by Metal Mastermind

March 3, 2021

Challenges Metal Musicians Face

Being a working musician isn’t easy. And it doesn’t matter what level of success you’ve achieved. There are so many things that we struggle with, which a lot of that we tend to hold in.

To be clear, all musicians face these challenges that we’re going to discuss. But as metal musicians, we’re going to dive deeper into the specific impact these challenges have on us metalheads.

More importantly, you’re going to learn some strategies that will help you overcome these challenges.

We’re going to cover everything from setting goals as a musician to dealing with depression. And this may be the most important mini-course that you’ve ever taken (so we’re asking you to save it, re-read regularly, and share it).

Below is a quick reference to each topic. Also, each topic will have a video, which we encourage you to watch as you’re going through this.

  • How to Set Goals as a Musician
  • How Musicians Should Approach Time Management
  • Establishing Your Work-Life Balance as a Musician
  • How to Overcome Writer’s Block (for Lyrics and Music)
  • How to Deal with Low Self-Esteem and Lack of Confidence as a Musician
  • How Musicians Can Deal with Depression (and Why We Experience it)
  • What Your Inner Circle Should Look Like for You to Be a Successful Musician
  • Your Growth and Development as a Musician (Both Musically and Personally)

Alright, let’s dig in…

1 – How to Set Goals as a Musician

One of the things that holds musicians back is that thing that we have a natural tendency to rebel against. Taking time to sit down and write out our goals.

We metalheads are free-spirits. That doesn’t mean that you’re undisciplined, hence the level of talent you have to play an instrument or sing.

But let me ask you, how long have you been working on that song or album? Is it released yet? If you did release it, did you release on-schedule, or did you just kind of work on it here and there until is was completed?

There are two simple strategies to assuring that we get things done and continue progressing:

  1. Setting long-term goals
  2. Setting short-term goals

Long-term goals are fairly simple. For example:

  • Your band has an album that you want to write, record, and release two years from now.
  • Or you may have a significant festival (like Wacken Open Air in Germany) that you want to play at within the next five years.
  • Or you want to play a certain number of live shows this year.

Those are long-term goals. And worthy goals!

Your short-term goals need to be aligned with those long-term goals. They are the stepping stones that will ultimately lead you there.

Let’s take releasing your next album in two years. Here are some short-term goals that align with that:

  • January – February: Write the initial guitar rhythms and melodies for each song
  • March – April: Write the lyrics and other instrument parts
  • May – Rehearse the songs as a band and make necessary adjustments
  • June – July: Record your album in the studio
  • August: Mixing and mastering
  • September: Develop your pre-release strategy
  • October – December: Create all of your album art, designs, and merch items
  • January – March (the following year): Create the buzz and anticipation, and start making a list of publications and anywhere you can promote your album
  • April – Create a music video
  • May – Run a pre-release for a song or two
  • June – Album release month
  • Remainder of the year – Continue promoting your album

This is just a high-level example of how to build your short-term goals into supporting the long-term as a musician.

In addition, you’ll want to break this down further by week and even by day. And we’ll be diving deeper into that below.

2 – How Musicians Should Approach Time Management

We’re going to piggyback off of the first topic of goal-setting. We’re going to talk about time management.

As a musician, you probably have much more going on in your life than just your band or solo project. You may have a regular job, a family, and other projects you’re pushing.

That being said, if you don’t learn how to manage your time it’s almost a guarantee that you won’t make progress. You’ll find yourself spinning your wheels and a year from now, you’ll be kicking yourself wondering why you’re still behind on the same project.

So here are some time management tips for musicians:

  • Break down the short-term goals into micro-goals
  • Next, get out your calendar (this can be on your computer, phone, or even the old-school paper calendar works for many)
  • Schedule specific days and times to accomplish those tasks

It’s really that simple. And it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Make your schedule a realistic one that you can stick to.

The bottom line is if you’re serious about your music, you have to treat it like a job. I know we all hate that word ‘job’ but that’s what it takes. Your music has to be your priority and you have to have a plan.

