Are You a Frustrated Musician? This Guide’s for You

Are You a Frustrated Musician? This Guide’s for You

Are you a frustrated musician?

It’s been my experience that musicians get frustrated for a variety of reasons – record contracts gone sideways, unreliable band members, stagnant career growth, even popular music can sometimes drive musicians nuts.

But despite all the frustration, pursuing your passion is worthwhile. You are wanted. Your music does matter.

So, if you’re looking to find your pathway as a musician, rest assured you’re in the right place at the right time, and it’s my hope that you will be inspired by this guide.

My Own Embarrassing, Humiliating, Defeating Frustrations with Music

I want to start this off by sharing some of my own frustrations with you.

If I named all the ways I’ve been frustrated as a musician, unfortunately, we’d be here all day.

I’m an award-winning composer for crying out loud! And I’ve still got a laundry list of failures and grievances.

Keep reading to find out what some of them are…

Preparing for the Tour That Never Was

When I was first getting started in music, it was all about booking a tour. That’s what I thought you did if you took music seriously.

So, I started putting together this postal mail campaign with my band, and we prepared 150 letters to go out to various Canadian churches.

And then I don’t even remember how many letters we’d prepared for US churches, but it was well over 1,000, maybe even closer to 2,000.

Anyway, first we sent out all Canadian letters and we got three responses back. There was a gig that almost got booked, but it just never happened.

And then when it came time to send out our US campaign, we didn’t realize how much it was ultimately going to cost.

So, those letters sat there for a while, and eventually got recycled.

Making Music & Not Knowing What to do with it Next

Then the next thing was, “Hey, I should get an album recorded.”

Because if I have an album, there are all these other great opportunities. I could get my music into films. I could start booking gigs. There are all kinds of opportunities I could pursue if I just had a recorded album.

My first band ended up recording an eight song EP (heard in the video below).

We were known for our improvised jams, so half of the tracks on that album were improvised.

And that was a fun experience, but the band broke up shortly after.

That was before we did any kind of distribution with that music. Unfortunately, it ended up being a homespun project.

It did get out to some people, and they enjoyed it. But it never went anywhere after that, and physical copies are very rare and hard to find.

Eventually, I got a solo album recorded, but then I realized I needed to promote it, or no one was going to buy it.

Shipwrecked... My Sentiments

My first solo album from 2006.

I figured I could sell it at the guitar store since I had guitar students. I could sell it at my gigs and so forth.

And I was trying to find a way to sell it online too. But that was a very long process. It took a long time to figure that out.

Trying to Create a Local Gigging Circuit

And all this time I was performing and gigging and getting out there.

But soon I realized that I had to start finding more gigging opportunities because I was only aware of so many venues locally.

And after my band broke up, I became a solo artist, so that immediately limited some of the opportunities available to me.

Booking then became a major area of focus, but it took many, many years to start filling my calendar with a variety of venues and gigs in my locality.

Creating a Fan Base

Once I started figuring out the gigging aspect of things, I had to start creating an engaged fan base that cared about what I put out into the world.

And that turned out to be even harder.

There were people that stopped supporting me completely after a while, and at times I would find myself having to rebuild my list from scratch!

Sequencing is Critical for the Frustrated Musician

One thing I can tell you from experience – and you may even be realizing from what I’ve already shared with you – is that sequencing is more critical than most artists even realize.

In five words:

There’s an order to things.

And if you don’t follow the steps, you’re sure to end up dissatisfied, unhappy, and frustrated with your progress.

Take a page from my book:

Touring was not the right place to start for my band.

Jamming, writing songs, getting better as a band, performing locally, gaining some experience, establishing a groundswell of a fan base… that should have been our first major focus with that group.

Your next goal is what’s right in front of you. But you need to have enough of a bird’s eye view to be able to see what that is.

Your next goal is what’s right in front of you. Share on X

How to Transform Your Experience as a Frustrated Musician

Now I want to talk about a few things many frustrated musicians don’t really do. They get very frustrated without engaging in certain activities that could end up helping them long term.

Investing in Your Personal Growth

The first is investing in your personal growth.

You could call it self-improvement, personal development, or otherwise. But sometimes it gets a bad reputation with artists.

The thing is, I can tell you from personal experience that the right materials can help you get unstuck and feeling motivated again.

There isn’t necessarily anything magical or woo-woo about it.

But if you engage in the classics (like Think and Grow Rich, How to Win Friends and Influence People, The Magic of Thinking Big, etc. – you can also see our top recommended books here) and utilize time tested principles, you’d be amazed how much your life can improve.

I personally started an intensive yearlong leadership program last June, and I can honestly say almost a year later, my life doesn’t even look the same.

