Are Jealousy & Sour Grapes Killing Your Music Career?

2979 276

The German word “Schadenfreude”: pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.

Ever felt that? Go on, admit it! Some unworthy media darlings who’ve been monopolizing the buzz finally get a bad review. (—Maniacal laugh!—). The big local band who told you NO every time you asked to open for them is back playing Tuesday night gigs at the ACME Dive. (—Maniacal laugh!—) There can be pleasure in other folks’ failures. But guard against it!

Jealousy can kill a career and (worse still) your creative spirit

Competitiveness is good– if it is fueled by a sense of inspiration. Like, that whole Pet Sounds/Revolver/Smile/Sgt. Pepper thing that the Beatles and the Beach Boys had going on in the 60’s: “Wow! Mind-blowing album! I can top that!”

But competitiveness can quickly turn to jealousy if you don’t feel like your music is receiving the attention and accolades it deserves. Jealousy is bad for the soul; it’s wasted energy that you could’ve used to create something new in this world.

Yes, of course we’re all geniuses, but here are a few things to keep in perspective:

1. Recognition is not an official certificate of quality

There’s no universally recognized endorsement, no stamp-of-approval from the heavens waiting to smash down upon your lucky forehead.

I used to court the favor of a certain regional band who seemed to have cornered the market on positive local press. I wanted to be in “the in crowd.” I seemed to have been accepted into various outer-circles of said tribe, but never allowed into the inner sanctum where surely mystical rites and rituals must have been held to guarantee their local standing.

This drove me nuts. I lost confidence. I got bitter. And then some wise sage very close to me said “Why do you want their approval? You don’t even like their music.” OMG, I thought to myself.  She’s totally right! I’d gotten so caught up in envy that I’d forgotten about the basics.

If you don’t respect the tastes of a certain critic, band, or booker, don’t lose any sleep over the feeling being mutual.

2. There’s no such thing as cool

I’m not sure if this tale is true or not (in the literal sense), but there’s a popular story where a journalist asks Barry Manilow if he ever feels sad about being seen as uncool. Manilow responds, “I’m crying all the way to the bank.”

It’s easy to get wrapped up in hype and hipster tangles. The “coolest” band in your town might not have much broader appeal. They might be “cool” because they’re friends with the right people. They might be truly unique and awesome, but have little long-term career potential because their sound is challenging. I mean, plenty of people disagree with me about one of my favorite songwriters who I think is brilliant. Not so, for them.

Tastes are tastes are tastes. Cool is all a matter of perspective, so don’t aim to be cool; aim to be yourself at your best (however you define that).

3. Fame can be fleeting

This is somewhat related to my first point, but just think of literature for a moment: plenty of best-selling authors have been utterly forgotten, whereas some of the most famous authors of all time never received a shred of recognition during their own lifetime.

How and how much you’re paid for your creative work while you’re alive is NOT a reflection of quality. The world is too fluid and complex to ascribe or discover value in such a way. So don’t fret about what other bands have achieved; achievement is not a finite resource. No one can monopolize or hoard magical success tokens. Give yourself more credit than that! If you think said band is less deserving, please review point #2 above.

Must you make music?

Rilke once advised a young poet to ask himself the question in the dark of the night: Must I write? Would I die without writing? If the answer was anything but YES, the young poet must stop immediately and try his hand at some other trade.

I won’t put it to you with such dire consequences, but what about this question: Would you be significantly less happy without making music? If you can be happy without it, sure… maybe apply your energies to something you’re more passionate about.

But if so, if you need music, then keep playing, keep writing, keep practicing, keep recording. As cheesy and cliche as it may sound (cliches, I’ve found, are widespread because they’re TRUE!), art is an act of self-discovery, a little way to tap into the source. If music brings you vitality, then it is its own reward.

The sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll may or may not follow.

I’d love to hear your stories about dealing with musical competitiveness, envy, or jealousy. Feel free to comment below.

-Chris R. at CD Baby

P.S. If sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll are your fantasy rewards, there’s a time machine in the CD Baby warehouse waiting to take you back to the 1980’s. It leaves on the hour.

Sell your music on iTunes (in as little as 48 hours), Facebook, Spotify, CD Baby, Amazon, and more!

In this article

Join the Conversation

  • Eulersnumberinfo

    Great article! It helped me hanging in there!

  • Totally agree. A dose of reality!

  • i absolutely LOVE this article Chris. This is how I am trying to approach 2012 and the rest of my life. I think the music I create will be much better because of it. thank you!

  • Laura

    Great article. This is the real life stuff that they don't tell you when you quit your day job. Yes, it's very easy to lose your footing in this business. I've been making a career in family music full-time for 2 years now (part-time for 15), and the jealousy sometimes creeps in when I see others excelling at the things I'm not as good at (selling yourself, marketing, promo, pr, publicity—the entire business side of the music business). I realize that I HAVE to be good at these things in order to stay afloat and make a living doing this, until I can afford to hire some help for these jobs. It's not that I don't want to do them, and some it is even rewarding, creative and fun–BUT it's just challenging to find the time to wear all the hats at all times! When I step onto a stage, or in the classroom or in the recording studio, that's when I know that I've chosen the right path. I've recently realized that when I am "myself" and run my career the way that feels most natural to me, that's when it works and everything falls into place, not when I'm chasing after something someone else is chasing after.

    Regarding social media….
    One thing I've done to help stay on track with my career is to "hide" news stories or "unsubscribe" from people's newsfeed on Facebook. I realized how much it was sucking my soul to look at what everyone was doing with their music career day in and day out. You can't escape it after a while. I feel it is important to have a music presence on Facebook though. So this seems like a good solution for now. I wish there was a way you could have a music page and do away with a personal page. Alas, another thing that Mark Zuckerberg doesn't understand about how people want to use Facebook in business.

    Another thing I've been trying to do is at least once a week, step away from the "business" and work on music, in a quiet room away from the computer, laundry, kitchen, cell phone, etc. It's amazing how working on the thing that fuels this career is the thing that goes by the wayside. I have to schedule it in! But I've done some great songwriting this way when I put "music time" in the calendar.

    • Absolutely. We should always remember to stop selling our music long enough to actually make some music.

      • Jarrod Turner

        That is the best advice I’ve heard someone give in a long time. I’m only 24 but I’ve been doing this half my life. The most fame and success I have ever achieved came after I released an album that I wrote not for profit but for the shear joy and release of making music.

    • Ladystephanie

      Totally agree with your feelings Laura, I am the same.

    • Laura, I empathize with your feelings on all subjects covered in your 3 paragraphs. It’s always a good reminder to oneself, that our issues are shared by others, and it makes it somewhat ‘easier’ to accept our frustrations, or at least it helps move beyond them.

    • Maryjane

      Great reply! The music can sometimes disappear in the time in front of the computer and the time spent wondering why one is not as successful, recognized, universally acknowledged, etc. what’s also true is our tendency to ignore our own successes, fans, accomplishments, while mooning jealously over the careers of others.

  • Someone I was friends with back in the 90's later on went on to play at the Grammy's. I felt extremely jealous about it for a long time, but I didn't recognize my disdain for her music wasn't really a disdain for her music, but her success showing a lack of success on my behalf. When I realized this, that's when I became serious as a musician, deciding that I no longer wanted to talk trash about someone else, but instead make something for myself.

    I relayed this story to my bandmate, who ended up making a good song about the topic on his music project, and it has become our anthem of sorts. I also derive inspiration on the same vein from VNV Nation's "Gratitude" track, which inspires me to prove myself to all the doubters out there who don't want you to succeed, as it is a poignant example of how they have failed to apply the necessary effort.

    Chorus to VNV Nation's "Gratitude":
    "Thank you for all the doubts, and for all the questioning,
    for all the loneliness and for all the suffering.
    For all the emptiness, and the scars it left inside.
    it inspired in me, an impetus to fight."

    Don't let the success of others hold you back, don't let the jealousy of others hold you back, and don't ever let your own doubts hold you back. As Chris said, make the music for yourself, even if nobody ever hears it. B

    • Amen. Thanks for sharing.

    • Ernie Leblanc

      Well said, Capt D.

    • Ernie Leblanc

      Well done, Capt D.

  • Awesome! Happy New Years, early!

    • Absolutely! There are two types of musicians: The ones who have let envy and jealousy creep into their lives, and the ones who lie about it :-).

      It’s important to be mindful of it, and to make an effort to overcome it. Chances are the band or artist you’re envying for the gig they scored, is envying you for an award you received or a glowing review for your last CD. It takes constant effort- but we will all be much further ahead if we focus on being the best “us” we can be, and avoiding the things that spur the ugly feelings of envy that get in the way of our success.

      Great article. Thanks for continuing to address topics we can all relate to, but don’t often take the time to think about!

    • Kenny Love

      A great article Chris, and similar to one I addressed when I was writing a few years back. However, I do have one “sidebar/off the path” perspective on the GRAMMY awards, and that is that, despite its marketing assertion that its nomination are not based on sales nor chart activity, it’s interesting that it still appears “heavy leaning” toward major label artists who have had much radio airplay and chart activity. I can only imagine that given NARAS’ decision to dramatically reduce the categories for the 54th, a bit of hate has been stirring in more than a few kettles of late. 🙂

      Dr. Kenneth Love (aka “Kenny Love”)

    • Troy

      This was great to read and really encouraging – it seems today almost all the girls I know love X factor and to them thats what music success is, it can make me seethe!!! reading this article really helped
      all the best

  • I have always figured there are enough fans to go around for all of us.
    I am happy to see my friends succeed even if I don't always get the same courtesy.
    But it separates the wheat from the chaff.
    Jealousy is a waste of time.

  • Orlando

    Wow! This is an awesome post!! This really helps remind me about the importance of being creative for the right reasons. Thanks for writing this…

  • Lindsay

    If you need more encouragement on this subject, I suggest reading the letter Nick Cave wrote to MTV to turn down his nomination for "best male artist":

  • ttyl

    The worst thing is when someone you work with is insecure, there is nothing worse than working with someone who is secretly trying to butchure your reputation….

    • Thankfully I've never experience that, in terms of people I make music with. Sounds like it'd be very difficult to deal with, though.

  • Anonymous

    Just at the time when I have decided that I won't ever sell all my other CDs sitting ontop of my piano, I have found freedom and suddenly, I have an even better project that I finished recording today. I try to not read to much online or in the entertainment section, I find it just squashes my spirit. So, if I make improvements and like the music I make for myself, then that is better than watching others make music, wondering "what if I had tried." That's my take on it, very timely and relevant article, thanks again, CD Baby!

  • Aaron

    I would be interested to read your thoughts on responding to jealousy, if a response is needed. I’m learning to float above it and see it as a sign of success or something positive, but it is not easy.

  • This is a great article. It reminded me of a saying I heard once that jealousy is like taking poison and hoping the other guy dies. I have been in some form of the entertainment business for over 40 years, most of it as a lyricist and jazz singer. I have had my share of bitterness, envy, have officially given up many times only to dive back in again because I decided that (as you said) I’d just die if I couldn’t write, and came to believe that one’s job in life is to find what you love and do it to death. Although I agree wholeheartedly that recognition is NOT an official certificate of quality, I did receive my first Grammy nomination this year at age 62 and it was very encouraging.

  • Great article…there are so many bands and so few that grab that elusive brass ring that rather than trying to ” step over” people, it would be more logical to act like “we’re all struggling for very small rewards..why be a jerk about it”. In ten years, that gig or article will be forgotten, but not a negative reputation.
    On the flip side, remember that some of your friends are also competitors and will sometimes act like it. Don’t be a shark, but don’t be shark-bait either!

  • odessa

    Great article on a topic not often covered. I root for all nice people who are musicians and there are a lot of them. I don’t root as much for the ones who aren’t nice people, no matter how talented they may be. In my mind it’s more important to be a good person than a talented one.

    Either way I find it helpful to ask myself.. would I want to sound like the person who is so successful? A lot of times the answer is no. Sometimes really bland stuff is popular…do I want to be really bland just to be successful? nope.

    If the answer is “yes! I wish i sounded like them”, then I become a fan. We should all still be fans of music, even when we are musicians.

  • Westlakerecords

    One of my teachers, who later became an extremely successful and important in producing music for Hollywood’s biggest movies, says, “The music BUSINESS is dead. I would not advise ANYBODY today to try to make a living any kind of music.” Without going into further detail, his advice is the same as the above article. YOU DON’T NEED AN AUDIENCE TO ENJOY CREATING MUSIC; you need yourself and maybe a friend.

