Managing Expectations for the Music Professional Going into 2024
As we get ready to turn the page on 2023 and head into the New Year, I thought I would write this post to help share a little insight and inspiration for anyone running up against challenges achieving greater success within the music industry.
ALTER YOUR EXPECTATIONS
First thing I would say is: you’ve got to send yourself a bit of “tough love.”
NOBODY OWES YOU ANYTHING! Check any sense of “entitlement” at the door; if you’re not getting the results you may THINK you “deserve,” that’s not really how it works :).
If you don’t get the reception you’d hoped for in some way (your social media following, reaction to any particular release, mix or post) you basically have two choices:
1. Change the type of content or music you’re putting out there in the hopes that people will then like this new style, OR (if you’re confident in your message and sound),
2. Change the way you are PRESENTING yourself. Make sure you are “putting your best foot forward.” (To help things along, you could consider running some paid ads to see if you can reach more people who really get what you’re doing).
TAKE THE EMOTIONS OUT OF THE PICTURE
I’ve touched on this before – and I know it can be pretty hard – but you have to (as much as you can) try to look at things more objectively, and to not take things personally. Always be on the lookout for productive feedback from people on how you can improve. (And remember, if you’re not willing to change and apply constructive criticism, how can you really ever grow??)
One of the differences between amateurism/just focusing on your personal tastes and opinions and BEING A PRO is: you have to consider things such as outside forces, market demands and realities. As much as you can, try not to get overly emo or take things too personally when things don’t go your way, if the reaction to a particular post or release didn’t go as you had hoped.
**LIMIT YOUR MENTAL ENERGY FOR THINGS THAT DON’T BEAR FRUIT**
This of course does not mean, “only think about yourself, and your own schtick,” it just means – for self-protective purposes, and to ensure that you are spending more of your time focusing on the things that are actually moving the needle, and less time worrying about things that, in one way or another, are likely not as important or valuable as you think they may be in terms of furthering your success.
Remember, it’s a “marathon, not a sprint.”
IMPORTANCE OF TAKING BREAKS
I’ve covered this before in my article on “Tips for Avoiding Burnout.” If you need to take a break, take a break! (In fact, even if you don’t, you should still take a break!). And take it for as long as you need. It’s certainly a better alternative than just throwing in the towel.
Your physical, mental, and spiritual health are invaluable. It really is true that your time is your most precious/valuable commodity. Choose wisely where and how you spend it, and be sure to recharge and re-inspire yourself frequently.
SHIFTING YOUR PRIORITIES TO SOMETHING OTHER THAN MONEY
We all know how hard it is to monetize in this industry: the fact that people can listen to music for free, low Spotify pay-out rates, etc, etc. In order to stay in this game, a shift in perspective may be required. Do what you can to “pass the hat” (advertise your Donate link, set up a Patreon campaign, take advantage of Bandcamp Fridays where they give artists 100% of sales, etc). Beyond that, DO WHAT YOU DO FOR THE LOVE OF IT, for the inspiration, and the co-support of your friends and artists/labels whose music you truly love. Let that be its own reward!
COMPLETELY THROW OUT THE “FOLLOWER/LIKE CHASE”
There are a lot of reasons for this: the fact that the apps we use are third-party and not entirely within our control, subject to constant changes by the developers and tech companies, algorithms (shadow-banning, reel vs short), over-saturation of music and “players in the mix,” etc…. All of these factors may extremely limit the reach of your posts to your followers.
Ultimately you will come to see that, despite what may be your gut instinct, measuring your success primarily by your social media following is NOT where it’s at — it is not a true measure of the totality of who you are or what you have to offer. Sure, it is an important aspect, but by no means the sole metric by which you should measure your progress. (Increasing engagement and the amount of “super-fans” are more worthwhile pursuits. As they say, 100 devoted, loyal followers – or even 10 – are better than 10,000 people who really don’t give that much of a shit about your work.) **Creating great music and strengthening your relationships with partners and your “real fans” is where it’s really at.**
Cultivate your own MAILING LIST. If you totally rely on social media to get the word out about your news and releases, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but putting together your own mailing list of interested followers will ensure that you can keep in touch directly with your top fans. Plus, just in case one of the major apps shuts down or changes its policies (such as shifting to a paid membership requirement, and you’re not interested or in a position to pay), you can maintain access to your top userbase.
Also, if you really feel a need to “share” something to your followers, but you’re burned out, try one of the following:
– share a quick Story from someone else
– “Work the back catalogue”: share one of your most popular posts or a hot track from the past
– Share something silly or totally non-music-related (remember the good old days of social media when people would share pictures of half-eaten sandwiches, drinks and cats??)
CULTIVATE REAL, HIGH-VALUE PARTNERSHIPS
Focus on building long-term, lasting relationships. They have so much more value than simple, one-time “smash and grab,” “hit-and-run” one-offs.
TRY TO TONE DOWN THE MULTITASKING & MINIMIZE DISTRACTIONS
This can help you conserve your invaluable mental energy.
RETURN TO YOUR “WHY”
Especially when you get stuck, remind yourself why you got started in music in the first place. Which parts of this really EXCITE and INSPIRE YOU the most?? Feed those and return to those regularly. Hang out/chat with like-minded people who share your values and inspirations.
CUT OUT THE SECOND-GUESSING
Try new things and talk to new people, but trust in your judgment. If something you do later doesn’t turn out quite like you’d hoped, don’t beat yourself up, just use it as an opportunity to learn and to grow.
SUPPORTING OTHERS CAN BE ITS OWN REWARD
CELEBRATE YOUR PAST WINS (HOWEVER SMALL)
As John F. Kennedy said, “we’ve done it before, and we can do it again.” Michael Jordan would visualize success as a rule with every shot he took, and achieved it regularly in the process. Use your past wins as a reminder/blueprint for future successes.
Stay flexible, be willing to change certain things while keeping true to your core fundamental values and the draw to why you got started in this, and the things that keep you in it. Increase your practicality while maintaining a sense of optimism and hope. May you achieve your goals and attain big success with your music in 2024 (and beyond!)