Everything around me has transformed. The world doesn’t even look the same to me anymore.

I totally understand that you’ve read countless blog posts, you’ve listened to podcast episodes up the wazoo, and you’re drowning in videos.

How do I know that?

Because you’re here right now.

And you’re reading another blog post.

But what about investing in your growth in a more directed way? After all, you get what you pay for.

You get what you pay for. Share on X

If you just keep going after the free resources, and don’t take them seriously, nothing’s going to change in your music career.

Why not begin to explore resources on marketing and sales? Because that’s the biggest mover in any career.

How about self-confidence and leadership skills? These help you think bigger and have a better mindset.

And what about courses on branding and storytelling, so you can attract the audiences you’re fighting so hard for?

When you expand, the world expands, but when you shrink, the world shrinks.

When you expand, the world expands, but when you shrink, the world shrinks. Share on X

Finding an Experienced Coach

The next thing is finding a coach.

You would do well to understand that some of the highest performing people in the world have coaches, be it Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, or Tony Robbins.

Look it up! I’ve got time…

Now I’m not here to sell you my coaching services, though, I know I could help you. Because I’ve been in your shoes, and I’ve been frustrated. I’ve probably experienced whatever it is you’ve experienced.

The point is, do you have an outside perspective on your career, someone who can ask questions and guide you? Someone who has connections and access to resources you don’t?

Sure, you can find them all on your own. But do you have 10, 20, 30 years to dedicate to researching? Because the best musician coaches have already invested that amount of time into their skills, knowledge, and experience.

You can spend all your time trying to find the right resources on your own. Or you can leverage someone who already has a catalog of experiences to draw from.

It’s just like hiring a mechanic. You pay them a premium for knowing what to do, regardless of how easy or difficult the task ultimately is.

We take for granted that our car will probably be sitting at the shop all day before we even get it back, when your mechanic could have done all of 15 minutes of work and charged $200 for it.

Pivoting and Finding a New Path for Your Music Career

One last thing I want to talk about is pivoting and finding a new path.

Sometimes, based on the how things have gone, it’s necessary to adjust your approach.

What they don’t often tell you, though, is that small tweaks can make a bigger difference than you even realize.

Sometimes there aren’t big adjustments to make. A little tweak here, a little tweak there, and things can begin to work.

For instance, at Music Entrepreneur HQ, when we launched our PDF Vault offer, we started to see an uptick in email subscribers.

PDF Vault

So, we started focusing on this offer over the countless others we created – many of which were complete duds.

There’s no point in fighting a current that’s working against you. Go with the flow.

There’s no point in fighting a current that's working against you. Go with the flow. Share on X

But please understand, don’t just read this blog post and go, “Oh, I’m going to pivot and find a new path for myself.”

I don’t advise pivoting without direction and guidance. Best case scenario is you leverage the help of an experienced coach to help you make the adjustments you need to make.

So, go and seek out expert advice. And barring that, go and talk to your most trusted friends, preferably with experience in this area.

Conclusion, Frustrated Musician

In conclusion, if you’re frustrated, I’ve got you, and I’m here for you.

Name a frustration, I’ve probably gone through it. And I talked about a bunch of those earlier in this guide.

But rest assured it is possible to find your path, even if it doesn’t look entirely as you expected it would.

A little change here, little tweak there. Maybe a small pivot. And you might even begin to see things work as you’ve never seen before.

I invite you to stick around, because you might learn a thing or two from our over 800+ post archive designed to inspire and help create the life you love through music.

Why You Must Reinvest in Your Music Career

Why You Must Reinvest in Your Music Career

I once booked a showcase at a local coffeehouse and invited one of Calgary’s most notorious singer-songwriters to perform (meaning he wasn’t necessarily known for all the right reasons).

Well, he was kind enough to oblige to my requests, he showed up on time, and conducted himself like a pro. Despite his average talent, his comfort level on stage and willingness to treat the opportunity with respect and professionalism left me feeling like I booked the right act for the occasion.

I got to talking with him while other acts were performing, and he shared something interesting with me.

He was known for putting out a new album each year, something most artists only aspire to, but never seem to get around to.

And he mentioned that a lot of people wondered how he was able to do it. After all, the cost of recording can be quite high.

What he shared with me was this:

“Most people think I have an outside source of funding, or my parents bankroll me. That’s not the case, although I do minimize costs whenever I can. The truth is, I save every penny I earn at every single performance. Then, I reinvest that money into my career.”

The simplicity and shrewdness of this strategy blew me away.

He’s right – most artists don’t do this. And it ends up shrinking the pool of opportunity available to them.