  • In the mid 90’s and early 00’s I was playing in a fairly successful regional band. Two bands that we were close with both got picked up by major labels and went onto become HUGE successes at what they do. For a long time I was quite jealous of their success and tried to grab onto it and get on board with them. It didn’t work. Then one day I realized that I needed to make music for myself and quit trying to be something I wasn’t. This is a great article and is really helpful to younger musicians who place too much energy in beating the other bands in their town when they should be working together to see who can create the best events with the biggest turn out and share their fans with everyone around.

  • Patricia

    I am in family music too. What someone taught me long ago is to have an “abundance” mentality. Like, if you think there isn’t enough for everyone and a hundred people are striving for 10 gigs/agents/interviews, etc., then it can either discourage you or make you super competitive. It may be reality but you don’t have to look at it that way. I prefer to think there is room for everyone, and if you are good and work hard you will do well. What you get doesn’t necessarily take anything away from me. OF COURSE I would like a Grammy nomination someday, but I’m so happy for my friends and even strangers who do get one, because their work either deserves it (so does mine!) and/or they worked their butts off to get it heard by the right people. I get my own accolades and that’s good for me. I have to remember that a child’s hugs or a pre-teen saying “Patricia, you ROCK!” is my Grammy.

  • Danstraussmusic

    This was very helpful. Thank you for writing it.

    As much as I try to rise above that feeling, it does creep in and it does shut me down sometime. 15 years of song-writing/recording, a closet full of unsold CDs, and more gigs playing to the sound guy that I care to count will do that, but I try to maintian the idea that I, like Rilke’s young poet, must play music and write. From that perspective, there is no “failure”.

  • this is good info to remember. i’m so much happier since i decided to just follow my muse and not worry about whether i fit into the local music “scene.”

  • this is good info to remember. i’m so much happier since i decided to just follow MY muse and stop worrying about whether i fit into the local music “scene.” everyone’s gift is unique to him/her and i try to remember that.

  • Humalongpr

    Chris, You raise some good issues. The best thing we can so as musicians is support and encourage one another. Trying to network and collaborate should also be mutually beneficial. Thanks for the article.

  • Jshank

    What a challenging article. Well written, and clearly hits at the heart of what being an artist is all about. I especially liked the reminder about self-discovery being a reward in itself. Our own greed for praise often blinds us to what we freely experience in creating the music. Thank you for this very inspiring and insightful article!

  • None

    All i can say after reading all this is still, can’t help it… i want Justin Bieber to go away

  • Sam

    Love the Rilke reference and agree completely. Took 50 years to accept, though. Jealousy can spoil a lot, but the root of it might be a fear of competition, even success, as it seems to have been for me. Just keep practicing and enjoying music. Getting paid for it is important. A middle class income is perfect and music has as much security in it as anything these days. Good luck to all.

  • Todd

    What a fantastic reminder… there was a musician acquaintance of mine that was using some songs I wrote in a live setting so much so that I got some serious royalties from it and it was such an honor. He later went on to a major label deal and I became so jealous. I felt I had been surpassed. I had to resolve that his success doesn’t indicate my failure. I am on my own track completely different from anyone else- gotta stop comparing.

  • Sharp11Girl

    Great, great post. I wish I’d read it five years ago. 🙂

  • letho1981

    Just what I needed to hear! I almost cried reading this coz it’s like it’s written just for me! Thank u Chris!

  • Blue

    I love it! Thank you. I’m printing this one out and putting it on my wall. -Blue

  • Good article, good advice. I take it everyday, and I compose every day, 6 days a week and have been doing this for decades. I take exception with one idea: We are not all geniuses. Yes, we all can participate in creativity, which is universal to our species, actually to the cosmos. But nothing is distributed more unevenly than specific talents, i.e., musical talent. I knew a very gifted painter that also wanted to be a rock star, but with nearly no musical talent for singing, playing or writing music. People often overestimate and underestimate their abilities. Try to be truthful and accurate in assessing your own, it helps to eliminate envy. Also, one way to let go of envy is with gratitude. There is always something, often many things, to be grateful for. A good exercise is to imagine yourself on your death bed, you’re very old and only have a few hours left. What did you do that you regret (stop doing it) and what did you not do that you really wanted to (start doing it)? In the arts, craft and technique are very important, chutzpah, confidence and personality won’t cut it in the long run if you don’t have craft and technique. Hacks do what they do primarily for money and approval, professionals do it because they love it and they have to do it whether the music business and/or society at large considers them successful or not.

    Jerry Gerber

  • Joeyduff

    Great read Chris! My pal and I, a leader of another band, experienced the same thing. It really took up a lot of time and needless effort. But we worked through it, and now we collaborate, and share ideas, helping each other’s individual projects as well. Thanks for the tips. I think you’re right on the mark.


    faaaaaantastic article. thank you. that is all

  • Linhardtprod

    First off, thank you Chris for a witty and entertaining article, which also, contained pearls of wisdom. (always a quality act when quoting Rilke). A quick envy story. i have a couple friends who are in a group that after one or two public gigs signed to major label. not that i had even coveted any labels, but everyone in our clan immediately treated them as if they were big stars, and i couldn’t help but feel left by the wayside. they’ve done very well, they’ve also had struggles. while i envied their notoriety a mutual friend told me they “jones” for my performances and search youtubes for my videos. he even said they studied my moves and could imitate them. i was flabbergasted.(and beyong flattered). and i felt how petty my envy is.
    i see some friends who turn envy into admiration, because envy imples; “i can’t have that.” admiration implies: “maybe one day i too can have that.”
    so i admire all they have accomplished. they work hard and deserve it. and so do i….

  • Steve

    Great story. I often ask myself “why do I do this?”. And the answer is always “because you can’t live without it”. We are fairly successful in our small pond and my advice is: perform passionately where ever you can and as often as possible. You will be noticed, maybe not appreciated, but noticed.

  • Good article. Sometimes everyone falls into this thinking, and it’s completely self-sabotaging.

  • Umer

    I’m a musician. This is wonderful. Thank you

  • Great article – TRUE DAT! I think there is good jealousy and bad jealousy – good jealousy being the “I can’t believe I didn’t have that fantastic idea, I gotta work harder!” type and bad jealousy being the “Everyone SUCKS because they like Brittney Spears and not ME. It’s not WORTH it.” type.
    Sometimes, when I hear someone with astounding pipes, like Christina Aguilera or something, I feel a pang of jealousy, but then I remember Nora Jones.
    The bottom line for me is There Is Room For Us All. The fans that love me love ME, and I’m not going to waste a moment trying to be Christina, since I patently can’t, and since that would disappoint and disillusion my fans.

  • SteveCapt

    Chris, you did it again, great post! We as musicians give every day of our souls, talents and good will of our music in the form of practice, performing, recording and producing. This giving of our music to deliver physical-mental therapy, joy, entertainment to the masses of people. We do it because we are meant to do this job. All of us must remember that making music is larger in the universe than just watching our merch or download sales, or watching what another musician or band is doing or not doing. Lastly, all of us must be proud and thankful of the profession we have chosen to do. God Bless all of you.

  • Joel A.

    In my opinion, this is one of the most important articles I’ve read in this newsletter. Way to tell it, Chris.

  • annie b

    Great reminders, thank you. I think we’re spoon-fed the idea of “overnight success” and it makes it frustrating to realize we all have to pay our dues over the course of years and learn to live amicably with rejection – including the bands that seem to rocket to the top. Your point about being cool is particularly well taken. Sometimes it feels like high school all over: struggling to be accepted by people we aren’t sure we even like. A sense of self-possession served well then and it’s good to remember that it will now too.

  • Charles

    Great article. I’ve been a songwriter for over 30 years now. When I was first starting out it seemed like no one but me liked my songs and I thought about giving up. Then I read an article where the great guitarist Leo Kottke was asked why he had made an album with him singing after so many instrumental only albums. I’ll never forget his response as it has helped me press on in my songwriting endeavors all these years. He said something like “Well, it’s a big world out there and I figure that if I like a song then maybe there is someone else out there that might like it also”.

    Simple advice, but so true.

  • Money Stax

    Yes. Great article & great responses. I just dropped an album 2 months ago and simultaneously quit, but I haven’t announced it to my fans & friends because I don’t even want people to try to convince me bot to. There is nothing I love more than making music. I will always work on music in one way or another for my own personal enjoyment. But I have also hit a point that I understand that no matter how many House Of Blues shows I do, I may never make any money from it. My relationship with music is very abusive. One day I’m in it for life, and the next day I’ve changed my mind. It’s very hard watching people less qualified (in the industry and locally), get money, recognition, and everything I feel like I deserve for my years of hard work. This article was very refreshing to read. A lot of it contained things I already tell myself to help cope with the stress, but it’s great hearing it from a professional, non-biased perspective. I’m so used to reading articles about what the artist is doing too much or too little of. Or steps to take that would assure monetary success. But the real, naked truth is that sometimes it doesn’t matter how good your music is, how hard you work, or how much you invest into your career. There will always be stories of those great artists/groups/bands that did everything right and still never “made it”. I decided to read this article because of the title. I have many issues with the music business, most which leave me unhappy about a lot of things. This article provided me a new way to deal with those feeling in a positive manner. Thanks CD Baby!

    Money Stax

  • WalterT3

    This was a great post. Although I knew a lot of this, it was good to read this affirmation! The only comment I would have here is that “fame”, however large or small, can be a strange drug unto itself. Indeed it can be like a cookie. You can’t really know until you take that bite.

  • Andy Lindquist

    Wow Chris, quite a brilliant take on this subject. nobody ever talks about this. This article has inspired me greatly! Being the praying man that I am, I sat quietly after reading this and just prayed. Jealousy is not something I am often confronted with, but it does come up from time to time. It is most certainly, an energy killer and it can take the wind out if my sails sometimes. I made a copy of your brilliant article and I’m hanging it on the wall of my studio to remind me! Many gracious regards Chris, Andy Lindquist

  • Farrell Wills

    Thanks, Chris, it’s a subject that gets overlooked. I have a very bad track record with this, but I will say–I’ve learned to stop indulging in it as much. I’d like to learn how to process it better, though–bitterness will definitely affect your health, and I’ve still got too much of it from the past. It’s nice that there are still projects in the here/now that interest me, even if new hard rock (as opposed to classic) is almost invisible in mainstream music.

  • Really wonderful article about how to think about oneself. When we create a niche for our talents, there is no point in being envious because we are doing our own thing. It’s always great to have a mentor and collaborators, and in this sense, we can always share info. No room to share info with jealously.

    One additional comment about being “cool”. I become more and more aware about my state of coolness or uncoolness as I age, not for envy’s sake, but for keeping up with what people want to hear. I think there is definitely such a thing as “cool”–definition: being the “in thing” or the “in person” or the “in music” at a particular time. Sure, Barry Manilow doesn’t care about it–Don’t you think he is still “cool” to a certain population that still loves his music and pays for his merch, concert tix, and albums?

  • Rhyming gaijin

    Just came back from my morning jog , and this was a great article to read , It is true that it everyone wants to be in the “in crowd ” , I mean who wants to be in the “out” crowd lol but a long time ago I found out the those in the “in” crowd want to be on the out crowd lol
    life is funny that way 🙂

  • Wow, thank you for this. I really needed it.

  • To me music is about satisfying your soul, responding to your inner muse, giving a physical form to something that you feel inside or that cries out to be expressed.
    You are only answerable to yourself as a critic. You don’t have to pander to anyone. And yes, forget about jealousy, yours or others, just get on with making music and songs, work hard and be true to what you feel inside.

    PS nice article.

  • Art Elliot

    Ah, drat. Missed the time machine again.

  • mike

    I’d just like to point out that we’re talking about envy here, not jealousy.
    I’ve done a little bit of reading on both, and yes, I have issues with both haha.
    Great article!!

  • Kat

    Holy shit, I should get this article tattooed on my thigh. Thank you; I really needed this.

  • Ethergirl

    Chris, I agree with all your points. Jealousy doesn’t help you emotionally or spiritually, though at the same time there’s no point in trying to make yourself like or respect someone’s music if you genuinely don’t. The best thing in these situations is just to ignore it and go on with your own work. However, to be fair, I really don’t think jealousy ever wrecked anyone’s creative career. What you do and how much you succeed, and whether or not you’re jealous of other’s are two separate things. In fact, you could make an argument that with some people, jealousy eggs them on to keep trying just to prove their better than the other guy. Bios of famous artists are full of such anecdotes. Great article, but I would maybe re-title it to indicate that jealously is bad for you as a person, not for your career, necessarily.

