This may be difficult, but try to picture your role in the band. Not just as the drummer or guitarist, but seriously look at your significance in the group. Unfortunately, many musicians find themselves as "cogs" in the system. They show up to band practice, learn the songs just enough to get by, go home, and repeat the same process. While there could be far worse situations, being a "cog" doesn't make you unique. In fact, it makes you entirely replaceable.
A replaceable musician is no different than the millions of other cogs out there playing the same instrument. You may find yourself safe for now, but the fact is, your bandmates might want to replace you once the right person comes along. If you feel that you fall into this category, don't worry. It's never too late to change.
The right person is what we call irreplaceable. "Right people" are unique, creative, risk-taking, and expressive individuals. These types of people aren't miracles of society. They're just people who learned the necessary traits to excel above the cogs.
If you want to succeed in music, you'll want to learn these traits. It's not really that difficult, and for the most part, it all starts with reliability.
Work on reliability just as much as virtuosity
Many people believe that the art of irreplaceability involves nothing more than virtuosity. They think if they simply play better than anyone else, hordes of musicians will flock to them, begging them to join their bands. Unfortunately, this is a distorted view of reality. Sure, you shouldn't suck at your instrument, but musical prowess is just one of many deciding factors in your success.
It seems silly, but just a little reliability can go a long way. You may have the greatest guitarist ever in your band, but if he's showing up late for practice, canceling gigs, and generally just not pulling his weight, he may as well be useless.
For whatever reason, many musicians out there don't take their gigs seriously. You need to think of it like a job and your bandmates as your supervisors. You can't expect to show up late for work and not be around when they need you, right? That would get you fired immediately. By working on such a simple aspect like dependability, you instantly up your chances of becoming a respected, valuable, and irreplaceable member of your band.
Think supply and demand
That economics class you took back in the day may have been a real bore, but in a way, it can relate to your music career. If you paid attention in the slightest, you'll recall the concept of supply and demand. Supply and demand is the study of value and how it's created.
Even if you never took an economics class in your life, most people would agree that the key to creating value is scarcity. Think about that time when that hot new restaurant opened up in town. It would take forever just to get a seat. People would wait in line for hours just to get in and be seen in a hip location. The same can be said for big-name acts that roll through town. Their tickets are significantly harder to get than Joe's pub band down the street.
So now, take that concept of scarcity and relate it to yourself. You want to create high demand for your talents, and to do this, you need to be creative and courageous. That may sound ridiculous, but think about it. It doesn't get any more scarce than your personal imagination. You're the only one in the entire world who has it so, yes, it should be in high demand. Every thought you have, emotion you feel, and perspective you see is raw material. It's entirely unique and, if used in the right way, your "stock" will soar.
The key on acting on this scarcity lies in courage. Yes, it's true you have a one-of-a-kind imagination, but at the same time, so does everyone else. So what's the difference between you and them? How come everyone isn't a talented musician, then?
Well, it comes down to courage. Bravery is what brings those creative ideas out into the world and not just hidden away. Surely there have been times when you've had a remarkable idea but never told anyone. Maybe you were afraid to speak up or thought people would hate it. Despite this fear, you'll never really know your brilliance until your make a commitment to it and try to share it with others.
Find your unique voice
Once you've decided to step out and express yourself, it's time to find your voice. As mentioned earlier, there are too many talented musicians out in the world. But for every robotic figure who can ace a difficult piece, there are hundreds of others just like them. Accuracy and skill can be replicated, but your unique voice is something that can never be replaced. You just need to find it.
When you find your voice, you'll enter a zone free of judgment or rejection. Instead of getting onstage and feeling cautious and tentative, you'll approach it with bravery and confidence.
To find this voice, we have to go back to creativity and courage. These qualities have to be harvested. Forget about what others think. Instead, focus your attention on your own expectations. Eventually, you'll find yourself performing with confidence and even delivering more emotional performances. You'll play the notes you feel you should play, and not just the ones you think everyone wants to hear.
Most importantly, you'll see yourself becoming more valuable. When your bandmates begin to see that you're reliable, dedicated, and have a unique voice all of your own, the last thing they're going to want is to kick you out.
Anthony Cerullo is a nomadic freelance writer and keyboard player. In his spare time, he can be found reading, hiking mountains, and lying in hammocks for extended periods of time.