[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Patrick McGuire.]
In today’s tech-driven music industry, it’s completely possible to write, produce, record, release, and promote music in a process that only involves you and your music. In many cases, this sort of isolation can be good for creativity, but there are times when outside help is needed.
Whether you’re stuck on musical idea halfway through writing a song, need help promoting a tour, show, or album, or don’t have the production chops to make your music shine, asking for help is crucial for sustaining a thriving music career, even if you’re a solo artist. You might have every tool at your disposal today for ‘going it alone’ in music, but working completely on your own could end up hurting your creativity and stifling your potential.
During promotional efforts
Promoting music is a tough task in our streaming-centric music culture, especially if it’s something you try to do alone. If you’re embarking on a tour, releasing a new album, or preparing for an important local show, reaching out for outside help can be a massive asset.
Help can look like anything from teaming up with another band and releasing music on a split EP or album to reaching out to local musicians who live in a stop on your tour for tips on local press and radio. An increasing number of musicians are also coordinating efforts to help share and promote each other’s music online through social media platforms, videos, and forums.
Whether you’re promoting shows and new music locally or anywhere online, the first and most important step is to seek out like-minded musicians who make music you genuinely like and relate to. When you ask for promotional help, expect to pull your weight by helping others when they need it.
For feedback and collaboration help during songwriting
Songwriting can be incredibly hard, even if you have a band full of talented musicians to bounce ideas off of. Whether you’re used to working in a group or alone, it’s within your human nature to rely on a set of habits and tendencies to create music.
Enlisting outside help is a powerful benefit that can get you thinking about your own music in a completely new and creatively recharged way. When tedium rears its ugly head in your band or solo project, bring your ideas to a trusted songwriter and see what they can add to it. At worst, you’ll be left in the same place you were when you started. At best, you’ll have exciting new ideas to work with that you couldn’t have come up with on your own.
This will only work if you allow yourself to give up some creative control and intentionally open your mind to different ways of thinking about music. Luckily, if you’re in a creative rut and can’t seem to come up with anything new or interesting, this shouldn’t be too difficult.
When it’s time to produce new music
Production is an area in music that holds much more importance than you might think. Writing a great song is one thing, but it takes a much different set of skills to help a song reach its true creative potential.
Asking for production help can give you the gift of great-sounding songs or technical tips that can empower you to produce music on your own. If you get the feeling that your music is missing something or that your best ideas aren’t rewarding to listen to, it’s time to reach out for production help.
A talented producer can bring the most out of your music or detail what and how to move forward on your own, if producing your own music is something you want to do.
Payments, favors, and friendships
Sometimes creative help in music will come through a trusted and talented friend. On other occasions, help will come at an hourly rate or a steep fee.
Common sense applies here, like the idea of not leaning too heavily or often on a friend for help, and trying to repay the favor when you do.
Professional help in music isn’t cheap, but the right kind of songwriting, collaborative, and promotional help can end up making a huge difference in your career. Even the most talented musicians get help from time to time, and something like an unexpected collaboration has the ability to break down barriers and preconceived limitations we put on ourselves. Curiosity is paramount in music, and it’s an asset that leads artists to question whether and how they can make their work better.
Sometimes, rather than forcing ideas and insisting we can do everything ourselves, letting curiosity lead us to energy, expertise, and creativity outside of ourselves is the best we can do for our work.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician.