Recently I asked what musicians think are the most TOXIC mindsets that plague our community.
The responses were enlightening and…..deeply depressing.
This was one topic it seems a lot of you have experienced.
From those conversations I was able to put together a list of the top 5 toxic mindsets musicians have.
And if you read til the end, you may find that in reality there may only be one!
Anyway without further ado here are the top 5 toxic mindsets in the musician community!
At number 5 we have… unhealthy competition!
Music and performing are typically considered an art form but it seems like so many musicians view other players in their community not as brothers & sisters in arms, but as people who stand in their way.
This kind of thinking makes playing shows with your bands really unpleasant.
Now, I’m not talking about looking at the groups around you or on the bill and rising to the occasion in a friendly way. I’m talking about those bands who go out of their way to mess with other groups or badmouth bands in their local scene.
I read one comment where a band literally started messing with the PA while another group was performing in the middle of their set!
Also on the topic of competition how is anything considered cheating in music?
Where are the cash & prizes?
Who is the official governing body?
Do I need to be tested for performance enhancing drugs?
Someone using a different method than you do does not equate to cheating because again,
MUSIC IS NOT A COMPETITION
This kind of behavior may stem from toxic mindset number 4: Scarcity Mindset
You may not have heard this term before but it’s something we talk about a lot on the Cover Band Confidential podcast (link in description)
In short, scarcity mindset is thinking that anything someone else has or gets, is directly taking it away from you.
If you think another band getting a big show or making more money than your band is a bad thing, you may be using a scarcity mindset.
In reality, every band is on a separate track, and those who have come before you and found success are increasing the value of live music in your market.
A high tide raises all ships.
I’d also note that bigger bands in your town are a great source of good practices you can implement in your own project.
Ultimately, there’s plenty of opportunities for everyone, and supporting bands when they break out makes you look like an ally, and will ultimately benefit you more than scheming and gossiping.
NUMBER 3 on the most toxic mindset of musicians: Binary Thinking.
I know another psych term. Here’s the basic gist:
Have you ever heard this kind of thing?
You can’t play country on an explorer!
You can't play metal on a telecaster!
You can’t play ska on any instrument ever for any reason!
You have been using binary thinking!
Binary thinking, also known as dichotomous thinking, is when complex concepts, ideas, and problems are simplified into being one side or another.
Real life is gray, and there are plenty of viewpoints in music that are as well.
One place I see this really cause issues is the way musicians think in relation to their audience.
Generally, musicians are under the impression that the way they see, hear and feel things line up with the way their audience does as well.
THIS. IS. NOT. THE. CASE. AT. ALL.
Taken to its most destructive conclusion it can cause musicians to have an adversarial attitude towards their audience
“Playing music the audience likes, better known as the lowest common denominator”
This is a literal comment on one of my videos.
Or they develop an “us vs. them” mentality against people they’re supposed to be working with.
I see this a lot with the way musicians talk about venue owners, record labels, and like I mentioned earlier, other bands.
Being locked into rigid thought structures make it hard to relate to other musicians, and can come across as judgmental.
Speaking of judgmental…
The number 2 toxic mindset musicians need to KNOCK OFF is: Gatekeeping!
The amount of online discourse around gatekeeping has really reached a fever pitch in the past few years.
It was easily the most mentioned comment in my original post.
For those who may be unfamiliar (Consider yourself fortunate if you are)
The slang definition of Gatekeeping is:
To limit [someones] participation in a collective identity or activity, due to undue resentment or overprotectiveness.
In the musician community, you see gatekeeping in it’s natural habitat:
THE COMMENT SECTION!
Here you will find some of the most vile, racist, sexist, elitist horse shit opinions most normal human beings wouldn’t have the balls to say out loud in real life.
This is toxic mindset weaponized against other people and its why lots of people hate the online musician community.
People who engage in this kind of activity are actively hurting a community that more than likely welcomed them with open arms when they started learning to play an instrument.
Most of us started playing because we felt different or that we didn’t belong. I know that’s what made me pick up a guitar as a kid.
That and the Van Halen "Poundcake"video
Seeing the way people comment on YouTube and social media really bums me out because I’m not sure how I would have reacted if sharing my progress on guitar elicited hurtful or unnecessary feedback.
If you do this, stop.
Last, and certainly least, we’ve made it to the top.
Here is the number one most toxic mindset in the musician community…
I’ll be honest with you, this one kinda took me by surprise.
Psychology today published an article where they broke down 4 signs of an insecure person.
Those traits are:
-Constantly trying to make others around them feel “less than”
-An incessant need to showcase their accomplishments
-Humblebragging and/or namedropping
-Complaining and or acting above their current situation.
Sound like anyone you’ve been in a band with?
Weirdly enough what most people observe as “egotistic” or “diva behavior is really just projected insecurity.
Honestly, if you look at any of the other items on this countdown, all of them point back to someone who deep down isn’t very confident about themselves.
I’m looking at you gatekeeping.
I mean, musicians and performers in general have decided that their value should be placed in the hands of complete strangers.
We trade years of practice, discipline, sweat, and blood for applause.
That’s a pretty heavy realization.
The good news is that these mindsets can be broken with a little bit of hard work and……practice.
Just like we spend countless hours shedding new material, we should also be putting equal effort into our mental health as well.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, why would I spend as much time working on not being insecure as I do preparing for a gig that makes me money?
And I’ll answer that question with another question: don’t you think being a better person will get you better gigs?
I can’t tell you how often I hire players based on hang or reputation from my circle of friends.
Or how often I get asked to fill in because I’m easy to get along with.
I know dozens of players with better chops than me who don’t get the same opportunities as I do because of their attitude or demeanor.
And let me go ahead and say I AM INCREDIBLY INSECURE.
I am not immune to feelings of jealousy, intimidation, or self destructiveness.
But I make an effort to try to process things through that abundance mindset and congratulate other musicians when they’re successful.
And, over time that process has gotten easier and easier.
With a bit of effort, you can get there too.
Did I leave any off? Leave a comment and let me know what your picks would be!
Adam and Dan play in bands. They're pretty good.