  • Kalobizo

    Thats exactly what I needed to hear, thanks Chris.

  • Isham(Ike) Alexander

    I am constantly giving out cds of my latest”Pull ‘Em Up! Please!” cd.
    Ond band that I play with on occasion, has stiffled me from passing out my first cd, so I know that when I play w/them, to not even try to market or pass out any of my latest cd.
    On the other hand, another band, my main group, has no problem w/this(passing out free cds).

    Ret. sp. educator/pro-percussionist,
    Coach Ike Alexander

  • Hessian823

    This is a great post particularly since we’ve been dealing with a jealousy of sorts in our neck of the woods. Recently, we were asked to travel a little ways from our “home court” to participate in some showcase type shows. “Do it for the love!,” the promoter challenged us. Not ever caring about money or room size, we took the shows and played our hearts out at every one. Sometimes we wouldn’t get on until 12 or 12:30 am just so others could rock for a little longer. Then, all of a sudden, nothing. No calls, nothing. Come to find out, the other acts didn’t want to play with us anymore because they sensed something in us that made them jealous. It’s such a bummer because, as unsigned musicians, we are a tribe of sorts. We are the community of the unrecognized who should support one another through this journey we are all on together. After that, I really had to look at myself and how I was letting my own jealousy affect how I viewed other bands. Since letting that animosity go, we’ve been getting offers like crazy and it’s been great. I found that my jealousy and animosity towards more successful acts manifested itself in me as a sort of sense of entitlement like, “I’ve been killing myself for 15 years, I deserve this.” But the truth is, none of us are entitled to a thing. Primarily because just by being musicians we have been blessed. The universe owes us no more as she has already given us enough. Thanks very much for this post! And know that, no matter where you are, we believe in you because we are family after all!

  • Walnutspecial

    Shouldn’t there be a French word for feeling displeasure at another’s success?

  • Regarding point 2 There’s no such thing as cool: somebody said something very revealing during one of the CMJ music conference panels back in Oct. something to the effect of

    “have you ever noticed, the higher the rating an album gets on, the less albums it sells.”

    basically, being a band that reigns hipster supreme often means that it is something that does not have wide appeal or mass accessibility, perhaps it only appeals to a niche audience, and might never get out of obscurity.

    whether that statistic is accurate or not, the point i took away from it was a significant one…

    Are you writing and playing to appease the critics and taste-makers, or are you writing and playing to reach the people that will appreciate your music for what it is?

  • there is someone i wont mention names, who was on the top billboards, someone whos been there, and then left that and started over, me and that person got pretty close, but over time, things like “imma have to stop having you open for me because youre getting too good” came out their mouth..and then unfollowing on twitter happened, then deleting any posts of my music on their wall happend…. I believe its a jealousy issue…where someone, myself, who hasnt made it yet, is starting to do big things, and the person who had made it is feeling like they might be overshadowed. Its sad, and idk what to do about it, but i just keep doing what i do, and i really hope that person gets back where they used to be, but i feel like their fear / jealousy is whats holding them back…stop worrying about what someone else is doing, and just do what you do.

  • Landeira

    Jealousy is a matter of perspective. It’s mad to feel bad for the success of other people if they deserve it and they worked hard for it. Then it’s not a prize or fans or whatever, it’s just recognition for the work they have been doing during a long part of their lives and putting all their energies in it. I hope I can feel happy all my life doing what I really love, which is being involved in music, however it should appear, playing, listening, writing about it, composing… it’s one of the best investments of my life. Any minute can be spent and lost if you enjoyed it doing what you really love.

  • Jazzbow

    I was 40 years when I begin to write and sing my songs, I grew up working in the Oil Fields of Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana, so I was the Butt of a lot of Jokes until a Oil Family in an in direct way gave me interest in Three Oil Wells because of a song I wrote, so all because of a Song Life is a lot easier. Jazzbow

  • Wow. I really needed to hear this today. In our little town we have plenty of petty rivalries and jealousy to go around (and with a little introspection, I find I’M PLENTY GUILTY). Funny thing is, all these musicians that we get envious of are all very nice, engaging, funny, and creative people. I am ashamed to say I’ve partaken of the “why are they getting xx number of gigs and I KNOW we have a better sound…etc., etc., etc. (you’ve heard it all before!). I just need to smack myself and be more supportive of THEM, and then turn around and produce the best product my band can produce. Let the results lay where they lay.

  • Florence

    So great. Can’t tell you how much I needed this article. Whenever I feel envious of another artist (especially one who is competing for the same fan base and is at a similar place in their career), I easily forget the distinction between healthy competitiveness and jealousy. I find it best to actually support that artist (as hard as that may be), turn my envy into admiration and allow the fire to be lit under me to make me aspire to be a better artist.

  • Poobah recently signed with an indie label with widespread distribution,for several album releases. I immediately had several musicians’ ask me to help get them signed, but it does not work like that. They did not go out on the road like we did, and play all those places to promote our name. I am talking thousands of shows. We sacrificed relationships, got barely by,but stuck it out, regardless of where agents sent our band.We have dealt with many jealous rivals, who said nasty things to club owners, about our band.
    We have tried to be different with our sound and show, which is not easy. We found ways to record our original music, and it was not easy to find the money and resources.
    My point is, if you put a lot into your project, maybe you will be rewarded in the future. This past year we were chosen by Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 10 of the year list, and our CDs and downloads are selling.We feel this is because of all the time, money, and sweat invested. You shoud try to avoid saying negative things about other bands, because it may come back ,later, and bite you on the butt!

  • Rednek

    Hopefully the sex/drugs (if not rock) is a hyperbole, man not all artists bark up that tree and it’s a good thing too. That could be another one of the reasons the band across town went down the drain but yours survives — or vice versa. Even old fashioned mores had a point; they tended to keep people acting more focused and civil towards one another even if they were hypocrites. If you believe in your heart that you have a wonderful message, why muck its presentation up with personal problems?

  • GPAD

    It’s just amazing how powerful the creative energy is! And I guess if we don’t open our souls to its flow, we’ll never tap into to that power source. Just last night, after analyzing the feedback — and lack of it — to a video I’d posted earlier on FB, I said to my sons ( who are both members of our group VOTSEE ), “It’s amazing how you can actually ‘feel’ the envy and jealousy out there.” And now I opened my email and voila! The topic is being discussed here.

    Great article. It’s right on! Great feedback. You are all right on it as well! I am all the more INSPIRED to keep doing what I love doing the most — MUSIC.


  • Petelashley

    Thanks. Great advice!!

  • Rwpmusic

    I recently auditioned for a TV show that was looking for what i thought was me, someone who was above and beyond just a singer or an artist. i progressed and appeared on TV, but i was booted off early to my surprise. Another contestant who was like my “rival” according to how the show was produced, JUST got sent home and the TV interviews ensued. They will be very successful and rightfully so. But Seeing them on TV made me pissed off at them, but for what? i ended up losing valuable time in my day that i could have been moving forward as an independent artist. The anger an jealously clouds your vision./ NO one but YOU can get you of that mindset. SO i have vowed and PROMISED myself to never click on info about the show again because every time i do, i get upset and set myself back emotionally, and feel like i felt that day when they sent ME home.

    Thank you for writing this, it came to my inbox at the EXACT moment i needed to hear it. i appreciate you.


    After a while you just know your going no where
    But have asthma that can of scews a person,s lings for singing, dose it not.

  • Golden

    It is funny; my music has experienced the most “commercial” success in my late 20s / early 30s. Not too long ago I had these passing thoughts of sadness that my band (as a whole) can’t collectively quit the day job and tour full time. We could see if the band could go to the next level and maybe beyond. However, those thoughts passed as quickly as they arrived. The fact is I am experiencing success through hard work and most importantly, a love of what I do. Every reward is different, but exactly the same if you love what you do. The reward is that I have spent over half my life writing, playing, and recording. And the biggest reward is that I get to keeping doing it. Make sure you don’t spend too much time looking at what you don’t have. You will lose valuable time enjoying what you do have.

  • Charles Marlowe

    I do apreciate this article very much. Its important to stay focused and postitive. Don’t worrie about what you haven’t acheived. My father said do not compare yourself to other artist, you must follow your path!!

  • Joel

    I just found out bitterness and jealousness are very closely related. I have never thought I envy anyone and I get slightly angry if I face envy from others side — I’m always thinking positive if I see someone succeed in something if I know he is good as a person.

    The bitter side comes from things like a random guy making a remix of my song and releasing it under his own artist name as his song, with my vocals and the whole thing, and getting 11 million views on Youtube while I’m fighting to get 100,000 for our official music video — only to find out people are fans of him and accuse me of stealing his song when I’m releasing older versions of the song that date 7-8 years back before the bootleg remix. I used to get mad about this, but having some distance to this I’ve realized I need to turn this into a victory. I believe all of you guys can imagine that situation, and I think it’s hard to not get bitter about such things. For me the most competitive thing personally about making music is to not get bitter about things. But I just last week had to contact copyright agencies to get that bootleg remix out of sale at iTunes and such, so it is a never ending fight for your rights. Just let’s not get bitter, let there be more stuff to create.

    I need to print this article and read it over again and again by time. It will be one of my golden guide lines.

  • D4v3

    I used to teach guitar lessons. Over the years there have been two or three students who really stood out. One student in particular was so incredibly talented at age 13 (after playing for less than two years) that I could sense I was witnessing a future rock star. Sure enough, he and a friend formed a band during high school and within a year of graduation they had recorded an album on their own and signed a record deal with an indie label. Their album did so well, they then landed a major lable with with Geffen Records and recorded four albums and I was reading about them in Rolling Stone magazine and checking the Billboard charts to see how each new release was faring.

    I’ve always been in bands, writing, recording and making my own music and I couldn’t help but feel pangs of jealousy watching the ascension of my former student’s career, while mine has languished at a local level. But I also realized that his talent went so much deeper than simply playing “Eruption” note-for-note. He became more well known for his songwriting, his vocal abilities, studio production skills, and live performances. Once I let go of my narrow-minded my feelings of jealously, I’ve been endlessly inspired and motivated in my own music by following his success. I’ve kept in touch with him sporadically over the years and my life is so much richer by embracing inspiration instead of jealousy.

  • Macwjackson

    I have always hated that certain local no talent hack would get press. Then a funny story: There was this other band that wasn’t very good but asked if I would open for them for 3 shows. Not only did they only pay me $20 for 1 of the shows but on the last one they waited until we filled the room and after 3 songs said the owners wanted them to go on right away. It was a lie. They were trying to steal our audience. We recently were in a competition were people had to vote for you to win a slot for a BIG local show. They were in it 2 and when we won and they didn’t they sent this to all involed:
    Congratulations to all winners in the Scranton Cultural Center Popularity Contest!

    This clearly was not a talent competition since all people could do from the voting link was look at a photo of each group. There was no way to listen to our music or even visit websites for more information.

    Again “@#$% and the *&^$%#” are not moving forward, guess we don’t have enough friends.

    Remind me next time not to get involved in such poorly planned NEPA music events. Thanks to events such as these I miss being around the NY music scene even more.

    Talk about sour grapes. Babies.
    I am forever thankful to my audience and see other musicians as family to walk beside me.
    Mac Jackson
    Singer/Songwriter of
    Harmony Constant
    Harmony Constant Vlog December 3, 2011.wmv

  • This is of special interest because i wrote a whole book on the subject of doing music with little recognition. Some of the points mentioned here are included in the book. So far it’s been released in a very small self-published edition, and hopefully will soon be released as an e-book. It is possible to carve out a career in music completely outside the structure of the music industry by following a little known ancient tradition called the Bards. The title of the book when released will probably be “Bards: Music for Community and Healing.”

  • Robins9

    Very wise words…I have soaked up every one of them and will be a better artist for hearing them. Thank you for posting them..

  • Laurie

    Years ago, before I went into music full-time, I was an actress in NYC. I graduated from a prestigious acting school, and was hitting all the casting calls, like many others. Occasionally someone we knew would get the big break, and perhaps make it out to L.A. for soap opera or commercial work. We’d, of course, make fun of them, and accuse them of ‘selling out’. They were now making more $ in a week than most of us saw in a year. We resented them, and each one of us would do anything to be in that same position (but couldn’t admit it). Reminds me of Woody Allen’s incredible movie, ‘Bullets Over Broadway’, where Rob Reiner’s character states that if ‘you’re really brilliant, you’ll never be produced’. A great commentary on art versus business versus success.

