The Things No One Tells You About Being an Artist

Ayo - Grassrotsy - Pyragraph

Photo of Ayo by Aurélien Le Roch.

Written by the lovely Joy Ike and originally published on Grassrootsy. Reposted here with kind permission.

Always prepare to be on camera

As someone who is a self-declared “nervous performer,” there’s nothing I hate more than finding a video of myself on Facebook with me hitting a wrong note. I hate the feeling. But I’m sure I’m not the only one. Always come to a show with your A-game. The last thing you want is a photo or video posted on YouTube where you don’t like how you look or how you played. It sucks because, in most cases, you have no power to take it down. In an age of smart phones you never who is capturing you.

Don’t expect a response

When contacting media, 1 out of every 10 people will email you back. Sometimes 1 in every 20. It’s not fun or enjoyable to spend hours reaching out to one venue after another…especially when you know some of them will never even open your email. But you gotta do it. Just prepare for the silence. Don’t get discouraged when you don’t hear back. In fact consider it a pleasant, unexpected surprise when you do.

Find out who the sound guy is…quick!

As soon as you confirm the date of a show—make sure you find out who the sound guy is or who you should send your input list and stage plot. I’ve found that, in working for non-profits, small businesses, and people who independently contract artists for private events, they don’t often realize there needs to be sound equipment and someone to run it. Make sure your communication about this is clear. Determine whether or not there will be sound equipment or whether you should bring your own.

No one will “get” what you do

“So what do you do all day?” If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that question, I would actually be a rich musician. Describing what you do as an artist can and will be hard. Most people will think you get on stage for an hour, twice a week, then veg out at home watching cartoons and sitcoms Sunday through Thursday. Trying to explain that you’actually running a small operation (or business, if you will) is something most people just won’t get. And even if they do get it, it will be quickly lumped into the category of insignificant, unproductive roles in society.

You will constantly fight negative thoughts

I’m not good enough. I don’t belong here. He’s better. What am I doing? Why I did I agree to do this show? I just wasted my time? Why can’t someone do this for me? What am I doing with my life? I hate this. And this list goes on and on…

I dunno about you, but the general consensus seems to be that negative thinking is an artist’s closest friend and worst enemy. In an industry that’s all about the next thing, it can be incredibly hard to stay positive, stay confident, and believe in yourself. If you need to know anything, know that staying courageous will be the most important thing you do as a performer. It will keep you from backing out of opportunities that scare you. It will keep you from avoiding certain situations, and it will allow you to move forward when it feels like everything and everyone is trying to push you back.

If you have thoughts, suggestions, or additions, put them in the comments section below.

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