How to avoid burning out from music?

It doesn’t matter if you put years into music, if then you suddenly burn out to the point that you can’t even open the DAW. So, what can you do to avoid burning out from music?

4 THOUGHTS FROM ME

1. Stop thinking about results more than your journey. When your music starts to get better, you’ll want to release it, get thousands of streams, and then be signed by major labels, and that creates pressure on your music. Why? Because if you’ve had 10k plays on one song, it’s normal to expect the next one to have more plays, and the problem comes when this starts to halt you. I’ve had a friend who signed their songs to Anjunabeats, one of the biggest labels in melodic house / progressive / trance, but then it took one year for him to sign something again to another label since he didn’t want to ‘take a step backward’ by signing with a smaller label. Or, what happened to me, when I just wanted to get more songs signed, I started to just ‘copy/paste’ my songs until a label said my songs were generic, which almost forced me to give up on music, just because I wanted to release more music. Our minds were focused on results, and we forgot about the journey that is music. After that, I’ve adopted a couple of things that were killing my focus and my creativity: (1) Experiment with something new in every new song; (2) Don’t be afraid to write bad music and be rejected. It needs to have amazing quality, but if you don’t dare to make mistakes, it will be hard to be better than average; (3) Never use templates to write an original song, especially if bought/downloaded online. Not only does it look bad to use a template for a song, but it also doesn’t force you to experiment; (4) Forget about labels until the song is fully finished. Getting signed is a consequence of a song, not a reason to start producing it. Remember, the less you think about results, the less you’ll be pressured to deliver, and the more you’ll be able to really create songs that matter

2. Stop putting your expectations in someone else’s hands and learn how to have fun with your music without expecting anything from it. The three times that I felt frustrated and burnt out with music happened because I was putting all my expectations into getting signed to a label, almost as if my success was only determined by being accepted by my dream label, and getting rejected was getting me crushed because I wasn’t handling rejections as I should, and all that almost snowballed into me quitting music. Since then, I’ve changed my approach to music, and that helped me regain my motivation and make better songs, which is something that you can do as well: (1) Focus on developing songs that you like and that you think are nice. Don’t crush yourself if you’re still developing and your song is not perfect, what matters is that you learned something with each song; (2) Have fun making your music. Even though I treat my music as my job and recommend others to do the same, you must genuinely have fun with your music since that’s what will drive you to keep producing and avoid burning out; (3) Forget about labels when you’re making music or even about releasing it as the more you think about labels, the less your music will be genuinely what you want to do, and this can make your music end up sounding generic; In the end, if you had fun making a song and you learned something while making it, isn’t that bringing you closer to your long term goal? Therefore, that’s a step forward in your career, and even if it gets rejected, you should still consider it a success.

3. Learn how to turn negatives into learning lessons and not let them drain you. Rejections in the music industry, frustration with your goals, and comparisons with other artists are the biggest sources of burnout that I’ve seen in music, so you have to learn how to turn them into positives. (1) When you’re rejected by a label, ask for feedback from the label A&R. You may not get it at first, but some A&Rs will give you hints as to why they passed on your song, which happens more often when you send songs via email; (2) Set realistic goals for your music and adapt them along the way. Goals are not carved in stone, especially when life takes a toll on you. Therefore, when setting goals, make sure to set goals that are realistic for you at that moment, and adapt them as you need. For example, I was on track to finishing the 10 songs I wanted to finish in 2023, but life got in the way and I’ll end up on 9, but it’s not due to laziness… life just got busy, and if I didn’t adapt them I’d be frustrated; (3) Stop comparing yourself to other producers. When you compare your achievements with other producers, you’re leading yourself to frustration since it could make you compare Apples to Oranges… Ask yourself: Have you, and the one you’re comparing yourself to, invested the same amount of time? Energy? Money? And even if so, instead of complaining about it, learn what he/she is doing differently to get ahead in the game. Essentially, instead of feeling down by a setback, learn from it not only to get past this issue that you’re having quickly, but also to avoid it burning you out.

4. Don’t force yourself to be productive all the time. A lot of producers feel pressured to ‘be productive’ and produce more and more, but sometimes, working on more music can be the least productive thing you can do. Especially when you’re stressed out, struggling with an issue you’ve been facing in music can be even more demanding and leave you even more stressed, and as someone who has recently gone through that, here’s what I recommend: (1) First, if you don’t feel like producing, don’t force it. You can try to open your DAW and if that pulls you in, go for it, but don’t force yourself to do it or it can end up feeling even worse; (2) Do warm-up sessions by watching tutorials or something that can get you inspired; (3) Just forget about it and take a long break from music production and come back to it when you feel like it. Even though big artists are still working while touring, many take that period as their break from music production, therefore so can you; (4) Focus on recovering your head before you put it to work again. After going through a stressful period myself, my advice to you is to let the stress drain a little before you get back to music. Remember when your mind is cloudy, your creative output will be cloudy as well. While creating music can be an outlet for stress, it can also be a source of stress if you pressure yourself too much to deliver, so you don’t need to force yourself to come back… When the time is right, the will to produce will come.

1 QUESTION FOR YOU

What else can you do to avoid burnout?
1. Stop focusing on social media: Social media leads you to compare yourself to others. Focus on yourself and forget about marketing your music until you have music that is worth sharing;
2. Go on vacation: Recently, I went on a vacation after 4 years of nonstop work and it was refreshing. Came back eager for my DAW and just wanted to crush it;

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Leo Lauretti

Born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, Leo Lauretti has been producing since 2013. With releases on SONY Music, Armada, Enhanced Music, Leo Lauretti accumulates multiple supports from artists like Above & Beyond, Ferry Corsten, Cosmic Gate, Nicky Romero, and many others all over the world.

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Skkip Lewis
Skkip Lewis
6 months ago

Hi Leo,
Another great article that I enjoyed reading very much. You presented ideas and thoughts that have given me a new way of looking a my music making. I’m a retiree making muisc for fun and something to do during the day (also maybe earn some extra income). However, in the 2 years I have been doing this and submitting my music to various music distribution companies, I’ve yet to get any feedback from any of them. I know they are busy, but a quick note would be appreciated and show some professionalism in my view. My neighbors all enjoy my music and encourage me. I also have had wonderful responses on SoundCloud for my music. So I have to wonder is it worth going through a music distribution company when they could care less about their work.

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