I wrote this for myself recently when I was feeling defeated after a series of rejections, stalled projects and expectations not met. I was down and trying to lift myself up by writing advice I imagined I would give a friend. It worked and help me start to gather momentum back and be hopeful again. It’s written with artists in mind but this is all good advice for anyone feeling a bit defeated. Sending love. - Natalie
Hearing no once or twice or being rejected by an opportunity when you know more are always coming down the pipeline usually won’t get you down but sometimes it can really start to pile up and feel like your walking the wrong way on a moving airport sidewalk. (Side note; those sidewalks are called Trav-O-Later machines which is a terrible name because the goal is to get through the airport faster and travel sooner but I digress.)
As artists we constantly have to put ourselves out there for opportunities; shows and tours, co-writes and collaborations with other artists and brands, press for our projects, even just posting on social media. It all opens the door for potentially furthering our careers and it’s part of the job we signed up for but it also can be ripe opportunity for lack luster results that start to wear on us.
Here’s some ideas to help you get your groove back when the constant onslaught of rejection or worse, no response at all, gets to be too much.
Think of things that happened recently that you are grateful for. Today someone let me merge out of a parking lot onto a busy street and our always sunny (and hot AF) town had some cloud cover. I relished the shade and that kind person on the road.
Get outside or at least step away from your computer and devices. Maybe it means going on a hike, getting coffee, tea or a drink with a friend or just cleaning your house. Take a break from looking at screens and seeing any more emails that say your music isn’t right for them. Doing something productive like your laundry or some songwriting can go miles in helping to lift your spirits.
Drink a big glass of water and take a multivitamin. Seriously. Sometimes all the negativity coming at you can make everything feel like a slog. Just this little act of self-care is important. Dehydration can add to any sluggish feelings and your body and brain need vitamins to function optimally. Add a probiotic to this duo too if you want to up the self-love. Your gut is your 2nd brain and you want to keep it happy too!
Seek out community. As a musician for over 20 years, most of my “opportunities” haven’t come because I cold emailed a venue, press outlet, or another artist. I still do all those things but what has consistently furthered my career the most has been building on the relationships I already have. Often this looks like me referring talented friends for shows and press, sharing their music or just reaching out to say hello. I try not to expect that it will ever be reciprocated though it often is or it comes back around in other karma. What feels good is to have “co-workers” that get it and understand this weird job of being a working musician that I can learn from and grow with.
Check in with your people. If you’re hitting a wall on a project, maybe you can ask them if they have an idea on someone to connect you with for something specific. One of my favorite co-writers was introduced to me through a venue owner that didn’t even live in that city. It’s a small community once you’re in it. Be in it.
Reach out for more opportunities. It can feel counterintuitive but sometimes, actually most of the time, this career is a numbers game. Reach out to enough people to play shows, feature your music in their publication or work with you in some way and eventually someone is bound to say yes. I’m a signed artist and depending on what I’m working on my success rate is anywhere from 10-25%. That means that for every 10 emails I send out, 9 are usually “not for us” or no response at all. So, get the numbers to work in your favor by researching and reaching out to more people that would be a good fit for what you have to offer.
The key is to draft all these emails, send them, or better yet schedule to send them and then step away and detach from the results and people’s responses. When you come back to check them, try and limit your time reading email and plan to do something from the top 3 suggestions afterwards.
I have to mention that if you do receive a “No” or no response at all there’s a few things you can do. Follow up with them about a week later, people are busy and may not have even really checked out what you’re offering and your email may have even not been delivered. Also, “No’s” sometimes just mean “not right now.” Take what they said and see what info you can gather and learn from it and go from there. Maybe you should reach out again in a few months or with a different offering down the line.
It’s been a tough 18+ months during Covid for artists. And even recently, the whiplash of venues reopening but restrictions coming and going ...it all feels unclear and we’re not sure if the shows and opportunities we are lining up will even actually, eventually happen.
A friend in the business recently said to me, “we’re not sure the show is happening until the band on stage says; ‘Thank you, goodnight!’” 😂
Hang in there. You’re not alone.
Just a caveat to say, this is not advice for someone working through depression, and no shame in that, I’ve been there too. You can try some of these things for sure but make sure you get the care you need.
I’ve found that sometimes if I don’t address the spiral of rejection it can turn into burnout and then that can turn into depression so it’s good to develop boundaries and self-care as an entrepreneur-artist that make sure your caring for yourself early and often. Like an anti-rejection oxygen mask on first kinda thing. 😂
Sending you all love and a big digital hug.