What No One Tells You About Being an Indie Artist: Attitude Is Everything

  • Written by Angela Predhomme

By far, the most common types of compliments that music artists get are on their voice, their vibe, or their music. And that’s wonderful. Compliments never get old. However, behind any successful music artist’s public face and polished sound is a backbone of pure steel, and the ability to overcome devastating blows. I guarantee it.

I’m not gonna lie. This is a brutal business. The music industry is a for-profit business, and decision-makers’ primary goal is increasing their bottom line or enhancing their brand. To say that they’re not interested in artistry would be wrong, but let’s just say industry people are interested in artistry with a proven financial track record. Their goal is not to make you feel good or gently nurture someone with “potential.” If you don’t deliver the goods they’re looking for, they pass and move on to the next.

As a music artist, you need to be able to get back on your feet after things don’t go as you’d hoped. You need to have incredible resilience and the ability to emotionally cope with some failure. 

The Inevitable Rejection

It can be hard to take. I’ve been ignored by probably hundreds of important people in the music industry over the years. Does it suck? Yes! Some have been kind enough to tell me that they’re passing on my work and why, while others have simply implied the painful, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” by their lack of communication.

When you’ve put your heart and soul into your work for months or years, and then you finally get your big moment to pitch to major players, of course, you hope that their eyes light up and they exclaim, “Wow! This is phenomenal! We can definitely use this!” After all, you know your work is really great! But when they don’t…. ouch.

And then there’s the letdown that can come from live shows. Maybe only a handful of people show up, or the audience showed up for the other act, not you. Or maybe you go to a new town to play a gig where you’re paid only the cover charge at the door. So maybe you spend $50 in local social media ads for the show beforehand. And maybe nobody shows up, and you take home zero. And you paid for a hotel in that town. Not that that’s ever happened to me (OK, it has), but these types of things drive home the critical role of your personal ability to keep your head up, bounce back, and step out onto the next stage with energy and a smile.

Coping with Ego Blows

I wish I could say I was unaffected by the difficulties of being a music artist. But I’m human. After the hard times, or a string of them, I’ve spent some time crying, struggling, thinking maybe I should give it up. Maybe I should spend my time and energy on things that “regular people” do instead.

But then, my true, better self seems to whisper her way into my pity party, saying, “Look at all the good stuff that’s happened. And you honestly love to create music, right? Who cares what they think! You be you, and don’t stop because of a couple little obstacles or setbacks. Those rejections mean nothing. Keep doing what you love.”

And in not too long of a time, before I know it, I’m writing another song, booking another gig, or responding to a nice comment from someone who searched out on my songs on YouTube. And then I’m in full swing, back doing my music artist thing.

Techniques to Pick Yourself Back Up after a Rough Patch

Attitude is everything in music. It’s a competitive business. If you are derailed by some failure or rejection, you may not reach your goals. You absolutely need to be able to overcome the trying times if you truly believe in your music. Here are some ways to bounce back:

• Write in a journal. Pour your heart out, get it out, and then get on with your life. Writing helps you to get it out and let the pain go. You can even write down your feelings in an email to yourself if you want to keep your troubles purely digital and password protected.

• Get out in nature. Take a hike. Give yourself time to think, and to appreciate this beautiful planet. It’s hard to feel low on a hike in a peaceful place. Mother Nature will refresh you and revitalize you.

• Make a list of all the things you feel good about with your music. What are you most proud of? What brings you satisfaction about your music? Write those things down! The good points never left. They are still there, and still true.

• Remember that music is subjective. People have different tastes. They really do. There are hit songs that, to me, are completely unattractive. But obviously, if they’re hits, there are other people who love those songs. So, it’s a taste thing.

• Realize that maybe these people (who rejected you) are not “your” audience. There are most likely people who WILL like your music, and most probably have not been exposed to it. There are almost 8 billion people in the world – 331 million in the U.S. alone. Your audience is out there somewhere. Even if your potential audience is only 0.1% of the U.S. population, that’s over 330,000 people. Or, .01% is still over 33,000 people. Plus, there are tons of other countries that embrace English-speaking artists. This is what I tell myself sometimes. Who can argue with that logic?

The only way to find and connect with your audience is to keep going.

• Don’t dwell on the negative stuff, and just play some more music. Sing or play the songs you love. You will get lost in the bliss of music, and you’ll remember that this was never about other people. It was always about your love of your art. And it feels good.

• Build your self-confidence with positive self-talk, affirmations or other self-esteem techniques. There are many resources available on the Internet. A healthy self-esteem is your secret weapon along your unpredictable journey in music. A good self-esteem and solid sense of self-worth make your whole life better. 

I don’t believe in dismissing or ignoring feelings. If you have pain, it’s valid. The key is to acknowledge it, feel it, and then release it. When you release the bad feelings, you’re like a cork that bobs right back up to the surface of the water after being held down. Down is not your natural place.

Your natural place is feeling good, loving your music, and radiating that joy.

Once, I heard a music industry person say, “There are a lot of talented people curled up in their beds.” In other words, you’ve never heard of these musicians because they couldn’t handle the challenges and gave up. They didn’t have what it took, emotionally.
So, tenacity, perseverance, and the ability to cope with setbacks are the silent power behind your music career. Professional music is not for the faint of heart. Good thing you’re a trooper! Your commitment to a positive and resilient attitude will no doubt bring you good things all around.

Bio: Singer-songwriter Angela Predhomme’s music has been heard by millions through television, film, radio and streaming. Her soulful songs have been featured in the popular Hallmark movie “Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane,” Lifetime’s hit show “Dance Moms,” commercials for ING Bank and Fiat, and more.

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