    I try to remember Stephen Sondheim’s line, ‘Anything you do, let it come from you; give us more to see’.

    On a different note, I really loved what Laura wrote (see below). I have gotten to the point where I need to consciously remove myself from Facebook. Not only does it sap my time, I get caught up in who’s doing what, and of course compare myself and how I’m not doing as much by comparison. Like Laura, I wear many hats–there will always be others far better at promo, publicity, recording, marketing, etc. Like her, I need to take time every day to simply create–too easy to do everything but the one thing that it’s all for–the writing and performing songs.

  • You make sort of an idealistic (hippie) valid point…..but…. Beach Boys and Beatles!!??? Hello!!?? They are completely irrelevant to the way the music business/scene works today! In this world we have absolutely no idea about what our “competitors” are doing simply because there are a thousand of them….and
    making music just because we love making music would involve having a separate source of income because living is impossible without revenue and that means there is someone next to you able to spend more time focusing on getting their message across which means you’re stuffed from the outset.
    Basically, if you want to make music your thing make sure you have the money to do so, otherwise… better have a good inheritance coming your way!
    The only real point of this article is…screw cool….get the money if you can and then you might be able to do what you’ve always dreamed of.

  • Asni

    I used to be very competitive minded when I was a student at conservatory, still unsure if I even had the right to call myself a musician. I find it goes away as one gets older and finds out who one is. These days, I am actively promoting fellow artists and musos (my so called “competition”) through my blog, and am genuinely happy when I hear about someone who has finally “made it” to somewhere. Because I know how bloody hard it is for all of us.
    The thing about music, and any art, is: every artist is completely unique in what they are able to do, so it’s the one field where “competition” really does make no sense at all.
    My 2 cents.

  • Ruben

    Everybody wants to be famous. I want to make music. Music that is significant and meaningful to me and making it the best I can. David Gilmore said in an interview that a big part of their success (Pink Floyd) was because they didn’t do what there were supposed to do in order to be famous. If you are a creative person. You must have the NEED to create in spite of the result. I want to share with you guys the next paragraph:

    ” Remember that a career in music is one of work and, to a large extent, self forgetfulness. It is the music that is important not the person. If anyone is thinking of entering the music field because he wants fame and glory, he’d better try an other profession. There is no shortcut to musical success.”
    Jan Peerce

  • Taboose

    This is such a great article…thanks for taking the time to write it. Sometimes i feel like I’m the only jealous jerk out there, so its good to know I’m not alone. I’m so jealous…I haven’t jammed with a band in years, but I know I’m a competent musician and feel no one will ever know about it. I feel so out of the loop …I’m afraid to ask anyone to jam because I’m so rusty and self conscious and a perfectionist and only have a crappy little fender amp … And my voice has suffered from little practice. I guess there is a whole psychology and sociology around the whole thing that can really be distracting. You’ve inspired me to just keep up the playing – I’ll collect snippets of songs in my phone recorder and next time I meet a drummer I’m just going to ask them to jam and not get my feelings all hurt if they say no….got to at least ASK right!? Thanks though for the article – I was thinking of seeing a therapist to deal with these issues – maybe I should spend the money on a better amp… its not over yet!

  • Laurie Dameron

    Chris – thank you for writing this aritcle on jealosy” and “envy”. I hate to admit it, but I deal with this A LOT. I try to think of myself as a little kid – reminding myself – I have to share. Share the spotlight, share the recognition. I have to remember – it’s not ME that is creative but that the creativity is flowing from the universe and YES – flowing thruogh others as well!!! And music is like art – some have a taste for this and some for that. One of the best books, a very short read, but HUGE message is Don Miguel Ruiz, “The Four Agreements”. Two of them being, don’t assume and don’t take things personally! Especially helpful in the music biz right!!!

  • Carlos

    Great article Chris.

  • Pistoleramusic

    One of my favorite quotes, which is a paraphrase from the (now) famous film director Werner Herzog,
    “Quit your complaining. It’s not the world’s fault that you wanted to be an artist. It’s not the world’s job to enjoy the films you make, and it’s certainly not the world’s obligation to pay for your dreams. Nobody wants to hear it. Steal a camera if you have to, but stop whining and get back to work.”
    It might sound harsh, but it’s a good reminder that the most important thing is to keep creating. That is our job as artists. You do it because you love it, because you need to do it. And lest we forget how lucky we are to even have the luxury to BE artists and follow our dreams. The rest of the world is mostly just trying to survive and hold onto the basics. Anytime you spend complaining about how you are not as recognized as you should be is time you could be spending creating!

  • Ethan James Hagen

    “There are two ways you can live your life as an artist. You can try to develop yourself to be the best artist you can possibly be, or you can forget yourself, and devote your life to art. The first is a sort of bondage, but the second is freedom.” This is a paraphrased quote from my uncles Zen teacher, Katagiri Roshi.

  • Thank you Chris. Naming my website was partly because it helps me remember that this shift in perception you so capably describe IS THE MIRACLE! So I write my songs about this shift and then try to take them to heart, myself. If someone (anyone?) else “gets” them that’s a bonus. Beautiful, invaluable article! John Beavin

  • Stefan Klein

    Others jealously has really helped my band and I. I love our music, and I’ve gotten to the point where I stopped getting so upset over what others thought. What’s funny is that a lot of people don’t like us locally, but they still tell their friends. Then when more people hear about us, and more people like us, more people talk smack and the positive reaction grows with it. If there is anything I’ve learned, it’s that if anything, most negative things people say about other artists actually helps those artists. If I don’t like a band, I don’t tell anyone who doesn’t know about them who they even are. Infamy is still fame, so just mentioning a band’s name helps them whether what you say is good or bad.

  • Tom

    Good article, Chris. I am always telling my guitar students that they should only compare themselves to “themselves last week”. No one else matters. There will always be players who are better than, and some who are not as good as, you.Bottom line is: you’re the only YOU there is. As a composer I find it more than frustrating to witness the demise of traditional music publishing. Getting a grip on cyber-promotion is a very difficult thing for this Old Dog; so I am constantly reminding myself that it is a good thing to learn a New Trick. thanks agin.

  • Mary

    I’m really a jazz musician and all my passions go into writing jazz based music. We all know there’s no real market for it…. I would like to combine jazz & pop & have hit songs…but you know the pop world. You need an act in pop like Lady Gaga or Rihuana with songs that speak to the 14-21 crowd (the market). Still, songs like American Boy (Estella & Kanye West) are jazz/pop (I know, I learned the song) and songwriters like Taylor Swift and Adele are really writing sensitive lyrics that go well with jazz. So all these people in pop are a model to me and give me faith that I just might get somewhere with jazz in this computer age.

  • Innerdream

    It’s not the competition as much as the uneven playing field. The major labels still “own’ the air waves.

  • Johnny Lingo

    good article! It is difficult not to get jealous at other bands that you think you are as good as, and then they get a lucky break from knowing the right people, and go on world tour and you stay at home working the day job. But your’e right, being jealous will just bring you down. You just got to do it cause you love it, even if sometimes you are only playing to the sound guy.

  • The particular genre of music I do had a resurgence because of YouTube, and I missed the boat. I was totally bitter about that. It wasn’t until long after I gave up on comparing the view count of my too-late videos to the tops, that I found out from some of the tops that their record sales were not as high as I’d expected. In fact, one of these “tops” has sold less records than I, and I’m just a nobody indie artist!

    This caused me to realize something very bleak about the music world. Music is a drug, but it’s a drug that you can make money at if you use it enough. But once you make that money, no matter how much you make, it goes right back into the drug. We buy better live gear, tours get fancier, hotel accomodations get better, studios get nicer, distribution deals get bigger, promotion gets more sophisticated, and they all come with higher price tags.

    There’s only one way to escape this vicious cycle, and that is to control our ability to create art. But then, if we’ve done that, we’re not really going to be honest artists anymore.


    Keeping it real has always worked for me!

  • avflamenco

    As I’ve worked with band mates who went on to achieve multi platinum album sales, play at Madison Sq Garden, and other ‘envious’ milestones in their musical careers, I always felt that I should have been happy for their continued success. Instead I struggle with jealousy. Then, as years passed by and I evolved in my playing skills and songwriting style, discovered that I was more and more jealous of others successes. So, at some point you gotta figure out how to shift your energy over to being positive and constructive, both musically and spiritually.

    I found that certain silly cliches help me turn my thoughts away from these destructive forces, such as this one something, like this: “the grave yards are full of deserving and undeserving successful musical artists”.

    Then I worked at Clear Channel Radio for one insufferable year. During that time I had to help out with signed touring bands that would come into the studio for a live performance in front of a small audience.
    Some of the bands were talented, some were like ‘man, who did this clown know to get where he is in the business’. I was jealous yes, but it was depressing watching truly undeserving musical artists enjoying the fruits of success. The moral of the story goes back to the original message in this post which was that success all comes down to perspective. We all measure musical success by touring and getting airplay and getting to be a part of that machine that makes it all happen.
    However, at the end of the day, if you just wrote a song and you feel that tickle in your heart that feels like love, and the magic moment has arisen, then just let it flow.

    This is where it gets tricky and makes all of us waffle back and forth. We experience something euphoric with something new we’re created, and all we want is to perpetuate this feeling again and again.
    I think this is what drives us to want musical success and to be a part of the wheel of progress, to get that big push. We question our energy banks. How long can I keep working a day job and doing the weekend warrior thing. Or, how long can I keep barely making rent every month and needing energy for writing and recording? We are jealous because we perceive “mega” musical success as making it easy for us to keep writing. But the pitful of mega success is that, the pressure is on, the expectations of you as an artist are way higher than you ever imagined. Putting on a happy face for the press, while your personal life is a disaster, writing that next amazing song while worrying about getting dropped.

    Jealousy is something that we all gotta find that certain self regulating method that works deep inside our own heads, to keep in check. Fame and Fortune are way overrated. Find a way to be happy with every moment you get to have in front of a good audience, because jealousy is something that will eat you alive if you don’t figure out how to keep it locked away.

    Always remember the jealous musician you meet from time to time in passing. You walk away feeling like you need a shower to wash off all the negativity you just got blasted with. Don’t be that person!

  • Debbie Lawrence

    When I first started performing in public with a friend, I remember going to showcases. There was one in particular where this woman was talking about all the stuff she had done in Las Vegas. I was intimidated because she talked like she was pretty hot stuff, and I was sure my friend and I just couldn’t compare. I was jealous of the opportunities she’d had and I had not, up to that point.

    The reverse turned out to be true. She was good, but so were we and the audience let us know it.

  • Rick Whelan

    Great article. Cool is cold. All “cool” culture is fun to be a part of but it is exclusive and inflated. It’s funny that the various cool in-groups have as strong a protocol as the corporate business world in what you must wear to be a part of the accepted group. If you don’t wear the right t-shirt or shirt or pants, logo, hair and use the correct speech you risk becoming an outsider to the hip crowd.. which is funny as often the hip crowd will be enjoying their sticking it up the established, conservative culture. In actual fact a good proportion of them are only rigidly mimicking or shadowing the established culture; a polarised reaction.
    Ignore the music industry, it’s built on hype and bullshit, smoke and mirrors. Be like Front End Loader who didn’t rock up to a bullshit music awards ceremony in Australia to accept an award. Instead a presenter read out a statement from the band of which here’s an except: “To the Australian Music Industry … as you were … please carry on … we mean you no harm. We will continue to write Rock Music that we enjoy, play shows when and where we can, and record and release this music as our time, money, and circumstances permit. None of these activities concern you so please, move along, and let us never speak of this again.”

  • Klaverproject

    Three gigging buddies and myself were all feeling very displaced by the cliques in the Detroit Music Scene. Having not fit in to any particular genre or gigging network, we just started recording together on non gig nights. Now it’s all the 4 of us look forward to. Gigging is paying the bills. Writing and recording is true happiness. And it’s what we can never lose sight of.

  • Slydrman

    … or, to put it another way, follow your dreams, and not somebody else’s dreams.

    i was in a band, and everyone had a different idea of what they felt the band should be doing. we broke up, and i went my own way, doing what I wanted to do, but none of the others in my band wanted any part of. now i’m playing every weekend, i’ve got a couple cd’s, i’m making a few bucks, and most importantly, i’m happy as can be with the music i’m making. i’m getting lots of compliments on my music, which isn’t necessary, but it’s always nice.

    i’m so happy following my own dreams. and i’ve never forgotten how miserable i was trying to follow everyone else’s dreams except my own.

    following my dreams came first. the cd’s, the money, and the regular bookings came AFTER.

