I’ve worked full-time in the music industry for 14+ years; before that, I worked on my craft since I was a child. My passion for music has been my main driving force throughout the years.
But I’d be lying if I said having my heart in it has always been easy.
Everyone in this business remembers how it felt the first time they realized this was it.
I remember being obsessed with listening to my favorite songs from my dad’s record collection, then learning to reproduce the same feeling with chords and melody on a piano. Or learning a tune on the clarinet or guitar.
Then I saw the Woodstock ‘69 concert on TV, with Jimi Hendrix performing Voodoo Chile. I was 13, and that was it. I had no choice but to go for it full steam; I knew it with every fiber of my body.
I’ve had to return to that memory many times when going got tough. I still do. It’s essential to hold on to that memory and be able to revisit it if you feel like you’re running out of steam.
It’s the journey, not the destination.
More valid words have never been spoken. This applies to your journey along the way in the music industry 100%.
This industry is full of challenges, especially in today’s instant gratification world filled with edited pictures, videos, and music of perfect people, performing their perfect art.
Comparing to others is your worst enemy. It’s crucial to stay true to yourself and your art and allow yourself to follow the path your instincts and gut feelings tell you to follow.
It’s common to lose sight of your initial passion when you get too many no’ s.
When you start feeling lost, drop everything. Take a moment off and go somewhere quiet and re-focus your thoughts. Revisit your “why.” Reflect on that initial passion and the goals you set for yourself when you didn’t know the challenges you’d face.
This is a big one. Make sure you have a record of your journey so far. Even if it’s just your website with a playlist on there, from your early stuff to your most recent projects.
Seek out misfits like yourself and hang out with them regularly. It can get lonely if you’re only surrounded by “normal” people.
Find other inspiring creative folks. And then build connections with them. And I don’t mean pass your business card; I mean actual human contact. Make life-long friends.
This actually helps a lot. Going to a convention full of like-minded people, you can feel the energy and vibe before talking to anyone. And striking up a conversation with someone you know is most likely on the same wavelength as you. It’s easy.
Dreams are meant to be unrealistic. You may or may not achieve them. But goals should be reachable. You should work towards your vision one goal at a time. And when you do achieve one, make sure you give yourself credit and celebrate.
This goes without saying for anyone already working in the industry. As soon as you stop learning and developing, you’re done. Music is an ever-evolving art form, and you should be able to adapt and learn to stay focused and move forward.
Taking lessons or attending workshops is a great way to stay on this path.
Trying to be a creative while, at the same time, crunching business numbers or contracts is the fastest way to kill your vibe. Think of yourself as two separate people: you, “the artist,” and the other, “the entrepreneur business person.” Be each person at a different time.
Many artistic people prefer to avoid learning about the business and think just talent will take them through and make it all happen. That is entirely false. You need to apply your passion and dive deep into the business side of things too.
Learn how music publishing works. It’s especially important if you are an artist, songwriter or composer just getting started.
Embrace the business aspects without losing sight of your passion.
Also, learn to accept music business is business. Often, the “no” you get is because your product wasn’t a match to the business needs of whoever you were pitching it to.
It could mean your product needs work. But it also could be that you pitched to the wrong opportunity. Continue working on your craft, and recognize the right opportunities.
That feeling. I can still close my eyes and return to the moment I just knew. There’s nothing like it, and it regularly blows my mind when I meet people who have never had that in their life.
When you have that feeling, you discover a guiding light, a force that shows you what to do and where to go. You just have to stay open-minded, willing to work harder than you could imagine, and persistent.
Nurture that feeling, and revisit it. Often.
Tero is a professional music composer and producer. His career combining knowledge and experience from music, TV, film, ad, and game industries gives him a unique perspective that he shares through posts on teropotila.com.