Confidence is key in just about any career, and in the music industry, there's a fine line between ego and conviction. As an artist, you want to establish yourself as a compelling creator, and you want fans to believe in you enough to invest their time and money in your efforts. Arrogance will surely divert your supporters, so it's important to develop a confident persona that's still relatable and likeable. Here's how to be a boss without alienating your devoted followers.
1. Tell your story
Whether it's through your lyrics, during interviews, or in short snippets between sets, you want people to have a sense of the person you are offstage. This will help formulate a relatable image that doesn't deflect your onstage persona. Thomas Merton once said that "art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time." Having a story and reminding fans of where you came from helps you create justification for having pride in your success.
Arrogance is decorating elaborate walls around your true identity to forge perfection, whereas confidence is being unafraid of vulnerability. Don't be afraid to showcase your humanity.
2. Know your weaknesses
Having limitations and working to overcome them is what being human is all about. Fans want to know your struggles so they can celebrate your success. I remember seeing Katy Perry broken after the split with Russell Brand during her California Dreams tour, and I'll never forget wanting her to exude confidence and pride in the moments following. It's important to maintain a balance of being honest about your shortcomings and feelings of defeat with your moments of joy and bliss as a performer.
3. Give credit where credit is due
As a musician, it's important to never singlehandedly take the credit for where you've arrived. Insecurity is wanting to place yourself above others to appear confident, but true confidence is seeing the best in others. Your career is a perfect combination of your natural talent, creativity, drive, developed skills, business knowledge, consistent fan support, crew member dedication, marketing luck, and recording success. Even if you feel you're solely responsible for the outcome of a project, always have a list of people to thank. There’s a reason Grammy acceptance speeches are a thing. Without a team of people surrounding you to help transform your musical ideas into a commercially viable product and an audience in front of you to consume it, your music is just untouched art.
4. Stay grounded
It's unfortunate to see artists who've achieved the unimaginable status of superstardom lose themselves and become godlike for certain fans. Don't let it get to your head and start developing an inflated opinion of yourself. People who view themselves as legendary tend to have low self-esteem behind closed doors. Be mindful of how you change as your career advances, and keep track of what's behind those changes.
Remember that while fans do sometimes want to vicariously live out their fantasies through you, they subscribed to an artist, a human, and the person you were before the success came. Don't let your surroundings influence your personality. It's okay to indulge and give your followers a taste of what living out a dream is like, but it's important to motivate them, encourage people to pursue their own dreams, and redefine reality by breaching their perceived limitations.
5. Have your own heroes
I love seeing artists mention their comrades in interviews. It showcases music as a collaborative art form, and it lessens individual contributions by focusing on the teamwork potential that makes music so unique. It's important to have your own idols, mentioning your sources of inspiration and hope to your followers. It makes you real and keeps your ego in check.
6. Use your platform to make positive changes
Music has an amazing potential to be timeless, and as an artist, you get to utilize your music as a way to make positive, lasting changes in the world. If you're lucky enough to be successful as a music creator, come up with ways to leverage your authority. Legends and icons in the music industry did more than create invaluable music; they used their platform and outreach to bring to light the darkness in the world around them in attempts to better societies. Music is universal and can uplift and unite cultures across decades and oceans, and artists get to initiate this process with the art they create.
Caleb Hsu is an independent vocal producer and freelance recording engineer based in Los Angeles. As a classically trained pianist and composer, he enjoys writing music technology features that combine his psychology background with current industry trends.