3 – Establishing Your Work-Life Balance as a Musician

Another challenge musicians face is work-life balance. Let’s be honest, we love what we do and we could practically live in the studio.

Here’s the thing…

  • If you give someone 12 hours to perform a task, they will take 12 hours to perform that task.
  • If you give them 4 hours to perform that same task, they will more than likely find a way to get it done in that amount of time.

This goes back to time-management and scheduling an appropriate range to complete certain tasks.

The problem with being a workaholic musician is that you’re forcing yourself to not be efficient. When we’re knee-deep in the process, we have a tendency to create more work than necessary. We create busy-work.

You also have to remember that there are other things (and people) in your life that deserve our attention:

  • Your spouse/partner
  • Your close friends and those who are important to you
  • Your physical health (you need to have time to exercise)
  • Your mental health
  • Recreational time and time for yourself to just reflect and clear your head

The takeaway here is to make sure your time is planned. If you have a recording session tonight, allot appropriate time for that. When that time is up, allow yourself to be done. The same goes for writing, for practicing your instrument, or anything related.

4 – How to Overcome Writer’s Block (for Lyrics and Music)

Everyone musician and creative individual will at some point face what we call writer’s block. We hit that creative wall and can’t seem to break through. And sometimes we remain stuck in this rut for months at a time.

But what if I told you that writer’s block isn’t real? What if I told you that it wa a myth?

Here’s the truth about writer’s block…

  • An amatuer only works when they’re inspired
  • A professional works everyday, no matter what

Now, I realize that may have gotten under your skin and maybe even pissed you off a little.

The key to overcoming writer’s block is taking action.

Moving forward, here are some practical things you can do when you feel that you’re experiencing writer’s block:

  • When you don’t know what do write, just write a word, any word
  • Same goes for music; if you don’t know what to play, just play any note or chord
  • Now, write another word (or play another note)
  • Continue doing this

That almost sounds utterly simple and ridiculous. However, it works, and works amazingly.

Before you know it you will have written a full sentence or a complete progression. Now, it may not be a masterpiece. But it doesn’t have to be.

It’s the fact that you acted. And you allowed that one action to lead to another. You have to push yourself and you will ultimately push through to the other side.

5 – How to Deal with Low Self-Esteem and Lack of Confidence as a Musician

The outside world doesn’t realize it but many of us have self-esteem issues and suffer from low-confidence.

Even the most famous musicians struggle with this. We constantly second-guess ourselves and feel like we’re not good enough. Again, this happens to accomplished and well-known artists.

A big part of this is because we are in the spotlight. Whether you’re playing on a stage in front of thousands or just 20 fans. There’s an expectation for you to deliver. And that can be a lot of pressure.

In addition, many of us became metal musicians because we didn’t fit in with the core of society. That alone can impact our self-confidence for a lifetime.

Even more, we’re constantly comparing ourselves to other musicians. And this can really have an impact on our self-worth.

Here’s how can we overcome low self-esteem and lack of confidence:

  • First, make a conscious choice not to compare yourself to others.
  • Instead, focus on your own unique ability and know that you are one-of-a-kind.
  • If you get that sense of low confidence on stage, close your eyes for a moment and allow yourself to be taken to a deeper place inside and let those emotions come out through your music and performance.
  • Understand that you have a gift that most people don’t have; we have that special something within us that allows us to create and perform.

6 – How Musicians Can Deal with Depression (and Why We Experience it)

This can be difficult to talk about. But it needs to be discussed, especially amongst our metal musician community.

When I went through my own band’s break up I went through a spiral of depression; I couldn’t be creative at all.

But one thing I recommend is to go out and see nature. Take a think-week. And really let yourself become involved with your surrounding. Hike, kayak, and get out of the routine you’re in. Escape, take a vacation.

Ken Candelas, co-owner of Metal Mastermind

The truth is that we are wired differently from most people. Metal musicians and musicians in general tend to be more emotionally-driven and we often wear our heart on our sleeves. That also makes us vulnerable to the many thorns in society.

