In any career, its normal to feel stuck at certain points along the road to your ultimate career goals. A music career is no different.
There are three aspects of a music career that you need to focus on to keep moving forward, and you’ll find that all successful music makers (especially those with long-term careers) do these things whether they realise it or not.
1. Be a Wiz at what you do
You never stop learning or getting better at your craft. Whether you’re a singer, songwriter, musician, or producer, it’s a mistake to think your skills are as good as they can be. Liberace practised at the piano for eight hours a day, every day through his entire career. All great actors and singers seek out regular coaching throughout their careers. The top international business people and entrepreneurs all have Mentors and Coaches so they can be on top of their game. Why? Because they understand that to keep growing, they have to keep learning.
It’s a vital and never-ending aspect of your music career to continue developing your skills. Practising your craft every single day is essential. There are loads of books available online that teach the crafts of songwriting, musicianship, singing and more, and these can contain excellent advice and information. And, practising your craft every single day is essential. But truly, the most effective way to get better is to find the top teachers, coaches or professionals in your area and book in for regular training and mentoring. You will receive valuable advice and tips, plus, a professional will tell you truthfully where you need to improve – and help you do it. Oh, and practising every day is essential.
2. Do the Biz
No matter how good you are at what you do, if you don’t focus on the business aspect of your career, you’re sunk before you start. I know. I get it. You just want to write your songs, get on that stage and share your soul with the world. You are a creative being – an artist – not a business tycoon.
So, here’s the hard word: If you want to earn a living in the music industry, and ‘make it’ as an artist (or songwriter, musician, producer, etc) you HAVE to take care of business. That means doing everything from meeting and developing relationships with industry professionals, venues (if you are a performer), media and fans, to understanding the legalities of copyright, royalties, contracts, ticketing, co-writing, etc. It includes developing and maintaining your ‘brand’, your website and social media pages, news and marketing content, organising gigs – the list is endless.
My suggestion is to get your hands on a copy of Shane Simpson’s ‘Music Business’. This book is the ‘Bible’ for understanding and navigating your way through the business aspect of your career. Its absolutely brilliant and I recommend it to all my clients.
3. Get your Fo’ Shizz on
Creative people are highly sensitive and emotional. You have to grow a tough skin in order to daily navigate rejection and/or criticism of your work, deal with the low pay you receive for your artistry, and appear strong when dealing with venue operators, A&R people and even family opposition. But all these encounters and situations can weigh heavily on your psychological and emotional health. On the inside, frustration, anger, fear, anxiety and depression often arise. This is especially true when no matter how hard one tries, the career goal seems so far away.
Counselling, life coaching, meditation, healthy diet and exercise are all excellent ways to not only feel better, but to deal with all the issues and challenges that inevitably come your way in this business. Sadly, our Music Industry is rife with anxiety, depression, drugs, alcohol abuse, and suicide. A lot of this is due to the lack of attention we pay to taking care of ourselves, honouring ourselves as the wonderful, creative and deserving artistes we are, and seeking out professional and family support when we need it.
Taking care of your mental health and finding tools to maintain emotional balance and a positive mental attitude are essential. Your long term health and career depend on it. You know you can do this, and you’re passionate about your craft and career, so don’t neglect this third and important aspect of your career. Getting your psychological and emotional fo’ shizz on will stand you in good stead as you travel your path.
Lisa Butler is the founder and coordinator of the Australian Songwriters Conference, a career development event for all music creators. She is a Certified Professional Coach, holds a Diploma of Counselling, and has accreditation in Mental Health First Aid. www.lisajbutler.com