Fear is by far the biggest obstacle that gets in the way of us doing what we want to do in our life. Fear that we're not good enough, fear that we don't have what it takes, fear that we'll slip back into old habits, and fear that we won't be able to adapt to change.
In particular, there are four fears that we'll be discussing over the next couple of posts that I've found to be the most pertinent to artists and creators when it comes to licensing their music! We'll go over each one of those fears, and discuss how to overcome them. Let's dive in!
The first fear that I've found that is shared by artists, creators, & colleagues, and one I deal with myself, is self-doubt. It's a very common fear we all have. As humans, we all at one point doubt our abilities to accomplish things from when we were kids:
- playing on the playground
- climbing up on that rock wall
- learning to walk or going from crawling to walking, etc...we naturally doubt our abilities from a young age. It's human nature, but trying and trying, to see if you can do it right, is the first step in the process of getting rid of self-doubt.
When it comes to music, we're all our own worst self-critic about our own music. I think that's what makes art so interesting, because of the constant voice in our head that says, "we need to do better, we need to do better, we need to do better!" We have the urge to think that art needs to be different, it needs to be better and even the best artists today are constantly questioning their art, trying to one-up themselves.
While I was living in New York and worked at CNN, I recorded a nine-song EP - actually not sure why I would call it an EP when it was only nine songs, but I did. At this point in my life, I would release this EP and thought I was getting better at being a recording artist, but I still had self-doubt along the way. The product wasn't great and I needed to put something better out in the market, but I still kept on doing them.
One day, as I was currently working on '"Showbiz Tonight" on CNN, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul came on the show as guests to promote their new, "Ultimate Voice Coach"- DVD. This was during the heyday of "American Idol" and I believe that they were on season four. I was really looking to get signed and get a record deal, so without thinking ... I said, "Hey Randy great to meet you!" I shook his hand and handed him my latest EP on a CD. e was nice enough to take it from me and asked me what type of music was in there. I remember saying, "it's folk/singer-songwriter stuff and it's about as good as I can do today".
I let Self-Doubt creep into the conversation. This is something you should never do when pitching your music. BUT, because I was / am my worst self-critic, this iswhat I said to him. This is not a great thing to say when you're pitching your music to someone, because you immediately implant into their mind that "this person's mindset is not where it needs to be". In the end, what he said to me was really cool, "We all are, my friend".
At that moment I realized that he wasn't talking about people, but us artists, creators, and musicians. We all have self-doubt. Even guys like Randy Jackson, who's played from anything from Mariah Carey to Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Journey, Billy Joel, and Bruce Springsteen.
Another experience that would be great to share is when I moved out to Los Angeles, back in 2006 and wasn't able to take honest feedback. I had previously recorded an EP in 2005 and I linked up with a producer in LA by the name MudRock. He had produced a lot of hard rock/heavy metal bands like Godsmack and Avenged Sevenfold and was working with a friend of mine. I met them at the studio and as an artist, was like, "Hey dude, I have this album and I'd like for you to listen to it". He was nice enough to take the time and listen to my album, while I was personally critical about this album because it was my first album that I'd ever really recorded in a professional studio. Well, he did the best thing possible, he gave me honest feedback. He said, "Dude, I think you need to redo this". Me, being the defensive artist that I was said, "No, no, no, it's good as is. I'd rather just record something new". Folks, this was a missed opportunity! He was willing to re-record the album with me, get it polished and where it needed to be and I should have taken him up on that.
There are two things that happened here: I was stubborn and defensive and thought that my art was as good as it's going to be; and that I couldn't learn anything else from him. That is not a good way to be. What I should have said to him was, "Wow, thank you for listening to my music. I never thought of it like that. You have some good points. What did you have in mind? And basically just kept the collaborative conversation going. That was a lesson that I had to learn the hard way, but hopefully by reading this blog post, you can avoid doing this in the future.
Now today, while I'm producing music for targeted projects/audiences, I question myself and it always helps to have someone I can bounce ideas off of. Like my business partner, colleague, fellow artist, and my wife, for example. There is no shame in asking, "Is this really good? Or am I crazy? Is this bad? Does it serve the scene? What about the lyrics?" and it's a common fear we all deal with, so it's only natural. A way to overcome self-doubt in your music is to keep listening to your product and ask yourself how it compares to other products on the market and bouncing ideas off someone. Remember, the music can't lie, folks. The music can't lie.
1) Keep climbing up on that rock wall! If you fall, get up and try again.
2) Don’t miss an opportunity, be open to learning more!
3) We're all our own worst self-critic about our own music, so be kind and bounce ideas off people.
4) If you can, write down and meditate on your self-doubts. What's holding you back? And why?
4) The music can’t lie! The product is very telling and transparent, so give it all you've got.
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