When I browse blogs for unsigned musicians, so much of the help they offer is deeply pessimistic and unhelpful, marketed as “realistic” but coming across as discouraging and even outright hostile. Some examples that I read from today’s blogroll:
“If you are able to be happy doing a different job, choose that” [instead of a music career]
” Struggle is the path, and there is no destination, only the path”
“The music industry is competitive and cutthroat, and these days, income is harder and harder to find”
“Many professional musicians got where they are because they weren’t capable of doing anything else”
“if you don’t know someone who can get you in the door, publishers won’t even listen to you”
All this negativity and lamenting about how few of us will succeed and how arduous the process is leaves me feeling uninspired, hopeless, and self-deprecating. If they can’t do it, what makes me special enough to succeed? Do I really want it badly enough? Am I bulletproof enough to achieve any sort of success? Will I ever make ends meet if I choose this life?
I think this negativity is a big reason as to why I approach music biz research with such a feeling of dread (and consequently, it’s the thing I put off doing the most): instead of reading ideas/stories and feeling filled up and inspired, I just feel empty and stressed.
I used to worry so much about the hand I’d been dealt; if only I was naturally good at science, I could be a Doctor and my career path would all be laid out ahead of me, and all my hard work would guarantee an excellent job where I make a positive difference to people’s lives (insert whatever high-flying career pathway here).
Music careers are so much more elusive – there are a million and one things to do in the music industry, thousands of different ways of expressing yourself, and no clear career pathway. A lot of success can rely on chance, luck, being in the right place at the right time. Furthermore, a music career becomes so much more difficult if you don’t have the following (and many of your competitors do):
- Lots of money (for gear, recording time, promotion, VAs, etc)
- The financial freedom to not be tied to a 9 to 5 job
- Natural self-confidence and charm
- A huge circle of friends who will attend your gigs, buy your stuff, and spread the word about your art
- Influential friends or family members (e.g. in the music industry)
I have none of these things, and I’d be lying if I said I’ve never thought about quitting. I’ve come up with lists as long as my arm containing reasons why I would never be able to succeed – I’m not pretty enough, not young enough, I live in a rural area, I started too late in life, I’m not popular enough, etc etc.
But despite all this, I always come back to one reason why I should not give up: because it’s what I love and want the most. Even if I found a job I enjoyed in a non-music field, I would always lament at what could have been. I’m going to quote Leonie Dawson here because she put it so perfectly:
“If I wasn’t doing this Very Big Thing That I Love And Totally Believe In, even when it DOES scare me, and challenge me and press buttons – what would I be doing? And the answer for me is – I would do this anyway. Even if it called on All of Me to step up. … Because this is my big dream.”
So, fuck those blogs. I’m not going to be made to feel like a failure because I didn’t start at the age of 3, or because I am capable of holding down a day job, or even because I doubt myself. I’m flawed and human, but I’m trying and that’s what’s important. I’m still going to work my hardest to make something of myself… even if it takes All of Me.