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.
Creating and sharing music might be pursuits you live for, but an unhealthy career can ruin your plans and stifle your ambitions. Building a healthy music career is something we’ll all have to work at as long as we choose to seriously pursue music. Real health and sustainability in music looks different for everyone. However, we can look to a few signifiers that can apply to all musicians. If you’re feeling creatively stuck or spread too thin when it comes to the time, money, and energy you devote towards your music, there’s a good chance your career isn’t in a good place. Healthy music careers have three of the following defining characteristics:
When it comes to sustaining a serious music career, nothing matches the power of an artist focusing on making the best work they can day in, day out, year after year. But there are times when we miss opportunities for our work by ignoring the non-musical aspects of our careers. This can vary from DIY show booking or pitching music to blogs, playlists, and radio stations. One important asset that musicians should be paying more attention to is collaborations with non-musical artists.
You might see your passion for music as something that’s pure. Yet, the truth is that at any given moment there are plenty of distractions threatening your music career. From petty jealousies to crippling debt, here are four distractions to watch out for in music.
When I think of my strengths as a musician, a lot of skills pop up. Yet, none of them have anything to do with tech. The more I strive to create impactful music in a world that’s increasingly reliant on and fluent with technology, the more I realize there’s a growing deficit in my musical skill-set that needs addressing, and I’m not alone. No matter what kind of music you create in 2020, technology is almost certainly bound to be involved in some way. Whether you use DAWs to write, record, mix with, or share music online through a distributor, tech is integral. A lack of tech literacy hurts musicians of all stripes. Not only that, but the problem will only get worse for the ones that fail to address it.
You might be thinking “What does making music have to do with personal relationships?”Good question. From where I stand, music, and things like family, love, and friendship are inextricably linked. Everything from breakups to births is chronicled in music. It’s an art form we rely on to help us cope with life and understand our place in the world. But, strangely, some of us lead such unhealthy music careers that we end up damaging our relationships. It’s one of our jobs as musicians to bring people together, but our ambition and extreme approaches to how we prioritize music in our lives can end up isolating us and hurting the ones we love. If your music career is threatening your personal relationships, it’s time to take a good look at yourself.
What about the process of creating and sharing music do you pay the most attention to? Since it’s natural for people to operate on auto-pilot in our careers, this might seem like an odd question. Yet, it’s worth asking. Our focus is incredibly important when it comes to being a musician. Similar to the way losing concentration makes for a bad musical performance, paying attention to the wrong things in our careers can limit our potential and hurt our creativity.
Every musician has a story to tell when it comes to bad show experiences. Disastrous tours, shady venue owners and promoters, and unruly audiences abound. Low pay and a lack of respect for musicians are the most common occurrences that musicians share. A lot of negative live music experiences are rightfully chalked up to inexperienced musicians paying their dues. Many others are rooted in a society that, until now, doesn’t value live music and artists the way it should. However, the pandemic may just reawaken a new and enduring appreciation of live music now that it’s not widely available.