Musicians tend to have their careers go in cyclical patterns of extreme busy-ness, followed by periods of down time. Here are 5 ways I try to even out the cycle and ahead of the curve:
1. Build relationships constantly.
Most pros in any profession lose contact with their peers during the busy times. In an age of free mass communication, there’s no reason to lose touch- even a text once a month can mean the difference between drifting apart and staying connected.
2. Work on long term stuff even in the busy times.
My wife used to work in the restaurant business, and she’d come home many evenings complaining of “being in the weeds” the whole night. This isn’t a drug metaphor- it’s the state of being so overwhelmed with what’s around you that you only focus on what’s immediately in front of you.
This is a dangerous state for musicians to be in regularly, since it blinds you to everything but the urgent, including important long term goals. When you get in this stage, purposefully slow things down. Take a day off, exercise, and goal plan in the mornings.
3. Seek out people to work with that do great work.
Even if you don’t get paid great, it’s important to take work that challenges you with people that will push you creatively. Without the challenge of talented people around you, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to grow.
4. Say no to almost everything.
Most gigs are pretty good. There are a few that are great opportunities. The sad thing is, every time you say yes to a good opportunity, you eliminate a fixed amount of time from your schedule. This can take time away from you doing something great, and keep you in a cycle of mediocrity (don’t ask me how I know). Developing the habit of saying no takes effort, but pays huge dividends in the end.
5. Keep yourself in shape.
All of your productivity ultimately depends on how much mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual energy you have. Because of this, I put a huge premium on staying in shape, reading regularly, praying/bible reading, and building healthy relationships. Whatever the gig is, it’s not worth it if it severely stresses you in one of these areas.