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Music Business

How Hustling Can Ruin Your Music Career

hustling can

As I write this, I have several concerts to prepare, contracts to read and sign, audio masters to listen to and approve, travel, and the list goes on. We musicians are busy. Being busy is not necessarily a problem. However, it is what we are busy with that is most important. Simply put, hustling for the sake of being busy may be ruining your music career.

Think about it, we all know musicians who are busy. However, most of them remain busy for years with little to show for it. Why is this?

3 Reasons Musicians Struggle Despite Years of Hustling

  1. Undefined goals– This was my problem for years. Talent is great, but even talent needs direction. The absence of solid goals will result in an unsuccessful, often bitter, talented person. (You’ve probably met someone like this already.)
  2. Trying to impress othersMusicians often fall into the trap of being busy just so they do not appear lazy. Also, a full calendar doesn’t always mean that you’re building a successful career. Instead, get busy with the things that really matter and move you towards your goals.
  3. Obsession with “exposure”– I know older musicians who will accept a lesser fee just because someone mentions the magic word “exposure”. Exposure is great. However, exposure is not a form of payment. Also, the gigs that have the greatest amount of exposure are the best paying gigs, not the free ones!
hustling can
Photo by Lost Co on Unsplash

Hustling mindlessly would be okay if we had an unlimited amount of time. Unfortunately, each of us only has 24 hours each day. How are you using that time?

Graham Cochrane, the Founder of the Recording Revolution, wrote a blog article called The #Hustle Myth.

In his article, he defines the word “hustle” and creates a case for why hustling is unproductive. Hustle is defined as “Jostle. Swindle. Shove. Hurry.”

Instead, he chooses diligence over hustle. Diligence is defined as “Steady. Earnest. Energetic. Persevering.”

He concludes that hustling leads to workaholism.

An Alternative to Hustling, Diligence.

1. FOCUS: Hustling Does Not Guarantee Success, It Only Guarantees Burnout

As a musician, your main goal should be to create amazing music year after year.

Unfortunately, due to relentless hustle, many musicians create mediocre music. Then, when someone more focused comes along, they struggle to find gigs. Why? They have neglected their craft.

A significant amount of your time should be spent on improving your craft. Whether that be playing an instrument, composing, mixing, etc. Success and opportunity come to those at the top of their game.

2. STOP PROCRASTINATING: Hustling Can Be A Form of Procrastination

The majority of hustlers are busy realizing other people’s dreams. Yes, I said “other people’s dreams”.

Oh yes, you may be getting paid. However, did you really become a musician simply because you wanted to get paid? If so, there are a lot of easier ways to make money than with music.

So stop lying to yourself with excuses like, “I’m too busy to achieve my goals”, “As soon as my schedule is not so busy, …”, “I would have done [fill in the blank] if it weren’t for…” and the list goes on.

3. BE ACCOUNTABLE: Get Others to Hold You Accountable for Achieving Your Goals

Simply telling others about your goals can make you more productive. This is because you do not want to fail. If you tell no one about your aspirations, only you know that you’re a failure. So, find what it is that you need to achieve in the next 6 months or year and tell a friend or community that will hold you accountable. No excuses.

4. SAY NO: Take Control Over Your Career and Realize Your Full Potential

Learn to say no to things that are not beneficial to your career and overall growth as a musician.

There is a time for everything. Most young musicians will need to say “yes” to gigs for financial reasons (financial stability should be a goal). However, there comes a time when you need to begin to let certain opportunities pass by.

As you may know, a lot of musicians feel the need to say yes to every gig that comes their way. However, if these gigs are not beneficial artistically or financially learn to politely say no.

5. LEVERAGE TALENT: There are Others Who Will Help You Achieve Your Goals

The most successful people in the world become successful with the help of others. Don’t try to do everything yourself.

Ask for advice. You will be surprised how many people are willing to help a person who simply asks for help. This is because few musicians are humble enough to do so.

If you are a great songwriter but are terrible at music production, find someone who you can partner with to create great music. Here are some examples of partnerships that helped changed the world:

  1. Bill Gates and Paul Allen (Microsoft)
  2. Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google)
  3. Evan Williams and Biz Stone (Twitter)
  4. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard (Hewlett Packard)
  5. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (Ben & Jerry’s)
Photo by Marco Chilese on Unsplash

What do you want to be known for?

Only you can answer this question. Do you want to be a great studio musician? Pursue that. Do you want to be the next great music producer? Figure out how to make that happen.

However, just be aware that the music industry is big and varied.

Don’t get stuck doing things that aren’t beneficially to you long-term. Work hard, but know that hustling does not guarantee success.

Focused, hard work will ensure that you are productive. Furthermore, diligence and productivity will lead to great opportunities. Learn to value productivity over unfocused hustle.

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