Pushing Through Creative (and Business) Block

In most large undertakings, whether they be rooted in artistic or business motivations, there will come a point where you strongly question whether you are doing the right thing, whether things have become too difficult, and it might be better to give up and start afresh. Seth Godin refers to this as ‘The Dip’…

Music As Business

There's music in the house
Creative Commons License photo credit: Bit Barons

A while ago, I referred to an ongoing debate about whether a musician can make a decent living in the digital age. It seems that it isn’t easy, although it is possible – but to do so, you will need to view your music as a business. This may not sit well with the purists and idealists who are ever vigilant against the spectre of ‘selling out’ – but unfortunately, idealism alone will not pay the rent, and ‘selling out’ can only be measured against your own values.

Seth Godin provides great advice for business people and entrepreneurs; working musicians would do well to take much of what he says on board. In his book ‘The Dip’, he propounds the importance of being able to recognise when you have hit the dip, and when you have hit a dead end. The dip typically occurs after significant effort has already been put in, but there is still no firm success on the horizon; however, if you truly believe in what you are doing, and are doing it in the right way, then you should push on through the dip. In this case, the dip may be the barrier that keeps everyone from flooding in to a particular market or idea (if it was easy, then everyone would be doing it).

On the other hand, it’s also important to not throw good time/money after bad; if you put in a certain amount of effort and then realise that you actually have no real chance of success, perhaps backed up by new information you’ve gathered along the way, then you may be racing down a dead end. In this case, you should take your learnings, walk away and try something else.

The Creative Dip

The dip can be encountered in musical creativity as well as business; sometimes its good to leave a troublesome track (or album) for a while, and come back to it with fresh ears at a later date.

Another tactic for defeating creative block is to impose restrictions on yourself. This may sound counter-intuitive, but if you limit yourself to producing an entire track using only the sounds of your lunchbox (or a particular plugin, or a synth you rarely use etc.), then creativity will generally rise to the challenge. If you have too many options, the paradox of choice may actually stifle creativity…


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