As Jazz musicians, like most people in the arts, we face rejection on a daily basis, yet it is something we rarely discuss. We face rejection from radio stations, booking agents, managers, even our peers, and the rejection comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s subtle: someone else gets hired for the gig. Sometimes it’s more blatant: being told openly that you’re not accepted. Sometimes it’s just the silence: not even being acknowledged as a viable contender.
In this day of Facebook it’s easy to for all of us to portray the best possible version of our lives on online: ‘look at that amazing meeting someone attended! wow, look at those gigs they have! check out that new instrument someone gave them!’ Since rejection and competition go hand in hand, it’s easy to blame our negative feelings on someone else and turn our rejection into jealousy, instead of taking responsibility for our negative feelings and channeling them into more positive avenues.
I have spoken about this constant rejection with many of my musical heroes and their responses, while being varied, always point back to personal perseverance and perspective. Here are a few tips I have learned from them and a few I picked up on my own:
1. Learn to Expect Rejection: This one may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s a helpful attitude. I have always found the “rejection rate” to be around 85%. That means if I ask for 10 gigs, I will actually contract 1 or 2. Same goes for general business emails and calls to radio stations or other industry people: just accept most of them aren’t going to respond (but seriously, if you’re an industry person, RESPOND. Even if it’s a “no”). Remind yourself of this point of view by remembering these words of wisdom from Clark Terry: “Make like a duck and don’t give a fuck.”
2. Make Your Own Pie: Sometimes it feels like there is only one pie, i.e. only so many gigs. That’s just not true. There are gigs out in the world that you can create and there are gigs out in the world that may seem “little” or even “lame” but that you can fully exploit to the benefit of your career. Bake your own pie and get more pie.
3. Be Competitive with Yourself Not with others. This goes along with making your own pie. Don’t look at someone and say, “I want what they have, SPECIFICALLY”. Get ideas from them, maybe even venue ideas, but think of your own career and what you want for yourself. Your music isn’t just like theirs, so your place in the world isn’t the same as theirs either.
4. Back Away from the Screen Seriously. Post your content on your various social media sites and then just shut it down (harder than it sounds, I know). Don’t creep on peoples sites if it’s just going to make you feel competitive and rejected.
5. Find Happiness in your Music , not in your commercial success. At the end of the day we are all artists and we should practice our music and find satisfaction in that. Remember to keep your eye on the prize. If you’re making music you love that represents you, that is what matters. Not how many youtube hits you have or how many facebook fans, or even how many gigs. You should be building an artistic body of work that you can be proud of for the rest of your life.
How do you handle it? Let me know in the comments…..