Making a career for yourself in music typically requires a lot of luck in addition to many years of dedication and hard work. For some people, it takes longer than expected to get their careers moving. Disappointment can come easy when you feel like you aren't moving forward, and that can result in a lack of overall discipline. Forward movement, however, may not require as much effort as you might think. Here are five simple things you can start doing to get back on the road to a successful career in music.
1. Make time to get inspired
Most musicians can remember a key moment when music really clicked with them; usually, this involves the music of a specific person or group of people. This first spark of inspiration carries immense power and usually sustains a new musician for a sizeable length of time.
In order to continue to learn and grow – and to do so with vigor and passion – one must have consistent moments of inspiration. After a long time spent practicing and practicing, it can be very discouraging to not see the results that you are looking for (whether that's more gigs, more income, etc.). It can be easy to get disillusioned with your instrument or even music on the whole.
Make an effort to fall in love with music again every single day in some small form or another. This mostly revolves around doing a ton of listening and discovery. Some of the best inspiration will come from the masters of your instrument, and seeking out those who are considered the leaders of the pack is certain to bring you inspiration. Through the internet, we now have the power to hear, see, and discover the world's greatest players without ever having to leave our bedrooms.
I’ve found that you can be even more inspired by those who are close to you. If you aren’t already, try to hang around musicians who are farther along in their path than you are, and befriend them. Hanging around great musicians that you know personally will allow you to experience inspiration at a much more intimate level, and it will often stick with you for a very long time.
2. Isolate and eliminate distractions
If you aren't as focused as you'd like to be on your musical career, chances are that something (or someone) is forcing you to divide your attention and lose that focus that you're striving for. A great place to start is by isolating all of your distractions and trying to minimize them.
Some distractions in life can't be helped. If you're working full-time to pay bills while you try to get your music going, your job may be draining a lot of energy from you. If you have a spouse, and especially if you have children, they're going to require a lot of attention and are obviously going to have to be your first priority.
There are many distractors in life, however, that can be dealt with fairly easily. How much time per day do you spend watching television? How about playing video games? Do you spend a lot of time at the bar or socializing with friends? Are there any other activities that you do on a daily basis for leisure or relaxation? Make music your method of relaxation. If you keep a log of how much time you spend on your current daily activities and find that you're not actually doing many things that are very important, it'll make it easier to cut down on time-wasters and carve out some time to develop your music career.
3. Take small steps daily
You'll eventually achieve 100 percent of your goals as long as you take a small step towards them every single day. In your music career, there are small tasks that can be done daily regardless of how busy you are or what your schedule is like.
Even if you're having the most hectic week of your life, block out 30 minutes of time at some point during the day where you can just relax and focus on music-related activities. This could be something as simple as taking the extra time to practice or perform instrument upkeep. Other great activities to fill this block include updating or setting up your website, organizing a list of your musical contacts, reaching out to a musical friend you haven't seen in a long time, or researching new industry professionals or musicians that you would like to connect with and approaching them via email.
Even the smallest steps will move you forward towards your ultimate goal. It's always just a matter of time.
4. Give yourself no choice but to take action
One of the fastest ways to build discipline for your musical career is to force yourself into a position where you must be nothing less than disciplined. Put yourself into a sink-or-swim situation where you have to either be more disciplined or risk failure.
Try looking for and joining up with a group of players who are significantly better than you. This should hopefully inspire you to practice, as you will need to in order to keep up and not hold the group back. If you live in a town with an active music scene, try to seek out and join as many groups as you can realistically take on. Having tons of material to learn and frequent rehearsals and gigs will require a lot of your focus and attention and will help strengthen your discipline.
This approach is not for everybody, as it could overwhelm you if you don’t have the willpower to step widely out of your comfort zone. But for those who tend to tackle challenges head on, consistently having to push your limits will certainly light a fire inside you.
5. Explore new areas of musical focus
Perhaps your lack of musical discipline is the result of boredom with your current musical focus. If you've been spending a few hours a day practicing your instrument but find it hard to stay motivated (and find new inspiration), trying dedicating your energy to another aspect of your musical career. Sometimes, it can be fun and inspiring to learn how to put together a webpage, book a gig, use social media efficiently, or even learn a new instrument. As I mentioned above, there are plenty of things that you can spend time on that will advance your musical career. Sometimes trying something new can ignite new excitement for you, which in turn makes it easier to focus on all of the other aspects of your musical journey.
How do you keep yourself on track to accomplish your musical goals? Share with us in the comments below!
Dylan Welsh, a native of Seattle, Washington, grew up cutting his teeth in various club bands around the Northwest. Seeking a more diverse and challenging environment, he attended Berklee College of Music with hopes of gaining new perspectives and finding his own voice. Though music is what he does best, writing and journalism are other passions that he has kindled throughout his academic life.