  • Chuck Livid

    Chris, Just wondering if the whole “schadenfreude” thing is a reference to punk band Screeching Weasel?

  • The only envy I’ve ever held in my life has been for successful musicians, and I’ve wanted to be one for years. As I’m approaching thirty years of age, I have achieved some recognition and released a lot of music, and written a great deal more that is still going through a recording/producing period. I’ve learned that it’s been more prudent to create albums and music for myself, first and foremost, but I have also always wanted to make some sort of career and get paid for being creative; this is what I still envy in musicians that do, even if it’s only a minimum-wage-equivalent income. I’m terrible at promoting…I can’t bring myself to force people into my stuff, let alone act like my material is just the best gosh darn thing they’ll ever hear. People make their own decisions, and I just want my work spread far and wide as possible, perhaps resulting in something that resembles a music career. I know that what I do is quality, but I also know that others can and will hold different opinions, so all I want is for everyone to hear it and determine for themselves what my hard work is worth to them.

    This article lifted my spirits a bit, so thank you for posting. I welcome your feedback on any of my projects and compositions.

    – Morte

  • Jimmy

    Hey Chris,

    I love this article. Maybe you could comment upon what happens when the “fire” to make music consumes every waking thought. To me, it’s an insatiable hunger that I cannot quite describe or get rid of – part pride, part anger, part spirit. In fact, I see it as a bit of a hindrance given that I could be spending my time doing something that received recompense more easily. Now that I am out of school and have nothing to keep me away from music, it has become this vacuum that sucks out every bit of my life force, and I’ve stumbled into what can only be described as “the dark side”/eighth ring of music hell/narcisiss’ lair. So what if no one hears my music? I feel damned. A tiny amount of affirmation from my peers early on was all it took to plunge headfirst into the depths, and now I can’t seem to catch a break. I would rather have kept it to myself in the first place. Your philosophy, in many ways, seems like an opiate for the musician whose loneliness would only be quenched by the audience of spirits or the beauty of nothingness. I agree that music can be an act of self-discovery, but a song is far too composed and tedious to be a journal entry. Wouldn’t you agree? The worst part of it is that my jealousy and anger have come to inform my creative process. What should I do, and what advice do you have for my whininess?

  • Matchlessmother

    Yes, this is a great article! It’s a shame that most artists who make it to the grammy’s and receive big major record contracts (like millions) are somehow connected to what you mentioned above in your statements. I’ve done all my singing, composing, promoting, publishing, arranging,etc. on my first CD and am proud of it! I had a great Coach and Engineer who worked with me on my CD. In the end, all things prevail. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve achieved and also made time for FAMILY.

  • Yep, I agree wholeheartedly with most of these points and would like to also add that there is no “best” music, there is no “best” guitarist etc etc….it’s all down to people’s taste and although someone may be technically mind-blowing their music may receive lukewarm response because it is too hard to grasp….in other words don’t get disheartened just because you received criticism; Music is art, it’s objective, there are no rules. If you believe what you have is good then give it your all. I never try to compare music with other music because it’s like comparing apples and bananas, some prefer one to the other.
    Also, politicking in music is sometimes awful and feeds a feeling of insecurity and despair…there are those who will sabotage if they feel threatened by something that is truly good. If you get averse reactions, or even violent reactions to what you do from others in your music community, then you hit a nerve, it’s a sign you have rumbled someone. I experienced that several times in London on the Jazz and Funk circuit, where my band was slated by an upcoming trumpeter because it challenged him…..The scene was a bit like that, kind of Dog eat Dog, I was also criticized for my sound as a bassist, by another bassist, when criticism is not friendly or constructive you know you’ve hit a nerve, so don’t take it to heart!!!! Know you are onto something. I remember performing my unique bass style and vocal tracks and having these two guys just staring me out, clearly trying to distract me, it was disconcerting and I felt insecure, but other feedback I received from someone who is an accomplished pianist made me realise they were just trying to psych me out. I LOVE music and would die without it so I continue no matter what and no-one can take that away from me….so I spit in the face of adversity and give envy the finger!
    Good luck to anyone who pursues their passion, keep believing in what you do.

  • Ryevmo

    This article hits the spot, like a cheeseburger at 2:00am.

  • Brian

    Great article, but I feel it is worth pointing out that Brian Wilson was actually tortured with jealousy and feelings of inadequacy after hearing much of the Beatles work. Dylan is visibly threatened and oddly jealous of Donovan in “Don’t Look Back”. Townsend and Clapton were devastated the first time they heard Hendrix. Morrison hated when his roadie expressed admiration for Jagger.

    Rising above jealousy is much easier said than done. I think it’s more important to be aware of it, and be really honest with yourself.

    For many of us, our creativity and music is perhaps way too large a part of our self-identity. But I think it’s unhealthy (and delusional) to think you can simply will your way out of feeling jealous or threatened by other musicians. Know yourself first.

  • Thelooperz44

    Great article, it’s nice to add on some positivity to the day, thank you good sir!

  • Richard Koechli

    Great article, no question; thanks a lot, CD Baby! Even so: We have to accept, that „Jalousie“ is a part of the human feelings; if you’re searching your identity, your own way, you’ll always meet that feeling in your heart. It can be a motivation, if it don’t kill you. And: does the sense of social equity/justice exist without the feeling of „Jalousie“ ?? So I would say: If you feel your Jalousie, don’t be ashamed! And then, try to transform it …
    By the way: Jalousie and „Schadenfreude“ doesn’t exactly mean the same thing (I’m Swiss-German…); „Schadenfreude“ is more destructive!

    All the best

  • How is it being directed at you?

  • Way to go! And I love that quote about poison.

  • Be an angry tuna?

  • Good advice. Thanks.

  • I like that "abundance mentality." Nice.

  • Well, you're always at risk of jealousy creeping in. I'm not saying you shouldn't feel it. That'd be inhuman. But when you DO feel it, guard against it. Shift your perspective. Try to be thankful. Remember what you're in it for. All that good stuff.

  • Thanks. It'd been on my mind, so I'm glad it helped.

  • Glad to help. Thanks for sharing your thoughts too. I like your "crossfire of envy" description. Probably true in many cases.

  • Hahahahahaha. Maybe that's not jealousy, but just good sense.

  • Totally. And maybe his success was, in part, do to your own success as a songwriter.

  • I'll try to use our time machine to get this too you sooner!

  • Awww. You're most welcome. Glad it meant something to you.

  • jon

    One thing I think worth adding is, if the bands your jealous of are similar music to you, make allies of them not enemies, it’s lonely being the only band on the scene, but make some friends (if your jealous of them you already respect them for either their sound or success) and you can both benefit.

  • Hey Jerry, I completely agree. I guess my sarcasm in that line didn't translate. I was trying to say "Let's calm down, folks. Of course we're attached to our own work. Me made it, after all!"

  • Glad to hear you made some peace and are now collaborating.

  • Hey Christina, thanks for the story. I have a friend with a similar story. I wonder if you're talking about the same band.

  • I LOVE good jealousy. For me, I think it might be the same thing as inspiration. Bad jealousy is bad.

  • Thanks. And given the amount of time, talent, and money you can put into your art, it's something to be proud of regardless of its reception.

  • Thanks, Joel.

  • Funny you should mention that. Years back, Derek Sivers (founder of CD Baby) wrote an article called "The Music Business in High School" (or something like that). I was actually going to revisit that idea for a new blog post sometime in the next month.

  • Oh man. And those albums of his are some of my favorites. Especially Great Big Boy. That album changed my life.

  • Hey Money Stax, glad you enjoyed the article, and sorry to hear about your abusive relationship with music. I wonder if "quitting" isn't the right way to look at it, though. Maybe you should take a break from the hustle, the shows, the whatever else is making you feel hollow inside. Keep doing the bits you love… the writing, recording, etc. Sounds like this is your plan already. But I wonder if you could include your fans on your decision to ease up on things a bit. Explain how you're feeling to them and that you're just kind of "going away for a while" to rest. Artists do that all the time. The reason I say this: you don't want to be Cher on her 15th "comeback" tour after "quitting" every other year. Setting expectations for your fans, explaining that you need a break, it might have some unforeseen positives down the road. Good luck with your music-making and everything else in life. I hope you find the time to do the things that bring you joy. Word.

  • Oh boy. I'm a cookie junkie, too! Fitting analogy.

  • Andy, thank you. I know we all struggle with this issue, but I'm glad my article had some positive resonance with so many folks. Here's to more wind in your sails!

  • What are some of the ways you've found work to keep the bitterness and stress at bay?

  • Oh, absolutely. I think for a certain demographic, Barry Manilow is very cool. To another, he's the antithesis of cool. The same folks who love Manilow's music would listen to the newest music from the hip young kids and either say "I don't care. I don't get it." or maybe they'd think "Whatever. I've heard this all before. Boring!"

  • Another thing I heard that sage say often was "Enjoy it on the way up because you'll hate it once you're there, and hate it even worse on the way down."

  • I like that sentiment, that "You are only answerable to yourself as a critic." Very healthy. Unless you're really masochistic and tough on yourself. haha.

    • hehe yep, too tough on myself. good point. better get out and have a beer more often.

  • Next one leaves at 10am.

  • Hate Kettle's on the boil!

  • You could get it tattooed on someone else's thigh, and then envy their smart looking tattoo!

  • Could be. But I do know a few talented folks who've just given up on seeking out new opportunities because they got burnt out from envy.

  • Sounds like you've got a good attitude about things. Keep killing it!

  • Vita Dolce5

    This is so important. I find myself falling into the comparison trap too much, especially when I think I’d beaten it and moved on. Thanks for posting this and for people’s comments; it’s exactly what I needed to hear today.

  • Ha. No worries about rambling. That is what blogs are for! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. As for the time machine, we could take you to Paris, but most likely the folks you want to see won't be there because once we arrive, I usually take them back to the 1890's. It's just like in that Woody Allen film.

  • Glad to help. I know that line about music being its own reward is an easy cliche. But I definitely think it is true. The truer it is for you, the more you'll get out of music.

  • I'll try! My articles might be getting shorter with the days up through the holidays. But then the long emotional tomes will once again floweth forth.

  • Yeah. I didn't even look at it from that perspective. The more you're chasing someone else's goals and ideas of success, the more vulnerable you to some predatory behavior. Good call!

  • Occasional bitchiness is ok. Just don't make it a lifestyle.

  • Thanks, Jim. You can't fault CD Baby now if we put this article in every weekly email moving forwards.

  • Cheers to you, too! Haters gonna hate. Don't listen to one person's negative opinion.

  • That's the truth.

  • A nice positive twist.

  • Yeah. I know the feeling. Sometimes friends will call me a snob for articulating the things about a song or artist I find uninteresting, distasteful, etc. That isn't jealousy. I just don't like it.

  • I knew they weren't exactly the same thing. Thanks for the clarification. Did some traveling in Germany in October. My first time over there. Amazing place!

  • Ofer Golany

    2 performances a week….and in the center of the universe Jerusalem…. and with great accompanying
    musicians….would i be much happier if those were better paid? If it was in front of 3000 instead of 30? While I’m playing i don’t think about it and if I sell a CD of originals at the end of the evening i am very happy. Recording a CD every year even when Hebrew is the language of 1% of the worlds population is a way i have found to be happy.. The sages said that a rich man is one who is content with his lot (verse2 first song – Who Are You? on Alternative /ofer2). That’s my advice…
    if you record you live forever… money is just for this world. If you like someone else’s tunes..tell him/her. A facebook like from 1 of 30 friends you know personally maybe worth more then then 5000
    people whose faces you can’t remember.

  • Amen.

  • Tombertram

    This article is absolutely brilliant! And the humour is too, haha. Very insightful and I will be totally honest, lately I’ve been feeling the negative things and letting them get to me, I always worry about what people think of one of my new tracks or my album that I’m bringing out. Instead of thinking, this is me, it’s who I am and it takes me to all the places that I’m talking about in my songs successfully. I do or did worry about what everyone thought and if 1 person out of 1000 said ‘hey dude I really don’t like that song that much’ then I’d bin it. Hopefully now that all changes. In with the new and in with the old! Cheers!

