I have been wrestling with the issue of motivation for a while now as I am working on making some positive changes in my professional life. Though I have been fairly successful at playing well on a number of instruments, performing, producing and writing songs I have not achieved what was my primary goal from the outset which is to be a successful recording artist. What that entails in 2015 is a bit different than it was back in 1985 but the basic elements are still there. 1) Make music that appeals to an audience big enough to support touring, music sales, merch sales and so forth 2) Promote promote promote and 3) Expand your opportunities into other avenues such as acting, soundtrack work, producing, writing for others, etc.
Opportunities for recording artists simply cannot be found in the classified ads any more than ads looking for business owners. As a professional recording artist you are essentially a business owner and it is up to you to create products, find strong partners and teammates and build your business and brand. We have to make it a habit to make good decisions for ourselves, our business and our brand on a daily basis.
It is essential to seek out opportunities but we also need to learn to weed out what is worthwhile and what is not. At the beginning of one’s career or when embarking on new projects we often need to say “yes” to whatever opportunities arise even if they may not be immediately profitable. As a career or project progresses we then need to learn to say “no” to some things so that we can say “yes” to better opportunities. This is a natural element of growth and progression. For instance- doing a tour of 100-seat venues may make a great first few tours for a new artist but the goal is to fill bigger rooms. If the artist is selling out small rooms there is no doubt that the promoters would be very pleased to book them into those venues again but that may stifle the growth of the artist as the goal is to build an every-larger fanbase. We would need to say “no” to the smaller room to allow us to say “yes” to the bigger room that can hold more fans. (Note that we start saying “no” when we outgrow our current situation to make room for more fruitful one. Not just because we don’t think we can do it or we just don’t feel like it.)
Sometimes doubt and fear can make us prevent ourselves from saying “yes” to opportunities because we may either think that we are not worthy or we may not have even considered the growth possibilities that lie before us. If your goal is to make progress in life then the first person that you need to say “yes” to is yourself. If you have a habit of saying “no” to yourself it will be very difficult to make progress in the music business because it very unlikely that someone is going to drag you along to stardom for a ride. Honestly it’s hard enough be successful in any business if you aren’t advocating for yourself every day.
What do I mean by “Saying Yes to Yourself”? Professional musicians and recording artists are essentially artistic entrepreneurs. If your intention is to profit from your artistic endeavors then you need to treat it like a business. What I like to remind others (and myself) is that pretty much everybody else in the building is there to make money. From club owners to bar staff to sound crew to door guys to recording engineers and studio owners- everyone else that musicians work with expect to get paid. The bigger and better our fanbase, the better attended our shows, the more merch we sell the happier EVERYONE is. We and everyone that we’re involved with get paid for our efforts and we also gain opportunities to offer bigger and better products to our fans including more production at shows, better audio production for recordings, higher-quality merchandise and so forth.
The key is that we need to say “Yes” to ourselves. We can write music that people want to hear, we can improve as musicians, producers, performers and writers, we can do shows that people will go to, we can create merchandise that people will like and want to buy, we can increase the size of the venues that we perform in, that we can work with the best musicians that we can find, we can branch out into other fields like acting, soundtrack work or whatever other venture because it’s been done before, it’s being done right now and others are going to do it in the future.
If you aren’t sure how to proceed do some research. As a musician you have no doubt been influenced by a number of artists- possibly in a number of fields over the years. How did they become successful? NEVER BE TOO PROUD TO EDUCATE YOURSELF! Doing research by reading, studying, taking lessons, taking classes and so forth isn’t the mark of someone who is not intelligent- it’s the mark of someone doing the SMART thing and making themselves more knowledgeable about what they are doing and what they are trying to do so that they can be more successful. Have you ever noticed that the most successful people are often the ones with large libraries of books and/or music? Making it a habit of studying and learning every day often opens up ideas and avenues that we may not have even considered before. More knowledge- more understanding- MORE YES TO MYSELF!!!
And what’s the secret ingredient to all of this? WORK SMART, WORK HARD and JUST DO IT!!!