new year's resolutions 2021 balloons

For musicians, making a New Year’s resolution for 2021 might feel especially daunting considering… all of last year. 2020 was a dream. It was a nightmare for some and a fantasy for others, but nevertheless an out-of-body experience that didn’t really make sense. It will be tempting to nap through these dwindling days of isolation, but now is the time to put away the banana bread and jumpstart our creative brains. Setting a New Year’s resolution is half the battle, and there’s plenty of ways to rethink our habits from home. Here’s nine lifestyle changes you can make as a musician to hit the ground running in 2021.

1. Commit to simple self-care practices

Musicians are by no means known for their cleanliness and hygiene, but let’s be real. We’ve let ourselves go. We may proudly tell you that yes, this is the longest our hair has ever been, or that we’ve been trying to gain weight for some time and it’s only now finally working, but we know the truth: the procrastination, the sweatpants, The Queen’s Gambit. This is nothing to be ashamed of. Own it and move forward. If we can acknowledge our capacity for self-indulgence and still make the choice to be productive every day, we’re already winning.

2. Stockpile ideas for collaborative sessions

Creators are chomping at the bit to get out there and make art, so you’re going to need enough inspiration to go around. If you haven’t already been tapping this past year of isolation for creative capital, there’s still time to squeeze those lemons. And, just because we’re stuck at home doesn’t mean we can’t collaborate with others. Whether it’s screen sharing a project on Zoom (we know, we know) or using a musician networking app like BandLab, there are tons of ways to connect with other creatives right from your bedroom. Take this time to dive into your DAW, load up those fresh new sounds, and lay the groundwork for what’s to come.

DJ performing a collaborative set in a DAW

3. Brush up on interpersonal communication

Social engagements like performances, group studio sessions, and rehearsals are on hold for many, making it tough to stay connected. Communication is a vital skill that requires practice, and can be a powerful networking tool for musicians that want to become better collaborators. Not to mention, academics say that small talk makes people happier and plays a role in forming social bonds. It’s probably been a while since you’ve participated in passing conversation with a stranger or lesser known acquaintance, so grab a podmate and practice. Trading one-off phrases such as “Have a good one!” and “How’s it going?” can be a great way to dust off the cobwebs. 

4. Sharpen your craft

While most of what 2020 gave us was certainly unwanted, it also gave many the gift of unstructured time. Whether you’re a DJ or a bass guitarist, that time is an opportunity to develop relevant skills that remain unmastered. And if you need resources, there’s plenty online for free. For example, Berklee College of Music offers free courses in everything from jazz improvisation to vocal recording, and LinkedIn Learning has free training on topics like remix techniques and music notation. If we set aside time each day to practice, we’ll have plenty of new tricks to show off at our next performance.

Musician practicing on a Hupfeld piano

5. Organize your studio

Chances are, whether or not we’re in the throes of a pandemic, the studio could use some attention. Without the usual stream of clients and collaborators to impress, chances are you’ve got tangled cables, cluttered desks, and a long-lost guitar pick hiding under some junk. This may seem like busy work in isolated lockdown, but studies show how messy spaces increase cortisol levels in the body, which in turn hurts productivity. A little goes a long way, so dust off those piano keys, find a desk built for music production, and maybe even run a vacuum. In addition to improving your mood and productivity, you’ll be ready for visitors when the time is right.

6. Revamp your live show

The opportunity to perform for our fans will eventually return. In the meantime, they’re purchasing online merch, racking up plays, and watching us stream quarantine sets. The last thing they want is a comeback show that sounds — and looks — exactly like the one they last attended. Whether it’s new songs, enhanced visuals, or a signature sonic sound that makes them rediscover why they loved you in the first place, a memorable comeback performance is a great way to say “thank you” to the people that show us so much support.

7. Phone separation therapy

In lockdown, many of us have come to rely on phones as our only window to the outside world. But a constant influx of information is the antithesis of creativity. Making music relies on an instantaneous exchange of thought and emotion, which can’t be achieved with our heads buried in our devices. A simple home yoga practice or long walk through nature has the power to reconnect us to our creativity. Taking digital breaks helps us be present in order to get into flow state and tap into the height of our potential. (As a bonus, it’s also a relatively easy New Year’s resolution to tackle!)

Man taking a hike with dog in backpack

8. Finish what you’ve started

Not only should we prepare for the explosion of creativity that is to come, we must also honor the moments of inspiration that helped get us through lockdown. A fresh start won’t feel so fresh with a cloud of unfinished projects looming overhead. Go ahead and write that bridge, finalize that mix, or turn that demo into a polished master. Make the commitment to set deadlines and get across the finish line. It will help you write faster and you’ll have more songs to add to your discography. That’s more than enough reason to open up some old files.

9. Diversify your media portfolio

When we do come back, we want to come back big. So let’s get the word out with all the tools at our disposal. Work with a visual artist to dream up the perfect art for your next release. Spruce up your band’s Spotify page, revisit your bio, or tease new songs on your social media platforms. For some musicians, the thought of focusing on anything but making music can be exhausting, but luckily we’ve got more than enough time to figure it out.

Ultimately, 2020 was a worthy opponent, but no match for the human spirit. Our comeback is imminent, and when we do the streets will be filled with music. Congratulations on making it this far. It’s time to dust off those monitors and embrace at least one New Year’s resolution. Let’s start drawing up plans for the next big thing.