Personal Development For Musicians

Right now, in your head, imagine Leonardo da Vinci. What does his life look like? How do you picture him in your head?

I'll tell you who I picture: someone alienated or isolated from society, obscurely exploring his own eccentric ideas, not caring what anyone thinks. He falls blindly into the depths of his creativity, and when he finds the bottom he digs further down that bleak, colorful hole.

Historically accurate? Of course not. But you might react positively or negatively to that image or artistic success. Do you agree, or is that dumb as rocks? Either way you know something more about yourself.

Do you really want to be some obscure, starving artist? Is being isolated a requirement for art? It doesn't need to be said, but that's up to you.

A little loneliness is good for art, but so is not dying from starvation. 

I recommend a balanced approach. Be an artist, but try to prevent "starving artist" syndrome, and make your art commercially successful too.

You don't have to dilute your expression to get as many people to experience it as possible. Instead of striving to become a rockstar (the exact mindset that might paralyze you), try to be a working-class artist instead. Put your 10,000 hours in, and try to connect with as many other people as you can.

There's no record deal coming to save you from obscurity - even if you had one you'd still have to work your ass off to pay back that loan (there's two sides to every deal). Instead, work on your craft day by day. Become a better musician, arranger, producer, songwriter, and especially a better storyteller. 

TheRealMusician Recommends:

If you want to take marketing your music to another level, then I can't recommend enough John Oszajca's music marketing manifesto. My favorite aspect of his complete program was his stance on email marketing, where he really leverages the that "1000 true fans" philosophy.

His website is a bit hokey (Flaming guitars? Seriously?), but his program really shows independant artists how to get a leg-up on signed artists.

Main Areas Of Focus

The ideas & art you input into your big 'ol head.
Creating Music
Your creative output.
Get people to listen to your music.
The ideas & art you input into your big 'ol head.
Creating Music
Your creative output.
Get people to listen to your music.

You need a good input (philosophy) if you want a good output (music), and once you have that output, you are going to want everyone to know about that output (marketing). 

#1: Philosophy & Development

Do you want to learn how to make creativity second nature, so that when you go to write music, it just flows out of you?

You can start by feeding your subconscious the right:

  • ideas
  • experiences
  • music (albums, songs, bands)
  • art
  • culture
  • environment

Developing the philosophical/reflective part of your brain has this effect on people. If you're working with the philosophy of a 14-year old, guess who your music is going to connect with?

I have some specific music-philosophy below, but that's really only 1% of the battle. It's cliche to tell you to "develop as a person", but I'd be leaving something out if I didn't mention it.

Start by reading the core guide of musicians philosophy below:

Chapter 1: Artists

Why you should have a music library of artists that inspire you
How to find new music
TheRealMusician top artist picks (bands we love!)
How to let your favourite bands influence the way your music sounds
How to discern the value of an artist

Chapter 2: Song Interpretations

How to interpret lyrics (do this before you write)
WHY interpret lyrics?
Song interpretations

Chapter 3: Visual Art

The visual art aspect of your music
How to look for an artist/designer for your music
How to use visual art as inspiration for lyrics or music

Chapter 4: Concerts

Live performance reviews

Chapter 5: Creativity

Being creative - unlocking your inner artist

Chapter 6: Destruction

Being destructive - the editor

Chapter 7: Dealing With Feedback

Dealing with feedback from critics about your music
You have really different musical tastes than your friends and family; what do you do now?

Beyond this guide, check out the other philosophy articles we have. 

Recommended Albums

#2: Creating Music

Writing music is far more than playing an instrument. It involves:

  • writing "the music"
  • writing lyrics
  • arranging (one of the most important songwriting skills)
  • producing
  • recording
  • mixing
  • mastering
  • taking music lessons (voice especially)
  • trying creativity experiments
  • learning storytelling in music and lyrics (two separate things)

This mainly covers the technical side of your creativity. If you have lots of creativity, and good ideas, but you suck at the guitar (or whatever instrument you play) and can't grasp basic arrangement, you'll feel frustrated at your lack of ability to bring your vision to fruition..

You need a few technical skills here, which really defeats that lame-ass dream of being an overnight success. Forget that, waste of time.

If you plan on being the world’s most technically proficient guitarist, it might be necessary to practice for 8 hours every day, for the rest of us it's better to focus on songwriting. People connect with stories, and good songwriting tells a good story - through the notes, motifs, keys, arrangements, and yes - the lyrics too.

I will have times where I don’t practice guitar (my main instrument) for weeks, and will just decide to play drums for a while.

If you are going through a practicing phase, then practice often. If the idea of practice seems really bland to you, then I suggest you don’t force yourself into it. Although I'm not encouraging you to be undisciplined either.

The point here is that you should love and enjoy the music you play; if you decide to practice yourself to death you will eventually come to loathe music (many musicians get burnt out this way).

So on this site I will go into different methods for you to get the most out of your instrument, and how to keep yourself from getting burnt out (I want you to enjoy your practice time as much as possible).

I’ll also share some music equipment that works well. Of course, I will only make reviews on equipment I personally use, so the list of reviews I have on here will not be a mile long.

I’ll simply share what I find to be useful and what works in a music environment (and what doesn't work).

There is a common misconception that you only need to be able to play an instrument well in order to build your music careers. But as I have previously stated, that is only 1/3 of the picture here; it's no wonder that many musicians struggle to succeed in today’s musical world.

#3: Marketing Your Music

No one reading this site will have the marketing power of the Biebers and Timberlakes of the world, but that doesn't mean you need to fade into obscurity. Marketing is an area where many creative geniuses fall short, so learning how to get the word out about your art is a vital part to "making it".

Independent artists making a working-wage is absolutely do-able - why don't you join in. Like no other time in history, you can write, record, and market your music without the power of a big label.

It can be easy (and lazy) to get into the school of thought: "I'll just make music until a label picks it up - THEN I'll make it"; don't be led astray by the misconception that you need a record deal to make a name for yourself - that's the old way of thinking.

You CAN do your own marketing. There are a ridiculous amount of marketing opportunities on the internet alone:

There are even some advantages of doing it for yourself (not having to share profits is a big one).

Soon, DeviantArtists will be making disturbing fan art of you! (Picture Courtesy ~futantshadow)

If you can get your foot in the door and a label is interested in you, by all means I would recommend leveraging their marketing resources, just make sure an experience lawyer negotiates your contract so you don't end up with a pile of debt after they're done with you.

Even with the possibility of being sign, most of us don’t enjoy placing bets on our future - especially on something that has lower odds than winning the lottery; random artistic talent is rarely signed to a powerful label.

Instead of placing bets, let's do everything that we can for ourselves, and that way even if you don't get signed, you'll still be making a living from your music.

Music marketing basics (for dummies)
Facebook marketing
Using bandcamp to sell your music
How to build your bands wordpress website

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About The Writer

My name is Andrew Muller. I love creative art, music, television shows, movies, video games, and a good story.

If you had to find me somewhere, you would probably find me down at O'neils home cooking eating an organic sweet-potato bun breakfast sandwich with ham.

Among my friends, it's a "Muller Classic Move" to eat Mcdonald's at 2am because it's cheap and open 24/7. The joke here is that I'm an idiot. 

I play drums, guitar, piano, and I write & perform music for My Goal Is Telepathy. Take a listen to the latest sound here.