  • Firstly, I don't think your self-awareness and honesty come across as whiny. As for advice,… how old are you? Since you said you were recently out of school it sounds like you may be early to mid twenties? If so, be easy on yourself. Put what energy you can into your music. Over time, other forces and factors will naturally balance out your life. If you're older and still feel overwhelmed by some kind of music-making obsession that is leaving you empty inside, I recommend turning it into a kind of job. Just like you clock in and out of a day-job, think about your musical energy as something which must be harnessed within a certain schedule each day. An hour a day? 3 hours a day? 6 hours a day? Whatever seems healthy. Then use the other hours in the day for other pursuits, careers, relationships, hobbies. And get in the habit of protecting those hours from your wandering musical thoughts/obsessions. You'll probably fail at first. It takes time to break bad habits. But keep at it. Oh, and lastly, don't do any computer work, recording, or songwriting late at night. Once your creative or problem-solving brain is turned on, it is tough to put to sleep, and thus,… you'll be up all night. Lemme know if any of this helps.

  • Morte, sounds like you're on the right track. Do what you're passionate about and you'll build your career over time.

  • It wasn't, but I'll have to look into that. I was actually thinking about a pub quiz team that keeps winning in Portland.

  • Thanks for sharing. Working at Clear Channel must have given you enough perspective to last a lifetime.

  • Run the race against yourself. Yes!

  • A kind of artist's koan.

  • Haha. Herzog is always good for quotes. I like the one when he got shot: "It was not a significant bullet."

  • Oh, and amen to your thankfulness regarding our luck to have the luxury to pursue art.

  • Totally. Thanks for sharing.

  • YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!! Keep at it. Forever. Every step- new challenge- new opportunity to grow.

  • Haha. Well we could picture K$SHA hearing the latest Katie Perry tracks and saying "Damn! Those are some sweaty beats. I gotta make 'em mine." Lest anyone think I'm getting down on modern radio, I actually kinda like both those artists.

  • Thanks for sharing. Great stories relating to this topic.

  • Nice. Let us know when it's out!

  • I hear that.

  • I'm always tempted to ask who the mystery folks are in these tales, but I withhold. I generally don't put too many names in my articles either. Thanks for sharing your story. One way to look at it is that you played a key role in this person's musical development, and they may've not reached those heights without your help.

  • Sweet. Thanks!

  • Exactly!

  • Very much hyperbole.

  • Just like mother warned you: don't make ugly faces because they might get stuck like that.

  • Great way to turn that energy into something useful.

  • Haha. Smack yourself gently.

  • Jeez. That's pretty petty of them to leave you out due to competitive feelings.

  • Mrjprice

    I think you’ve hit on something with this article! Musicians are an emotional bunch and what you’ve written here is food for the starving souls out there. You can keep repeating this article as long as you want! Thank you! Jim

  • That is exactly what I was thinking about. Bigger the buzz, fewer the sales.

  • We could invent one now.

  • Any suggestions?

  • Tony B

    Great article. I’ve been through that horrible feeling not long ago when I was so hung up on what a few people would think of my band since we had a line up change. The new line up is great. Sound great, get along great but yet I was so hung up on what these people though that I was losing all of my focus.

    It wasn’t until my band won a major award that I snapped out of it. Not that awards are the be all and end all but it was what an audience member said to me. She said I love your band. Your music is one of the few things that makes me smile. WHAM! A dose of perspective just hit me in the arse so hard I nearly fell over.

    But thanks.. This is the kind of article I should keep on my fridge door whenever I get bitchy about someone.. LOL..

  • Ajimg

    I think this is possibly the most sage and heartening thing i have yet read on the internet regarding playing music.

    The idea that people play to ‘make it’ seems to completely mask the true reason for playing…….because it’s FUN!!! Playing music lifts our spirits and those of the people who like listening to us. This is a certainty….

    …the rest is just the rest, and if we chase the fame and fortune then in the vast majority of cases we leaving ourselves wide open to both disappointment and exploitation by third parties.

  • I really needed to hear this. Thanks for the great advice. I tried to stop a few years ago, but it is a part of me and I can't stop, regardless of whether my music popular or not.

  • Thanks Brian. It is important to acknowledge and understand unhealthy emotions even if we can't vanquish them.

  • Right on Ray!

  • Inspiring article-thanks!

  • Once Spitefull

    I agree that competitiveness is good and useful if used in a positive way – to help create better art. But being human is only natural ; )

    For certain stretches of my musical career and aspirations, I’ve used SPITE as motivation, as in ‘I’m going to do this to prove you wrong!’, and that has gotten me through certain lulls. But in all reality, it is not a healthy way to create because the object or goal is not the art itself, but someone else eating crow. In the end, I’ve ended up eating most of the crow! Figures…

    I love the Rilke reference in this article because it rings so very true! Do it because you have to, because there is a void somewhere, whether in you or in the world, that needs to be filled.

    Thanks for the article, Chris. Keep them coming!

    Happy Holidays to all…

  • Alexandra

    Great article – another example of how CD Baby advances the cause of independent music!

  • Ernie Leblanc

    Every word a fact, every sentence a memory, every read a neccessity. Many thanks, Chris! – Ernie Leblanc

  • This article couldn’t have come at a better time for me! I’ve just released an album and all my effort, sweat and tears have gone in! No it hasn’t been received as well as I’d hoped but your article is true. I’ve been looking at other bands around who are getting better gigs, better exposure and getting bent out about where they are! Stupid really… Sometimes you need someone to explain your head before you yourself understand it! Thank you for doing that! 🙂 Never a truer line than “music is it’s own reward” Thank you again, back into the studio I go!

  • Eileen Howard

    YES! I have struggled sometimes with jealousy and I really try to keep it at bay and keep a generous heart. Give and you shall receive. I’ve seen so many musicians who are just going through the motions and who have become cynical about their audience. And I’ve seen many people who value impressing people over actually entertaining people. Be yourself and redefine the meaning of the word “success”.

  • Sonny Sumo

    Nice. An often overlooked issue. Sometimes I find the opposite, in that I’m not as “jealous/sour grapes” as I think I am or I’m perceived to be. As a musician, you have the ability ( and perhaps curse ) to be able to analyze music much more critically; to ‘ see behind the curtain ‘ if you will. When there is an artist that is popular that I STRONGLY dislike, I always seem to question my reasons but around the corner I seem to always find an artist I have every reason to dislike but I can’t because I know my love for music is still as pure as the day I heard my first KISS record! Sometimes I feel like the sour grapes thing gets thrusted upon you ( ESPECIALLY in a local scene! ) because people are generally far less critical than me and can’t even think of a reason why I wouldn’t like ‘so and so’. Music scenes can be disgustingly sycophantic for bands and scene-sters that don’t want to miss getting in good with the right up and comer. Ultimately, I guess my point is that you have to trust your gut and your instincts. We all have our own gauge when it comes to what you are or aren’t willing to do for “success”/

  • You got a time machine!!! Can I go to the Paris Jazz age in the 50’s?! Seriously, great stuff that every person sitting in their little labs thinking they’re nuts or borderline insane need to read and reflect. We all get tested because unfortunately the world we live in is more about what’s on the outside than on the inside. What you wear, what you drive, how much money, are you charted, how many sells, are you on MTV(which, not to be negative because we would totally embrace being on any channel, but if you’re needing this to feel legit you may have more serious issues?). No matter what culture/social rung you are on from preppie, hipster, hip-hopper, rocker, etc. There’s always a pecking order, a “cool” checklist. Which is and has always been total bullshit. I could keep rambling, but bottom line, it has and will always be about the WORK. You truly focus on that, and believe in yourself, and listen to the creative, non-violent voices in your head guiding you on, giving you that melody idea, that rhythm you just heard from the spin cycle on the dryer(oh yeah, got a great beat once from that), and the rest will follow. If you build it, and build it, and keep building it, they will come. Not everyone is gonna like you. You don’t like everybody. However, respect should be shown to everyone no matter if you feel what they’re doing creatively or not. There are billions of people in the world if you only reached .001% of them you’re looking at a successful career. Sorry, rambling again…

  • Too many people want success to be overnight. If you don’t like the course your career is on, be proactive. To get upset over someone elses recognition won’t benefit you. Remember that you can always be better. So get better and get recognition that way. If you push all of your efforts towards being noticed, you’ll stop getting better at music. Expect to be screwed over and to be under-appreciated. It will happen at some point, but if you can come out of that as a better musician, you’ll be one step closer.

  • Anonymous

    Good article, good advice. I take it everyday, and I compose every day, 6 days a week and have been doing this for decades. I take exception with one idea: We are not all geniuses. Yes, we all can participate in creativity, which is universal to our species, actually to the cosmos. But nothing is distributed more unevenly than specific talents, i.e., musical talent. I knew a very gifted painter that also wanted to be a rock star, but with nearly no musical talent for singing, playing or writing music. People often overestimate and underestimate their abilities. Try to be truthful and accurate in assessing your own, it helps to eliminate envy. Also, one way to let go of envy is with gratitude. There is always something, often many things, to be grateful for. A good exercise is to imagine yourself on your death bed, you're very old and only have a few hours left. What did you do that you regret (stop doing it) and what did you not do that you really wanted to (start doing it)? In the arts, craft and technique are very important, chutzpah, confidence and personality won't cut it in the long run if you don't have craft and technique. Hacks do what they do primarily for money and approval, professionals do it because they love it and they have to do it whether the music business and/or society at large considers them successful or not.

    Jerry Gerber

  • Max Rocket

    Again, great post! We all need to remember that we’re human and can fall into the traps of pettiness and jealousy, no matter how above it all we try to be day to day. Pretending we’re not human is the best way to get stuck in it. I occasionally get pissy about how other people are more popular in “the local scene” than I am, and I try to remind myself the same things you say here, as well as that I really don’t see the local scene as my goal. In many ways, the Internet, and therefore the whole world, is my audience (and yours!), and it’s always good to keep that in mind when local popularity contests get under my skin.

  • Alanrinehart

    “That is a great article about our ‘elephant in the room’. I have always felt that cooperation is more powerful than (unhealthy) competition-we ALL have something to contribute. 40+ years in the classical music world has been very enriching but also a constant battle against jealous attitudes. One of my regular mantras in the arts world is “How can we expect the ‘general public’ (us) to support and appreciate the arts when we the artists don’t support and appreciate each other”

  • Ashley

    I needed to hear all of this.. Thank y'all! -A

  • I still write songs. Record them.Make use of the internet opportunities, web site,Reverbnation, Jango radio, to promote, Cdbaby, design the packaging, spend my own money to put out a decent product. Sometimes I'll perform at a open mic. Some compliments, some applause. I'm 59 years old and have been making music since I was a teenager.Work a day job to pay the bills. Success? I don't care about it. Thats not why I do it. I do it because nothing else keeps my motor running.

  • Exactly!

  • Ray

    Super article. God, I get so tired of the, “Why does that guy, girl, dog, whatever have a record deal. I am 50 times better than they are.” They have a deal because it was their deal. not yours. This is not a zero sum game. Somebody else having success doesn’t camcel you out…it, in fact, has nothing to do with you. Do the best music you can, because you owe it to your gift to be a good steward. Look for that champion…that person who believes and wants other people to know about you, and good luck. Mostly, just do it because you cannot image not doing it…

  • Kevinbklein

    I think other musicians get jelous when your album rocks !!!! I am having a hard time with this and I support everybody . Music comes from our heart.

  • Shari

    As an artist with a 36 year career, I go back and forth between feeling I missed the boat when I didn’t sustain the Big Industry Push I had in my 20’s, and feeling proud that I’ve sustained a thriving career this long, albeit without being a household name around the world. Certainly my concept of success has adjusted over time and I never lose my sense of gratitude for having a life in music that sustains me in every way, a daughter who is now a brilliant mult-instrumentalist, and every e-mail I get from a fan who conveys how the music has touched them. THAT’s success. Do I wish I was on Letterman and winning grammies? Do I think I deserve to be there?….Yup. But I’ve learned to take a deep breath, be grateful for what I have and let it roll off my back. And – an interesting twist on envy – I’m in a position to give support and opportunities to those who I feel are truly gifted and have a lot to offer, which kind of turns envy into something constructive. I do have peers whose envy and bitterness I can clearly see holds them back which inspires me to not to live there! It’s a toxic place to live, that’s for sure. And basically, I’d rather enjoy life – it’s a conscious choice. Such an interesting subject! Thanks Chris!

