There is a chance that some musicians will reach the level of fame and riches, but this should not be your overall goal to make music.
Granted there is money to be made in music, but your purpose as a musician should not be for the money. The reason you should be doing music is because it is your passion in life. It’s what you love to do. It’s why you are learning to play the guitar, piano, violin, or whatever your means of expression is. It’s why you rehearse to the wee hours of the morning and why your goal is to just get that one lyric to fit with the melody in your head. It’s a quest. It’s like a puzzle that has to be solved. Who knows why that love for music is there, but it just is. It’s one of the easiest mysteries to solve in life. You don’t know why you love it, but you just do and you’ll keep doing it cause it makes you happy. It’s your inspiration. It’s keep you going. It’s your obsession and you love it. Money or no money, you love it.
I’ve heard of artists say that if they don’t make it by a certain age then they’ll quit doing music. They gave their all and tried it and it didn’t work out so it’s off to the next venture. Such a shame to hear artists say that. They see music as a business and sometimes in business, if your losses are greater than your profits, then you leave the business and start a new one. Remember this line and remember it well.
Money is never your purpose. Your passion is your purpose and money is a direct outcome of following your passion.
If you’re starting out, don’t focus on money right now. Focus on your craft. Focus on who you are and why you love doing this. Get the feel of going on stage. The heart racing before you look out at a sea (or a pond) of people staring right at you. It’s the scariest most exhilarating feeling of accomplishment you can feel. It’s a drug and can be addicting if you like doing it. There’s so many joys you can get out of music that any negatives can be brushed aside. Don’t get me wrong, there are negatives but isn’t being involved in music make it that much easier to take the negatives?
All the positive feelings you get from music make all your trials that much easier to take. If you truly love music and you work hours and hours on it, put your blood sweat and tears into it, then how are you going to quit because you didn’t make money? It’s not about money. Is money important? Yes. Is it the reason why you should do music? No. Ever hear that phrase … “Paying your dues”. Paying your dues is what 99.9% of musicians who are living off music have done. There’s always that small percentage of people that get discovered at a McDonalds and they are shot to super stardom. Could that be you? Sure, but don’t bet the farm on that happening.
“I’m not saying that it’s impossible to be a musical icon, but what I am saying is that it’s more likely most of the musicians that you see on major record labels or performing on big stages have gone through periods in their musical career where they were not paid, they did it for free, they play to an empty room or they had people actually boo them.”
I myself have been heckled. I’ve also played to an empty room after putting hours into rehearsing for a certain set when there’s no one to listen to it. But it just comes with the territory. When those moments happen, Instead of letting it discourage you, use those times to remind you why you’re doing music. Always focus on the passion and the love. It will help you during those times when you do perform to an empty room or when you get heckled or if people say you suck. Just to put it in perspective, here are just a few people that got rejected, heckled, or have been told “no”.
Bill Gates: Gates didn’t seem like a shoe-in for success after dropping out of Harvard and starting a failed first business with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen called Traf-O-Data. While this early idea didn’t work, Gates’ later work did, creating the global empire that is Microsoft.
Walt Disney: Today Disney rakes in billions from merchandise, movies and theme parks around the world, but Walt Disney himself had a bit of a rough start. He was fired by a newspaper editor because, “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” After that, Disney started a number of businesses that didn’t last too long and ended with bankruptcy and failure. He kept plugging along, however, and eventually found a recipe for success that worked.
Jerry Seinfeld: Just about everybody knows who Seinfeld is, but the first time the young comedian walked on stage at a comedy club, he looked out at the audience, froze and was eventually jeered and booed off of the stage. Seinfeld knew he could do it, so he went back the next night, completed his set to laughter and applause, and the rest is history.
Steven Spielberg: While today Spielberg’s name is synonymous with big budget, he was rejected from the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television three times. He eventually attended school at another location, only to drop out to become a director before finishing. Thirty-five years after starting his degree, Spielberg returned to school in 2002 to finally complete his work and earn his BA.
Elvis Presley: As one of the best-selling artists of all time, Elvis has become a household name even years after his death. But back in 1954, Elvis was still a nobody, and Jimmy Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry, fired Elvis Presley after just one performance telling him, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”
The Beatles: Few people can deny the lasting power of this super group, still popular with listeners around the world today. Yet when they were just starting out, a recording company told them no. The were told “we don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out,” two things the rest of the world couldn’t have disagreed with more.
This article is more for musicians that are interested in getting into music, but I hope it inspired some musicians that have been through the grinder and need a little pick me up. I’m not saying this to try and scare you off. I’m just trying to be real with you. And for those musicians that are seasoned and your reading this posting please comment and give encouragement to those musicians that are starting off. We all need a little help sometimes from our fellow artists.
The purpose of this article was to help musicians learn and for musicians to connect and encourage each other when we go through tough times. So don’t think I wrote this to discourage you because this is the real of the real. And whenever you have those moments where you do go through trials and tribulations along your musical journey, just remember why you are doing this. Thanks for reading my very first article. There’s more to come!