A few months back, I was talking to a fellow songwriter. She was describing a networking/educational group she was part of and said it was cool, there were lots of great people involved, it was a supportive atmosphere, she enjoyed it – and it was weird that she enjoyed it, she said, because “these people are my competition!”
And I thought, “Competition for what?” Gigs? Media attention? Fans? Merchandise or music sales? What could they possibly take from her? Especially if she’s rockin’ her own biz?
She simply couldn’t wrap her head around a cooperative musical situation. That surprised me. Maybe it shouldn’t have, but it did.
What IS competition really?
Obviously, if you are actually entered in a formal contest with prizes, etc., that’s a different story. But in our everyday, build-our-indie-career lives, are we really in nearly constant competition with each other – to write the best songs, to snag the best exposure opps – only coming together occasionally to cooperate on certain projects? I don’t think so.
Here’s the thing. Competition implies a scarcity mindset. There’s only so much to go around and we all have to fight each other for it. There are only so many fans with limited budgets for music, so many paying gigs, only so many big exposure opportunities and if we miss one, our careers can potentially be ruined or stalled. If a blogger or columnist is covering someone else, they’re not covering me. If a club books Janet for a night, they’re not booking me.
I don’t think that way. I just come from a completely different mindset. I see the world as being full of opportunities. And not just any old opportunities, but ones that are absolutely perfect for me.
Just because I do well – at booking gigs, at meeting people, at creating opportunities for myself, heck, even at winning contests (if I were in to that) – that doesn’t mean that you can’t also do the same. At the same time, if YOU do well in your career, that in no way stops ME from being the best I can possibly be.
Actually, any of us living life to the fullest helps everyone around us do the same!
Let’s try something completely new!
I’m going to propose a radical idea here. I think a competitive mindset is – for the most part – a remnant of the old-school music biz model. It’s outdated thinking and won’t get you far in today’s environment. I know there are many people out there who agree with me, but it’s a very new and foreign idea to others.
Do you realize that we can eliminate competition from the picture completely by creating a true, authentic, unique personal brand? (More on that later!)
You might be a competitive person by nature. Comparing yourself to others and trying to beat them may spur you to greater achievements. If that’s your deal and it works for you then great! I would never try to change you. But for me, it never has. My only measuring stick has always been to look at myself and do better.
So if you are out there, thinking like me that you’d like a different lens to look at the world, try cooperation on for size, for real. Try cheering a friend on truly, without jealousy, without comparison, and then turn your focus back onto what you gotta do to get where you wanna go.
I find this mindset to be incredibly freeing – it lets me be creative without ever worrying what everyone else is doing. My wish is that it does the same for you!
Lisa Wilder says
I couldn’t agree more! Competition stems from scarcity thinking. It’s a mindset that feeds the idea that if someone else does well it somehow takes away from your own possibilities for success.
But it’s truly amazing what operating from a collaborative perspective can do. No one creates a loyal fan base, financial abundance, or success of any kind in a vacuum. We all need the support of others. From this perspective, far from others’ success detracting from yours…it supports and encourages yours.
And as you pointed out…it’s incredibly freeing.
Sharon Netzley says
I couldn’t agree with what you wrote more. And there’s nothing there I’d change. Your observation is astute and your mindset a breath of fresh air that I wish EVERY musician shared.
I’ll share a recent experience. After practically begging my guitar teachers for more than a year for information on “where do I go from here? how do I take this to the next level, etc.,” I stumbled upon (actually I was led to it in a very cool way) an Artist Development program right in my neck of the woods. The whole point of the program is developing you (me) as an artist, including writing, recording, and releasing a single (or more) on iTunes, how to market yourself (myself) in today’s world of social media, opening up the kinds of gigs I’ve been doing, etc. I am very excited. During one of my conversations with EJ, I related my quest, my asking my other teachers for this information but basically hitting a brick wall. He said it is because they don’t want me “competing” with them. I don’t really for a minute think that this was conscious on their part. I think it is their mindset somehow. Their not helping me when I asked for it over and over did a number on my head for a long time. Of course I was thinking am I not good enough? Then I got out and started getting gigs for myself and have been getting really good feedback. So, me being me, and finally realizing that I had allowed myself to become boxed in in a lot of ways, I started getting out more, meeting more musicians, etc. All of that led me in a serendipitous way to Whole Music, EJ Oulette, and his Artist Development program.
So, that’s my story. And it really proves the point of your blog, and reinforces the boldness, openness, and honesty of your mindset.
I am not going to edit this before I send it because I really have to go practice now!