But here are some things that will help you when you feel that dark cloud of depression hovering over you:

  • Stay active. Go to the gym, do yoga, anything that you put your body in motion.
  • As soon as you wake up, dwell on that person that you love the most and are grateful for. It could be your partner, spouse, best friend, bandmate, etc.
  • Understand that you have an amazing gift in what you do musically and be grateful for that.
  • Stay away from ultra-controversial topics (this can lead to extreme depression, as well). Stay in your lane of music and surround yourself with people and sources that give off positive energy.

It doesn’t mean that life will be perfect and that you’ll never experience depression. That’s something that can come and go. And rather than trying to completely eliminate it, learn how to face it head-on and push through it.

7 – What Your Inner Circle Should Look Like for You to Be a Successful Musician

You are an amalgamation of the five people you hang around the most (Ken mentions this in the video above).

If you want to be in a successful band or be a successful artist, you need to align yourself with people that are like-minded. They don’t even have to be musicians but they need to be people that:

  • Have a proper mindset
  • Are driven
  • Have goals that they are actively pursuing

Of course, there are other personality traits and characteristics to look for. For example, someone could have those attributes but be a jerk. You certainly don’t want those people in your life.

But you also don’t want to surround yourself with people that have no vision, no goals, and are just floating through life aimlessly.

You see, we build on one another. And just as you will gain some awesome momentum from certain types of people, they will also gain from having you in their life just as much. As a serious musician who’s continuiously pesevering and progressing, you have a lot to give. So it’s a win-win situation.

Now, one thing to realize is that as you become more successful in doing the thing that you love to do the most, your circle of friends (and even family that you’re close to) will get smaller, and smaller.

There are two core reasons why this happens:

  • They won’t understand your lifestyle and decisions. So their conversation and thought patterns are not going to align with yours.
  • They’ll be jealous and jealous people can often drag you down, even if it’s subconscious.

People have a natural tendency to not see someone close to them succeed. Especially if they’re stuck in the rat race, living in the norm of society with nothing special going on in their own life.

In fact, some will even discourage you and try to dissuade you from pursuing your dream. Because to them, it seems unrealistic, almost like a fantasy. And that is, again, because they do not understand what you’re doing (or they’re envious). But you can’t let those people become your stumbling block.

Expect this. And understand that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Remember that you have this awesome vision and if certain people do not fit your vision, it’s best to move on and move forward.

8 – Your Growth and Development as a Musician (Both Musically and Personally)

Lastly, let’s talk about taking those next steps in your future as a metal musician. As you’re reading this you’re probably already thinking of your next big release or milestone that you want to achieve in your music career.

Many of us are plagued with the desire of ‘making it’ or ‘getting there.’

But I want to stop for a moment and realize that there’s no such thing. And there shouldn’t be. Why?

Because we are constantly evolving as musicians. Or at least we should be. You never want to be stagnant. And ‘getting there’ means that you’re stagnant.

Instead, always be considering what your next steps are. Map your next goal and what you want to achieve next. Because without that, it’s easy to fall into that trap of ‘I made it’ only to then fall back because you got too comfortable.

So, let’s talk about your growth and development as a metal musician!

Here are some examples of practical ways to continue growing as a musician:

  • The obvious – the continuance of improving your craft (instrument and/or voice)
  • Learning a new instrument
  • Evolving into a new sub-genre, or even better, creating your own
  • Learning the technical side of recording by getting more familiar with your DAW and its supporting components

Those are some typical ways to continue your growth. But I want you to take it to the next level and also integrate personal growth.

Think about things you can do to really expand and challenge yourself. Here are some examples:

  • Study the business side of music
  • Get proficient at marketing and promoting
  • Learn how to use online tools such as building websites, emailing marketing, video editing, etc.
  • Read this entire article again!

These are the types of things that will not only help you build up your band (or yourself if you’re a solo artist), but they will also carry over into other areas of your life.

We truly hope you enjoyed reading this and please feel free to share this with someone that needs to read this. Our #1 priority here at Metal Mastermind is to help you succeed in all areas of life!

Metal Mastermind

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