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5 reasons why artists stop making music:

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

Pursuing a music career can be incredibly challenging. As an independent musician, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, frustrated, or embittered. The journey is full of ups and downs, and the road ahead looks like endless work. You might also have to deal with the opinions of well-meaning friends, family, industry insiders, or even other artists who plant the seeds of doubt in your mind: Can you really make it? Is it too late? Are you wasting your time? But why do musicians really quit? What are the pain-points that cause so many talented musicians to throw in the towel? And most importantly, how can you overcome these challenges and thrive in your music pursuits? In this article, we’ll take a look at some common reasons why musicians quit, and offer encouraging solutions to help you keep moving forward! 1. Perceived lack of success Perhaps the most common reason why musicians quit is a lack of “success.” The artist hasn’t headlined a festival, gotten streamed millions of times, or become a critical darling. It’s hard to keep going when you pour all your time and energy into music, yet you don’t see the results you want. And sadly, many musicians define success by outdated or unrealistic metrics that aren’t even necessary to establish a profitable music career. What can you do about it? If you find yourself discouraged, it’s important to first remember that success is subjective; it’s not just about megasales, magazine covers, or sold-out shows today. It’s about long-term growth. So change the short-term metrics you use to evaluate your career trajectory. In that early part of your musical journey, success can be measured in the relationships you build, the fans you connect with, and the impact your music has on people’s lives. Are you getting better at performing, writing, producing, and promoting? If so, those steady gains can lead to big wins over time. Even if you are shooting for the stars, most megastars didn’t get there overnight. Finding success at any level can take countless steps. So focus on the progress you’ve made, and celebrate the small victories along the way. 2. Financial Struggles Another major pain-point for independent musicians is… money. Or lack of it! It’s tough to make a living as a musician, especially when you’re just beginning.There are a lot of startup costs you won’t quickly recoup, whether it’s studio time, hiring a mixing engineer for your home recordings, or marketing and advertising expenses. In music, like with most businesses, it’s takes money to make money. Profitability could be months or even years away, and that can be a long time to wait if money is a stresser right now. Plus, the sad truth is that even some “successful” artists aren’t making a ton of money from music. (Have you ever been served coffee by the guitarist in one of your favorite bands? True story). This seems to be the case for a lot of artists who gained notoriety and then got dropped by the label system. What can you do about it? This advice might fly in the face of your dreams, but: Have a day job! Having a day job while you’re building your music career can relieve some of the financial pressure on your music. Keep in mind, the startup phase of your career is when you’ll need to be reinvesting everything you DO make back into the music, so you can achieve profitability down the road and then scale it. So you probably shouldn’t bank on your early music earnings paying the bills anyways. The key to that profitability is owning your fan relationships, of course. And then making effective offers to that audience. It takes investment, whether the costs are in merch manufacturing, advertising, tour support, video production, or all of the above. Having a day job may give you some discretionary income to invest in your music. One other benefit of a day job? It gives you complete artistic freedom! If you want to sing make Celtic harp Death Metal covers sung backwards with a pirate accent,… cool. You don’t need to achieve mass market viability to cover your living expenses. One other solution is to find alternative funding opportunities, such as government grants (lucky Canadians!) A last word of encouragement on this topic: There’s one benefit to working on a tiny budget. You have to be scrappy, innovate, and learn new skills. Sure, it can be painful to climb yet another learning curve, but I’m pretty sure the education will serve your music moving forward. 3. Burnout and Mental Health Struggles Creative burnout is another common reason why musicians quit. It’s easy to get stuck in the constant grind, especially when you’re under pressure to create new music — and new content — all the time. We also fear that if we take a break, some other artist will somehow muscle in on what we’ve earned. What can you do about it? To combat creative burnout, try to mix things up. If you continue to pursue music full-force, collaborate with other artists or experiment with different genres. But remember it’s also okay to take a break from music altogether to recharge your batteries. You can spend that time on other responsibilities, other hobbies and passions, or just… resting. Remember that creativity is not a finite resource, and sometimes the best thing you can do for your music career is to step back and take care of yourself. When you return to music, you’ll have renewed inspiration and a fresh perspective to lend to your songs and performances. 4. Lack of Support Many musicians quit because they feel like they don’t have the support they need to succeed. This can be especially tough when you’re just starting out and don’t have a strong network of industry connections or fans. You can’t do it ALL by yourself, right? What can you do about it? To build a support system, start by networking with other musicians and industry professionals. Attend local music events, go to concerts, join online communities, and connect with people on social. You can also seek out mentorship or coaching from experienced musicians who can help guide you. Another thing we forget: Our audience doesn’t always KNOW what to do to help us. So it’s good to clearly instruct them on how to help: “Save this song to your own playlists,” “Bring a friend to my next show,” etc. 5. Trying to Keep Up with Changing Trends Music, cultural, and tech trends are constantly evolving. So are the musical tastes and social preferences of audiences. It’s daunting to keep up! And through that constant change, artists stress about staying relevant, especially as they age or loses mass-market appeal. What can you do about it? It’s important to remember that there will always be an audience for any niche. With billions of people online, even a “small” audience can number in the millions. So if the style of music you make is no longer the hippest, shiny new thing, you can still have a loyal audience. Additionally, incorporating new sounds and styles into your music can keep it fresh and evolving. The key is not to sacrifice your own artistic vision in pursuit of fleeting trends, but to use them as inspiration and tools for exploration. In conclusion, there are many reasons why musicians quit, but it’s important to remember that these challenges are not insurmountable. Whether you’re struggling with financial issues, creative burnout, or lack of support, there are always solutions you can turn to. Keep your focus on your goals, celebrate your progress, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. By developing self-sufficient skills, prioritizing your mental health and well-being, and embracing new influences, you can continue to grow and evolve as an artist. Remember, you’re not alone in your struggles, and with perseverance and a willingness to adapt, you can achieve your dreams. Don’t stop. Keep going!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chris Robley is an acclaimed singer-songwriter and award-winning poet from Maine.


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