When you don’t have the funds for those rare moments when inspiration and opportunity strike, you can’t grab hold of the lightning. You end up having to pass up on it for another occasion because you don’t have the resources necessary to pursue it.

There’s a reason I teach artists how to manage their money. It’s not that you won’t go through difficult times financially. It’s that if you establish the right habits and direct your money intentionally, you’ll be ready for when lighting strikes. You’ll be able to take hold of compelling opportunities as they arise.

For a proven, step-by-step framework in cracking the code to independent music career success, and additional in-depth insights into making your passion sustainable and profitable, be sure to pick up my best-selling guide, The Music Entrepreneur Code.

Your “Mistakes” Are Your Moments

Your “Mistakes” Are Your Moments

Everyone makes mistakes. But sometimes those mistakes are moments of genius and just need to be recognized as such. In this video, David shares an experience from grade school.

Transcription:

You know, the oddest things come to mind when you’re walking sometimes. I just remembered back to grade five, when I used to play soccer. I was on the soccer team for my school.

And, at the first game, I had no idea what I was doing. And, while on defense, I was guarding my guy. I was on him like a basketball player would be on him because that’s what I knew to do.

He found it hard to maneuver around me at first, until he discovered that he could go and run in the opposite direction towards the goal, get a pass and get a goal for his team.

What I realized, though, is that in professional soccer, that would have been offside. So, that means that my mistake was my moment.

Of course, in elementary soccer, maybe offside didn’t count. Maybe that wasn’t a rule they observed. But in professional soccer, he definitely would have been offside, so I would have been in the right to defend him the way I did.

All that to say, you might be in the studio, and you accidental play a Bb chord instead of an Am, when you should have played an Am, and go like, “Aw man, I made a mistake.” And then listen back and go, “You know what, guys? I think that actually works! We could make it a part of the song.”

Your mistakes can totally be your moments. So, don’t lose confidence just because you make mistakes.

8 Useful Songwriting Recording Tools for Beginners

8 Useful Songwriting Recording Tools for Beginners

Writing songs can be tough, especially for beginners. Sometimes you don’t have the foggiest idea where to begin, and in other moments you’re completely stuck. But writing songs doesn’t need to be depressing. There are more powerful tools to aid in songwriting than at any time in recent memory.

Inspiration can strike someone when they least expect it. That is the reason it’s essential to have proper songwriting applications ready to save your melodies and thoughts. Otherwise, numerous precious ideas might get lost, and innumerable incredible songs won’t be recorded.

Fortunately, these days, technology has dramatically advanced and with your mobile gadgets, you can have a recording studio wherever you go. For more helpful tips, check out WriteZillas. Here is the rundown of 8 best songwriting tools to assist in recording your ideas and to store them safely.

Evernote

Let’s begin with the basics. Evernote is a great tool for on-the-go musicians. Full-time content writers and part-time contributors emphasize the significance of writing down your ideas as they enter your thoughts.

Evernote is a free mobile app that allows you to store audio, text, and photograph notes in one organized place. More importantly, the user enjoys an automatic syncing with every device that you have. Evernote is an ideal spot to keep your hummed or lyric melodies.

Recording app

At times, the simplest idea provides the best solution. Thus, utilize your smartphone, to record a melody as soon as you feel the creative inspiration. These days, most mobile phones come with free recording applications.

Android users can as well utilize the Smart Voice Recorder or Easy Voice Recorder, while iPhone users may leverage Audio Memos. But in case these fall short for your needs, you can generally search via the Play Store or App Store to discover various types.

GarageBand

GarageBand is an iOS application that permits you to record your melody in a hurry by using your iPhone as a melodic instrument. It empowers you to form a song without any preparation. Later, you enrich it with guitars, synths, drum packs, and basses as you find it convenient.  GarageBand is ideal for songwriters who are often on the move.

Besides, the app offers you with free Artists Lessons for piano and guitar with three difficulty levels, making it a stunning place to practice instruments for newbies.

HumOn

HumOn is an iOS and Android application that helps you to form music anywhere. Hum your melody whenever a new song idea comes to mind. Likewise, there is an edit option to change the pitch or duration of melodic notation, just as other helpful choices.

As the specialists at WriteZillas would put it, HumOn permits you to finish your masterpieces with suitable instrumental accompaniments, such as shake, ballad, R&B, etc. Additionally, you may share your music over social media and let other music enthusiasts listen to your fabulous task.

Simple Songwriter

This is another ideal Apple application that you can use for recording your song ideas safely. Not only does the touchscreen offer a friendly environment to rapidly and efficiently generate song concepts, but you can also record it and practice it later on your selected device.

