Having Fun with Music; It’s All in Your Head

Some people play music for the sheer joy of it, others do it for the money, and many fall somewhere in between. But regardless of music being a career or a hobby, the level of personal enjoyment and satisfaction achieved is largely up to the individual.

I started out as a young boy learning how to play music because it intrigued me. I had made some kind of spiritual connection early on (although I couldn’t have described it in that way at that time), and I felt compelled to play music. I was drawn in to this exciting new world and it was fun for me. Many years later, the thought entered my mind that “Hey, I love playing music, why not make a career out of it?” I gradually began to move in that direction, albeit without a clue as to where I was heading or how I would get there.

In the article  ‘Making It’ in the Music Business – An Alternate View for the Independent Musician Graeme Kirk explores this topic in depth. He talks about being in his first band as a teenager and how they had fun in spite of not being very good. At some point into this band expedition he reached a crossroads.

Like most young bands we reached a stage where reality reared its ugly head. “Get some good equipment”, we were told. “Practice every day…”, “…get a good manager…”, “…learn about the business…”, “..learn to write catchier songs…”

This seemingly good advice proved ultimately demoralizing and eventually his band broke up.

He goes on to write:

“So what?” you may ask. “You just didn’t have the commitment to make it in the music business”. True, but only because we didn’t realize that there can be many different definitions of “making it”. The problem is that most people who were giving us advice don’t realize it either. If we had only been told that there could be more to being in a band than the hard slog, paying your dues, waiting for record companies to notice your path that everyone assumes is the only way to succeed, things could have been much different.

It all comes down to how you define success – how you define “making it”.

The article goes on to talk about the fact that “there is no one path to success because there is no one definition of success.”, a simple, yet poignant thought that speaks volumes about the quandary that faces many musicians.

When you try to make a living as a musician, you base a lot of the decisions regarding your musical activity on financial factors. When paying the bills is directly tied to your gigs and musical activities, sometimes you’ll take gigs you might not otherwise take, basing these decisions on the financial outcome. Sometimes you might join a band or take on work that you don’t enjoy at all, simply because it pays well. On the other hand, some professional musicians are able to enjoy a majority of their musical endeavors, finding at least some shred of enjoyment even in the most difficult situations.

If your career lies elsewhere, your musical life can be of a purer nature. As you are not in it for the money, you are free to play music strictly based on your personal wants and desires, paying no mind to commercial appeal or financial gains. Sometimes the life of a musician who has not made music his career can be more rewarding than that of his professional musician counterpart. Of course this is not always the case either.

So the bottom line is, you have to decide what you want to get out of music, what you want to get out of life, and if having a career in music is needed to accomplish these goals. Maybe you do, but then again maybe you don’t. If you’re thinking about diving in, arming yourself with as much pertinent knowledge as possible is always a good idea. If you’re already well on the path of a career minded musician, keep forging ahead. But whatever you do, always strive to make your musical activites as stress free and fun as possible. Because if you’re not enjoying it, what’s the difference between playing a gig and punching a time clock at a factory job you don’t like.

Enjoying any activity is as much about your perception of that activity as it is anything else. Fun is an attitude, not necessarily a condition, so do your best to maintain a positive outlook and you should be rewarded accordingly. Whether music is your career, your hobby, or something you do for a occasional enjoyment, music is the backdrop of life, and life can be hard. So do your best to make your music count. If you want to have fun with music, make it a conscious decision to do so, because having fun with music is all in your head.

“Decide, commit, succeed!” – Tony Horton

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