When it comes to creating and performing, musicians often take a perfectionist approach to their work. From the second we pick up our instruments, we’re taught that there’s the right way of doing things and endless possibilities for getting things wrong. This all or nothing philosophy can bleed into the ways we measure value, success, and contentment in our careers. This can cause damage to our creativity and ourselves. It’s natural to hate errors like placing a capo on the wrong fret during a live set or forgetting the lyrics during recording. But I’d argue there are much bigger mistakes musicians should be worrying about.
I’ll be the first to admit that not every day of this quarantine has been productive. There have been days I’ve become one with my couch, pushed off tasks, or simply refused to get excited about the things that once lit me up. And for a while, I felt really bad about that. I questioned if my heart was still in it, if I had what it takes, and if I even deserved to still be doing what I was doing.
But the more I talked about this with others, the more I realized, I wasn’t alone. And it wasn’t that uncommon.
In times of intense turmoil and uncertainty, creativity can give artists meaning, comfort, and direction when they’d otherwise feel aimless. Musicians are just one of the countless groups of people seeing their professions get upended during the COVID-19 crisis. Embracing creativity during this painful time won’t bring your life back to normal or fix what’s wrong. But it can make some of our lives better in a meaningful way.
The streaming era creates its own superstars and music genres, such as bedroom pop. This particular style focuses on pop music that is written and produced by independent musicians largely in their bedrooms. Interestingly, bedroom pop has been attracting millions of listeners around the world, largely by listeners under the age of 25. In fact, we have a name for this group of audiences under the age of 25: Generation Z, or Gen Z for short.
How listenable is your music? It’s a question some musicians don’t often bother to ask themselves, but it’s important. Most serious musicians aren’t angling to become the world’s next big superstar. Striving to make music that listeners genuinely connect with should be the goal, regardless of the style. But, the art we create and our plans/expectations we had before we made it are two very different things.
When things are going well in our music careers and personal lives, it’s easy to think we’d be able to stay just as productive and creative during times of crisis. But when life gets tough, our ability to write songs, practice, or even think about music is challenged. Creativity can help us cope through times of stress, anxiety, and loss, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to embrace. No matter what you’re going through, the following tips can help you approach musical creativity in a positive way through rough periods:
Whether it was normal for you or not, writing and recording from home have become an unexpected necessity due to the COVID-19 crisis. As musicians, creating from home presents many challenges that we may not be used to. Distractions like roommates, family members, pets, and other things can make creating music from home especially hard. It’s not easy, but by managing our time we can make room for music in our lives at home.
There is so much power in being an independent artist. Now more than ever, you have advantages that you’ve never had before. From complete creative control to the ability to make decisions for yourself, being an independent artist is no longer seen as simply a stepping stone on the way to signing to a label. Many artists—perhaps even you—have made a decision that indie is the way to go.
However, one of the things you’re bound to run into as you navigate the DIY waters is the inevitable feeling of wearing all the hats. You know what I mean—you’re the manager, you’re the publicist, you’re the marketer, and you’re the booker. You’re trying to learn, do, and get better at everything, and it’s exhausting.
You start to feel frustrated and a little resentful, as you wonder—how am I supposed to do this all alone?