11 Ways To Be A Happier Musician

You know we love sharing great content from around the web, and that is what we’re doing today. The post you’re about to read is quite possibly one of the best pieces of advice for musicians produced this year, and it was written by none other than Jacquie Neville, lead singer of The Balconies. She runs a fantastic blog filled with insight and experience, which we highly encourage you to read when not listening to her music. Before all of that, enjoy the blog below.

As artists we are constantly evaluating ourselves…and others. In order to succeed we make many sacrifices such as financial, social, emotional, or physical. I don’t believe in the “tortured artist”. Being an artist can be a hard life, but it doesn’t have to be. If you are mindful of what’s going on with you and the world around you, you’ll realize being an artist can be the most rewarding and fulfilling path you can take if you’re willing to work for it.

1) It’s about the journey, not the destination.

Stop comparing yourself to others. Everyone has their own struggles that you know nothing about. Stop coveting others’ success. It’s cancer for your band. Stop perceiving others as a threat and try not to be so hard on yourself. It’s not about all about the numbers or followers. It’s about you and who is connecting with what you do. If you’re in it for fame, you’re in it for the wrong reason. Focus on what you have accomplished and what strengths you do have and try being happy for others’ success. Everyone has their own path…and if you’re not happy with where yours is taking you, change it.

2) Stop the hate.

Jealousy. It happens. But extreme hate can creep in and infect you and your band. If you find yourself stuck in this mode, refer to suggestion #1. Respect others and the fact that they’re doing their own thing. I’m not suggesting you start LIKING or praising other artists and bands if they’re not your cup of tea, but do try and be open and keep any negative comments to yourself. Whether they’re doing something different or something similar, accept the fact that there are other things out there. Everyone is entitled to their own taste. Maybe some people WANT to be the $10 mystery box wine and not the $45 Chianti. Focus on yourself and don’t be a dick.

…if someone is openly hating on you… (ie. hate tweets, online comments etc) do not indulge them by responding to these messages. They want you to explode with rage…but it only gives them power. Don’t let fools win. They are not worth your time or your energy.

3) Embrace constructive criticism.

People will always think they know what’s best for you and your band whether it’s sonically, performance, or image-based. People will always have an opinion. For optimal happiness: grow a thicker skin, welcome criticism, know how to spot BS, and trust your gut. Some people are worth listening to – others…not so much.

4) “NO”

The world is full of “NO” – get used to it and stop whining about it. Focus on the people who are saying “yes” or when someone does say “no” try seeing it as a challenge. But just remember, you can’t please everyone.

5) Work out & eat real.

I’m not talking about becoming an athlete or a raw vegan (even though it wouldn’t hurt). But doing real physical activity and eating properly will save your life and your music career. Touring is hard on your body and your brain. Join a gym, do yoga, run…whatever, but MAKE time to move and ground yourself. You’ll live longer, be more confident, feel and look better/healthier (it will definitely diminish your beer gut), perform better…and your bandmates will thank you because you definitely won’t be as road crazy.

While on the road: have a routine for when you make gas stops and pre-show (jump rope, do laps, stretch, do push ups…or travel with loose weights). If you’re Canadian, you’ll be stuck in a van for long hours and it’s harder on your body than you think. Avoid fast food as much as you can. And if you have no choice – yes pick the McDonalds salad or Tim Hortons Oatmeal over Le Big Mac or breakfast burrito. Drink loads of water and eat fruits and veggies whenever possible. Scurvy is not sexy.

Which leads into my next point…

6) Plan ahead – on the road and off.

a) Weekend mini-tour, two-week run, or out for a month: planning ahead will save you money, time, and energy while on the road. Before you head out on tour, make a batch of homemade granola bars (or buy some) for healthy snack options. Buy apples, peanut butter, crackers, and other food that won’t perish quickly while in a hot van. Travel with a cooler! This gives you a lot more wiggle room for food options on the road. Just remember to clean the thing out every few days or it’ll get rancid. Doing this will not only encourage you to eat better but you’ll also be able to save your per diems so you can do cool things in new cities or treat yourself to a good meal, again, leading to optimal happiness!

b) Set goals for yourself and your band. Whether they are short-term or long-term, it’s a great way to help you and your team get motivated for the future. Planning your next tour? Talking about new directions? Label shopping? Whatever it is, set timelines for yourself and do your best to make it happen!

7) Money money money MONEY.

A hard thing to come by for most artists. Learn to budget and be smart with your cash. Find other ways you can get cash flow: promotions and sampling, postering, cover bands, production, session work, djing, teaching etc…Thinking ahead will save you a lot of energy instead of scrambling to make rent. Get a part-time job that is understanding and supportive of your dream. Although it’s difficult to come by, there are really rad people out there who want to help out a hardworking artist.

8) Know who you are and what you want.

Regarding music: what is your message? What do you want to say to your fans? Don’t ever compromise your integrity and never do something that doesn’t feel quite right. Trust your instincts and do what comes naturally to you. Don’t make music because it’s trendy or because a certain artist was successful doing it. They were probably successful because they did their own thing in the first place. People want honest and real music that they can connect to. It’s easy to spot a fake. You want a long career? Don’t be one.

9) Be nice.

You’ll make friends, dedicated fans, solid business partners, and people will respect you more. They’ll also be more inclined to do you favours and help you out when in need. I’m talking everyone at your live show, industry folks, other bands, techs…EVERYONE!

10) Creativity doesn’t just “go away”.

Writer’s block? Do writing exercises. Create restrictions for yourself. For example: force yourself to write only in iambic pentameter one day. Write a haiku. Or force yourself to write a song about your childhood dog. It seems silly, but creating boundaries for yourself will force you to think outside the box and it’ll eventually propel you into a state of creative flow. Change your surroundings – go play guitar in the park instead of at home. You’ll be amazed by how much a change of scenery can help. The key here is to not put pressure on yourself to make art happen. The best work happens spontaneously.

Let go of that inner self-loathing monologue. That’s how you become more creative and more successful. Listen to everything. Read. Paint. Draw. Travel. Take pictures. Explore. Watch movies. Observe. Write. Remember you have the best job in the world, so treat these things as research. Be a child and discover the whole world around you. Be a sponge and take in as much as you possibly can. Try everything and don’t think about whether it’s good or not. Just go and do it.

11) Be grateful.

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Jacquie Neville is the lead singer of The Balconies. Read her blog here, and keep up with her on Twitter and Instagram.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.