How to Deal with Musical Burnout
By Chris Loeffler | (edited)
By Robert Calabrese
Burnout has unfortunately become a very common occurrence in today’s modern world. It is usually associated with professional burnout. But it can also impact other aspects of your life like hobbies and even parenting. When it comes to creative pursuits like music, the impact can be devastating. In this article we’ll cover what causes burnout and how you can both prevent and overcome it.
What Causes Musical Burnout?
Many things can lead to musical burnout. It can be one major issue or a combination of issues that can lead you to feel tired, uninspired and unmotivated.
Working Too Much
This is one of the most common causes of burnout. Musicians and performers have a built-in desire to succeed. They want to express themselves and share that expression with as many people as possible. This can lead to an unmanageable workload.
You can find yourself booked in back to back shows, week-in and week-out. There is also the added work involved in managing your music career. This becomes even more pronounced if you are trying to transition from a part-time musician to a full-time musician. Once you add other tasks like sorting out finances and keeping on top of your social media presence it’s easy to become overwhelmed and burn out.
The other major cause of burnout is a lack of motivation and inspiration for your craft. As with every creative profession, you can fall into a creative rut. This type of burnout is one of the most challenging as it speaks to the very core of your identity as a musician.
A feeling of lower self-worth creeps into even the most ego-based individual. This creative rut is frustrating and adds stress. This stress can then lead to further issues which only helps to reinforce the burnout feeling.
Life is stressful and creative pursuits are not immune from it. Working with band members or dealing with agencies can be stressful. But stress can come from other areas of your life as well. You may be having difficulties in your relationships which can impact your ability to focus on your music.
Financial stress is another major pressure point that can lead you to feel burned out. When you are not seeing financial rewards for your hard work, it's easy to become unmotivated.
Tips To Overcome Burnout
Once you realize that you are experiencing burnout it’s important to try to tackle it as soon as possible. The sooner you address it the sooner you’ll be back to creating awesome music. Here are a couple of tips to help you overcome burnout once it’s already embedded itself.
Take A Break
It may sound obvious but one of the simplest things you can do is to take some time off. This can be difficult depending on how much you rely on the income from your performing. Even then there are ways to gain some distance. For example, if you are part of a band don’t hang around after the gig for a drink. Instead, opt to take some time to yourself. Go back home or to your hotel room and recharge.
If you are in the studio working on your next song take some extra time during the day to get away from the computer or instruments. Trying to push through the burnout will only lead to more stress and frustration.
Do Something Completely Different
Change is as good as a holiday. When you’re locked in your studio day in and day out you’ll end up experiencing burnout. To keep your mind and creative juices fresh it’s a good idea to do something different.
Take some time to read a book or watch your favorite TV series. Learn how to meditate or pick up a different hobby like hiking. The further removed from music the better. Challenging your mind in different and interesting ways helps to recharge your creative energy. These types of activities can also help relieve the stress factors that cause burnout.
Tips To Prevent Burnout
Prevention is always better than cure. There are several things you can do to avoid experiencing burnout in the first place.
A healthy body equals a healthy mind.
Aim to get an appropriate amount of sleep. Feeling tired will increase the chances of you feeling burned out. Eating a well-balanced diet is also important. Fuel your body with good food and your energy levels will increase.
Exercise is also important. You don’t need to be hitting the gym for hours on end. Find ways to incorporate some brisk walking or yoga into your daily routines. The combination of all these things can prevent or mitigate burnout.
Take some time to get organized. Having a clear direction and plan allows you to manage your time more effectively. Create achievable daily or weekly goals and stick to them. Keep on top of your financial situation and save some money so you can take some time off when needed.
Having a well-organized life reduces stress which will help prevent burnout.
Keep It Fun
Another tip is to not lose sight of why you decided to pursue a career in music. You can express your love of music in a variety of ways. Take some time to listen to and enjoy the work of others you admire. This can help re-motivated and energize the creative juices.
It’s also important to keep the simple joy of music alive. Spend some time jamming out without the goal of creating something meaningful. As a DJ I play around on a DJ controller experimenting with new techniques or elements. Most of the time nothing great emerges from it but the very act of letting yourself go releases built-up pressure and stress. Sometimes it does lead to new ideas and I find myself motivated again to fine-tune the latest track I was working on or revisit an old project.
Don’t Give Up
There are countless stories of talented musicians who stepped away from music because of burnout. If you don’t want to end up in the same spot I encourage you to take burnout seriously. Put in place some of the tips I have mentioned and if need be do some further research on burnout. Burnout can be crippling but it shouldn’t be the end of your musical journey.
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.
Edited by Chris Loeffler