What success means in music will inevitably be completely different for each of us, but we won’t get to where we want to go with our music if we don’t do the work as serious musicians. Whether you’re working towards becoming a professional songwriter or just want to write and rehearse enough songs to play a live show at a local venue, you’ll need to put in plenty of work to reach your goals. The trouble is that we often let excuses keep us from pursuing music the way we wish we could. These are four common ones to look out for that artists often cite when they talk about what’s keeping them from succeeding.
I don’t have enough time
Let’s start with a major excuse that every musician on the planet can come up with at some point in their lives. Most musicians are not full-time professionals, and even the ones who are still lead busy lives. Time management is a skill you have to learn if you want to be a serious musician. Life will always get in the way of your music if you don’t plan ahead whether you have a demanding non-musical career, kids, or even just a romantic relationship. “I don’t have enough time” is really just code for “I don’t prioritize my music and schedule time for it.” If you love music and want it to be a part of your daily life, schedule it. Two hours a week is better than zero hours, so business is not an excuse.
I’m not good enough
This excuse keeps countless artists from being brave enough to pursue music. There’s this idea in music that you’re either good at it or not, whether it’s singing or writing songs. This is truly a very small percentage of the time. The vast majority of musicians have to spend years mastering their instruments, developing their songwriting skills, and building confidence and expertise. If you’re not good enough, you need to work harder and put more time into what you do as a musician. Overnight success stories are great marketing tools but they don’t reflect reality. By focusing on the work in music, whether it’s showing up to band practice or finishing your first EP, you’ll get closer and closer to reaching your goals.
I have no one to play/create with
This can be a tough challenge, especially if you’re a serious musician living in a rural area or if you don’t know any other like-minded musicians. Some of us do just fine creating alone, but others truly thrive when they have other musicians in their lives to collaborate with. Every situation is different, but many musicians can now find and work with one another remotely, and there are loads of examples of successful artists that have worked this way. But if you’re looking for musicians locally to play with, you need to make a real effort to find people before you throw in the towel and say there’s no one available. You might need to be patient and flexible, and if it’s been a goal of yours for years to start a band and you can’t find anyone where you live, it’s probably worth being open to relocating to a place that better fits your needs.
I haven’t been successful in music yet
This excuse plagues experienced musicians. Music is a career where you can do everything right and still fail, so this makes sense. However, if you love music and want it to be in your life, coping with failures or just the idea that nothing tangibly successful has happened with your career yet is something you have to do. The joy of creating and performing music has to be enough of a reward to keep most people going in this position.
Some excuses are valid, so consider this if you’re having a hard time doing what you want with music. But whatever the situation is, you’ll have to learn to prioritize your work, manage your time and expectations, and continue working in challenging circumstances if you want to pursue music creations and performance over the long term.
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.