Music business and lockdown—has the industry gone digital?
“You cannot not communicate, because all communication (even non-verbal) is behaviour and just as you cannot not behave, you cannot not communicate.”— Paul Watzlawick, Philosopher and Communication Scientist
Communication is a big, exciting topic, and one which is particularly relevant in the music industry. Those who can express themselves appropriately on a musical level quickly stand out from other musicians. Additionally, behind the scenes, the importance of our communication skills cannot be understated. After all, as musicians we are usually not on our own, but often work together with other people.
But even if you are traveling as a solo musician, reflecting on communication is still a valuable practice. After all, we are also in a relationship with ourselves—a kind of "inner communication" still takes place. So the way you talk to yourself also has a big impact on what you do musically. In this article you will find out why communication is so extremely important, what the definition of communication actually is and how you can use it to improve your musical expression.
In simple terms, we understand the term “communication” to encompass the verbal and non-verbal exchange of information. These are expressed and received through our senses. In addition, information always has to bridge a certain distance—this could be, for example, of a spatial nature, or through the use of different transmission media (e.g., sounds, images, or video recordings). So much for the pure definition of communication.
The tricky thing about communication is that there are numerous disruptive factors lurking in the process of "sending" and "receiving" information. So it has to be assumed that what you are communicating is always something that your counterpart changes. But there is no reason to despair: For all the numerous disruptive factors, there are just as many methods of dealing skillfully with them.
In the musical field in particular, there are also many creative possibilities that can be used to express a message in a clear and understandable manner. More on that later. First of all, let's take a look at why communication is so complex, tricky and fascinating at the same time.
When you want to communicate with others, you always refer to your individual model of reality. Because it is simply not possible to perceive reality unfiltered. Our perception filters are subject to biological, social, cultural and individual boundaries that shape our image of the world. In this way, every person subconsciously constructs their own "inner reality map" via their sensory intake.
Your inner map can largely match the maps of other people, but serious differences are always possible. Our individual models of the world decide what we consider beautiful or dangerous, important or irrelevant. They serve our orientation and help us to find our way in everyday life.
From a musical point of view, these different models can easily be identified, for example, by our individual musical tastes. Which artists do we like and which music do we not like at all? What is music for you anyway and what significance does it have in your life? Should it be used for entertainment or should it have a cultural, ritual or socio-political relevance?
Depending on who you ask and which model of reality they have, numerous, completely different answers are possible. That, of course also applies to all other topics and areas of life. No reality model is per se better or worse than another. It is important to understand that every model of reality is subjective and inevitably has justification.
So there is not one reality—there are many models of reality next to each other—as many as there are people in the world. This may sound drastic, but try to picture it. Once you understand what your inner map looks like—and that this is just one of many other conceivable orientation models—you have the opportunity to shape your inner attitude, your perception and your life as you wish.
Therefore, in this article I would like to address three central aspects from my coaching practice that can help you…
Sounds good right? Now it's time to take a concrete look at each of these parts, one by one. First, let's look at how we actually communicate with ourselves, and how we can significantly improve this relationship.
Whether you like it or not, you are often severely judged by yourself. We demand a lot from ourselves, work to the point of exhaustion, and often assess ourselves pretty harshly, and can even do so retrospectively. Sentences like “you always do everything wrong!” Or “why did you act so stupid?” are just examples of numerous possible self-humiliations. If we dealt with other people like that, we would soon run out of friends.
If you notice such toxic communication patterns within yourself, you can and should definitely resolve them. With the help of the following tips you can establish a positive inner conversation. They will help you develop healthy self-esteem and a good relationship with yourself, which is the basis of all other forms of communication.
Have you ever noticed that you are in an inner conversation with yourself almost all the time? Listen to yourself carefully over the course of a day, or over a longer period of time. How do you talk to yourself Which words do you use, which inner tone can you perceive in relation to yourself? Do you constantly judge yourself? And would you talk to your best friend like that?
Once you realize that you are being too harsh on yourself, here are some things you can do: Rephrase your negative thoughts. Instead of accusing yourself of being “embarrassing” or “stupid,” you could say, “I did the best I could at the time. Next time I can prepare a little better to be comfortable and to feel relaxed.”
It may feel awkward and unfamiliar at first, but don't worry. With time, you'll get through it quickly. Practice makes perfect! Best of all: the more intensely and often you practice speaking lovingly to yourself, the stronger your self-confidence and sense of wellbeing will grow. Make sure to give it a try!
The second tip follows directly on from the first: Develop an up-to-date understanding of what you need right now. You can do that, for example, by empathizing with yourself and asking what is the most beneficial to yourself in the moment. Maybe a little relaxation, exchanging ideas with friends, or exercising?
If it feels difficult to find answers in this way, consistently recurring rituals are also suitable. For example, you could make it a habit to start journaling every day. Making music or having a morning meditation session are also activities that can help you gain inner insights.
In this way you can not only get an updated daily perspective of yourself and your needs, but you will also develop a completely new understanding of yourself.
