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10 Things You Can Do in 2020 to Level Up as a Musician

With a new year coming up soon I figured I would get a head start on my resolutions. These are ideas that I have either benefited from myself or plan to try in 2020. Feel free to steal an idea for yourself.

1. WRITE MORE MUSIC - This seems silly to mention on its face because of course that's what we need to do if we are composers. It's easy to lose motivation or encounter a period of "writer's block" and use that as an excuse to procrastinate or stop writing altogether. If you need to overcome the block there are ways to do that, but you've got to keep writing. Here's an experiment that illustrates the fact that quantity is often more important than quality (not saying to make low quality music of course). Just write more music.

2. FORM A MUSIC GROUP - If you don't have a group of musicians you meet with regularly in real life, start a group. Iron sharpens iron and you need to be amongst others who can challenge and encourage you to grow musically. It has been difficult to find friends willing to actually critique my music in a helpful way. Understandably, friends are afraid of hurting your feelings by saying there's a problem with your music. This makes it very hard for them to give you an honest assessment. On the other hand, music curators you send your music to don't have a problem being critical, so you need people who will be honest about the weaknesses they see and areas in which you can improve. Find some link-minded people you can do this with, and be willing to accept criticism.

3. CHALLENGE YOURSELF - Set yourself a challenge to write a two-minute piece every day for two weeks. Just see what happens. If you don't like that challenge, find something that takes you out of your comfort zone. Learn a new instrument. Collaborate with another artist. Shake things up.

4. LISTEN TO MORE MUSIC - especially that is outside of the genre you usually write or play. Let's say that you already listen to a lot of different genres. Find one you haven't listened to much and glean techniques or sounds from that genre that you could incorporate into your own. Make sure you are maintaining brand integrity and remaining true to your own artistic ideals, but exploring outside of the genres you are normally into can help add to your music. Here's an idea. Go to an opera. Okay maybe that's going a bit too far. But maybe not.

5. SUPPORT OTHER ARTISTS - Find another composer whose music you really connect with and start telling people about it. I started here, but I hope to do much more of this on the blog. It's fun to share good music with others and artists usually don't mind the extra press.

6. TEACH - someone how to compose or play an instrument. There's something about having to explain a concept that helps the teacher see it in new ways. Learning to compose is a craft like any other. Teaching can be as rewarding to the teacher as the pupil.

7. SET GOALS - that are specific and lofty. Then break them up into specific and attainable bite sizes. Let's say your goal is get more followers on Spotify. Set a goal for how many you want to get in 2020. Then double that number and figure out what you need to do to get there. Maybe it starts with research on how others have done it, but whatever the goal is you have to have small attainable steps to get there so that you avoid burnout and experience frequent psychological wins to encourage you to keep going.

8. BE WHO YOU AREN'T - This is one I'm excited about trying. Write something that isn't you. Write something that nobody would guess you had written. You will likely learn something and have fun doing it. Extra points if you create an altar ego profile and release music under a pseudonym. The goal is to force yourself to try something new.

9. READ - about music and the music business. You could start here with Mike Warner's music promotion book Work Hard Playlist Hard (paid link). I remember in college my piano professor telling us we should read a new theory book every year. Okay so I'm a little behind on that, but the admonishment to continue expanding your knowledge of music is still valid.

10. NEVER GIVE UP - If you're like many musicians you still have a day job unrelated to your music career (sheepishly raises own hand). This doesn't make you a failure. Giving up is the only thing that will keep you from making music. Most of us aren't going to be the next big thing, but that doesn't mean your music doesn't matter. You never know how your music will impact the world whether it's just in your home town or someone across the globe. The world needs you to do your art to the best of your ability. Keep at it and I wish you the best in 2020.

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