  • Kelly Pease

    Wow, so refreshing to read an article that is probably so relevant to so many of us, but rarely addressed. Laura: I completely, one-hundred percent understand the "soul-sucking" nature of following other artists in social media. My thought is that anyone's life can look awesome if you spend enough money on the camera. Jealous is a hard one, though, and something that really does take up so much space in your day/life/artistry. I think one thing I have tried to do is come to terms with who I really am in the music world: there are tons and tons of people who far surpass me in musicianship, creativity, stage presence, etc. And then there are people who have not had the opportunities to do even the small things I have done in music. I'm not the best, I'm not the worst, but I'm doing something I love to do and need to do for myself. If people relate to it along the way, then great. I guess the bottom line is: no one else can be the artist that I am, just like I can't be anyone but myself. So, if I can reconcile myself to that, I can take pleasure in what I'm doing despite what success or misfortune my contemporaries may have.

  • Sarah Donner

    Well done CD Baby. I struggle with ugly things like jealousy and competitiveness. Thanks for tackling such a tender topic!

  • Jim Pellinger

    That was a great article. Somehow it’s nice to know I’m not the only artist who has felt this way, especially the “being cool” part. I can safely say that I have never been cool, and I think that’s a cool thing to say. Seriously, I have been on the outside looking in on every cool scene everywhere I’ve lived. I was playing solo gigs in Madison, when Butch Vig and Duke (we called him Doug) Erickson were playing bars in Spooner. Butch went on to produce Nirvana and they both are now in Garbage. I was playing bars in Door County, WI when the majors were going up there to check out The Bodeans. Moved to Minneapolis when The Replacements were going major and you could see The Jayhawks at the Uptown for $5. Then somehow, and completely by accident, this year I got a song I wrote accepted in the library at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Not the kind of success I planned or envisioned, there’s no monetary pay off, but I’m happy with it. John Lennon really hit it on the head when he said life is what happens while your busy making other plans. Still, I got a song in the Hall and I still can’t get any press! (muttering to myself “calm down…calm down…)

  • Abebi

    I have at times given in to the big J, but I have to remind myself…there are/were plenty of people who were big J of me and really had no reason to be!

  • Abebi

    Dog eat Dog made me retire from music (and I'm not even 40 yet) but in exchange I have 3, will be 4 wonderful children instead….those are my best works of art!

    • SingingLass

      Same here Abebi… music will always be my great love but I have a truly wonderful young daughter now. Who is fascinated by my synthesizer!

  • Abebi

    very Eddie Vedor

  • I've been writing music since I was 11 years old. It was stolen in 64 and I didn't recover for years. I was 50 before I tried again and still haven't got any takers. It seemed that when it was free I had more takers! I have 20+ songs that I'm sure that someone can make hits out of! Want to be a hit singer?

  • Jimmie Tee

    Great article. Hits the nail squarely on the head (Read: cliche #1).
    If you're doing doing what is you, it is unique. And if it's unique, then it's cool.
    Be true to yourself (read: cliche #2) and it's something you and progeny can look back on with pride.

  • Nancy Wiebe Mazurows

    Chris – so well said! I sing and teach voice lessons. First, I'm forwarding this to my whole studio – some of them just went through auditions for their high school musical, and though several of them made it, many of them didn't get the role they were going for. Second, I know some people look at my life and think – why isn't she singing at place X, or teaching at place Y – I'm not making a ton of money, and sure, I'd love to be singing in some of those places – but *I'm happy.* ") I have a good mix of performing, and teaching, and occasional recording, and working hard to become a better singer. Sounds pie in the sky – but I think it's important to not lie to yourself about *what you really want.* I still have that momentary let down when it's clear to me some people think I'm living below my abilities – but I know all the details of my life, and I know what will make me happy! Jealousy is wasted emotion.
    Peace, and keep on keepin' on.

    • Jerry Bryant

      Good for you, Nancy — happy is better than anything. To add another cliche to the pile, "It's better to want what you have than to have what you want."

  • jsg

    It is good that you recognize that your fire to make music comes from part pride, part anger and part spirit. The real work for you is now beginning-purifying your ambition so that it is gradually less about anger and pride, and more about spirit. Meditation is a powerful tool to begin this kind of work. You're not alone. All artists struggle with the many parts of ourselves that clamor for one thing or another. For myself (a pro composer with 11 albums, 7 symphonies, many soundtracks) meditation has been a daily part of my life for almost 40 years. It is my love of music, my love of the act of composition itself, that sustains me through the inevitable disappointments and difficulties of a demanding life. You'll get tired of your whininess as we all do. Who are you writing for? Why do you write? If it comes from mainly ego, believe me, you'll quit as most do. If it comes from a deeper part of your psyche, you will continue, as all serious artists do. If your fire can be transformed into something authentically positive (for you) you'll have achieved something no one on this planet can take away from you.

    Jerry Gerber

  • I would add that at a certain point, they are both the same thing. Once you've put everything you've got into your art (devotion, time, energy, money, education, etc.) you forget yourself and do art.

  • Lrtrout

    I recently saw an interview with Carlos Santana where he stressed the importance of finding your own voice in your music. He said, "You were born with your own voice, finding it means learning how to get out of your own way".

  • It's like the 3D digital art that was so popular in the 90s (ie ) If you *try* to see the 3d figure in the middle of the picture, you're not going to see it. But if you let go, and stop trying to see it, your eyes relax, and then, you see it. If you don't get the analogy, most successful musicians these days did not focus on fame and fortune (Norah Jones, Lady Gaga), but instead, focused on their art, and the rest came as a result. Remember, as hard as it is, do not look for the 3d image! If you're after fame and fortune, and music takes a backseat in your focus, then you probably shouldn't be doing this anyway. Even if some does, people will see right through your intentions, and then it won't last. Nothing sells more than authenticity.

  • Jrsticks

    This is Karma at its best, there are many more here it will probably come true for also, being sort of new here 3yrs, I noticed that if you try something different to inject something new into to the scene, quite often you will get bashed and even blackballed. Most of the bashers and jealous idiots are failures from somewhere else and came here on hope–very sad.

    It dont matter to guys like me, being shunned for the same 50-150 a Gig as the other guy is no biggy, I had my day and really enjoy putting something different on stage after someone said it wont work, No you cant warm up for my band, etc etc. Same Money — Play what you want

    The Morale is some of us guys are not Jealous of a Cover band–so now the Band that said NO and knew better is going to have to learn to live amongst all the others they felt were beneath them.

    The Morale-be yourself and creative, dont strive to worship a Cover band, be a Good Cover band write some originals and hope for that "One Good Day"

    This article above is what happens to selfish one trick ponys–sooner or later No One Cares

    Be Creative–Write

  • Radio Smash

    Really helpful article! I have not been making music for as long as some people I see have commented below and it is discouraging to hear an artist like Skrillex, Knife Party or deadmau5's music and I just feel like I can make the music but I cant. I feel as if Im just rushing things. I feel like somedays my music is the best stuff i've ever heard and other days it's absolute garbage. I wish I could clear my mind of the jealousy of these new artists notoriety, because it really gets in the way of what is most important (making the music). I feel like the music I want to make isn't me. So how could I fix that when the music I want to make isn't the music Im talented at making?

    • Keep doing it. As you create more music, you'll eventually find that place where your musical ambitions meet your natural voice.

  • For me, making music is much about self-expression and doing what I believe God put me on this Earth to do, but it is also a boost when people enjoy what I’m doing. When I’m up on stage singing and playing my guitar, and I’m in real good voice and getting the notes and chords right, and the band is playing solid and strong behind me, and there’s a really big crowd where we’re playing and they’re really picking up on what we’re putting down, that’s when a feeling comes over me that is extremely difficult to describe. It’s a powerful and exciting high, and a better high than I used to get from pot or booze. And when that feeling comes over me, I feel like an honest-to-goodness superstar … even though we all know I’m just another local musician, singing in a local band and playing at a local club.

  • michael holt

    Thanks for this article about the emotional, not just the business, challenges of doing music! I think that both jealousy (putting others above me) and disdain (putting others below me) are the results of telling myself that my own genuine music isn’t good enough. So whenever I catch myself feeling either, I’ve learned to trace it back to my own insecurity, and then remedy that with some good old-fashioned self-approval and self-love.

    I used to have a major problem enjoying my own gigs. Even when all my bandmates and all the audience enjoyed themselves, I would sometimes have a bad time. I decided it was a problem I needed to solve, because I knew music was my life, and I would have an unhappy life unless I figured out how to enjoy it more consistently. I didn’t know the answer, but I set about looking. I slowly became aware that my gigs were plagued by worrying about impressing others. Between every chord and word, there were thoughts about impressing this woman in the front or that club-owner at the back. I tried hard to banish these thoughts, but found that trying NOT TO THINK about something is futile. I needed something else to place my focus on, something more uplifting than worrying about people’s reactions.

    This is what I hit upon: focus on the flow of inspiration which bubbles up from below while I perform, giving me all kinds of big and little instructions, like play this note a little louder, play that passage a little slower, say this thing to the audience, close my eyes and move that way during the solo. These aren’t mental calulations about how to impress, motivated by fear of not being good enough or not being loved. They are the true creative impulses, the stuff that inspires music in the first place. And they’re there most of the time, once you learn to tune into them. Like when you actually hear in your head the next note or song to play.

    Sometimes these spontaneous impulses tell me to do things I’m sure are bad ideas, like playing a second sad song after I’ve just played one. But I found that if I really focus on diligenty listening to and following them, playing exactly what I HEAR, rather than what I THINK will impress, two great things happen. One is that it always works out – the genuine impulse always turns out to be the right thing to do in the moment, my show becomes more inspired, fun, and magical, and people dig it more. And the other is I stop worrying about whether people will dig me or not!

  • Athena Reich

    Yes, great article. One thing though…. my need to write music comes and goes. When things are hard, I have to write music. When I’m happy, I’m OK to take a break. I think it’s a little more complex than, “Do you need to create music”? I need to be an artist, in whatever form that is. I need to be on stage and to create. Sometimes it’s writing music, sometimes it’s acting. I wish I could be happy doing something “normal”, but I’ve been training to be an artist my whole life and I think my brain is wired that way. And, sometimes, we all get burnt out. It’s good to take a break sometimes. The industry can be really disheartening. As good as it is to get a pep talk now and then, the truth is that all people want to feel valued & appreciated in their careers. Many studies have shown that that is more important than money. And it is a shame that there isn’t currently more room in our society for more artists to be appreciated and to have access to a middle class life and financial security through their performing. But I really enjoyed what you said about not caring what’s “cool” or not. That is definitely true. Jazz musicians make fun of Diana Krall, while she is rolling in it. What sad bitter types they are, to mock her for making their art form more accessible. Interesting article. I enjoyed it – thanks!

    • SingingLass

      Great comment – agree with everything especially the need to do different things under the umbrella of being an artist. And yes, it would be nice to access a more comfortable life through performing!

  • SingingLass

    One of the best articles ever, dealing with a nasty taboo subject. Who the hell wants to admit they're jealous?! It's also important to remember, the industry from top to bottom is motivated partly by this emotion. Even when you're starting out others expect you to be jealous/insecure of other artists (and some so called music mates try to stoke the green fires even when you're not…) If you're sure of yourself that means you are 'arrogant'. Focus, focus on your own thing and see others as an inspiration.

  • Sistadee

    I raised my kids then followed my dream taught myself guitar & released my" WISE UP" Album, the Album falls under the reggae or world music umbrella,but does,nt really fit in any gendre. i learnt loads & with my new knowledge, 30 new songs & inspiration want to record another. but as i don,t even have money for a laptop this ain,t gonna be easy. ( i use everyone else computers " thanks everyone 🙂 "Living in Gibraltar & being over 50 there is no hope of sponsorship but a nobody person like me, can still steal the show lol can someone on here check my album out & tell me if i should be keeping the pleasure of making music to myself or continue to try and share it. i think iv only sold one download on cdbaby. since i put it up in sept. I v even been approached by a promoter who wanted me to sign permision for a young pretty thing to mime to my voice ( i declined), jealousy does,nt even begin to cover it. writing & singing my songs is my passion im poor but happy. However it would be nice to know what you guys think.

