Over the past several weeks, we’ve generously acknowledged the up and down nature of the creative journey. There will be triumphant highs alongside disheartening lows and, as we well know, the key to enduring is to ride the waves, stay level-headed and focused, and keep pushing forward with patience and persistence.
Today, I’m here to throw another variable into the equation: the notion of control.
Along your journey, you are virtually guaranteed to encounter circumstances beyond your control, and they just might throw a wrench into your plan.
- Playing an outdoor gig? That gig – and many times, the number of people in attendance – is at the mercy of the weather.
- Have a co-write scheduled? Sometimes, life happens, and people need to reschedule. You might even run into an unavoidable conflict once in a while.
- Did you put your best foot forward when submitting to an opportunity? Well… it’s still up to somebody else to decide if you will receive that opportunity, and the music industry — much like life itself — offers us no guarantees.
- Even if you’re the kindest person on Earth, you will encounter people who are not kind in return. You will have conflicts, and you will run into criticism from time to time.
- Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that the early 2020s have presented industry-wide challenges that were, in many ways, completely out of our hands. (Lookin’ at you, ‘rona…)
Even despite our best efforts and wishes, the fact is that countless factors exist outside of our own influence, and some of them can lead to disappointment. However, the more we focus on that disappointment, the more powerful it becomes.
What’s an emerging musician to do, then? Simple.
Control your controllables.
No matter what the world throws your way, you still have an opportunity every day to re-center and focus on what is within your own individual sphere of influence. As you’ll see in this article, the list of your controllables is not especially long. Nonetheless, it’s important to know where to direct your attention when everything around you seems to be going haywire.
What are these “controllables,” you ask?
If you’ve been reading along at the Muze blog over the past several weeks, you may be noticing a pattern: we’ve been talking a lot about the creative process, and how success in the music industry is not a destination, but a journey.
We’ve covered ways to find joy in the process itself, and we’ve shared tips on how to keep yourself functioning at an optimal level as you move, step by step, toward greater artistic fulfillment. These ideas are great to keep in mind, no matter where you are on your road to success.
For many of us – especially those starting out – continuing down that road and keeping all aspects of our lives in balance can feel easier said than done. This is compounded by the fact that the vast majority of us who embark on a creative path do so without industry connections, and with finite resources (i.e. the cash necessary to feed the beast) to help us along the way. At one point or another, most of us will be employed outside of our passions in order to keep them going.
Although it can feel daunting to get up and go to a job – especially one you don’t like – when you’d rather be working on your vision, the good news is that there are still many positives to take forward from this leg of the journey. In fact, your seemingly unrelated “day job” might hold the keys to your success down the road.
Hey, while you’re here: did you know that Underground Music Collective is a fiscally-sponsored project of The Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville? That means you have the opportunity to make a charitable donation to UMC, which is tax-deductible to the fullest extent permitted by law. Click here and help us Keep the Music Playing!
Anyway, onto the article…
Between me and our friends at Music on the Move Studios, we’ve learned countless lessons about how to navigate the music industry over the years.
To wrap up our collaborative How to Get Involved in Your Local Music Scene series over at Music on the Move, Erin McLendon, Caitie Thompson, and I share what our journeys have taught us — about relationship building, finding opportunities, and creating a community.
This is a fun piece, and we invite you to share your lessons with us in the comments below!
Every musician has a story to tell, and the opportunity to communicate that story to the masses in the digital age. There are countless media outlets – from independent blogs and podcasts, all the way up to nationally- and globally-recognized publications – that could serve as a launching pad to build awareness for your artistry. Even so, most artists – especially those toward the beginning of their creative journeys – don’t know where to begin.
That’s where I come in! As the founder of UMC and the architect of our Perfect Your Pitch course, I have received thousands upon thousands of music submissions over the years. With that, I have teamed up with Music on the Move Studios, compiling my near-decade of experience as an independent media creator to offer you some tips on how to make sure your pitch stands out above the rest.
A couple weeks back, we examined the idea (i.e.; the absolute myth) of overnight success. Despite all superficial appearances, the sudden media darlings that we encounter in the world of entertainment have put in years – perhaps even decades – of work to have that one moment that, in the public’s purview, puts them on the map.
In case you haven’t read that piece (and would like a partial spoiler), we established that success is not a destination, but a journey; a continuous process marked by incremental steps that serve to bring us to a better version of our creative visions, every single time. We covered the ways to improve your mindset and your circle, so that you can find the inspiration to keep going – even when the going gets tough.