Similarly, Simple Songwriter allows you to play with tempos, create modulations for subtle adaptations, and create smooth inversions. You can also search for harmonies that are cohesive with each other. This is definitely not a free application, but you can get it for $4.99.

Pro Tools

Mike Solomon, who’s a specialist on music themes, suggests Pro Tools. He explains that it as among the widest variety of tools that you may need to record music. Today, it’s essential that every music lover is familiar with the DAW music software. The tool empowers you to record your melodies in a digital format, and you can share it with others. Moreover, your song can become a hit in the studio world with industry standards. Therefore, it’s helpful to realize how to operate Pro Tools and benefit from a different aptitude that’s appreciated in the music industry.

BandLab

BandLab is an entirely free online digital sound workstation. The tool provides 200 professionally established instruments from drum units to pianos, as well as some extra features, for example, time-stretching, automation, guitar/bass amp recreation, etc.

Additionally, BandLab has excellent joint effort devices that transform how you build music. The portable studio in your pocket is ready for whenever the motivation strikes. It’s ideal for blending your next masterpiece, rapping over beats, or catching a guitar riff.

Audiotool

This tool is the final suggestion from Catherine Cole, a content writer and music teacher. According to Catherine, Audiotool is an engaging music production studio right in your browser.

It is mainly used by those in electronic or hip-hop music, but it’s a great alternative to form your music if you have adequate time and a PC access.

How to Choose Great Recording, Mixing & Mastering Engineers for Your Album

How to Choose Great Recording, Mixing & Mastering Engineers for Your Album

Hey, musicpreneur! We’ve got another great guest post for you by occasional contributor Nick Rubright.

This post explains how to find a great recording, mixing and mastering engineer for your album. You want to make the best impression possible with your release, so having the right personnel in place makes all the difference.

Here’s Nick to tell us how we can find the right people for our forthcoming release.

Similar to the process of creating music, there’s not necessarily a right or wrong way to approach the hiring process for your next album. But the importance of this process should not be downplayed.

Unfortunately, it’s too easy to make bad hiring decisions. Oftentimes, this is a result of shopping price-first or a lack of previous hiring experience that leads to poor decision making.

In my band, we made these mistakes as a result of impatience. The engineer we wanted was booked two months out and was relatively expensive, so instead of waiting it out and spending the money on the optimal choice, we decided to work with an engineer who was more available.

We ended up making two attempts at our EP because of this. The first engineer we went with produced amateur-level work. I should’ve realized this when we were recording in someone’s bedroom.

Eventually, we went with the guy we originally wanted, and now our EP sounds great.

To help you avoid costly and time-consuming mistakes, I’ll go over what’s involved in making an album, then how to hire great people for each of the involved tasks.

Let’s dive in.

What (and Who) is Involved in Creating an Album?

There’s no right or wrong way to create an album, but the typical process goes something like this.

1. Songwriting

With lots of pop and hip-hop artists, record labels and managers have songs written by someone other than the performing artist.

For independent musicians and bands, however, the songwriting is typically done internally, and involves an infinite number of songwriting techniques.

Oftentimes, this involves making demo recordings of different parts of songs, jamming along with your band, or sitting at home with your acoustic guitar.

2. Putting Together the Team

There are a lot of skills involved in the process of creating a professional-quality album. Sometimes, one person holds all of the skills necessary for an album’s production, but it’s not uncommon for each skill to be separately delegated.

For a typical album, you’ll see the following people involved:

  • A music producer – A bit like the director of a film, the job of a producer is to oversee the entire recording process. This can involve things like the selection of the songs that will be on the album, choosing the right studio to work in, and making sure the musicians perform at their best during the recording process. Smaller bands typically do this stuff themselves.
  • A recording engineer – This person is responsible for capturing the best performances possible. They handle microphone choice/placement, operate the recording software, and edit tracks for perfect timing alignment.
  • A mixing engineer – This person is responsible for combining the different tracks of a song into a final version. They adjust levels, add effects and auto-tune if necessary.
  • A mastering engineer – This person has a similar job to the mixing engineer, but for the song as a whole. Once the mixing engineer is finished, the mastering engineer will add things like reverb or compression that will apply to the song as a whole rather than the individual tracks.

Oftentimes, the recording engineer, mixing engineer, and mastering engineer are the same person (especially with independent projects), but there are lots of cases where this doesn’t apply. It depends on the individual’s skill set.

3. Pre-Production

Pre-production is basically the process of making song demos to get the layers right. How many times should you layer the guitar? Do you need vocal harmonies on the chorus? These kinds of questions should be answered during the pre-production process.

