by: Hisham Dahud
Mahatma Gandhi is the ultimate representation of what it means to be devoted. He inspired the world with his message of practicing peace over power, and of living in harmony to find ways to reconcile our differences. In doing so, the odds were overwhelmingly stacked against him. As an independent artist in today’s highly saturated music space, the odds aren’t exactly in your favor either. However, the following 10 fundamentals left behind by Gandhi will help shift your mindset to one that is poised to flourish in today’s music business.
1. Change Yourself
If you are at all serious about making a living from your music, you must accept the fact that you’ve embarked on a lifelong journey that must become the center of your reality. Only the most determined, the most motivated, and the most inspired individuals will overcome the obstacles, will hone their craft well enough to stand above the noise, and ultimately, will achieve success (however they define it). But in order to do that, you must shift your mindset to one of absolute focus, and adjust your lifestyle choices accordingly.
This notion trickles down to nearly every aspect of your day-to-day life; from how you manage your finances, to the people you choose to surround yourself with. Will you drop a large part of your savings on a brand new car, or invest in that new gear you’ve been meaning to get? Will you spend the weekend partying, or running through that new song with your band?
This basic (yet essential) fundamental will be the building block for the following nine.
2. You Are In Control
Yes, that’s right – you! Only you will determine how far your career takes you. It’s up to you to educate yourself and to educate those around you. And you can pat yourself on the back – because you’re doing it right now. By staying up on your music business with resources like Hypebot, you already have a leg up. In today’s information age, there is absolutely no excuse for an artist not to have at least some business sense as to how they should manage their career.
The absolute worst thing you can do is sit around waiting for an opportunity to present itself… it’s not going to happen. Rather, create an opportunity for yourself. Remember that no one can stop you from achieving your goals – not your boss, not your parents, not your landlord or anyone else. The only person that can stop you from getting what you want is yourself.
If you are not obsessed with your own success, you don’t want it bad enough.
And there has never been a better time to be an independent artist! The Internet and social media have essentially democratized promotion and distribution for artists, and more people than ever before can have access to your art. Your fans will be your greatest assets, and in today’s connected world, the ways in which artists engage with (and ultimately retain) their fans have shifted the power back to the artists themselves. So embrace the chaos!
3. Forgive and Let Go
Things go awry all the time – for everyone. It’s part of life. Studios get robbed, bands break up, promoters overpromise and under-deliver; but the key is to move on. Learn from what went wrong and what went right, and then apply it. Be thankful for the lesson learned, and excited to know that you’ve become a more chiseled individual as a result. The fact that you got knocked down doesn’t matter. What matters is what you do when you get back up.
And besides, there’s no use in dwelling over the past. Forget about what you could’ve done yesterday, and focus on what you will do today. Try to also forgive the mistakes of those who may have wronged you, both professionally and personally. Holding on to any angst will only take up valuable bandwidth in your mind, and it’s important not to burn a single bridge. The music business is much smaller than you think, and the idea of six degrees of separation is very real. The longer you are in the space, the more you’ll begin to realize this.
4. Without Action, You Aren’t Going Anywhere
Artists and other creative types tend to be dreamers. They view the world differently than most, and the idea of choosing the road less traveled both excites and fulfills them. However, one critical downfall of many artists I encounter (especially the supremely talented ones) is their inability to practice self-discipline and proper time management. For many, music is their way out of the working in the “real world,” and they often don’t want to assume the responsibility of managing (or helping to mange) their own careers. Accept the fact that there is a business side to what you do. Deadlines need to be met, and actual work must be done in order to make this your living.
Again, the key here is to focus. Songs aren’t going to write themselves, and a band won’t sound tight unless they put in hours of practice. Commit everyday to productivity, no matter how grand or minute the result might be. Try setting S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely), which means setting goals that are clearly defined, capable of being measured, realistic, will impact your career in some way, and are time-specific. When in doubt, just ask yourself this question: “Will this action / inaction be conducive to my growth as a musician?”
Then get to work… today.
5. Take Care of This Moment
We all live in such a fast-paced world nowadays that we sometimes forget to embrace the present moment for what it is. Learn to fully engulf yourself in the task at hand. The next time you’re in the studio, be in the studio and nowhere else. When you’re on stage, savor that moment for all it’s worth. Look each of your fans in the eye and realize that this – this moment – is what you live for.
But, also recognize when it’s time to focus on the nitty-gritty stuff (finances, marketing, planning, etc), and put yourself in those moments only. These areas really do matter, and you likely won’t be able to handle it all on your own. Assess the areas you’re best at, and recognize the areas that you need help with. In the beginning, it’s OK to have friends or family help out, but it’s also wise to seek the help of professionals once you’re ready to take things to the next level.
6. Everyone is Human
All of your idols, your heroes, and influences are human beings that have the same needs and requirements that you do. As god-like as some of them may appear to be, they’re only people – people who pushed the boundaries of what it means to be human and were able to achieve great things. You breathe the same air as they do (or did), which means you are just as capable of achieving great things.
Try to also attend to your mind and body’s physical needs, and try to maintain a healthy lifestyle of proper nutrition, ample hours of rest, and regular exercise. A healthy body houses a healthy mind, and a healthy mind writes great songs.
If you truly believe in your heart that music is your calling, then never forget that the journey lasts a lifetime. There will be many challenges and you will fail at points, but that’s OK. Everyone fails, and sometimes that’s the greatest part, for it is in failure that the greatest lessons are learned. But it requires you to be strong enough to persist through the trials and tribulations. Gandhi was able to force out an entire empire that had been in his country for hundreds of years through persistence and dedication. Keep that in mind the next time you feel stuck.
8. See the Good in People and Help Them
Not everyone is out to scam you out of your money or take advantage of you. “Real recognize real” as they say, so continue to live genuinely and you’ll be able to attract and recognize a genuine counterpart. Try to put others first by helping them attain their goals in ways that can, in turn, help you achieve yours. This doesn’t mean taking the “what’s in it for me?” approach, but rather seeking win-win scenarios. These could be in the form of collaborations, sharing resources and / or knowledge, or simply helping spread the word about another person’s project. Try to keep this in mind at your next networking opportunity.
9. Be Congruent, Authentic, and True to Yourself
Your personal brand is everything, and it must remain authentic. Fans are much more receptive to artists who can break down the barriers and simply be themselves. When you let people in and give them the opportunity to be more invested in your personal story, they’ll likely want to see you succeed because they feel they know you as an individual.
Be clear about who you are, and who you are not. You need to understand your unique promise of value, and how this sets you apart from others. Once you are clear about what you’re all about, it will allow you to attract and build a more unique (and loyal) fan base that will better resonate with you because you’ve taken a position. You don’t want to be all things to all people, especially when you’re starting out. You do want to be leading a particular tribe based on what you believe individually.
A good brand taps into emotions, and emotions drive most, if not all, of our decisions.
10. Continue to Grow and Evolve
”Constant development is the law of life, and a man who always tries to maintain his dogmas in order to appear consistent drives himself into a false position.” – Gandhi
We all change as we are presented with new circumstances in life. Our perspective will always be changing, and so will that of those around us. The key is to adapt and challenge yourself so that you (and your mind) never remain stagnant.
When it comes to your career, try to measure your success based your growth relative to where you were yesterday, and not on how “famous” or well known you become. Remember to continue learning and keep the blade sharpened – you can always improve upon your skills and habits.