Gratitude isn’t something we think about much in the music industry. The relentless work ethic it takes to make music and compete in a fierce and unforgiving music climate makes it hard for musicians to think about anything other than what it takes to make meaningful momentum happen for their work. But if you’re a musician trying to build a career in music, stepping back for a moment and being grateful for what you’ve already accomplished in music can help give you a positive new perspective and hope for your work.

What is gratitude in music?

The comparison game is something that plagues a lot of serious musicians working today. It’s an attitude of entitlement predicated on the idea that if an artist works hard and is talented enough, tangible success is sure to come their way. Most of us know that’s not how music works, but we often can’t shake the feeling that when another artist succeeds, we’re somehow on the losing end. Gratitude is a great way to combat that feeling.

Gratitude in music shifts an artist’s focus off of industry expectations and the successes of other musicians and points it back on what’s happening with their own work. It’s about looking away from where you desperately want to go in music and being happy for where you’re at––no matter where you’re at. Instead of wishing you had a certain number of fans, views, likes, or money made from music, gratitude invites you to consider how far you’ve already come and to celebrate your progress. Even something as simple as being able to hold an instrument and summon music from it is a childlike appreciation most of us haven’t accessed in years, but that sort of simple gratitude is exactly what can help us see our work in a new light.

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What is there to be grateful for in music?

Without gratitude, you’ll never be happy or fulfilled in music. No matter how materially successful you are, there’s always going to be someone faring better. This means that gratitude ends up being a big deal in music, whether you’re a major superstar or a kid making music in your bedroom. You can be grateful in music for everything from a tour running smoothly to a fan saying your music means something to them. The key is learning to recognize victories large or small and to take the time to celebrate them.

Gratitude is not ambition or complacency

And before you think this is an attitude that’s at odds with the ambition it takes to be successful in music, it’s really not. Gratitude asks us to look outside of ourselves to recognize everything positive that’s happened with our work. Complacency doesn’t ask us to do anything but go through the motions and maintain the status quo.

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.

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