Musicians and so many others in the music industry have been raising their voices and raising money for emergencies and good causes for the longest time, we can all think of dozens of examples I am sure. For causes relating to the industry itself and for causes far beyond.
And yet. We are, for better or worse, living through a funny old period in history. And I have been witness to several conversations in the industry (and throughout the wider creative industries to be fair) where people know that they want to continue doing the work they do because they are passionate about it, they love what they do, and for decades that was the high tide line, the holy grail of work. Having a real passion or purpose for what it is that you did for a living. So many people don’t. We considered ourselves and still do, of course, to be very fortunate.
And yet. I’m hearing about it more often now, some people are not getting to wholly enjoy what they do, at least not with quite the same joie de vivre that they used to. Because, a small (or not so small) part of their conscious or even they might call it conscience, says – it’s all a bit frivolous isn’t it? Once upon a time people’s mean little inner voice might say – ‘We aren’t exactly saving lives are we?’ Now added to the list of what most of us working in the creative industries aren’t saving is – the Amazon, the oceans, the planet as a whole. Democracy.
It’s a lot. To be a citizen of the western world in the 21st Century is to know about more things that deeply matter and that need fixing than we can ever hope to influence. And having our career start to feel as if it comes with a side order of compromising our ethics or plain guilt; musicians, tour managers and festival organisers alike express real concern and sadness about the carbon footprint of their work, many indie labels worry about the impact of the long term effects of our own industry on their artists’ mental health. These are but a couple of the many things that can undermine our pleasure in our work. Having conflicting feelings about the work and industry we love, is not a recipe for career longevity.
And yet. One of the things I love about the music industry is that it is peopled with an awful lot of folk who are motivated by making a difference to the industry and in the world. It hurts some of us not to be contributing more, doing more, supporting campaigns more, making that difference really impactful. But getting caught up in conflicted feelings or guilt will prevent us seeking and seeing the innovative solutions possible in places where we can bring our influence, and prevent us from contributing in other ways where we can support others to bring change.
What to do?
When I talk to clients about this I offer them an approach I have been using for many of the 15 years I’ve been in practice as a coach, working with creative industry people on challenges where they know they aren’t happy but aren’t sure what steps to take to get back to joy or balance or whatever would be a mark of success in that area. It’s a simple idea. I ask them to define how much is enough? What would enough look like?
How much of that thing do you need to do, be or have and in what form, to be happy? To allow yourself to feel joy about it or perhaps to simply stop beating yourself up about it so you can enjoy your work or your creativity in good faith.
We can definitely apply the question to our contribution, our making a difference or activism. How much is enough to feel that you can allow yourself to enjoy your work that you love, that no doubt you strove and invested time and energy into in order to get where you have. How much is the right amount to do, or give, or give up so that you can feel it’s enough? There’s always an answer.
“Despair is not our natural way, nor is quitting.”
For some people they know deep down that in order to contribute enough, to know they are making the real difference they want to, they have to let go of old dreams and jobs and careers entirely and begin new ones. That is legitimate if it’s authentic and heart felt. If that’s you, it can feel wrenching to realise you are not in the right place any more. But if the truth is that you are called elsewhere, then it is. However, this is far from everyone. And you don’t have to feel bad if it’s not you.
For others it’s about choosing the area or areas to focus on right now, that feel most urgent. To think about what the right contribution is for you towards those issues. It might be time, money or energy. A combination of those. It might be using your platform to give voice and visibility to those doing the real work, who are most impacted by whatever the issue is or hold the most knowledge.
It’s is all too easy, in these strange times, bombarded with 24/7 bad news, short of a matching level of guidance on what we can do to really help, to say – well when it comes to saving the Amazon/planet/democracy etc. nothing is enough. But often this is a way of giving up. It doesn’t usually sit well with us deep down in the long run. Especially if we are a making a difference person at heart. Despair is not our natural way, nor is quitting. Go back, think on it, what is enough for you? To know you did your part, you did the best you could? Of course, sometimes we have more capacity than others. That’s fine too.
And the rest of the time? Even if it feels difficult sometimes, love the stuffing out of your music life. Do the gratitude thing. We are fortunate to do the work we do (that said, many of us worked really hard to get to be this “fortunate”) and more importantly we are allowed to feel joy. And share joy. The world needs it and it is what brought so many of us to this business in the first place.
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Tamara Gal-On has been coaching artists, managers and wider music industry folk since 2007. Since then she has worked on numerous projects serving women in the music business and created many opportunities to take them to work near, on or in the water. This is not just because water brings (her) joy but because it’s proven to improve mental flexibility, enhance the ability to get into true flow, connects us to intuition and embodies on a physical level what it feels like to be truly supported. All of which is to say – if you get coached from that place, most excellent things start to happen. If that sounds like something you’d like to explore. Check it out – www.sanctuaried.co.uk