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How to: deal with rejection as an artist

Words by Kavina.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by rejection. *Whole unified artist community raises its hand.


You can’t truly count yourself as a musician until you’ve survived the pain of rejection and lived to write a song about it. No one in this world is immune to it, and in a profession which entails wearing your heart on the sleeve of your leather jacket and then singing about it, you learn to accept it, respect it and then use it.  


Thanks for the tragedy, we wrote the songbook for it.  


Musicians have written and performed countless soundtracks dedicated to the joys and sorrows of human existence. Whether it’s rejection from heartbreak, loss, missed opportunity, being overlooked or expelled, there’s a song for it which illustrates that resilience and beauty can be created from our unique shared experiences, if you dare to embrace it. Badass. 


You’re part of a community built from rejects, so consider yourself lucky my friend.  


Whole genres have been created by society's outcasts, and it wasn’t that long ago that musicians weren’t allowed to play because of the color of their skin or their gender stereotype. We still struggle from gender pay gaps in the entertainment industry even though it is no longer male dominated, and it blows my mind that aesthetics still rule the world of sound.


Ella Fitzgerald couldn't even get in the door because of all the reasons I've listed above, plus the fact that she ‘looked’ like a struggling artist. Madonna lacked Substance, Ed Sheeran was too ginger, and the Beatles didn’t have ‘it’. 


People will give you a million subjective reasons as to why you aren’t good enough, it’s up to you to decide whether or not to listen. 


You’re too tough to die, fam. 


Speaking of, Self-rejection is the real killer of dreams 


Love yourself the way Kanye loves Kanye. 


The real tragedy happens quietly after you go home and then stop creating and putting yourself out there because you believe you aren’t good enough. Not everyone will see your potential, and even if they do, it doesn't mean they’ll give you a chance.


Marilyn Monroe rallied for Ella to play at a nightclub which didn't allow black entertainers and after her first night, it was evident she would never play a small lounge show again because of her talent. Imagine if Ella had turned it down because she knew that the larger society had not yet accepted her? She was there for herself. 


Don't take yourself out of the game just when things might be getting good. 


And if you need more perspective, think of all the successful people out there with questionable talent, living their dreams. The only difference between them and you is that they believed in themselves enough to go for it. 


Write your own definition for rejection


Just like we write our own definition of success, accept that rejection is a part of our vocabulary, but luckily it’s up for interpretation. Instead of personalising rejection and turning it into failure, use it as an opportunity to reflect and reevaluate so you can grow from your experience. See it as a sign that’s redirecting you to an even better path.


Now when someone tries to mess me around, and I get that funny intuitive feeling that doesn't align with my values, I will pull the plug. Sometimes rejection means having the power to reject situations for yourself. 


If your urge to create is greater than your urge for success, you’re going to be just fine. 


Like all things in life, success will come and go, and then come again. But your love for creating is the thing that will keep you going in the tough times. You didn't pick this gig because it guaranteed you the sweet, cushy life, because there were easier paths to get there. 


If all else fails, remember, you rejected stability and chose the infinitely stimulating chaos of music instead. 


You chose it because you felt it was worth the risk of uncertainty to live a life full of passion and creativity that could only be done as a musician. Or maybe you had the intense urge to express yourself in a way that you just couldn't in a well-written contractual agreement. Otherwise you would’ve gone on to pursue a career in IP law after you graduated instead of getting your knuckles tattooed. - True story, ask my mom about her daughter (me).   


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