7 Things Musicians Need To Do Besides Play Music

Nothing means more to you than music. You went to music school and have played in bands since you were 14. Every morning you throw on your favorite recording and immediately pick up your guitar and play along. Every. Single. Day.

So why do you feel stressed out, unsure, moody and restless? And where’s all the money? If you’re frustrated about your lack of success in music, then it’s time you set down your guitar and think about these seven things you need to do — besides playing music — to be a successful musician.

1. Be Your Own Boss

You’re shooting yourself in the foot if you're waiting to be found by a manager, booking agent or producer. The days of people looking to represent artists are all but over.

You need to be more than a musician. You need to be your own boss. Here’s what that means:

  • Be the person to text your bandmates the time of your next practice.
  • Figure out how to book shows for your band and follow up enough to actually book one.
  • Make a flyer by yourself for the show you booked; spread it around as much as you can online and in real life.
  • Call up your audio production friend and see if you can arrange some time to record a few songs for cheap.
  • Bother your bandmates to remember the dates you booked for the show and to record.
  • Show up early before the show to help disassemble the gear.
  • Make sure to stick around till the end of the show to help collect money and load out.
  • Repeat.

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2. Go To Shows

Spending time on your own creative pursuits is important, but it's just as important to get out of your own bubble and take an interest in other people’s music. By going out to shows, you learn exactly who your audience is and who your fellow musicians are. You’ll also learn where you can play your style of music and what to expect when you do.

Remember the names of the bands and where they play. Remember where the shows are regularly and who plays often. Show up early to the shows and stay till the end, and later if possible. Talk to the people dancing in the crowd. Make sure to say “Hi” to your favorite performers, introduce yourself and be genuine. After all, how could you not be? You're witnessing someone doing what you want to do.

3. Make Friends

Making friends with your fellow musicians and fans will help your music take on a life of its own. It makes sense: If people can understand you, they can better understand your music. Whether you regularly go to shows, parties, casual listening sessions, late-night jam sessions, or one-off cover band shows, there are tons of opportunities to make friends as a musician. By making friends, you will not only expose them to your own music and contacts; they will expose you to theirs. Don’t think of it as networking. Be genuine and have fun with people who share your interests.

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4. Represent Your Brand

Audiences today want the real thing. Do you dress the way your music sounds? Do you look like a musician? Do you smell OK? Your communication skills are just as important. Are you polite to people you don’t know or meet for the first time? Do you make eye contact? It’s crucial to relentlessly believe in yourself to succeed as a musician. Your own confidence, bravado, focus and charm can go just as far as the minute-long guitar solo on the last track of your band’s new album.

5. Never Stop Practicing

You might think you’re breaking your back with the amount of time you spend playing guitar. Well, it's time to accept that you will never play enough. Don’t believe me? Just look to the legends of music you probably already admire. If they weren’t performing, they were at a soundcheck, jamming backstage, at the studio, in their own homes, or practicing with their group.

Practicing relentlessly is the only way to continuously elevate your game and remove the dread of practicing from your mind. You will build your chops, learn new riffs and licks, write new songs and expose yourself to more people and performers, all by embracing a never-ending practice routine.

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6. Leave Your Comfort Zone

Your band’s sound and style represents who you are or what you want to be. But most musicians make a big mistake in limiting their appreciation and focus to just their favorite style of music. It is important to realize musical styles are not an island. Many styles overlap and couldn’t exist without each other.

Learn how to appreciate music you might be at odds with. Think to yourself, “Why do people like this?” Go to see performers from different genres and see what they do differently. You will gain a better understanding of music, and it'll show in your playing.

7. Sacrifice Yourself

The sacrifices that elevate musicians to the levels they dream of are the kind you can’t compute with numbers or dollars. It's about sacrificing your own personal hangups and prejudices by doing what you have to do, not what you want.

Those sacrifices include things like sending thousands of emails or Facebook messages, or showing up on time and staying late. It's giving up that one extra beer so you don’t skip work the next morning, or having one more beer to talk with your favorite musician who might want your band on a bill. And catching every show means less time at work, with your friends, or with your lover.

Hard work and humility are as powerful as a good song. Embrace giving all of yourself and it will be easier to do so, and you'll find others will be ready to do so for you. What's a big break anyway, besides someone liking your music and you?

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