Those tactics are only a piece of the puzzle. The fact is that our creative journey is powered by the human being behind it, and that human being has undeniable physical, emotional, and spiritual needs that must not be ignored. Making sure these needs are met makes it more likely that we will be able to function at an optimal human level, making it just a tad easier to show up for our lofty goals and aspirations.
If we don’t show up for those needs? We’re only making our own journeys more difficult.
With that, let’s dive into some wellness practices that will help you maximize your human performance, while making your creative output a little more robust!
It takes a long time to be able to fill rooms like this…
You’ve seen it in the news. You’ve heard it on the radio. Your friends and family have talked about it, whenever it apparently occurs. Somebody, previously unknown by the masses, has a big moment and quickly gains traction and relevance in the public eye. Opportunities begin pouring in, and suddenly, they’ve become a household name. Those unaware of the truth behind this individual’s creative journey gather ‘round, from near and far, and proclaim this individual…
AN OVERNIGHT SUCCESS!
However, appearances can be deceiving. This seemingly sudden rocket ship to fame and fortune may appear to have emerged out of thin air. However, rest assured that the ship most likely had many false starts where it struggled to get off the ground. Once it took off, its upward trajectory did not occur in a straight line; rather, the currents of life have tested the vessel’s integrity. Perhaps an emergency landing was necessary along its journey, in order to prevent a full-blown crash.
Indeed, anybody who has been a creative entrepreneur for long enough knows that the course of success – much like true love – never runs smooth. And, over time, we put in enough late nights (immediately followed by early mornings) to realize the truth…
Overnight success simply does not exist.
In my previous article for Muze, we took a dive into the ways independent artists can book more shows, more often. From relationship building with venue managers and fellow artists, to making sure you deliver a complete, organized pitch, the steps are outlined to ensure that you find greater success, as you strive to bring your live show to new audiences.
But… you know what they say about a tree falling in a forest, right? If nobody is around to hear it, does it really make a sound? The final step in that article was to make sure you promote your show once it’s booked, to get people out and ensure that the venue is happy (thus, increasing the likelihood that you will be booked again in the future).
Last time, I promised to come back with ways to make your gig stand out as special, and to make it the place to be in any competitive live music market. That’s what we’ll do here today!
With the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic (hopefully) behind us, more artists are emerging from their hiding places to rejoin the live music landscape. As more of your musical peers become comfortable performing for the masses in the weeks, months, and years ahead, booking gigs only figures to become more competitive. (Here in Nashville, it’s already approaching pre-pandemic levels).
So… how do you stay ahead of the curve, and ensure that you remain in the mix to be considered for performance opportunities? We have some tips and insights, acquired through years of navigating the live music landscape.
The digital age brings numerous benefits for the independent creative. It is easier than ever to communicate your message, build community, and find your audience. We have more tools at our disposal to build a platform than ever before. When compared to previous generations and the limitations they experienced, we’re quite fortunate.
However, any society in the midst of rapid growth is bound to experience growing pains, and those of us within the ever-evolving digital landscape are not immune to this reality. Certainly, it is beneficial to have so many ways to build our creative empires. However, it can be so easy to get caught up in learning and utilizing the tools of the trade that we often forget to shut them off. Couple that with the FOMO (that’s Fear Of Missing Out) and comparison culture that digital technology has ushered to the forefront, and it can be difficult to feel like we’re ever truly doing enough.
We must break past that notion and remember that we are not machines. We are not born to endlessly create content to please the algorithmic gods, nor are we designed to spend all of our waking hours working. Every so often, we must remind ourselves of our humanity, and embrace the increasingly elusive concept of rest.
Not only is rest a fundamental human need. Contrary to what 21st Century hustle culture will have you believe, rest has numerous creative and health benefits that empower us to show up as our best selves, professionally and personally. As a creative entrepreneur – and one who often must pull myself, kicking and screaming, away from my own work – I took the initiative to convince myself through research, and nail down the reasons why rest is a good thing for those of us on the grind.
Musicians: whether it feels this way or not, opportunities to be seen and heard are all around you. I would know – I happen to run an independent music publication, a podcast, and an event production company. So, when Luke Holden and I divided up the articles for Muze’s “10 People Musicians Need on Their Side” series, I laid claim to the “Media Supporter” archetype right away.
What I didn’t want to do, though, is just have this be an op-ed about all of the things I look for when considering whether to feature an artist or their music. So, I received an assist from a couple of my peers in the industry for their takes on what they’re looking for, where they find new music, and other tips and tricks that will help you identify the right opportunities.