Now that you have figured out what you need, it’s time to meet those needs. If you feel like taking a break, treat yourself to some free time and maybe do something on your own. It can be a short trip, a movie at the cinema, or a delicious meal in your favorite restaurant… But it doesn't have to be.
Even in everyday life you can create calm space for yourself. How about a hot tea in the fresh air or a day off from social media? Or an hour with your favorite album pumping through your headphones? Make your everyday life as pleasant as possible by surrounding yourself with sensory stimuli that are good for you. Take a look at this article for inspiration on recreation.
Finally I would like to recommend the following to you: Appreciate yourself. That may sound a bit cliché, but it is still incredibly important. Because we all need to be seen, recognized, and valued. We can and should fulfill this need for ourselves from time to time.
Think about what you like about yourself. What are your strengths? What is easy for you to do? What kind of situations have you already experienced in which you felt competent or were proud of? Take a piece of paper and write down everything you can think of. Don't take any of your ideas for granted, and don't downplay anything—your thoughts could be of value. You can also write compliments that others have given you.
If you’re experiencing a longer period of feeling down, you can complete the list over a longer period of time. Write down at least one thing every day that you value about yourself. In this way you practice cultivating a loving relationship with yourself, from which you will emerge again strengthened and self-confident. And if you are not doing so well, you can always take a look at the list again—it’s sure to make a great pick-me-up.
As soon as we have established a good relationship with ourselves, we can begin to examine our communication skills in relation to other people under the microscope. As already indicated in advance, communication is complex in its subject matter and generally prone to failure.
Recall, if you will, the concept of various “reality maps.” It may even seem like a miracle that people can understand each other at all. That’s because it is!
We understand and process words very differently, especially through the lens of values, concepts of belonging, or identity. Two-way communication is a process of permanent internal replication of words, although these replicas are often very unreliable.
However, there are some interesting and helpful tools that ensure a relatively clean communication (or which can help you to clean it up afterwards).
Let's start with some figurative theory. The well-known communication scientist Friedemann Schulz von Thun has developed the clear model of the "communication square":
This means that every verbal utterance contains four messages that can be understood and transmitted regardless of the actual intention. One and the same utterance—for example the sentence “It's cold here”—can be interpreted on the level of a factual note, appeal, self-disclosure or as a message of a relationship. That doesn't necessarily make it easier at first, does it? But even knowing about these different possible interpretations can take the wind out of the sails of many misunderstandings. So it is possible at any time to question a misleading statement on its four levels. Often people suspect confrontations (on the relationship or appeal level: “you would like me to close the window”), although only a factual message or self-expression (“I'm cold”) should be expressed. With the help of the communication square, the messages sent can be broken down and clarified - this is much easier than it sounds. But the following technical veteran has an even more elegant solution ready ...
Do you still remember the good old fax machine? For those who don't know: The fax machine was a device that could be used to scan documents and send them to other fax machines in great detail (think of it as the 90s’ version of scanning a document and emailing it as a PDF). It might sound weird, but when it comes to avoiding misunderstandings, we can learn from the fax machine.
Before it sends a message, it first establishes a connection and adjusts itself to the other side. Successful data transfer can only be ensured after the connection and setting have been established. That can also be applied figuratively as a guide to prevent communication difficulties from arising in the first place. So always give yourself and your counterpart some time first. So you can calmly adjust to each other and compare your moods and expectations.
It's actually quite simple: If you want someone to know something, speak up. If you don't know or understand something, ask about it. These are simple rules that you can use as a guide at any time.
At the same time there are different ways of speaking, listening and asking questions that are not insignificant. Therefore, here are a few more tricks that will help you and your counterpart to communicate cleanly and respectfully.
Should you—despite the tips—have more serious communication issues, take some time to think about possible causes. If you would like to give your counterpart constructive feedback afterwards, have a look at this article. Here you will find valuable tips on how you can build up and formulate constructive, appreciative feedback.
You have now learned how diverse our perceptions of reality and different communication interactions with others can be. You can now use this knowledge to exchange ideas with others with the help of your music. Because music is, at its core, the sending and receiving of messages on different channels. Music does, however, have some advantages over spoken language. It consists of numerous elements, most of which are of a sensual nature.
Content can be varied and conveyed with the help of musical components—for example in the vocal area—through all existing stylistic devices (e.g., vocal fry, vibrato, belting, riffs, runs, as well as lyrics, intention, and more).
When you become aware of the possibilities of your musical expression, a little bit of creativity is enough and the creative dance with the individual facets of your music can begin. As long as you have fun with this game and trust your feelings, I am absolutely convinced that you will find your own musical language with which you can reach many people!
Did this article help you? Please let me know by message. I would be very happy to receive your feedback! If you feel like networking with other musicians from your city, be sure to stop by here. And if you are interested in coaching or any of my other offers, please take a look at my homepage.
Originally published on November 17, 2021, updated on July 20, 2022