Excuses, excuses!

Linescratchers welcomes our newest blogger, Matt Mylroie, who is a jack of all trades including recording, engineering, songwriting, producing, and guitar.  He studied music at Utah State University and currently lives in Florida. – Syphax

I suspect all of us have had big dreams about the role of music in our lives. However, for many of us, those dreams may seem out of reach. Challenges and obstacles can seem abundant and overwhelming. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • I live in an area with no music scene
  • I don’t have enough time to develop my talents, play out, record, or promote myself. My job, family, and church callings take all of my time
  • Music doesn’t pay the bills
  • I’m too old – my opportunity to “make it” has passed me by
  • I’m not good enough to be successful
  • I can’t afford to record and don’t have the equipment I need to do it myself

With 4 kids, a demanding job, and a busy calling at church, I know I personally feel I have plenty of excuses. As “real” as these challenges are – these are all still just excuses that are often used as a cover for our own insecurities, poor time management, and ineffective goal setting.

So, is there no music scene in your area, or are you just not in-tune with it? If there really is little to nothing there, then congrats – you can be a pioneer in your area. Helping create a music scene will elevate you and your music to the forefront of that scene, and will unlock the doors to countless opportunities. Regardless of where you are, you can put the power of the internet to work for you. The days of being confined to your own area unless you tour extensively are long gone, and the internet opens up a worldwide audience for you. You may not become an internet sensation overnight, but with a little thought and care, you are almost certain to begin attracting the attention of future fans, collaborators, and supporters.

People complain about time, but we all have the same amount. Would it be worth going with 1 hour less sleep a day if that is what it took to make your dreams come true? How many hours do you spend watching others pursue their dreams on reality TV, instead of using that time to pursue your own? With access to cheap technology, you can create, collaborate, and promote yourself in your spare time in the comfort of your own home. Find ways to use your talents at home, church, and work. As you do you will strengthen your talents, increase your confidence, and find new doors opened.

True, music may not pay the bills for everyone. You need to determine how you measure your success and if music is a full-time or part-time pursuit for you. Are you only going to be happy when you have a platinum album and a sold out tour under your belt, or are you happy to be able to spend a couple of weekends a month writing, performing, and recording in your spare time? If you want to drop your day job, branch out while you get your start – teaching lessons can be very lucrative, as well as open up opportunities to create new fans, find collaborators, and dig up other opportunities. Start a separate band that does covers to fill in between gigs with your original band. Use your home studio to take on small projects to help make that gear pay for itself and fund your own projects. The key is to make sure you are always busy working on something. Don’t blindly turn down jobs or gigs that don’t pay well – building a network of fans and associates needs to be your goal, and that may mean playing for free, giving your music away, and collaborating on projects with minimal immediate reward. With that said, be cautious about investing too much of your own time and money into something or someone without fully understanding what you are doing and who you are working with – there are a lot of snake oil salesmen waiting to cash in on you, and also a lot of people that may have good intentions but will ultimately be a waste of your time. Maybe music CAN pay the bills, but you might have to slash your budget, tighten your belt, and branch out to make it happen.

Age is no excuse. True, being a teen or 20-something is where we see the most new pop/rock artists, but Country and Christian music markets are very accepting of older ages. If you are a solo artist or the “frontman” you may find age a bigger challenge, but with talent and hard work, you can still be successful. If you are a supporting member of a band and not directly in the spotlight, age is a terrible excuse. Use your age to your advantage – an older person may have a lot more life experience to draw upon when writing and performing than someone younger. These life experiences can translate to more powerful performances and songs that make a deeper connection with the listener. Leverage those life experiences to your benefit.

We beat ourselves up a lot. Perhaps you really don’t have a great voice. What a great excuse to pass up on opportunities so that we can protect ourselves from criticism. Seriously – do you think Bob Dylan has a great voice? That didn’t slow him down at all. He wrote great songs that were within his range and leveraged his songwriting to compensate for his vocal weakness. There are a countless number of artists, both past and current, who aren’t very talented vocally. Go for it. Work within your range, and let the emotion and content of your music pull you through. With that said, it may also be time to have a reality check – not everyone can be a star. These same principles apply no matter the instrument. You may find that you can be more successful by collaborating with others and using your talents in a different way. Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself.

I could write countless articles on how flawed it is to complain that you can’t afford to record in a studio, or that your project studio equipment isn’t good enough. Some people have access to great gear, but don’t know how to use it properly. Others have access to only the cheapest of gear, and are able to create amazing recordings. If you have great gear, you may still need to put aside your ego and focus on being an artist and let someone else be the engineer. If you don’t have gear, invest in a basic computer based setup, or find someone locally who is reasonable. If money is tight, the cost of either could be likely offset by making a few small sacrifices.

Whether you want this to be a career or a serious hobby, if you want to progress you need to make sure you have some business sense to counter your creative and emotional strengths. Write out your goals. Make a plan to work towards those goals and then review and update them as needed. Evaluate the seriousness of each of your excuses and determine how to counter them. Whether you are just now starting down the path, or well on your way, the best thing you can do is put aside the excuses, and just do it – one step at a time.

Matt Mylroie enjoys writing, producing, recording, and performing. You can find him online at http://recordingpro.blogspot.com or http://facebook.com/1recordingpro

Excuses, excuses!

6 thoughts on “Excuses, excuses!

  1. Great post. I think you hit the nail on the head when you talk about goal-setting and being realistic. So many people want some generic kind of “fame” out of their music but really have a hard time identifying what exactly it is that they want. The result is people who are always chasing the next big show, the next high, the next so-called milestone. They won’t be satisfied till they’re as popular as Radiohead, and then Madonna, and then Paul McCartney. And then MORE than Paul McCartney. When we identify our goals it brings a lot more satisfaction, and brings it all into perspective.

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  2. Thanks for the encouragement! I’ve used all those excuses at some time or another.

    (I think age has also become less relevant since so many rock & roll heroes are now old geezers – and young people *still* listen to their music.)

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  3. Matt says:

    absolutely Syphax – know what you want and need out of this and set your goals appropriately. Success is NOT determined by album sales, tour dates, or dollars earned. Success is determined by each of us individually and for every person its different. How i judge success also varies by the stage of life i’m in. I do hope we can all have the courage to chase our dreams,but i also hope we have the wisdom and vision to not lose ourselves in pursuit of our dreams.

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  4. Matt – really glad you wrote this. I loved it… And you’re so right – age is no excuse. I didn’t really start making music until I reached my forties… Now I can’t imagine my life without it. I think that if you are an artist, then you are compelled to make art. Period. It’s not really a choice – or rather – if you choose not to, then you’re really not “fulfilling the measure of your creation.” That said, I’m sure that one reason I didn’t get serious until then is that my kids finally started leaving home… Obviously, your family needs to come first, but if you are clever, you can sneak in time for your art. My best practice / writing time was between dropping the kids off at seminary and picking them up to drive them to school…

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