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Why You Shouldn’t Compare Yourself to Other Artists

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I went to a new gym for the first time today, and I kind of hated it.

I switched gyms unwillingly.

My wife and I are on campus at Denver Seminary (she’s working through their clinical counseling program), and one of the benefits the seminary has been offering is a free membership to the local community college gym across the street.

So, for the past six months, that’s where I worked out – at the not-so-cutting-edgeArapahoe Community College fitness center.

It was the best.

Not because the equipment was great. Actually, the equipment was straight-up bad. Most of it’s falling apart; there are “Out of Order” signs on like 50% of the machines, and 100% of them smell like a combination of mothballs and off-brand Clorox.

No, the Arapahoe Community College gym was the best because it was blissfully empty.

My friend and I would go in at 6:30am on weekdays, and for an hour the population of the room would be the two of us, Sean at the front desk, and 85-year-old Hank (who’s a genuine hero).

Ah, the freedom. The space. The solitude.

I loved it.

But my friend just graduated and is moving out of town, and, simultaneously, the seminary stopped offering a free membership to the ACC gym.

So, now I’m going to Chuse Fitness.

Here’s the problem with Chuse Fitness: it’s great.

It’s too great.

They have five bench presses and not a single one of them smells like mothballs. They have a pristine swimming pool. They even have one of those rooms where you can watch a movie while you’re on a stationary bike(because, you know, who’d want to bike outside and see nature when you can spend your workout watching Pitch Perfect 2?)

(I know I’m old and bitter.)

Long-story-short, Chuse Fitness is the kind of gym that people actually go to.

And the people who go to it aren’t your 85-year-old-Hank types (seriously, that man is the best).

They’re the kind of people who work out. Who look distressingly good in sleeveless t-shirts. Who say things like “Are you done using that bench, brother?”, then chuckle, slap you on the shoulder, and proceed to load up the bar with literally three times the weight that you were just struggling to lift.

Moral of the story: I spent an hour this morning comparing my fitness level to that of the average Chuse Fitness weightlifter and feeling awful about myself.

Comparison really is the thief of joy.

I know I’m not the only one who continually falls into this kind of trap.

Comparison is something I’ve talked to a lot of artists about.

Because, the music industry, somewhat sadly, is an easy arena for comparison – especially in the digital age.

You can go check any artist’s Spotify profile and immediately see how many streams their top song has. You can compare followers and feel irrelevant. You can hold up the highlights of someone else’s tour on Instagram against the monotony of your own day-to-day experience and end up feeling empty.

Here’s a reminder for both of us: Don’t cave into the urge to compare.

Because comparison isn’t the point. I’m not working out at Chuse Fitness so that I can lift more weight than someone or look better in a sleeveless t-shirt than the other random people working out at Chuse Fitness.

(If that’s why I was working out, I’d be better off not working out hahaha.)

I’m working out at Chuse Fitness because I want to feel good. That in itself is worthwhile, regardless of what random other people are doing.

In the same way, your music is meaningful in itself.

Yes, I believe building a fanbase matters, but only because art is inherently relational. Random comparisons against other artists aren’t the point.

Music is.

Relationships are.

Remember that the next time you get a major win and land on a Spotify editorial placement or book a spot on the festival ticket. Remember it even more the next time someone else gets a major win and you’re watching from the sidelines.

Remember it, even (especially) when you’re tempted to compare.

I’m going to do my best to follow my own advice tomorrow morning at 6:30am.

Here’s wishing us both good luck.

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