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5 Soul-Sucking Things Musicians Can’t Stop Doing

5 Soul-Sucking Things Musicians Can’t Stop Doing

We all struggle with semi-destructive tendencies from time to time. Here are 5 things all musicians need to stop doing right now: 


1. Reading reviews.


Most artists work in a semi-vacuum where most of the people around us don’t offer an opinion of our art. We intuitively want to get feedback, and so when someone publishes a review of our work, it’s easy to obsess about every detail. 


A few years ago I was in a band that got a negative review from a newspaper. I read the review, and was upset about the writer’s harsh take on the band’s music. I crossed paths with the writer a year later, and it turned out he’d listened to about 30 seconds of one track of our music and then knocked out the post in about a half hour because he was under a tight deadline.


Remember, reviews are great and can be helpful. We just have to be careful not to let it affect our creative output too drastically. 


2. Paying too much attention to other artist’s success. 


If you’re a competitive freak like me, when one of your musician friends do something amazing it’s a strange mixture of emotions. You’re happy for them, and a bit jealous at the same time. 


A couple of weeks ago several of my friends played Carnegie hall for the first time. I was beyond excited for them, but there was a part of me that really struggled with their success. It had been a bad week career-wise for me, and it was hard for me not to feel frustrated that things weren’t running as smoothly in my career as it seemed to be in theirs. 


Fortunately I remembered a conversation with one of my Carnegie Hall friends. He told me about when he’d only been in Nashville for two years (about how long I’ve been here) and him struggling to find work. There’s seasons in every musician’s career. If you’re not seeing a lot of success while your friends are doing well, relax. Remember, they’ve had down times, too. 


3. Arguing with critics. 


If someone hates what you do, there’s almost zero chance you’ll be able to convince them through a conversation to change their mind. But for some reason, I’ve seen very talented musicians waste precious hours trying to change the mind of a single non-fan. 


A few years ago one of my friends spent two weeks arguing with a complete stranger who had found her work online, hated it, and sent her a negative Facebook message about it. My friend wasted so much creative energy fighting with this person and generating so much destructive negativity. It’s not worth it. Agree to disagree, and walk away. 


4. Obsessing about social media. 


Ever since the days of MySpace (yeah, remember that?) artists have become increasingly obsessed with their social media fans. A few years ago I was in a band that spent 2-4 hours every day building our online fan base. We would answer every message personally, respond to every comment, and constantly work on getting more interaction on our page. 


Sadly, rarely if ever did these online fans translate into real fans. Most of the people that bought our album or came out to see us play were people we met in real life. Social media numbers are great, but it’s important to remember that all you really need are a few dedicated fans to be successful. 


5. Focusing on the barriers in our careers. 


It’s so easy to fall into the “I can’t do this because of xyz” mindset. So many musicians (including myself) spend so much time in this head space, and it blinds us to the opportunities right in front of us. Just like in music, limitations are exactly what help us bloom creatively. 

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