Yin And Yang And Your Music Career
I’m failing as a musician. Life is unfair.
I didn’t get that gig I wanted. The music industry hates me.
My music isn’t getting on any Spotify playlists. I can’t win!
That manager never called me back. Why doesn’t anything go my way?!
If you’ve said any of these things, join the club. This post is for you.
We think life (and consequently, the music industry) is unfair. But that’s not a very helpful way of thinking about it.
So here are three truths we all need to hear about “fairness.”
Truth #1: life is yin and yang
We’ve all heard of yin and yang. But have you actually thought deeply about what it means?
“Yin and yang” roughly means “the shadow side and the sunny side of a mountain,” according to spiritual philosopher Alan Watts.
In other words, you can’t have shadows without the sunlight.
“Although they are different, they are inseparable, like a front and a back. You can’t have a front without a back.”
– Alan Watts on yin and yang
Think about this for a second: would you know what pleasurable music was if you’d never heard unpleasurable music?
A resolving chord without a dissonant chord?
Sound without silence?
Darkness without light?
You see, you can’t understand one side without the other.
And because the music industry is part of this thing called “existence,” you’ll see yin and yang within it.
It’s actually splattered all over it.
Truth #2: “fairness” doesn’t mean “you get your way”
When something goes your way, that’s not fairness.
That’s just one thing going your way. Soon, you’ll have something not go your way.
Fairness doesn’t mean you get your way. Fairness is when things go your way and also don’t go your way.
If life were “fair” for everybody, every person would get their way all the time. And that’s just not possible.
Your music career will have ups, downs, and maybe even plateaus.
You’ll have accomplishments. You’ll mess up. You might feel stagnant at times and at other times higher than the moon.
This is normal. This is life. And this is what you should expect in your music career.
In fact, you need those downs so you can fully appreciate the ups. And you need the ups to keep you going and move you forward.
It’s all part of the music of life.
Truth #3: meaning is more important than fairness
That brings us to meaning.
If some things will go your way and some things won’t go your way, where does that leave us? Should we all become nihilists and give up on music? Does life have any meaning at all?
The truth of yin and yang prepares us for reality. It prepares us for the real music industry.
You may not have rich parents who support your music career like some people. You might not get the lucky breaks everyone else seems to be getting. And if you have kids, you’ll definitely have less time than someone who doesn’t have little Minions of their own.
But if you realize life is both “fair” and “unfair” by society’s definitions, you’ll be ready for anything.
You know not everything in your music career will go your way, so you can be mentally, emotionally, and strategically prepared.
That’s why, instead of focusing on how “unfair” life is and how it affects your music endeavors, focus on meaning.
Even if you have only 30 minutes a day to make music, make it mean something. Write songs, record tracks, play gigs, mix music — and do it all with purpose.
Be present with it.
For me, I want my music to resonate with people. I want my music to move my kids and grandkids. I want my music to help people.
And you’ve got to find what makes your music meaningful, to you and to others.
Yeah, life isn’t fair, at least not in the way most people think of “fair.”
Life is yin and yang. The music industry is yin and yang. You are yin and yang.
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Caleb J. Murphy is a singer-songwriter and music producer based in Austin, Tx., and the founder of Musician With A Day Job, a blog that helps part-time musicians succeed.