Tips For Dealing with Rejection as a Professional Musician

Street busker being observed with graffiti on the wall
Image courtesy of Fikret Kabay via Pexels

Dealing with rejection sucks. But it’s also a fact of life, especially as a musician. And what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

In both personal and professional contexts, having to accept someone who doesn’t want what you have to offer can be a difficult or often gut-wrenching experience. But that doesn’t mean it should define you, or stop you from achieving your goals. Especially not as a music professional.

Every time you put your music out there, the reality is that you have a 50-50 chance of dealing with rejection. Being a creative professional, especially in the music industry, means constantly making yourself vulnerable to the opinions and criticisms of others. Simply put, it’s just part of the deal.

Taking risks to reap rewards

But here’s the good news. Hearing “no” a bunch of times means that you’re taking risks. You’re getting your creative work heard, and that takes courage, confidence, and grit.

If you’re serious about your career, stop seeing rejection as a sign to stop making music and start seeing it as an opportunity to learn. You can learn about yourself and how to improve, but also what kind of audience will be most receptive to your work going forward.

Dealing with rejection and understanding your emotions

Sad musician playing piano dealing with rejection
Feeling sad when faced with rejection is perfectly normal. Image courtesy of Anastasia Kolchina via Pexels.

Before we take a look at the more practical ways of dealing with rejection and tough critiques, let’s pay a moment of respect to the emotions that often come alongside these things.

Feeling sad, disappointed, or even angry when faced with rejection is perfectly natural. You know your potential, but when others don’t see it, it can make you question your path.

Stop that thought in its tracks. Instead, give yourself a moment to accept your emotional responses and use them as fuel for trying harder next time.

Keep on keeping on

A dj saluting the crowd in a dark club lit with spotlights
Success takes time and patience. Image courtesy of Jacob Morch via Pexels.

It took Daniel Pearce, also known as Eats Everything, 19 years to become an overnight sensation. Don’t quit.

Throughout all the ups and downs of pitching your work to different people and places, it’s vitally important that you continue making music.

Even though it might feel like the last thing you want to do when you’re dealing with rejection, all those angsty feelings might be exactly what you need to produce interesting work. Plus, by the time you get a “yes,” your portfolio will be even bigger and more impressive.

Feedback, a surefire way of dealing with rejection

A girl giving the thumbs up listening to music with headphones - a great way to deal with rejection is to receive feedback
Turn the bad to good with feedback. Image courtesy of Karolina Grabowska via Pexels

Even the worst critique has the potential to help you out if you receive it in the right way.

Receiving feedback from a professional in the music industry can give you powerful insight into how you can improve your sound. If someone offers it to you, heed it as best as you can. Most of the time, there’s no bad blood in the water – they’re simply doing their job. Any feedback that you get out of a failed application or pitch is actually kind of a win.

Also, if a person or company has given you negative feedback, remember that these things are not personal. Often, the reason why someone may not want to work with you isn’t because your music is bad. Rather, it’s because it isn’t a good fit for their brand. At the end of the day, it’s just business, baby.

Don’t be a sore loser

Look, loser is really not the right word here. You may have missed out on one opportunity, but there will be others along the way. The point is that burning bridges by getting upset and making excuses about why someone should want to work with you will only be read as arrogant and unprofessional.

If someone has said no to your pitch, accept that they have their reasons and don’t make a fuss. You may not be able to work with them right this moment. However, showing them that you’re a professional, respectful, and all-around cool person might mean they are open to collaboration at a later stage.

Essentially, stay humble and keep those doors open.

Embrace multiple income streams

An open guitar case on the street
Part of being a full time musician could mean diversifying your streams of income. Image courtesy of Pexels.

Rough patches happen. A career in music is not known for its consistency.

If you’re feeling a bit wobbly about how the music industry is receiving your work, there’s no shame in picking up a side hustle or two to supplement you until your confidence returns.

Feeling financially stable can give you the mental break you need to get inspired and reinvigorated to work on your music. It means having access to better tools, being able to save up for future projects, and generally being more equipped to handle whatever life serves you.

Lean on your community to help with dealing with rejection

Your rejection doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Your friends, family, colleagues, and the music community all feel the ripples. Talk to them about it! Processing the complex emotions and challenges of trying to make it as a musician is much easier when you realize you’re not alone.

Every single musician, vocalist, and producer has experienced rejection at some point in their lives. Even if they’re now an icon in the industry, they heard no a lot to get where they are now. Leaning on your community for support can help you cope with the discomfort of rejection. Plus, it can also expose you to more opportunities moving forward.

Keep your vision clear and focus on the end goal

A DJ playing to a crowd at a festival
Playing a big festival is an example of an end goal. Image courtesy of Wendy Wei via Pexels.

Ultimately, the best response to dealing with rejection is to shift your focus to your work and look forward to the next opportunity. Don’t let a couple of run-of-the-mill rejections spook you out of pursuing your goals. They’re just a part of the story.

Stay focused whether you’re singing, playing an instrument, beatboxing, DJing, or mixing music, and remain loyal to your vision for the future. You know what you have to offer is valuable, so keep fine-tuning it until the moment is right. Chances are, your moment is near!

An ongoing journey

Becoming a success is not something that happens overnight. It’s a process that requires consistent dedication to your craft and, often, pretty thick skin. Dealing with rejection may be painful in the moment. However, ultimately, it’s an opportunity to learn, grow, and become an even better music professional.

Written by Sydney Evans

Sydney Evans is an editor and writer who specializes in business and marketing content. She is also a music lover who enjoys listening to a variety of genres, from classical to rock.

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