Musician's Tips Index
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Ramp Up Your Motivation
(Or why the heck am I
still in this band?)
By Brett McCarron
Remember why you started in music? How many years ago was that? If it's been awhile since you thought about your personal musical motivation, take a moment to revisit it to stay on track with your musical goals and aspirations.
Sure, you probably remember what started you in music. To make noise, to do something that was cool, to spend more time with your friends or family members that were in the band with you, to gain the attention of the opposite sex, to be famous? I'm betting that what motivated you back then isn't the same as what motivates you now.
Revisiting your motivation about being in a band will in turn increase your enthusiasm for the non-performance parts of your craft. Things like rehearsals, learning new material, practicing (and improving) your existing material, maintaining your gear, working out your practice and performance schedules with your immediate family and your bandmates, maintaining your rehearsal space or studio, and working to keep your band's momentum.
Making it big
If your goal was to be world famous, and it's been 15 or 20 years without it happening, then it's time to be more realistic with your goal. That's not to say that Oprah or Simon Cowell won't discover you, and turn you into an overnight sensation. These things do happen, but they're exceedingly rare. A more modest goal may be to work all year long, or perform at a big local venue in the next year. Or if your chops are up to it, then you could get a job as a sideman or studio musician supporting a big name performer.
Getting noticed by the opposite sex
When you were single, it was important to draw attention to yourself in hopes of getting noticed by the opposite sex. If it's been several years and you're happily married, then your previous motivation isn't working for you. A revised incentive may be to have fun while performing, or use some of the money from performing to pay for a vacation with your wife (and family, if you have one). Or perhaps it's to ensure that the opposite sex has a good time by dancing to the band. Or pick something entirely different. Otherwise, you'll be working at cross-purposes and subconsciously may start feeling guilty about performing, start missing or show up late for rehearsals, or otherwise sabotage your band's success because it doesn't fit with your motivation.
Doing something that the teenagers find cool
What was cool when you were a teenager may not be so cool now. Especially if you're in your late 30s or 40s. There's nothing sadder than an adult that tries to be "hip" with a young audience. Forget it. They don't care. What was cool when you were a teen may still be fondly remembered by others in your age bracket. Refocus your energy and motivation on a more realistic motivation, such as doing something that your peers think is fun. Playing highschool or college reunions, performing the casino circuit, opening for a major classic rock act -- these may be "cool" to your audience and will fit within your revised goal. Picturing the excited audience digging your act, and you've got motivation.
Making a living from music
Similar to making it big in the business, who hasn't dreamed of making music their life? One way is to find your niche and focus on that. Some performers have a day job that they've worked hard at over the years, so that they can afford to buy good gear and reliable transportation. It's funny, but sometimes the hungrier you are, the harder it is to find work. If you come across as successful (from your day job), however, you'll find others are attracted to it and it will carry over into your music life.
Your significant other may have a different goal, perhaps to have a stable family environment, that could be at cross-purposes with your goal. So talk it over with the love of your life. You will probably decide that your relationship is worth more than your original goal, so some tweaking may be in order. Perhaps your new motivation will be supplementing your income with music. This could be through teaching music to others (through a music store, community college, at your home studio, etc.), working as a studio musician (if a studio is close to your location), performing at venues close to home (including houses of worship, since some churches pay their band), working in a music store (as employee, manager, or owner), or even as a music journalist. A revised goal of enjoying a comfortable living with the help of your music can certainly motivate you.
Because my bandmates need me
Feeling like the band will dissolve if you ever leave will wear you out, psychically and physically. While it might feed your ego to have this martyr complex, chances are it isn't helping you attain any of your other goals. This self-sacrifice may be motivation enough, but if you aren't enjoying the other advantages of being in a band (spending time with others, making music, perhaps making some money, performing, giving something back to the community), then you're on your way to becoming bitter and feeling unappreciated.
Share some of the band chores. Coach them to become performers. Take a vacation. Meet other musicians and join a side project. Do something to get over the feeling that you are the band. Rethink your motivation. Maybe you're just a helpful person at heart. Fine, just so your bandmates aren't taking advantage of you. If everyone carries their own weight, and the musicianship is at a fairly close level, then that wonderful synergy can occur. The whole will be greater than the sum of its parts. But if the band members aren't receptive to this, and threaten to quit if you quit "being the Mother Hen," then your motivation may be different. Like finding a new band.
Think it over
We've only scratched the surface here, but you get the idea. If you can ease the guilt and lower the pressure of doing what you love (making music), then you'll find yourself invigorated and ready to put even more energy into ensuring a successful musical future. You have a gift. With the proper self-motivation, you'll get to share this gift more often and find music more rewarding.
Best of luck with your success,
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