As an Irish musician living and performing overseas, I was expecting a bumper week with gigs galore and impossible schedules to fill. The expectation that I would be bouncing all over South Africa performing my unique and authentic blend of Irish music and milking the utmost out of Saint Patrick’s Day (17th March) in South Africa. Hell, if you asked me a month ago, how my Paddy’s week was looking, I was very happy with my burgeoning calendar. Read what happens next!
For those of us who strive to maintain careers in music, you know that things can fall apart at any stage. And more often than not, it is due to circumstances that are entirely out of our control. Long story short, boy did Saint Patrick’s weekend wind up being a monumental failure for me! Cancellation nation, to be precise! Failure is an element that those with careers in music are forced to deal with, more than any other profession. It’s how you act upon it, that minimizes the risk of it becoming a recurring trend down the road. Here are a few factors to consider, that gives you some ammunition in growing your career, and not letting failures destroy your talent and passion for what you do.
Be the Co-Manager and Promoter of your Product
Remember that awesome muso you heard at that market three years ago? Wondering why they’re still playing that same gig and never really seized the opportunity while they were the flavor of the month? I’ve devoted much of my reasoning for this in my previous Blog. To put it bluntly, you can’t depend on that market events manager alone, to propel your career. He or she has a family, other work, bills, and mental and physical health to deal with. Set out clear goals – call it a 2-year plan, if you want. Set out realistic objectives and figure out what you can do by yourself and what you need help with. And in the process, you might just find out who your real fans truly are!
Look at Careers in Music outside your comfort zone
This doesn’t refer to changing your style of music or taking up a particular instrument because that’s what’s hot right now. It means getting on a bus, a train, a plane, whatever it takes, to take your music to new audiences. You know what, you’re probably going to be judged and vilified by people who know no better. South Africa isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of the music industry. If you pursue or are offered an opportunity overseas, take it! To hell with the begrudgers. Your value has been recognized, and you will flourish wherever you take your god given talent.
Careers in Music need a little helping hand from the WWW
Back in “good old days” musicians succeeded through strong record/CD sales, consistently touring and generous tv and radio exposure. That has all changed, and the sooner you accept it, the quicker you can adapt to avoid failure. While technology and the internet have allowed the big labels to flex their muscles and bully smaller players into submission, it has also opened up a raft of creative tools to advance the careers of emerging artists. Get a proper website up, do some SEO in order to be found on Google and other search engines. And finally, implement a social media scheduling tool such as Hootsuite, Buffer or Sprout Social to post all your social media updates simultaneously.
Picking yourself up after a crippling failure
There are countless hazards to careers in music. So much so, that it takes special character to bounce back from a catastrophic setback and rebuild your brand and quickly get back on track. There’s scarcely a professional musician out there who hasn’t either;
- Had all their gear stolen
- Been dumped from their record label before their music was released
- Teetered on the brink of alcoholism/ drug addiction from the pressures of careers in music
- Had a major tour canceled at the last minute
- Had relationships and marriages fall apart as a result of their unyielding passion.
- Etc. etc.
It might be scant consolation, but any one of these setbacks will teach you a harsh lesson and the proverbial kick up the backside. It toughens you up and gives you a piercing life lesson from which you can only improve. You will stop blaming external factors for your demise and understand that only YOU operate the driving seat to your destiny and a blossoming career in the industry. You will make that breakthrough when you create the mindset that you WILL become successful no matter what, and never limit yourself to local bars, politics and uninvited opinions.
What next for me, when St. Patrick is sentenced to Murphy’s Law?
After my initial rage and frustration has subsided, I’ve had time to reflect on how good I actually have it. I still have two gigs this weekend. There are organisers out there who appreciate my band’s talent and investing good money in me and my colleague to perform as their headline act this weekend. What I’ve learned from this whole experience, is that I shouldn’t allow myself to be pigeonholed into the niche of being just the token Irish musician in SA. There are better benchmarks to set than chasing 100 gigs in a year or 4 gigs a day across Paddy’s weekend.
And best of all, I have substantially more precious time to spend our national holiday with my wife and son, something I haven’t done in… possibly forever!
David Delaney –
Juggling a life between digital marketing specialist and professional musician, I’m probably not the guru to guide you towards careers in music. The violinist in me, however, makes me a perfectionist in what I seek to accomplish. I’ve had my share of failures but I’m eternally grateful for the successes that have outweighed the former. I’m a violinist, flute player and folk singer and you can find out more about me by exploring my website today.