With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it's time to reflect on the things that we're most thankful for. Musicians have many more things to be grateful for than the average person; music is a skill that requires a lot of talent to do well, and even more talent to do at a level that keeps you steadily employed. This holiday season, take a minute to be grateful for the gift you have, and express gratitude to the support system that has allowed you to develop it. Here are five things all musicians should be thankful for.
1. Your musical talent
Music is one of the most mentally and psychologically enriching activities in which you could possibly participate. Once a skill has been developed, however, it's easy to take it for granted.
Not everybody gets to experience the joy of playing music. If you have any degree of proficiency on an instrument, be thankful for the joy that it brings into your life and the lives of others! Many do not have the time or patience to learn an instrument, and some simply have less natural aptitude than others. Think back to when you were first beginning, and how difficult it was to get started. Wasn’t all of that effort worth it to reach the level of skill you’re at today? Imagine how much fun you would have missed out on had you not had the opportunity to learn an instrument.
2. The internet
Though it has its pros and cons, the internet really has made a huge difference in the lives of amateur musicians and up-and-coming artists everywhere.
Forty years ago, the only way to do any kind of national touring, release, or promotion was to have the backing of a record label, which was no easy task. With the help of the internet, talented artists from all over the world are doing all of their own booking, promotion, publicity, fundraising, and management over email, social media, and platforms such as Sonicbids, CD Baby, and Kickstarter.
Beyond the musicians who are already active, it's easier than ever to pick up an instrument and gain proficiency through watching videos and reading articles online. While having quality private instruction is still the most efficient path to success on an instrument, it’s no longer a prerequisite. Playing music is now a significantly more accessible activity, thanks to the internet.
This also includes music-related skills that artists learn to help them further their own career independently. Audio recording/mixing, social media optimization, publicity, and tour management can all be learned – at least on a basic level – after spending a few hours researching and a few more hours applying the research.
3. Your supportive family, friends, and fans
Getting started in music requires a strong support system to help you get moving and encourage you when the going gets rough. Be thankful for all of your family and close friends who have supported you musically, or continue to do so by coming to all of your local shows and buying all of your merch (even though they've probably heard your set about 4,000 times).
Be sure to thank the fans you've acquired over the years who also support your music. The folks in your fanbase are the ones that continue where your close friends and family leave off, buying your music and merch, coming to all of your shows, and even helping you by generously donating to your crowdfunding campaigns. Without fans and supporters, there is no music career!
4. Influences and mentors
Before we picked up our instruments for the first time, there were the artists who came before us and paved the musical pathway. Many musicians can think of a few very specific artists who have changed the way they made or thought of music. Take some time this season to think back on the people who really made you excited about music, and be thankful for them.
Many of us have also had personal mentors in our lives: private instructors, music teachers at school, or perhaps musical parents, friends, or family friends. These are the people who took us under their wing, showed a personal interest in our musical development, and wanted to see us grow and prosper as musicians. Whoever this was for you, they likely made a long-lasting impression on your musical life, and you should take some time this month to be grateful for their presence in your life.
5. The money you make (no matter how little)
Practitioners of the arts have struggled with money for centuries. We live in a time where music has been devalued and watered down to the point where making a living takes more effort and attention to detail than ever. Though you might not make very much money from your music (perhaps much less than you feel like you’re worth), be thankful this year for whatever money you do make. If you make any amount of money from music, you are making more than most.
Those who are able to make a sustainable living from music alone have even more to be thankful for. Being able to generate a living wage from music requires a lot of talent, a lot of friends, and a lot of luck, all of which you should be thankful for. It's truly an incredible thing to make music for a living, so try to be grateful and really enjoy every minute of it.
6. Any opportunity at all that you've been given
Again: Making a career in music typically requires a lot of talent, a lot of friends, and a lot of luck. That luck usually comes in the form of opportunities, which are usually offered to you by friends based on said talent.
If you have had the good fortune to be given any kind of great opportunity that's advanced you in the field of music, be thankful for it. Many people are still searching for their first landmark opportunity, and many of them will give up before ever finding their first one. When you’ve been stagnating, it can be easy to feel like your career isn't going anywhere. This is the perfect time to reflect on the progress and luck that you've had, and how far you have come.
What are you most thankful for this holiday season? Let us know 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.