When Your Music Life is Bit Like Dating: Moving Beyond the Disappointment Stage
I was recently in London for a gig when I found myself having afternoon tea in Fortnum and Mason’s with two successful and attractive ladies. The conversation turned to the latest dating book, the very worthy How to Get a Date Worth Keeping by Henry Cloud. When I listened to the strategies of the book being discussed, it struck me forcibly that some of the principals might apply well to a music career… I mean, it’s a bit like dating in that we musos make an emotional investment and sometimes we hit a phase of bitter disappointment and give up for a while. Everybody goes through that.
To paraphrase a very old saying, the thinking we’re going to examine here is this:
Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened, sit in every Saturday watching Netflix and you might as well adopt ten cats now cos your dating/music dreams ain’t going to happen.
Being proactive whilst open to opportunity is the key here. So, you’re a bit bummed that you’re not making the progress your talent should afford you. What practical steps can you take?
1. Put Yourself Out There
Like the fairytale belief in a handsome prince, the likes of the X Factor puts the idea out there that all you need is a ‘big break’ and fame and success will come your way. Well, you know what, you have to kiss a hell of a lot of frogs before one turns out to be a prince and none of those frogs will come to you via Royal Mail while you just sit there. Sitting behind your computer will also only do so much. Don’t get me wrong, you need to be on social media and joining Facebook groups (Singers and Songwriters Northern Ireland, Women’s Work, Country Music Fans… whichever groups suit your genre) but in the end people want to interact with real people. So, I want to set you 2 challenges now. Yes, right now (you may finish this article first if you so desire). Go onto your Facebook events and click ‘going’ to at least one music related event, a gig, seminar, house concert, anything. If you don’t have any music related events in your suggested events, something is pretty wrong there … go find some music groups on Facebook and actually talk to people (do NOT post links to your own music without engaging with anybody else’s). Then go and converse and form a real life, flesh and blood network.
Second challenge, phone someone instead of emailing. Promoters, publishers etc. get truckloads of emails and they’re more likely to remember you if you call, plus we don’t always come across in writing as the personalities we really are. So, swallow the fear and do it. The most successful musicians I know all do this. Warning, though, phone somebody appropriate that is likely to have an interest in what you’re doing. Don’t randomly call up the CEO of BMG.
Does this sound scary? That’s because it is but staying in your comfort zone is not going to advance you beyond where you are.
2. Be Yourself
So, you’re out and about at events and getting to know the musical community. This puts you in the know of what opportunities are coming up. You’re a folk artist and there is a country festival coming up. You could just slightly tweak your set …
Ok, the dating analogy here is the person who tries to please their date by adopting their interests and tastes rather than being true to themselves. It never works. OK, in some areas of music you need to be flexible and adaptable, particularly if you are a pure writer rather than an artist writer or are aiming for cover gigs or sync. As an artists though, if you want to draw press and label attention you need to have solid sense of your artistic identity. Changing with every wind that blows will only confuse your followers. Find your niche and go with it.
3. Find a Wing Woman/Man
We all need a friend who will rugby tackle our phone away from us before we send a drunken text to our ex or who will tell us if we’re being clingy/stalkerish/rude to potential dates. In music, a manager or other industry pro can tell you how you are really coming across on stage and on social media rather than how you think you’re coming across. It’s good to have a team and to take their feedback on board. It’s also essential to choose these people carefully. What are their qualifications and experience and what do they want in return?
Also, when you’re getting to know someone romantically you’ll generally go on their Facebook to see who your mutual friends are, whether they’re nutters or fairly normal mutual acquaintances. Use this due diligence in music: if you are offered a contract or other form of working relationship contact other musicians who have worked for the same people and find out about their experiences.
4. Let Your Friends Set You Up
Just as if you let your circle know you’re up for dating, letting your musical circle know you’re up for gigging is not at all embarrassing. It’s essential. My first international festival gig came about because I asked a girl I knew how she had got a gig at the same festival and she gave me the relevant contact details. I was then able to name drop her and the promoter got back to me. Also, I have a friend who turned down a couple of dates that didn’t work with her touring diary and I played those places. If someone doesn’t want to help or feels threatened by other people getting gigs, they are probably not as talented as they think they are in my experience. If you have a goal you want to achieve, ask someone who has already done it how they did it and more often than not they will actually be helpful.
So, get out there, people!!! Step away from Netflix and go and do something about your dreams! Please post in the comments below and let me know how it went.
Eve Williams MMus is a published songwriter, touring artist and music educator. If you would like to enquire about singing or songwriting lessons and workshops or have any questions or comments relating to this article please use the contact form below to get in touch. We would love to hear from you.