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12 bad habits musicians need to quit immediately

We musicians are human beings, which means we are not flawless and have some bad habits both in personal and professional lives. Many times we don’t even realize that something is a habit, let alone a bad one. When we grow up in classical music academies and institutions, we are being told that the music world is a highly competitive one and that only the “strongest” survive in it. This mindset brings a whole lot of actions and ideas as default. But should they be so?

Here are, in my opinion, a few bad habits that musicians need to stop doing immediately:

  1. Identifying yourself with what you do. You are not a musician, you are an individual who chose to do music as their career path. You are much more though, all your interests, hobbies, talents, flaws, mistakes, and experiences define you.

  2. Judging yourself. We are taught to be critical towards ourselves. That way we can identify what we can improve in our performances. Being critical is good, but it can also reach a point in which we start judging ourselves. It is always good to remember that we are humans and we can always improve something (plus. there will be plenty of other people judging you for no reason at all, you don’t need to be one of them).

  3. Comparing yourself to others. This can be a source of great frustration, especially if the person you are comparing yourself to has more or less a similar path to yours. In the end, the only one you need to compete with is yourself.

  4. Envy. Be happy for other musicians’ success, because their success is your success. Instead of feeling jealous, try fuelling your motivation with it. If a colleague made it to achieve their goal, so can you.

  5. Accept low paid (or free) gigs. This one is pretty straightforward, stop playing at concerts and gigs for free (visibility, experience, potential engagements, food, wine). During my studies I was always reimbursed for my travel expenses, but never paid. With hindsight, this is completely wrong. This way the institutions create and promote the idea that if the musicians are young they can be “paid” in experience, visibility, etc, almost like doing them a favour. A student puts in the same amount of time and effort (if not more) as a professional in preparing for a concert and it MUST be paid. (I will publish a separate blog post on the topic soon.)

  6. Wait for things to happen. Unfortunately, in today’s world nobody will be looking for you (except for very few talent scouts who are paid for that). Be active, be the one who makes things happen and spread the word about it far and wide. There are plenty of people and friends around you who can help you do that.

  7. Stay in your comfort zone. Nothing new can be learned if we stay in our comfort zones. It’s when we get out of them that new things happen and interesting projects take shape. So, get out of your comfort zone and discover something new.

  8. “Only” play your instrument. Over the past 15 months, most of us took up the opportunity to learn new skills, whether it’s website creation, video editing, audio formatting, streaming live concerts, home recordings, etc. Never stop learning new skills, whether musical or not. Invest in your knowledge and extra-musical education.

  9. Not sharing. The saying goes ”sharing is caring” and it couldn’t be more true. Create a network with other musicians and by sharing your knowledge with them, you will gain great insight and knowledge from them as well. It’s a win-win situation for all.

  10. Not respecting your time. This is a true story: before the pandemic, I used to work and teach in two cities which were very far from one another, about 4 hours by train. I was rather broke financially so I needed both jobs, or so I thought. I used to travel about 27 hours every week to get to both places and in the end, it was simply not worth it. I could have invested 8 hours of travel time (plus 6 hours at the place I was teaching at) into finding more concerts and students at the first job. That would have made much more sense. Manage your time wisely, it is the only thing that doesn’t return.

  11. Avoid selling and marketing. As much as most of us hate the words “sell” and “marketing”, we do it on a daily basis, many times even without noticing it. So why not learn how to do it properly? Marketing (putting a product or a project on the market) creates leads and leads create sales.

  12. Say yes to everything. Learn to say no. If something doesn’t satisfy you in some way, be it a concert, a job, accompanying someone for an exam, decline politely. Nobody will hate you for that. Think about yourself first.

Have a great Sunday!


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