Courtesy of Hugh McIntyre
There are plenty of articles with suggestions about how to be more productive, more successful, and with tips on how to become the person you want to be... but what about the things you need to stop doing?
Musicians, recording artists, song-writers and top touring performers who have "made it" will tend to have similar qualities about themselves that are all shared in common. This is including many things that they have dropped from their lives altogether and they've just learned to simply live without.
The lesson here is that if we are "not doing" something specific, it can be just as important as picking-up on a certain action... Here are five things that you should abandon in life along your long drive to becoming the most successful musician you can possibly be...
We all do it, so don’t beat yourself up. But, you should get better about actually getting off your butt and focusing on your career goals. This means severely limiting any personal time spent on social media outlets like Facebook, and Instagram, turn off that TV (the idiot-box), and start doing more of whatever needs to be done to get you closer to your musical goals.
Procrastinating can hurt you so much more than you realize, as it zaps all of your valuable time away, and little by little, causes you to lose out on both opportunities and the production of your musical products and services.
And, it happens well before you will ever even notice it. So, the first step to stopping these "time wasting" behaviors is to catch yourself procrastinating, (nip it in the bud). If you can see the "waste of time" coming a mile away, stop it prior to it consuming your valuable hours. By constantly asking yourself if you "really need to do _______," you'll start finding a lot more free time to plug into your music career.
Whenever you open a website, pick up your cell-phone, or change the TV channel, think for just a millisecond about what you're doing. Is this really the best use of your time, and have you really earned it? Don’t start justifying all of your actions either. Be honest with yourself.Over time, you'll find far more valuable things to occupy your days and evenings. Things that have more to do with your future success and advancing your goals.
2. Constantly getting wasted or high
This is a problem for a lot of musicians. And, every serious player really needs to start thinking about the time that these actions require from your day, and think if you’re serious about being a full-time musician, will this benefit you in any way.
There’s nothing wrong with hanging out and blowing off some steam from time to time, but take a look at how often you get drunk or high, and then think about what you do when you’re incapacitated.The loss of "clear thinking" time is gone during those periods and will never be regained.
If you drink too much, there's not just the period of drinking either, there's the being hungover part as well, and that can ruin a day that would otherwise have been spent working. And, this does not stop at alcohol...
Smoking a lot of weed and being stoned every day isn’t the best state of mind in which to book a show, study music, or think about upcoming music business decisions, is it? Sometimes, creating music while under the influence can work-out okay for "some" people, (not for everyone - and not all the time). In other words, you shouldn’t come rely on it.
Don’t make it a habit of being drunk or stoned too often. And, take a close examination of the work that you do when you're drinking alcohol or smoking dope. Is it really as good as when you're straight? If you take stock of this you should be fine.If ignored, it could possibly lead to total disaster for your musical future.
3. Trying to make everything perfect
Many artists get caught up in perfectionism, and because of that, their work is never really done. That might be artistically interesting, but it doesn’t help your productivity. Believe it or not, your fans aren’t really that into the fact that you’ve spent years making sure every tiny detail of your new album is flawless, and many of them may end up forgetting about you.
Now, I’m not saying you should churn out bad, sloppy work. There’s no excuse for doing your job poorly, especially if it’s something you love. It’s really about being able to recognize when you’re going overboard, and when the music you’ve created really is very good (and good enough). Don’t let "perfect" be the enemy of good.
4. Sounding like someone who is famous
Those who want to truly make it big might think that the best way to get there is by not quite copying, but sounding "just like" their favorite superstars. If there is such a demand for Bruce Springsteen, U2, and Katy Perry, there is surely room for someone else just like them at the top, right?
Wrong. Not only will this strategy ABSOLUTELY not make you hit number one, it’s not likely to take you anywhere - period. Being inspired by someone who has become wildly successful is great, and you should absolutely learn from the artists who've come before you, but they’ve already done it, so you need to go your own route.
5. Making comparisons
On the other side of the coin from the previous tip, this can be just as damaging to a budding career. Some people look up and see the stars at the top and think, “I’ll never get there,” and with that thought, you’re certainly not going to.
Don’t start comparing your music to those with million-dollar producers, don’t feel bad that your video doesn't look like something that could win an MTV VMA, and DON’T start believing that living life as a musician is impossible.
Sure, the odds are that you’ll never have a number one hit, and becoming an international superstar is...not likely, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to do your thing. Everybody starts somewhere, and even if you don’t get to the top of the charts, you can still do what you love.
Millions of people make a great living and enjoy highly successful music careers out of being full-time musicians. One of the first steps is giving up your feelings of crushing doubt. If you have studied, organized a career path, stayed realistic, remained clear-headed and have "get-up-and-go," to work hard everyday - generally - you'll be able to carve out a music career for yourself. This business isn't perfect, but there are rewards for those who can hold their own.
Hugh McIntyre is a freelance pop music journalist in NYC by way of Boston. He has written for Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter, and MTV, as well as various magazines and blogs around the world. He is also the founder and editor-in-chief of the blog Pop! Bang! Boom! which is dedicated to the genre of pop in all of its glory.