“Always get the job done!” Sometimes that is easier said than done! Songwriting is not just a job like any other.
In a way it is of course. You have to work hard and know the business in and out to ever make a dime. However, unlike most jobs, songwriting is also an artform and requires a lot of emotional input. That makes it harder to treat it with a rational business sense to begin with.
On top of that our society has created this malicious perception, that only songwriters whose music gets cut by major label artists or whose songs get played on the radio or are being adopted into spotify playlists have truly “made it”.
What does “made it” mean though? Would we call a restaurant owner a failure if they weren´t awared with a Michelin star? No, if their restaurant served delicious food and the place was busy every night, we would well respect their business for what it is.
In songwriting we do not see the successes people have, unless they are Grammy worthy so to say. This malperception can be dangerous if adopted by songwriters themselves as this can really cause mental health issues and add enourmous pressure to reach overly ambitious goals. No wonder people feel like they fall short.
Like I said the job in itself already requires emotional openness, and that vulnerability is easily taken advantage of by people that want to bring you down (whether that happens consciously or subconsciously).
But what´s the hardest part for some creatives is the fact that their loved ones, people that are close to them, often operate from that very same fear-based perception and therefor do not really give emotional support. A lot of times people that mean us well, tell us to stop dreaming and get a “real” job and just write for fun in our spare time. That can be truly devastating. It can be soul-crushing. Also, they might not believe in our music, as it might not match with what the commercial listener is used to listening to on the radio. Again, comparing everything to the highest standards. This might make loved ones bad judges and yet they will share their opinion because everyone has an opinion about music. Music is so culturally embedded into our day to day lives, that everyone feels entitled to judge. In other jobs where you might have an expertise that your loved ones do not have, they might just admire your work ethic or be proud of your ambition. In songwriting they quickly judge your journey and the audible results based on their limited ability for being visionaries or truly understanding anything about the art or the business behind it.
So why am I sharing this? Basically because I´ve been in such a situation myself before. This never applies to all the people close to you, but only to some.
And yes it is hard. I want you to feel less alone and I want you to be aware that just because you love certain people you shouldn’t trust their advice in areas they have no idea about.
You know how they say, only take advice from the people that are exactly where you want to be. People that have done it. Those will know what it takes. Not the people that have nothing to do with your journey. If they cheer you on, that is nice! But likewise, do not actually start to care too much about their praise, as it might not mean a whole lot for your journey. Loved ones often see things in black and white. They want the best for you, so they might worry too much or cheer you on with all they have. There is rarely a middle ground. And even if some people are very honest and rational about how to judge your art, it´s just some opinions among many. Every musician can find their tribe. There is a market out there for what you do! The key is not to get too emotional over “everybody´s” opinion. At some point, as much as your songs represent a part of you, you have to switch to a “business” mindset and accept that in order to live off your music, you have to accept that cannot please everyone. And you migt never win that Grammy! But that is fine! You can please loads of people and that is ultimately your mission! So, do not let a lack of support or a an excess of it define who you are as a songwriter! You know who you are inside! Stick with that!
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