There is a lot of rejection in the music industry – we all know this. It’s easy to feel you’re always doing something wrong, and it's only normal for that ongoing rejection to take a toll. The negativity can snowball into what I call the “Doom Monster” (DM). The DM can get the best of artists, so choosing to overcome it with constructive tools will put you in the best mind frame to succeed.
I always like to say that if you continue to "do it" despite the negativity and rejection, then you're doing it right. Fighting to maintain a positive mental attitude will do more than you know. And I don't use the word "fighting" lightly. It will be hard, and many things and people will try to hold you back from being positive. It takes a strong and incredibly focused person to overcome these daily battles, and when you do, you'll be surprised to see the opportunities that open up when you're not weighed down by the DM.
Here are 10 tips for staying positive and focused on your career – for the well-being of your band and your own mental health.
1. Make your plan
Craft a plan with action items and clearly outlined realistic goals that best suit your band. Work on it with your bandmates and commit to sticking to it. Having your own unique plan will ensure that you have a vision to stay focused on. This will help with staying positive for many of the reasons that you'll see below.
2. Don't be threatened by others’ success
It's easy to compare yourself to others – when you see your friends’ bands get signed or get a huge tour opportunity, you need to be happy for them. You have your own plan and are dedicated to it. Lucky moments happen in the industry, but they're not something you can bank on and build a career on the back of. A solid foundation, positive outlook and ongoing hard work are the keys to success. Stay focused on your plan and don't constantly weigh yourself beside others – because guess what? There will always be bigger bands than yours, even when you're wildly successful. None of that matters, and wasting your time putting yourself down is a waste of energy that you could put towards moving forward.
There are many stories from successful artists about cutting their teeth and getting constantly rejected by labels before becoming huge stars. These are always neat stories to hear, but they can be distracting. Stay focused on your own path and goals. You may or may not be that band one day – you can't control that. What you can control is the time you spend focused on your own path.
3. Celebrate your wins, no matter how small
Always remind yourself of the great things you get to do as a band. Take a moment to remember the awesomeness of it all. Celebrate your wins with your band and team, even if they're tiny! For example: "Hey, we just played a killer set last night," or "The new song is sounding bigger each night," or "I saw a great post from this fan on Facebook that we made their night!" All of these are important. You could even find an ongoing system. In the Audio Blood office, we send around "feel good moment" email chains. If a client gives great feedback or a fan sends a great note to an artist, we circulate it to everyone involved! Never forget to feel thankful for the things you do have. Don't wait for outside validation – create a team that can fuel positive moments. Find a place to store your wins so you can reference them in the future, whether it’s an email inbox or pinned up on your wall.
4. Keep the big picture at the front of your mind
What was that moment that made you decide you wanted to do this? Remember why you're killing yourself for your music career. Don't get caught up in the pity and complaining that many others do. You made the choice to do this, and you shouldn't need anyone other than yourself to remind yourself of why. If there is a picture or record or lyric that brings that feeling back, keep it near. Sometimes a kick reminder works wonders for scaring away the DM!
5. Stay away from those trying to bring you down
We all have those friends who are dealing with their own frustrations in their careers and will try to advise you based on their own DM-warped state of mind. Shut these people out. It doesn't mean you can't be buds, but maybe don't discuss business with them. Protect yourself from poor influencers. You will find as you fight to stay positive, you will attract those with a similar outlook – it happens magically on its own. When you find those ones, keep ‘em close.
There's a lesson from a book I'm reading right now called Damn Good Advice by George Lois. He says, "Tell the devil's advocate in the room to go to hell." Though Lois never worked in the music biz, this advice rings true on a number of levels. Negative Nancies will only hold you back. To get where you need to go, you need to take risks. You need to be bold, confident and maybe a bit crazy. This scares people who aren't ready for that, and they will react the only way they know how: by trying to tell you it's silly. The DM is tempted by these types of buds, but you can fend them off if you choose to.
6. Talk through your frustrations with those you trust
If you're feeling frustrated with your career or something that's happening, chat it out with your band and team. Look at it constructively and ask this question: “Why is this truly frustrating me, and how can I work towards fixing this?” Your frustrations are valid, and no amount of positivity can sweep them under the rug. With the DM at bay, you will be able to address them head on and constructively find yourself on a path to leaving them in the dark. Don't carry the weight alone – work with your inner circle of supporters to find solutions.
7. Cut out the complaining
Complaining is not constructive and only casts a negative light on a moment. Catch yourself when you resort to complaining (even if it's only to fill time or space), and replace it with appreciating the moment and wins that you do have in front of you.
8. Don't project thoughts in the minds of those you don't control
It's easy to make up stories in your mind when an email goes unread or someone doesn’t show up to your performance when they said they’d try to make it. But bring yourself back to reality and look at the actual facts. There are many factors outside of what you are privy to in everyone’s life. The DM likes to make up stories and you like to believe them. When your catch yourself filling in between the lines, tell yourself to shut up and wait for the story to unfold, as it shall on its own. Oh – and when you receive a compliment, take it.
9. Fake it 'til you make it
Some days, it's just extremely hard to stay positive. If you're having a particularly rough day, it helps to repeat a few positive things to yourself – even if feels like you're faking it. The good vibes will rub off on the day. For example, every day when I wake up I try to say, "Today is going to be a great day." It's silly, sure, but what could it hurt, ya know? Try it.
10. Don't keep a list of your failures
Sometimes things won't go as planned – it happens. Learn from it and move on. Don't keep a list of your failures to look back on and stress over. I promise that will do nothing for you. (Do list the wins though!)
Your new positive attitude will inspire those around you and bring out the best in them, too!
Sari Delmar is the founder and CEO of Audio Blood, Canada’s leading creative artist and brand marketing company. Through unique PR and promotional packages, Audio Blood continues to be on the cutting edge of music marketing and promotion. Their client roster includes the likes of Pistonhead Lager, PledgeMusic, Iceland Airwaves, Canadian Music Week, Riot Fest, Beau’s All Natural Brewing, The Balconies, Ben Caplan and more. At the age of 24, Sari leads a team of 10 out of the company HQ in Toronto, Ontario, has spoken at a number of music conferences and colleges, and sits on the Toronto Music Advisory Council. Read more from Sari at SariDelmar.com.