I want to help everyone clearly define their music career goals and compare these goals honestly with their career efforts for the purposes of managing expectations.
Are you serious about making a living making your music or are you a hobbyist?
Managing expectations honestly is a crucial component to a positive attitude and general sense of accomplishment in your artistic endeavors.
If you don’t manage expectations intelligently, it’s very easy to get depressed, discouraged, and even disillusioned (in a positive or negative sense) in your career. Often artists get disheartened and dejected because they are improperly processing data.
It’s easy to misdiagnose a minor, predictable, speedbump or pothole in your career as a catastrophic negative outcome. This misdiagnosis, of course, can cause tons of undo stress and add another “brick in the wall” of defeat we are all trying so hard to avoid.
My dad always calls this “making a mountain out of a mole hill”.
Here is a good metaphor outside of the music business to illustrate my point.
When you purchase a minivan for the family, you expect that vehicle to seat 5 or 6 people comfortably plus groceries, soccer gear, golf clubs, maybe keep the kids entertained, etc.
You DON’T expect that vehicle to take a 90º right turn at 80 mph and stay on the road.
If you mismanage the expectations of a minivan you are sure to be disappointed and quite possibly dead.
Conversely, when you purchase a Ferrari, you expect that vehicle to outperform every sports car on the road. I mean, it BETTER for the price, right? 0-60 mph in less than 4 seconds, superior handling, killer sound system, and you presume that people will look at you while you’re driving it, right?
You DON’T expect to get good gas mileage, pay tolerable auto insurance rates, fit 3 kids and a baby seat, soccer gear, golf clubs, and a few bags of groceries.
If you mismanage the expectations of a Ferrari you are sure to be disappointed and quite possibly divorced.
This example seems a bit silly because it’s so completely obvious, right?
Understanding what your needs are, purchasing the appropriate tools, and executing properly within the constraints of the tool system creates forward predictable momentum and therefore leads to a more positive day to day attitude.
This comes from managing expectations.
FYI, there’s no right or wrong answer to the question I asked at the beginning. I ask because all too often I see people confuse a lighthearted, naïve, or poorly executed work effort with astronomical expectations from their music career.
They put forth the effort as if it was a hobby only to get super upset when things aren’t happening as if it was how they made their living.
So which is it?
I mean getting fired or laid off from a job that you make a living at is painful, I don’t care who you are. You spend 40 hours of your life at that job every week and when you lose it there is a tremendous sense of defeat.
The defeat comes from 2 places, I suppose. The first is the most obvious, no more money! How will you pay your bills, right? The second is most certainly a prideful reaction. You spent all that time doing all that work and
now you have nothing to show for it.
I’ll bet you are quite serious about that day job, aren’t you?
I don’t mean serious with your attitude because maybe the job blows, you’re bored, you hate everyone you work with, and you really don’t care, but you consistently show up, don’t you?
If you don’t show up you don’t get paid, right?
Even the biggest slackers seem to be masterful at doing the least amount of work required to keep the job.
Maybe you’re really lucky and/or smart and you have a day job that you love and excel at. Still, it’s a day job where you bide your time, albeit more productively, until your artist ship comes in.
So why do so many of you get equally upset in your music careers when the ONE opportunity you created for yourself, which was met with inferior preparation, fails miserably?
We all make little mistakes at our day jobs and yet we don’t quit, because we can’t, right?
In fact, we’re often scared of losing that job after we make a larger-than-usual mistake if for nothing more than the facing the inconvenience of finding another job.
For some reason with artists and their careers, they don’t seem to be fearful of losing that gig as much as they are looking for a satisfactory reason to call it quits.
Is this secretly you?
Why is a little speed bump or detour so damn devastating to us sensitive artist types?
I submit to you that if we all worked as hard, as efficiently, and as intelligently at our music careers as we do at our day jobs, you’d all be making a living doing what you LOVE to do and were BORN to do.
But there’s that damn conflict going on in your head, isn’t there?
You are afraid to put that much effort into it lest you be denied and rejected.
Yeah, we all grapple with that one, she’s a doozy…but here’s the deal.
If the equation of “Preparation + Opportunity = Luck” is true (and I wholeheartedly believe in this concept), then the opposite must also be true, Opportunity – Preparation = NO LUCK.
Why, why, why are we just as upset over the lack of music business opportunities as we are when we’re laid off or fired from a job that we put so much effort into.
I mean if we don’t invest much time and ZERO dollars into our music careers we should expect a proportionate return, right?
Now, some of you are saying, “I bust my butt at my music career, Johnny, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
I believe many of you work very hard, but it’s not enough.
It’s not enough because you’re not working hard enough, or not working smart enough, or both.
Here’s the self-test to discover the truth.
If you aspire to make a living at it are you making a living?
If you aspire to make a better living at it are you making a better living?
Painfully simple, right?
If you’re a hobbyist and you make music purely for the joy of the process, then you are getting an instantaneous return on your investment and you should be happy with that.
Don’t expect to gain serious momentum with your project when you only put forth the random, irregular effort of a hobbyist; be happy with your happy.
If you aspire to be a professional artist, then you are going to have to spend a TON of time (on top of your day job), and invest some money to get this dream of yours to gain some traction.
If you don’t make enough money at your day job to support your music habit, then you are going to have to find a way to win with someone else’s money, time, or support.
What has to happen to make that a reality?
The instant ROI lemonade-stand-business-approach where you invest in a product, resell it for a profit one-at-a-time doesn’t really work in the music business.
You’re going to have to create songs.
You’re going to have to pay to record them at a professional level because most of you can’t, and if you can, you don’t have access to all the necessary musicianship and/or tools to get it done right.
You’re going to have to pay for a producer because most of you think you can produce, and some of you eventually will, but you need to learn more right now.
You’re going to have to pay someone to market you music effectively. This helps with a quicker ROI by the way…just sayin.
If you choose to, and have the will power and work ethic to consistently market yourself, which is TOTALLY DOABLE, then you’re going to have to pay someone to teach you the most efficient and effective ways to get it done.
Otherwise you will continue to do what you have always done and you will continue to get the exact same results.
Managing expectations in the music BUSINESS is about constant, non-stop preparation for the purposes of capitalizing on all the different opportunities that will INEVITABLY arise in the future.
There is no Tit for Tat.
No Quid Pro Quo
No immediate return on your investment.
The more you work, the bigger your body of work becomes, the more professional you look.
If you knew already then you’d be making a living.
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