English psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott once wrote, “Part of the satisfaction which a creative person obtains from his achievement may be the feeling that, at last, some part of his inner life is being accepted which has never been accorded recognition before.”
Perhaps this explains why introverts are so drawn to creative pursuits. Introverts want to share their inner worlds with others, but might not feel that they’re able to properly express themselves in conventional social circumstances, so they need to find another outlet for their creativity.
Another defining characteristic of introverts is their love of being alone, and this quality also lends itself well to creative pursuits. The introvert can sit by themselves for hours coming up with a wonderful new creation – a task that would send many extroverts running for the nearest party. These days, however, with the rise of open-plan offices and the decline of the so-called traditional music industry, it seems to be getting harder and harder to find places where one can both work alone and work on something creative.
On the other hand, as an introverted musician, you have a lot to offer to any workplace, and many of your skills fit perfectly with some of the best jobs in the music industry today. So let’s take a minute to look at some of your career options.
Teaching is a viable career option for many musicians, but it’s also an area where introverted musicians bring a special skillset to the table. That’s because while introverts don’t usually do well in group settings, they often excel at one-on-one interactions.
Leland Isley, a touring musician and guitar teacher profiled for the Quiet Revolution, describes his introverted approach to music teaching this way: “I let kids give as much energy as they’re comfortable with, and I’m not overbearing. I think that allows us to communicate easily at whatever level the kid chooses.”
This introverted music teacher’s ability to match his students’ energy level without overwhelming them makes him an excellent communicator, which is a much sought-after skill for music teachers. In addition, introverts have an uncanny ability to isolate themselves from the world for long periods of time – an ability that’s extremely helpful when it comes to developing the necessary skills for playing and teaching music at an advanced level.
Music journalist, blogger, publicist
While some might think it strange that an introvert would excel in a career that involves talking to a lot of people, marketing manager and former newspaper reporter Jen Retter has found that her introversion has given her the perfect skills to excel in her field. “I’ve found that my unique skill set – my listening, my flexibility, and my empathy – has made my reporting process special in its own way and has led me to stories I never would have found if I’d had a more gregarious personality type,” she writes.
As great listeners, introverts have the ability to hear stories that others might miss, and as dedicated researchers and creative thinkers, introverts also know how to make these stories interesting and accessible for a wide audience – skills that are valuable not only for music journalists and bloggers, but also for publicists who pitch stories to journalists and other industry professionals.
If you’re an introverted musician who’s also technically inclined, then the engineering side of the music business could be the perfect place for you. A lot of technical work in the music industry allows introverts to not only work in solitude, but also spend time delving deep into intricate issues and solving complex problems – things that give special joy to many introverts.
Some good options in the technical world could include career paths such as: mixing engineer, mastering engineer, instrument tech, instrument/equipment repair technician, luthier or other instrument maker, or music software programmer.
These days, of course, audio engineers and other technicians are often expected to master not just one but many aspects of their field, from tracking instruments to tuning vocals to repairing keyboards to running live sound. Fortunately, the introvert’s ability to spend time in isolation learning a new craft gives them the ideal temperament to excel in this ever-changing world.
Singer-songwriter, touring musician, solo artist
It’s a common myth that introverted musicians don’t have what it takes to excel onstage. Take one look at some of the most successful musicians in recent history and that myth is quickly obliterated: Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé, Kurt Cobain, Andrew Bird, Trent Reznor – these are just some of the famous musicians who have risen to the top of the music industry not just as sideline performers, but as household names in their own right.
Of course, not every introvert would enjoy having the spotlight on them to this degree, but even that leaves plenty of options open. The music industry today is filled with talented musicians who have found their calling as songwriters, studio musicians, touring band members, producers, orchestra musicians, and many other positions like these.
These suggestions only begin to scratch the surface of the many music industry career paths introverts might excel in. Some other options to investigate could be careers like:
- music supervisor
- record label accountant
- tour manager
- stage manager
- radio music director
- church/religious service musician
- music therapist
Keep in mind that while many introverts are looking for a job that doesn’t involve a lot of interaction with other people, the reality is that being an introvert in the music industry is about more than just working alone. As a quiet musician, you have many important skills – listening, communicating, researching, and mastering new crafts, just to name a few – that are highly sought after in many careers.
The trick for most introverted musicians, of course, is not in using these skills, but learning to sell them. And while talking yourself up may not be something that comes naturally to you, keep in mind that the first step towards becoming a better spokesperson for yourself lies in recognizing how valuable your natural abilities really are.
Casey van Wensem is a freelance composer, musician, and writer living in Kelowna, B.C., Canada. You can hear his musical work at birdscompanionmusic.com and read his written work at caseyvanwensemwriting.com.