Chances are you’ve experienced moments in your life when music wasn’t much fun, or maybe you’re experiencing it now. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an engineer, producer, songwriter, or all of those. It’s totally natural, from time to time, to feel a general sense of, “This isn’t what I thought it would be. Making music isn’t fun anymore.”
There are countless nuanced ways we’ve experienced and dealt with times like these. Factors like self-doubt and anxiety surrounding music are extremely common, and can certainly take away its appeal. Sometimes achieving a dream of monetizing hobbies results in lost passion as well. Whatever the case may be, there are some general things to consider when making music isn’t fun anymore.
Music isn’t fun when it’s constantly stressful.
I don’t subscribe to the “love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life” philosophy. The idea isn’t to trick yourself into thinking you’re not “working,” but to be excited and passionate about what you’re doing. There’s no question being in the music business is a ton of hard work — hopefully, though, it’s hard work you’re excited about doing; it’s rewarding and fun.
As soon as that excitement or passion starts to fade, showing up to a session might turn into something you dread. Maybe engineering/producing started out as a fun hobby or side gig, and through dedication and a bit of luck became your full-time job. Now you’re working on tons of projects you’ve little musical interest in, and making music feels like punching a clock. You’re keeping food on the table and the lights on, but the process is more stressful than ever.
This is quite a predicament. On the one hand, music is paying your bills. On the other, you feel uninspired by the music you’re making, perhaps because you’re frequently working outside your preferred genre(s) — engineering/producing/songwriting is now a “day job.”
If you find yourself in a position like this, you have to create boundaries. This means saying “no” to certain projects, even if it means sacrificing parts of your income. It’s hard to say no early on in your career; in fact, we’re usually told to say yes to everything! But you’ll have to find the right balance between taking projects because you have to, and taking projects because you want to.
You should be willing to step outside your comfort zone and work potentially stressful sessions, but trust your instincts if you feel like something is more trouble than it’s worth. Or worse, if you find making music isn’t fun anymore from a string of burdensome sessions!
Music isn’t fun when you’re focusing too much on gear.
Researching and picking up new gear is one of the greatest joys we audio geeks have! When you’re passionate about sound, there’s nothing better than finding that missing link in your signal path between “adequate” and “amazing.”
This is a very slippery slope, however. It’s tons of fun giving into GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), but this can derail pretty quickly into disillusionment. Maybe that new preamp didn’t live up to the hype, and you’re out fistfuls of cash on something that didn’t make your music sound any better. Or maybe after a few months it’s just another piece of gear in your collection, and the inspiration that it brought was fleeting.
Lots of times staying truly inspired and creative means working with what we have right now. There’s creativity in “making it work,” rather than owning every tool imaginable. Music isn’t fun if you have to sift through hundreds of plugins or virtual instruments before any creating begins.
If you can relate to any of these feelings, you aren’t alone!