For those of us who embrace shades of mediocrity, here are some tips for becoming a typical musician:
- Practice one hour a day. However, feel free to skip practice if there is something more interesting going on.
- Play the same piece over and over again. Never try to deconstruct the music and figure out how and why it works.
- Convince yourself that taking music lessons is out of the question, since all your favourite musicians were self taught.
- Use only tabs and chord charts to learn new songs. Never try to figure it out by ear, it’s simply too frustrating.
- Never challenge yourself live for fear of making a mistake. Instead of taking a chance, play it safe and exactly the same every time.
- Book four shows a month at the same club and in the same city. Don’t bother trying to promote them.
- Take no time to set up an unappealing merch booth. Make sure to set it up in the dimmest corner of the club, away from any actual foot traffic. Instead of having someone constantly man the booth, just saunter over some time after your set and watch the sales ring in.
- Never take a gig playing covers for fear of being average.
- If a booker refuses to book you on a Friday, don’t ask what will change their mind. Instead, angrily hang up and add this to your list of “unworthy venues”.
- Curse at the sound guy for not being able to hear your vocals in the monitors. It will let him know that next time he better step up his game.
- Allow your instruments to decay to the ultimate state of disrepair. Only replace broken parts after you have repeatedly cut out during several shows.
- Never listen to fellow musicians on stage. Stay entirely focused on yourself.
- Make a break for the bar after your set. When you see members of other bands tell them their set was “awesome” or “really good” and quickly walk away. Don’t bother networking with anybody.
- Beg your friends and family to come out and see you for the third time in a month.
- Promote all gigs by posting a facebook message the day of the show.
- Use social media only as a means of promoting your next gig or product. Don’t try to create any meaningful connections.
- Skim through all emails from fans, and promptly delete them. Do not reply back for fear of losing the aura of authenticity you most likely possess.
- Book your CD release party before you have your actual CD in hand. At the show hand out IOU’s to all the people who would’ve bought a CD but can’t because the shipment was late.
- Head to the cheapest studio possible. Don’t take the time to do any research on the engineers, producers or equipment used.
- Rehearse the least amount of times possible before cutting a song in the studio. Once inside, begin to learn your parts and figure out song structure. Take this time to rewrite a chorus if needed.
- When mixing always let the engineer know that your instrument should be the loudest at any given part of the song.
- If a producer asks you to take the song in a different direction, storm out of the room and come back the next day.
- Be as argumentative as possible. It really helps get the creative juices flowing and will benefit the music in the end.
- Spend more time talking about an idea, then actually getting up and doing it.
- If you play with others, vaguely explain why your the most valuable member of the group and thus most group rules shouldn’t apply to you.
- Get jealous of all fellow musicians who find their way to success before you do. Make sure to complain to anyone that will listen about how much they suck.
- Understand that anyone who doesn’t return an email or a phone call is out to get you and personally dislikes your music.
- Convince yourself that if you just keep hanging on, another few months, or another year, you will make it. Never stop to take a critical look at your music or live show to see where you are going wrong, or how it can be improved.
- Close your mind to other genres of music because, quite frankly, it sucks.
- Always do the bare minimum required.
OK. Let’s all have a good chuckle over some of these points. But, the amazing part is, at one point or another in my life I’ve done–and seen others do–some of these things. I think it’s natural for many of us to fall into these traps, just make sure you realize it and reverse the trend. The world is littered with musicians who have never been able to climb back out again, and you will meet many of them along the way. It’s easier than you think to become the bitter 30 year old still living with his parents, or the jaded 60 year old who continues to record and play but never gets any better.
Recognizing this type of destructive behaviour is one of the first steps to getting rid of it.
Never settle on being typical. Only by being atypical will you command the attention you truly deserve.
Can you see yourself in any of these points? What other typical behaviours have you witnessed?
Image by: Pensiero
Mike Venti is a musician and creator of the Wayward Musician blog, which provides ideas and advice for atypical artists. This post was originally published on Wayward Musician on February 27, 2010. You can connect with Mike on Twitter and Facebook.