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.
There are no guidebooks musicians can look to for learning how to cope with COVID-19. If you’re reading this, it’s possible or maybe even likely that the pandemic has completely upended your plans, whether you were set to tour this summer, release a new album, or hole up somewhere with your bandmates to work on new material. If live performances are a part of the way you earn money, you’re being especially impacted by this crisis.
No one can predict the future. Yet, the world––and music along with it––is changing as a result of COVID-19. Instead of longing to create and perform in a pre-2020 world, we have to accept that our circumstances may not be the same going forward. Luckily, doing so doesn’t mean giving up on creating and sharing music.
Musicians are having an understandably difficult time in the age of COVID-19. Whether it’s a canceled tour or the inability to rehearse with bandmates in person, the pandemic is keeping us inside our homes and away from our musical routines. In strange and difficult times, embracing resourcefulness is essential when it comes to finding ways to stay inspired.
You might not be able to travel or leave your house right now. However, you can take a music-listening trip to inspire your process and transport your mind. An upside to our vastly increased time at home is that we can spend more time listening to music. And by listening, I mean sitting down and doing nothing other than listening to a piece of music. The following four listening trip ideas are designed to focus your mind on specific characteristics that shape music.
Expectation and pressure can be good for you as a musician, whether you’re performing on stage in front of a huge crowd or paying by the hour to record new music in a studio. Without a dog in the fight, what you’re doing as a musician is a carefree hobby. But, like so many other aspects of a healthy music career, a balance has to be found between striving to perform well and living up to what’s expected of us and not overthinking and questioning everything we do. When we let doubt, insecurity, and fear guide us in music, we stifle our best ideas.
We can all be better musicians. It doesn’t matter if we’ve been musically active for a couple of months or multiple decades when it comes to finding areas that need improvement in our musical lives. Making real progress towards big goals like learning how to play an instrument or starting work on a new album can be challenging if you’re musically inexperienced or find yourself years into your music career and losing steam. Doing any one of these four things will help you become a better musician right now and get you closer to hitting your targets in the future:
With its uncanny ability for canceling tours, summer festivals, and weekly band practices all over the world, there’s plenty for musicians to despise when it comes to COVID-related social distancing measures. Since few living people have experienced a pandemic like this, music makers are being forced to dig deep for ways to be productive and inspired during the crisis. One spot of good news for music creators is that there’s no shortage of longing out there in the world right now, and the fact that some musicians will be able to transform their understandable feelings of loneliness and pining into powerful inspiration for their work.
If you’re a decade or two deep into your music career, stack up the music you’re making now against what you were doing when you started. What’s different and what’s the same? If you’ve been working from the same musical playbook for years, you’re essentially writing someone else’s music. Songwriters and producers have the best shot at creating engaging music when they embrace curiosity, newness, risk, and exploration. Everyone changes over time and your music should change along with you. But keeping up with your changing musical persona demands a willingness to fail and start over again in your creative process.
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.