Like every musician, I’ve made plenty of mistakes throughout my career. So many of us start making music with big dreams and vague plans and quickly realize how hard it actually is to write and record great music and get the world to notice. But while plenty of the mistakes we make in music are inevitable, a lot of the emotional, financial, and creative trouble we get ourselves into is totally preventable. Had I known these four things when I started writing and performing music seriously, I would’ve been a lot happier and more productive:
As a serious musician, you probably think a lot about what it means to be successful in your work. For some of us, it’s making enough money to live comfortably. For others, it’s all about creating the most meaningful art we can and getting people to notice. The truth is that no matter how you define success in music, you’ll need dedicated and energized advocates of your work to be successful. These are fans, and they’re getting harder to come by.
Many developing artists are shocked to find how different recording is from performing in front of an audience. It can be tricky to approach recording with the same passion and confidence that you would display on stage, but playing like your heart is truly in it is crucial for getting solid recordings. It’s completely possible for artists to write great songs only to see them fall flat because of poor performances in the studio. Whether it’s performing too much inside your own head or not being adequately prepared, there are plenty of things that can cause the energy to slip away from your recordings. Here are four tips to help:
When it comes to releasing new music, it’s an exciting time. After all, you’ve been working on this new piece of art for months or even years, and when it’s finally time to bring it to fruition and show the world what you’re made of, it can be tempting to just throw it out there, wait for the crowds, the press, the labels to jump on it and realize your brilliance, and for fans to go nuts over it.
Your songs can benefit from emotional honesty in big ways when it comes to connecting with audiences. But when music is too emotionally obvious or extreme, there’s a risk that anyone other than the person or people who created it will be able to resonate with it. From lyrical narratives to the way your music sounds, emotional nuance is important for creating work that’s listenable and relatable.
When we create music, what are the parts of it that we own, and which ones do we give away to our listeners? It’s a weird question, but it’s worth asking. Getting to the bottom of what your music means to you and what about it you hope to give other people through your art will give you direction, purpose, and clarity as a music-maker. It’s also an exercise that can help you move outside of yourself temporarily and allow you to hear your music the way one of your listeners would. When we make music for and about only ourselves, we risk cutting off the outside world and alienating our listeners.
Even before the pandemic, it’s safe to say that funds were probably pretty tight for most developing artists. But now without the ability to earn money through touring, festivals, and even most local live in-person shows, money is a bigger concern than ever for many independent musicians. This doesn’t change the fact that if you want to release music and find an audience in 2020, there are some things you can’t avoid spending money on. Here are four things worth investing in as a developing artist making music in today’s complex music industry:
We’re creating music in one of the most uniquely challenging moments in modern history. Something as simple and carefree as getting up on stage in front of a crowd of people in an indoor space is now burdened with danger and uncertainty due to a pandemic that has no end in sight. A fascinating and endlessly frustrating problem is that as the crisis drags on, audiences need music more and more when it’s often difficult or even impossible for musicians to deliver it to them. But between a world connected by the internet like never before and the timeless innovative and tenacious spirit of songwriters and performers, music is still enriching lives during the pandemic in a huge way.