a musician, you’re creating an unsustainable situation for you as well as your friends and family.
There are only so many shows your friends can make it out to, crowdfunding campaigns your family members can donate to, and times your acquaintances can give their full attention to what you’re doing with your music. Music might be your entire world, but there’s a limit when it comes to bringing your friends and family into that world. This is why pursuing music sustainably means actively trying to share music with people outside of your community.
When asking help from friends and family becomes too much
There’s no clear line we can look to to avoid straining our relationships with friends and family as musicians because we all have different resources, needs, and backgrounds. However, there are some common sense things we can look to for guidance. If all you talk about with your closest friends and family members is your music career, that’s a one-sided relationship that won’t be sustainable over the long-term. By expecting the people you’re closest to to show up at every show, react to everything you post about online, and support crowdfunding campaigns over and over again, you’re putting way too much strain on your relationships by creating an unmeetable and unrealistic expectation.
Asking for help becomes unsustainable when artists start putting their careers above their personal relationships. And while doing this is obviously damning for your relationships, it’s also horrible for your creativity as a musician, believe it or not. You need close relationships to live a full and rewarding life. And without a full and rewarding life, you won’t have inspiration for your music.
How to avoid straining your personal relationships as a musician
The biggest thing to remember here is that the special people in your life have things that they’re passionate about in addition to the stresses, obligations, and challenges everyone faces in their daily lives. Your community is your first and most important resource as an unestablished musician, but you’ll wear out your welcome if your relationships become all about how the people in your life can help you succeed as a musician.
Not every friend and family member should be invited to your shows. Save the invites for the most important performances where their presence will actually make a difference. Instead of funding every single, EP, and album through crowdfunding, try asking for help for when you truly need it. If you’re years into your music career and are still relying on your community to fund your releases, then you need to dramatically change things up. That arrangement isn’t fair or realistic for you or the people in your life.
The act of consciously not making every conversation, social media post, or social interaction about you and your music might be the most important piece of advice you’ll find here. Not tapping out your community means being fully present as a friend or family member for when the people in your life need you. This might mean missing a show opportunity to show up at a friend’s wedding or donating money to a friend’s creative pursuit instead of constantly asking them to support your own.
It won’t happen overnight, but if your music is strong enough and you work hard to share it with people who aren’t your friends and family, eventually you’ll find an outside audience for your work. This audience will be who you rely on to show up to your concerts, fund your releases, and to help you reach your goals. But while you try to build that audience, asking your friends and family to support your music humbly, thoughtfully, and only when you really need it is key.
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.