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So Whatcha Want?? - The Indie Musician's Diagnostic Check


The zombie apocalypse has eroded into the music world. For every person that decides to pursue a career in the music industry, there is another that is paralyzed in a state of limbo, eyes glazed over fixating on the the current sentiment of the socio-economic climate brainwashing them into believing-  “there just ‘aint enough (paying gigs, deals, quality tours..[insert your ideal music career scenario here] etc.. )to go around.” If you’re not careful, your career could be over before it even gets started simply by inadvertently allowing your mindset to fall victim to the fickle, ever-wavering mood of the economic atmosphere.

Sadly, for some, this may very well be true, but it doesn’t have to apply to you. As a savvy indie musician, you owe it to yourself to run a regular inventory check on your mental approach to your music career. The notion that our thoughts create or sabotage our own success is a real phenomena… I promise, I’m not trying to turn you into a magical law-of-attraction fairy  - but I assure you, I’m not the first person to suggest that the link is crucial. Don’t believe me? Brian Thompson over at The Thorny has a wonderful post on your thoughts and their link to your success here.

Friends, the truth is, identifying and defining key areas in your outlook regarding your expertise, and the opportunities available to you form a sturdy protection barrier for your perception - (which is directly linked to your motivation) - and ultimately poises you for a greater likelihood of success. As for success, it’s all relative. It’s up to you to do the maintenance to ensure you attain it, how you want it, and on your own terms.  Understanding the power of self-discovery and awareness is a priceless, invaluable tool in your musician’s toolbox. Here are a few ways to nurture and stay high on your own supply.


1.The Myth of Scarcity

Are you making decisions relating to your career coming from a postion of scarcity or abundance? This refers to the everpresent “myth of scarcity” permeating any area of entrepreneurial-type thinking necessary to become successful. This is the area of thinking that is at odds with a vast majority of dominating viewpoints regarding traditional career pursuits.

Unspoken assumptions, underlying messages about pursuing a career as an artist circulate freely, and threaten to “condition” you to downgrade your perception of opportunity, and what is available to you. To be an indie musician, is to be an entrepreneur. To be an entrepreneur you’re most likely a visionary, one who is able to “see” the treasure before it physically materializes- and that’s pretty rad. Get even more radical and snuff out negative thought processes by choosing to believe that the opportunities you want are indeed available to you as a musician. Once you’re here mentally, do everything in your power to stay here by guarding your mindset from anyting that would change it. Catch yourself in times where you may feel time is “running” out on your career and replace these thoughts with the opposite. Don’t automatically sell yourself short, or pass up on things because you feel that you’ll never get there -or- “you’re not on the same level as so-and-so.” You owe it to yourself not to automatically buy into thinking you have to “start out” as a starving artist, or play tons of free shows because you chose a career in music. There are many ways “be” a musician and many do not involve “accepting” a particular fate. Create your own - carve your career into the shape you want with a mindset of positive precision. Don’t fall into the hype of false generalization and blanket negativism.


2. Define your “Making It” 

What exactly do you envision as your big break?

Getting specific in identifying what it is you ultimately want in your music career is like a bulletproof vest for anyone pursuing a career in arts. Not being specific on what you’re in the game for only opens you up for falling victim to blanket generalizations, pessimistic viewpoints of the negative masses.

The idea of “making it” is  different for everybody. For some it could mean playing regular gigs around town every week for pay, for others it could mean playing coachella, and still some may not feel they’ve reached their “big break” until their band showcases for NACA.  Do your due diligence early by delving further into defining your goals specifically greatest to smallest goals. Then you can effectively craft and tailor the necessary actions to achieve them on a congruent to your desired outcome.


3. Never too Late

Now is as good a time as any. What if’s and should/woulda/coulda don’t serve you. The semi-dismantling of key barriers in the earlier days of the music industry has opened up major windows of opportunity for the independent musician to build their own career success in more ways than one, yet so many still suffer victim to the antiquated “age” paradigm of music industry years past. It just doesn’t have to be an issue—

some would argue that it never did. Either way, this message is a lesson in abundant thinking that has never been more evident. Your audience and fanbase is there for the taking and all you have to do is organize your approach to your music business, and optimize a personal action plan in a way so this can take place. Take a concrete stance - forget about age and time and make your moves now. Do your homework, if you’re good at what you do, and fuse it with passion and regular action you’ll watch your momentum grow. But don’t wait too long, the industry is constantly evolving, and may not always be structured as such.


4. Originality is Fresh

Know your artistic self and gain confidence.

It’s smart to stay on top of the latest trends in music as far as sound, instrument(s), styles go, but it’s even more pioneering to focus on what makes you unique by spending time finding further direction in the ways your own musicianship will lead you. Spending countless hours obsessing over how so and so got their “sound” and how “the latest hot band” was playing Glastonbury within their first year of being together will only lead to overt comparison and unnecessary self deprecation. The best you can do is - you. You can only effectively do you by knowing you well. Your music business-from the live show, to your lyrical content, and sound is where active mental focus should be. Not to say that you shouldn’t enjoy your fave band or artist, but you should make sure you keep it on a level of enjoyment/ inspiration, one that is adding value to your mental inspiration and not causing your mind to drift into negative comparisons or feelings of inadequacy as a result. Prioritize and nurture your artistry from all angles first, all the other “stuff”  are just icing and should only be held in areas of “passive” attention in your brain. If they aren’t adding value, then they should be evicted.

Cecili Simmons is a singer/songwriter, frontwoman for two bands Mr.E. Worldwide and OIO. She also blogs on creativity, inspiration and success for indie musicians over at 

Her music:

Mr. E. Worldwide -


Reader Comments (4)

Wise words Cecili. But where to start? I suggest picking one small goal and, as you say, acting in congruence. So the trick is to be aware. With your goal in mind notice if the things you're doing or the way you are thinking are moving you towards or away from your goal.


The Fan Formula

Great post Cecili,

Though it's sometimes the hardest thing to do objectively, learning how to successfully manage one's own expectations (and do so fluidly and consistently through time) is a one of the most useful and rewarding skills to hone.

December 8 | Unregistered Commentergaetano

"Now is as good a time as any. What if’s and should/woulda/coulda don’t serve you."
Wise words indeed. I should repeat them like a mantra every day in front of the mirror :)

December 21 | Unregistered CommenterRJ

Nice words Cecili,

It seems the best way is to set small goals and fulfilling them resulting into larger goals.
key is to stay foccussed and seek for the right time to respond to the opportunities... thanks for the post.. :)

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