  • Mahikeala

    Great article! Spot on in how we must preserve or own dignity and worth by steering clear of life- sucking envy. Idea for next article? What about "biters" who become successful by copying your style and vibe? Nothing they do is truly original but some imitation of something they saw in another artist. Now I'm not talking about inspirations, like say how Erykah Badu was obviously influenced by Billie Holiday. No, I'm speaking of your peers, like you do a gig, or have a single out, then somebody who plays the game of business a little better then you, promoting, comes out with a line or a melody exactly like your own, and has your overall vibe, and larger, your very soul, written all over it. Are there many things that can be more violating and insulting in music?And noone else is exempt because they have done the same to others. Also remakes of songs not yet dead in its grave? I know this is a topic if concern for many artists…

  • I learned that being yourself as an artist is the best way to go… Try not to lose yourself to the Fame or the Industry. Just be yourself and recieve Fans of YOU… Not Fans of a carbon copy of someone else…

    Great Article

    Babiboi of U2DK

  • Well so called “competition” is something that if ever it arises in myself gets blown out. For me discovering it as part of my indoctrinated upbringing brought the enevitable fruits metioned above and a lot more from the side effects of the remedies of the effect of the “fruits”.
    To “beat” someone else is a fantasy where one ends up beating oneself as a fruit. Ever wondered why the more sensitive, particularly the female gender as reported literally feel “sick” before some of the “Y Factor”[shall we say] shows, bad case of butterflies etc..
    In my band the members in it are recomended to not be involved with it,
    AND SHOWN HOW NOT TO BE INVOLVED IN IT]. Basically if if have your OWN standards to live up to why do you need someone elses, learn from others of course, and the major learning lesson for me is not wanting to be how competition has made them. Lastly, line 10 kids up to run a race at school you quaranteeing 9 losers engendering the “fruits” of “losing” so called. This is done x the millions every day leading to a sour world perhaps. John Lennon’s “Imagine” had much to do with the realization of some of these fruits. Too late perhaps? Was his passing a fruit of competition its wondered.
    My gems for today.

  • Heather Fay

    Thank you, Chris R. for this wonderful article! As an independent musician I am constantly struggling to get my music out into the world. I have been guilty of judging my worth as a musician by how many albums I sell. In this day and age, it seems like NOONE is buying music…especially from an unknown artist like myself. So gaging my self-worth by how much money I make as a musician is a slippery slope! Thank you for making me stop and remember that "If music brings you vitality, then it is its own reward".
    Heather Fay

    • Hey Heather, thanks! Glad it helped you remember the good stuff.

  • Envy and jealousy can sometimes be insidious.

    I had been very conflicted about "why" i'm recording and "what's the point of doing this." Lots of impediments to actually creating.

    When my daughter was born, for some reason, it all became clear to me. Now the creative decisions I make are much more honest because I envision her listening to it when i'm gone instead of getting caught up in the silliness in my head.

  • I love your last point Chris! It’s true – if it’s vital for you to create/perform music then you will keep doing it no matter if you have hard times or little moments of jealousy. That’s how it is for me at least.

  • Ema

    Chris, you’re totally right about everything. Nothing comes as well as things one’s writing for the only urge of create and share with other people, without any jealousy… something born just to be “better than something else”, has a short life to live. And I can definitely say that, because I saw this so damn LATE in my musical experience. I lost lots of time angered, ’cause some others achieved what i wasn’t able/lucky/smart enough to achieve… I may have spent those years focusing on what i wanted to say with composing music, so i’d have been happier, more determined and much more inspired… that happened, finally, and the minute after, actually people FELT it. Now i’m glad if someone likes that i do, but i don’t really care if they are 2 friends, 2000 fans or 200000000 people. I do it for the pleasure it brings to me, as the poet that answer “yes, I’d die without writing”. And when I feel i’m not gonna die (it often happens), well… i just don’t. Bye. Ema

  • Pingback: The DIY Musician’s Top 10 Blog Posts of 2011 | DIY Musician()

  • I just wrote a few posts on the same types of topics after reviewing sales figures from 2011, especially on Pitchfork’s Top 50 Albums. People seem shocked for some reason… the labels have sold such a powerful rockstar myth that it persists to this day. That is what is shocking to me. and if you care to berate my thoughts and writing abilities (or lack thereof)

  • Cityneversleepsct

    Ive dealt with musical competitiveness. It sucks when you discover a local band in your area, and they simply wont respond because they either 1. think theyre too good to play on the same bill as you, or 2. are intimidated because you have a unique sound.

  • while this stuff is all true, it’s not very helpful, is it? Point 2 in particular. It assumes i am interested in fame. No, i would RATHER be making a living from music.

    “oh how banal” i hear you mutter, not so at all. The opposite in fact. I am one of those people you mentioned who has to write, perform and record music. I have to do it. I tried to stop, it was unsuccessful. While the romantic image of the struggling artist makes a great christmas film, i think for someone driven to play music, making a living at it is the only logical thing to aim for. Fame is even more of a sidetrack than envy, in fact.

    So i think your article makes a point, but it doesn’t make the hard and realistic points that people need to hear.

  • Cam2crunk954

    Wonderful article…Hello I go by the name C.a.M. I am an Unsign Artist/Beat Producer from Fort.Lauderdale,Florida..I’ve always had a passion for music since a young child I took it very serious at the age of 17 by that time I was only selling beats in high school then as I got older I became more advanced and the circle of friends who I grew up doing a music group with became jealous and tried to turn everyone against me.The thing is I’ve felt discouraged and felt like giving up but I never did…Now that there are entirely too many rappers and producers its hard to find any critics or fans that would show support and love…It is also hard to sell beats these days which is what I dont understand because most Rap Artists talk and brag about how much of a “Baller” or “Hustler” they are and when its time to purchase an instrumental they look lost…Me? I dont stick to just one style I dont rap about materialistic things I rap about reality of life,the struggle,the pain,the suffering,happiness,partying,and success..I harmonize,tounge twist,and give it to them hardcore…you could check me out on or my Thanks –C.a.M.

  • Kate

    That last part with the Rilke quote, I just screencapped it, cropped it and set it as my background! I’m going to look at those every day for a long time to come. Thanks for the wisdom!

  • Tom

    I like your article and your philosophy.I would like to add being in the business for over 50 years.I find a lot has to do with being at the right place, at the right time,personality,who you know and being persistence on your set goal.I use to try and be as good as some of my favorite musicians.I gave up on that because I found that it was more important to be inspired, learn from them to find your own style.I have had a chance to play with some great musicians that were truly modest and some that had an EGO bigger than who they thought they were.(A legend in their own mind). Some of the musician I looked up to when I grew up, where very disappointing in person and some where really humble and grateful for your admiration.I find many musicians as a rule are wimpy,egoist,Prima Donna’s and think that they should be a big star with what talent they think they have..And those kind of people give professional musicians a bad name.I played with all kinds of bands for 30 years.I now enjoy playing for myself and if I find a nice talented musician who I can get a long with great! If not,there is always another day.Be true to yourself and don’t compromise on your originals.

  • Emilycrawfordmusic

    Wow I really loved this article. There is a quote that has been a huge help to me by Henry Van Dyke. It says, “Use what talent you posses, for the woods would be very silent if no bird sang except those who sang the best”. Sometimes my desire for being the best and my competitive nature gets the best of me and I have to remember that talent is not given to us so we can shine above everyone else. It is a gift that is given to enjoy and share with the world. When we as artists get this, then we can start working together and sharpening each other instead of comparing ourselves.

    Thanks for the reminder Chris!

  • Glad it spoke to you. And thanks for sharing that quote. Good stuff!

  • Thanks for sharing. I'll check out those links now.

  • Pingback: Networking for Musicians: Don’t be Too Cool for School | DIY Musician()

  • I’m a Paris base singer-composer and have been in the juice since 2003 , year of my first record deal with my former rock band Playground. Man, the hip input was central, we knew we were riding the Rock Revival wave with its international hits such as The Strokes and Jack White only to name two. Well it was like we had to be a Parisian version of The Strokes and hang out in all the indie bars and kiss hello the indie coolies and journalists around endless series vodkatonics in which we actually were burning our advances … We did get the attention for awhile, we got to tour and all, but there was something we never really discussed together, something deeper that had brought us together in the first place, that is Music. The band split officially last year, but it had been running on empty for years, even through the completion of a second album signed to a major that was released under strain and pain. Ive gone solo since and have re-discovered the importance of artistic Freedom and love of Music, and have turned my back to a very large part of the musicbiz, concentrating on the ones I love and respect. Still completing the album, but it will be constructive to see how this project will turn out 🙂

    Firouz of Firouz & The Renegades

  • Anastacia Armstrong

    Thank you for you sharing this article! Your words are exactly what I needed to read at this very moment.
    I am a professional musician and I perform regularly in my region. I am leaving for a two month writing/sailing expedition and the anxiety I've been feeling to leave the "public eye" is ridiculous! I feel like I will lose something…At the same time, I have a stronger, intuitive sense to pull back and dive deep into my self so I can write from a place that has not been accessible for the past 6 years of constant performing. I want to write from my most "tapped in poet" possible. I feel this requires me to take a break from the business and performance end of this profession. I believe art and creativity are the most important elements to feed the human soul. It is interesting that so few artist get the acknowledgement and financial support that other professions receive. Maybe that's the whole point… it is the whole point…

  • Thanks, Chris! #2 is my favorite… LOVE the Barry Manilow comment! It's very easy to feel like you're not in the "right" circles, whatever those might be. Personally, I can't keep up with the concept of cool. Thanks for offering excellent food for thought and awesome support at the same time. Ronda LOVES CD Baby. <3

  • Paul Wandtke drummer

    I’m 26 and have done National tours as a professional endorsed artist. My friends back at home think I’m loaded and rich especially cause I started my own music project they think I’m genious, what they don’t know is that I don’t have a social life and work 24/7. Is that cool? I don’t know but to me it is. If I’m not working with music I’m not happy so I guess it’s right ay? cool article dude!


  • Thanks. And yes, it doesn't get much cooler than doing what makes you happy. (I guess unless what makes you happy is,… harmful to others. Ha). Looking forward to hearing the solo project.

  • jason turner

    once again.. very cool stuff. thanks Chris!

  • After over 30 years in the business and having rubbed shoulders with some of my former heroes (been very lucky with support slots) I've learned that being true to yourself is the way to a long career, while trying to be the latest big craze has a very short time-limit attached.
    If you really want to be able to pay the bills and be around for a while, build a strong, loyal following who will stick with you, rather than go for mass effect that lasts the fables "15 minutes". I may not be bothering the charts much, but I AM paying my bills.

  • Ωωεη G

    yes – very good article – i am so jealous of your skillz

  • Springbo

    I couldn’t agree more with your “Would you be significantly less happy without making music?” question. I answer it every day with yes and a few beers.

  • Brandon

    I make music, it’s good and it’s therapeutic to me. But I had these friends I used to hang with (not no more) but they used to challenge me and repeatedly ask “can you rap to this beat?” or “can you make a beat like this” in a hateful manner. Yes, it pissed me off for a while but I realized they wanted me to get pissed off and think negative, so I got over it and never hung out with them ever again. It really helped because now im creating dope music without their negative energy and competitiveness. Also, if you know your successful with what your doing then DONT EVER listen to someone that’s telling you to ‘”change your voice” or “change your style”…… Just keep doing what your doing……

    Keep grinding

  • Batphink Reynolds

    It may be phony sounding but I am not overtly jealous as I know it truly is a waste of mental energy,spiritual
    enlightenment often brought through a great song others or my own.I play drums ,decent rhythm guitar with some guitar harmonies,and not bad on keys though I punch in my own parts to create a full track,I sing fairly well and zoom into most harmonies.I hope I don’t sound like I’m bragging but I know my way around music and I cannot read a note,however my ears are like radar! I love it,can’t say I love the majority of musicians Ive met, as many seemed very jealous and critical of me. excel at l songwriting,my songs have excellent continuity like a good film does no crazy middle 8 or lead solo breaks .I spent years not even calling myself a songwriter thought it a hobby,but when Sony Music Canada calls you and
    praises your stuff though no deal offered,then I must know something.Just last week got a song finally placed in a national Canadian TV show WOW ,only took me 30 years!
    You HAVE to believe in yourself no matter what ,fuck others who put you down or jealous diva band mates,sometimes its better to stay OUT of a band to work on your own.I know for a fact a few family member are a bit jealous of me its not like I’m Beethoven but am born on his birthday what an honor lol.I just want to make a decent return on my music I’ve spend thousand of hours on it and even put it ahead of relationships big mistake but hey.Don’t worry what other are doing get on with your own music Good Luck!