Additionally, this stage involves detailed discussions of what you want the project to sound like. In pre-production, you want to get yourself fully prepared for your studio sessions.

4. Tracking

Once you’re in the studio with the recording engineer, that’s when tracking begins. This involves capturing a recording of all instruments involved in the creation of your album, from guitar to vocals.

5. Mixing

As previously mentioned, mixing involves adjusting levels, adding effects, and combining the tracks captured in the tracking process so they sound like a cohesive, complete product.

6. Mastering

Once mixing is finished, the mastering engineer gets a hold of the song and starts adding EQ and effects that apply to the overall song. The goal in the mastering process is to make sure the song sounds good on all platforms – streaming services, iPhone speakers, CD players, etc.

Now that you understand more about the recording process, let’s go into the details about hiring engineers.

How to Hire Recording, Mixing & Mastering Engineers for Your Album

Originally, I was going to break this section up to be specific to each skill, but the steps I take when hiring are so similar that this would be unnecessary.

Even if you follow a perfect hiring process, it’s possible that you’ll still run into some issues. There are just some things you can’t know until you start working with someone, like how efficient they are with their time, or how unforeseen events might get in the way.

And, it’s also good to know that while the recording and mixing engineer might be the same person, it’s always good to get a second pair of ears on your recording. That’s why mastering engineers exist.

With that in mind, here’s what you can do to avoid some of the mistakes my band made.

1. Understand the Recording Process

Before you make any hiring decisions for your album, it’s important that you have a solid understanding of what will be involved. This is why I wrote the section above – it gives you a good idea of what the process of creating your album will look like.

When you have a good idea of what to expect and where things might go wrong, it helps you know what to look for in the engineers you need to hire.

2. Don’t Shop on Price Alone

Many musicians don’t have lots of money and often end up going with the cheapest option.

This is a mistake. It’s important to consider price, but it should be low on the list of priorities. Things that should be considered before price include the person’s level of experience, other projects they’ve worked on, and how much knowledge they have in the space relative to the alternatives.

Instead of trying to save money by going with a cheaper option, consider taking the time to save up so that you can afford the better option.

3. Consider Multiple Options

I find that a good rule of thumb when hiring is to find at least three very good options to compare alongside each other. Don’t just look inside your city either; explore options that might require a bit of travel as well.

A good way to find a large number of options for consideration is to look at the credits for your favorite artists on AllMusic. See who they worked with and consider working with them for your project.

You want to do whatever it takes to make sure the people you’re working with have experience in your genre.

If you’re in a black metal band, for example, and your hometown doesn’t have any recording engineers experienced in that genre, look elsewhere.

We traveled from Jacksonville (our hometown) to Valdosta to record our EP because that’s where the best person for the job was.

4. Look for Samples of Work

For each type of engineer, you want to look for different types of samples of work.

If you’re looking for someone who can handle the tracking, mixing, and mastering, these will all apply to that individual.

For a recording engineer, you can usually hear some samples of their work on their site, but this is often mixed and mastered. Ask if you can hear samples of their work that are completely unmixed. This will give you an idea of the quality that you’ll get pre-mixing, which is important if the final song is going to sound good.

An unmixed recording should sound very clean, but will likely not have the appropriate levels or effects that gives it a polished sound.

For a mixing engineer, see if you can get a hold of some samples of their work before and after a mix session. Hearing both of these will also help you determine whether the mixing engineer is good at what they do. Additionally, you’ll be able to compare the unmixed recordings to the ones your recording engineer sent you.

For a mastering engineer, get a hold of their unmastered (but mixed) and mastered tracks. You want to hear what they specifically did to the track during the mastering stage. These samples are the ones you should compare to what you hear from your favorite artists.

If you’re considering an online mixing and mastering engineer, you should be able to find what you need on their website.

5. Get Outside Opinions

Sometimes, the fact that we’re involved in the project can blind us to what’s good relative to our demos verses what would be considered good to the public based on what else is out there.

When making an album, you want your music  to be good relative to what else is out there.

To do this, it’s important to get outside opinions before you move forward with an engineer. Find some musicians in your area that have had good results in their recording experiences, and ask them to take a listen to the samples you’ve gathered from your recording, mixing, and mastering engineer.

Most importantly, consider where the feedback is coming from. For example, do they have similar goals to you as a musician? Are they obsessed with quality (like they should be)? How experienced are they in recording? It’s important to consider these factors when seeking feedback.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this was helpful in how to approach the process of hiring the right recording, mixing, and mastering engineers for your upcoming album.

After making a number of mistakes, this has become the process my band follows with almost any hiring decision, and it has been working well for us.