Working in music is hard. There is a lot of rejection and being ignored in spite of having put in a lot of hard work, and fair it definitely isn’t either. NZM asked some industry folk about their perseverance and self-preservation strategies, and for any tips to keep going, keep up the resilience, keep creating, releasing and enjoying what we do.
I don’t have any great wisdom, but I am reminded every time I go out on the road how much we – musicians/songwriters/artists – are needed in the world… It feels like we genuinely do make a difference to people’s lives at a personal level, which has to have a knock-on effect in the wider world. For me it’s reassuring to remember this – that we might be making a difference to someone – especially when it all feels too hard and too expensive, and not viable to keep going.
My best tip – act like nobody cares – most don’t but a few will and that’s what drives you. Other tip – don’t give up your day job! Yes, making a living doing original music in NZ is possible, but I can count on one hand the people I know who do. You have to be driven to do it – a little crazy and probably a little damaged too – no sensible person in NZ in 2019 would get into making original music thinking it’ll get them rich or even provide a basic living. Accept that and do the work and who knows what’ll happen? Remember, your songs, if they’re good enough, will outlive you!
I’ll admit, recently I have found it difficult to keep going with my music and I think it’s something many creatives go through, we all have our creative fire bursts and then sometimes you feel like you will never finish a song again. A few things that have helped me in the last few months is to find the fun in creating again and not worrying about what the outcome is, the process of creating is where the magic happens for me, and if a song does see the light of day it doesn’t matter, you just start on another one. Connecting with other creatives is another way I have found has helped to inspire me, seeing where other people are at and realising that a lot of musicians are going through the same things as you are.
It’s hard to answer this question as it is often part of the core of being an artist. Self-doubt and introspection leads to a lot of source material and definitely is linked to the need to connect. Expression usually comes from those times of low feelings and looking for an answer.
Why bother if we are feeling good? That being said, it is also the big cliche that artists are in constant need of crisis to create or stay active. Turning shit into gold…
I guess things I try to do to avoid falling into the traps are as follows:
I’ve always got multiple things on the go at once. Sometimes I get really worn down in one area of my life, in which case I can focus my energy on something else so I don’t completely burn out. It means I’m busy as hell, but having a variety of different things filling up my life keeps me entertained, makes me happy, and means I always seem to have exciting shit coming up to keep me motivated.
At times it’s definitely a struggle being an artist, however I find real meaning in being creative and making music. My approach to persevering with a music career is that I’m constantly working out my own version of life balance – and sometimes that means taking a break from music. I try to become a better, more capable person every year through education, experience and building strong relationships with those around me. When it comes to your career, do things that you want to do, not just what other people expect you to do. As long as you feel good about what you’re doing and why, you’re far more likely to stick at it and enjoy the journey. Hopefully that’ll all make your music better too.
My advice is not to give up if you cannot picture yourself without music in your life, but perhaps re-focusing and finding other ways to incorporate music into your life. Not necessarily just working on your original music but perhaps joining a few covers bands, working as a guitar tech, stagehand, sound engineer, opening a music venue or music event organiser.
My husband and I both went to SAE to learn to record our own songs… In doing so we both did learn how to record to a professional level, but we also discovered a career that could sustain our passion for music. We have both always worked full time on what we are passionate about, which I think contributes to our success. It’s never been part-time for us, we get up and do our chosen ‘work’ every day.
I think you have to commit fully to be successful. When I talk to successful full-time musicians such as White Chapel Jak, they say the secret to their success is that they committed to it full time. As an addendum to this, sometimes you can be pouring all your energy into the wrong thing with no real reward or return. When I stopped studio recording and committed to live sound, I found that I finally started to enjoy music again. As a studio engineer, you could spend months on a CD project, pour your heart and all your time into it, and then might barely be mentioned in the credits. Sometimes your passion can be hurting your mental health, draining you instead of nourishing you, and you do need a break and refocus. Breaking away from the studio, and refocusing on live sound. Mark and I are slowly getting our mojo and creativity back, and we earn enough finally to make a living.
The NZ reality is creative musical work is rarely financially supported. Commercial work is well paid comparative to many places overseas. Musical work and projects that keep the bills paid/keep you active in the scene and gig fit should be balanced with work that stokes the creative fires.
Do a little for the community. I like to do 1-3 larger charity events per year, depending on busy-ness. Either discounted rates or free if I can (put together bands/perform as part of curated line up or with name artists etc/put in PA and tech).
Keep gratitude at the forefront of everything you do. Doing something you enjoy as a career is a blessing, just can be easy to forget that!
Keep going. What is your ultimate goal? Try and remember your ‘driver’, keep it in your heart and protect it. When things get tough, this is the reason you’ll come back to and will keep you going. One step at a time.
Your music is creative, unique and special. Only you can create what you’re doing.
There will be knock-backs and times will get hard, but these are designed to test you and ultimately make you stronger. If you can hang in there, you will pull through and come through the other side. Don’t give up. You can do this.
Music is a tough industry, the tide is changing every day, often leaving people feeling ignored and abandoned, I understand this, the thing is to check your motives. Do you play music to be recognised or because you love playing your instrument or singing, or writing or whatever? These are the motives that keep me going. I don’t spend too much time worrying bout what people think about me, I seem to go through periods of success and quiet patches.
I love playing within a community, but, most importantly music is my primary source of inspiration. I play because I have to. It’s part of my well-being. There are nights when the audience is totally on my side and nights when they are watching the rugby. Promote my shows as well as I can, and that’s fairly hit and miss. And I keep going.
Music helps keep me going. Music is one of the strongest strands in the rope that is my lifeline.
Other strands include family, friends, tai chi, reading and writing. Over time, things constantly wax and wane.
My musical hobby might turn into a money-making enterprise, or I might not write or play for a year.
But music will always be there for me to come back to.
I have experienced that feeling, of course, and what happens now is that I am looking at the work I do from the perspective of a legacy. That means, for me, I am not chasing short term gain. Notions of fame or vanity metrics have no impact when you consider the questions
The ultimate test (for me anyway) is being able to look back on a piece of work and apply those questions to it. I can look back at work from years ago and still feel proud of it.
Make the best work that you can, and try and get it to your audience.