Persistence is, without a doubt, one of the most vital character traits a musician can possess. You could even argue that there’s no hope of succeeding in music without it, whether you want to write songs for a living, perform in a touring band, or become a bonafide popstar.
But for how crucial persistence is, it’s something that can be easily forgotten about in music. We’re told we need to “hustle” to succeed in the music industry, and we quickly put ourselves to work making the best music we can and trying to get people to listen. But what’s so easy to forget to account for when we do this work are the countless no’s it takes to get to a yes, the innumerable ignored emails, the thick skin it takes to get rejected over and over again and to keep going anyway. Persistence is essential because, without it, you’ll probably get bummed out and quit long before you’re able to make anything truly great.
A healthy, persistent attitude doesn’t take rejection personally, and shows acceptance and resilience when things don’t work out. Maybe you wrote 1,000 blogs and no one picked up your next single. Or, maybe you’ve been hard at work creating the best music you can for a decade with only a small fanbase to show for it. Are you going to forge ahead and work towards your goals or throw up your hands and call it a day? Persistence is the driving force that keeps you going in the face of failure, disappointment, and uncertainty. It’s a radical acceptance of yourself, your music, and everything that’s happening around you, and a willingness to keep going after you’ve heard your 10,000th no, your record flops, no one shows up to your important show, etc.
Persistence is not denial and believing that if you keep doing everything exactly the same that things will somehow work out for you. A healthy approach to making music and living life in general is constantly being willing to learn from the past and bringing those lessons with you into your present. Maybe you’re getting so many no’s because your music-making approach isn’t good enough and needs to change. Maybe your records flop because you aren’t doing the necessary promotional work to get your music heard. And maybe no one shows up to your important shows because you aren’t doing a good job of getting the word out about your performances to your audience. You can learn from every single painful and disappointing experience in your life if you’re willing to pay attention and change, whether you’re new to making music or have been writing and performing for decades.
The music industry is more competitive than it’s ever been, so if your songs aren’t good, you simply won’t have a shot at succeeding. This shouldn’t be ignored. But even if your music is good, that doesn’t mean things will work out the way you wish they would. Alongside great music, persistence is essential for carving out an identity as an artist and creating long enough to find opportunities for your work.