Over this past weekend, I tweeted the following quote from tech entrepreneur Chris Dixon: “If you aren’t getting rejected on a daily basis, your goals aren’t ambitious enough”.
Although Chris was referring to entrepreneurs being rejected by venture capitalists, this was a message that I felt my musician readers could also relate to. Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, my tweet with Chris’ quote was retweeted over 500 times, and favorited over 200 times. This blew my mind, and made me search for my vintage June 2002 VIBE Magazine article on the subject of rejection. I had originally titled the article “F*ck Rejection”, but the editor later changed it to “Don’t Quit”.
Now that I’m reprinting this article on my own blog, I can title it whatever I want!
by Carla Lynne Hall
When Lenny Kravitz was searching for a record deal, labels told him his music wasn’t “black enough.” Record execs told Toni Braxton she couldn’t sing. Madonna was told she wasn’t ready yet. Get the picture? Chances are good that you and your ego will suffer some bumps and bruises on the way to stardom. The wannabes who believe that everything will be smooth and glamorous are usually the ones who give up too soon.
Truth is, if you’re frustrated, then you’re probably on the right track. You’re working hard and getting yourself out there. But if you’re sitting on your butt every night, smoking weed and bitching about “the scene” or how people “don’t get” your music because somebody didn’t like it, you’re wasting valuable time. Remember, anything worth having involves sacrifice, determination, discipline, and persistence. Check out these tips on how to cope.
DON’T FEEL ALONE. Every artist gets rejected at one point or another— even the famous ones. “We somehow believe that other people aren’t being rejected,” says Dr. Eric Maisel, author of Fearless Creating. “We envy people who seem to have it easy. That isn’t to say that some people aren’t doing better than others, but envy ruins your spirit.”
KNOW THYSELF. Having a healthy belief in your talent is key. “If you have two singers, both with good voices and creativity,” says Dr MaiseL “the one who feels self-directed and trusts herself is the one who’ll make it.” Seeking approval from others without believing in yourself is a shortcut to heartbreak. “A lot of people take rejections hard because they depend on others to judge them,” says producer Swizz Beatz.
STAY TRUE. Remember that the music biz is driven by opinions, which are subjective. “If you’re coming with something new, it’s automatically going to be rejected,” says Beatz. “It’s easier for an A&R person to go against something than to go with it—people want to play it safe. Record people didn’t want DMX’s ‘Ruff Ryders Anthem’ at first because everybody was sampling and it was different.” Don’t change up and go with the status quo to try and get put on faster.
DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP. While waiting for your big break, keep tightening your skills. “The more people kept telling us no, we just thought, Well, that’s another person who’s gonna regret not signing us,” says Ali from St. Lunatics. “We would go back and work on more songs. We’d write more raps, work on more projects. We kept shopping them, and it gave us the strength to keep going and work even harder.”
RECOGNIZE. Some criticism is constructive and some isn’t. Don’t get them – twisted. “The rejections that have informational value are the ones where the person turning you down tells you that your voice isn’t strong enough, or your music isn’t fresh,” says Dr. Maisel. “You have to process that information and decide whether what the person is telling you is accurate or not.” Ask for feedback from your rejecters.
THINK POSITIVE. If you pump yourself up on a daily basis, you’ll be better able to keep your rejections in perspective and not internalize them. “You need strength and courage to accept rejection and the difficulties inherent in being an artist,” says Dr. Maisel. “It doesn’t matter whether you think it’ll be easy or you think it’ll be hard—you can think what you like. What’s vital is that you rebound and keep trying.”
PS – Episode 2 of the upcoming Rock Star Life Lessons podcast series features this live interview with Dr. Eric Maisel in its entirety. Stay tuned for the podcast launch, scheduled for Fall 2011.