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Do What You Like

dowhatyoulike

I might lose you with this first line:

I really don’t like TikTok.

If you’ve tracked with me for more than a few months, you’ve probably heard me offer this opinion before, and you may have thought to yourself, “Jon is a grumpy old man,” which is harsh but fair.

(Just wait till I’m 80. I’m going to be great at parties.)

Now, I’m not going to rehash all of the reasons why I don’t like TikTok here. I’m also not going to insinuate that you’re dumb if you like TikTok.

You’re absolutely not.

The platform is pretty much driving the music industry at the moment. It represents massive opportunity for audience-builders – the potential for growth on there, especially for musicians, is ridiculous – plus it’s often funny and always addicting. I think it’s going to be a huge piece of music marketing for the next five years, at least.

No, here’s why I’m saying, yet again, that I don’t like TikTok:

I keep feeling the freaking pull to be on TikTok.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked you to send me recommendations for other music marketers to follow. Well, surprise surprise – a few of those marketers, including a few that I really liked, are doing quite well on TikTok.

And watching their videos, I felt like I was missing out.

Seriously, when I watch other people, it’s super easy to get in my head about what I’m doing.

Like, could my audience be bigger if I was on TikTok? (Almost definitely.) Could I grow my business faster? (Yeah probably.) Would more people think I was funny? (Definitely not because on video my jokes are even lamer than they are in these emails.)

I mean, I’ve really thought about this stuff. But here’s the thing:

I still don’t like TikTok.

And because of that, I’d be fighting an uphill battle on the platform.

You know how, in school, you could tell if a teacher really liked being a teacher? And how, if they did – if they had enthusiasm for their subject – that energy made their class way more engaging?

And on the flip side, do you remember how classes were straight-up awful when it was obvious the teacher didn’t want to be there?

Yeah.

Here’s where I’m going with this:

You – yes, you, the one reading these words on this screen right now – will have the most success doing the things that you like to do.

I think it’s easy for us to buy into two lies.

On the one hand, some of us grew up hearing the advice to “follow your passion.” There’s been pushback against that, and it’s merited, because if you only follow your passion with a total disregard for anything else, a) you’ll end up being a pretty self-centered, crappy person, and b) there’s really no guarantee that your “passion” ties into anything worthwhile.

But, on the other hand, if you just keep forcing yourself to do things you kind of hate, a) you’ll be miserable and b) you’ll probably just suck at them.

I think there’s a middle ground:

Find out what you like and are good at, and then persevere.

Humble-brag: I think I’m a pretty good writer.

Sure, I read great authors and think, “Okay never mind I have the literary talent of a beetle.” But, in general, at this point in my life, I’ve received enough positive feedback to feel decent about my ability to communicate via the written word.

Plus, I just like writing.

In The Writing Life, Annie Dillard tells this story where she asks a painter how they came to be a painter. Their reply: “I liked the smell of paint.”

Dillard continues:

“If you’re going to be a gardener, it helps to like the smell of roses. If you’re going to be a writer, it helps to appreciate sentences.”

I like sentences. I like writing. That’s why I started a blog about music; it’s why I send out this long email every week.

But there’s another side to that.

Some weeks (more weeks than I’d like to admit), even though I really do like writing, I really don’t want to write at all. I don’t feel inspired; I feel like watching Kenny Pickett highlight videos, or scrolling endlessly through some social media feed, or sleeping.

But I can usually bring myself to write something, anyway. Because, deep down, I know that I like to write, and I know that it’s good for me.

Doing what you like doesn’t always mean that you’ll like doing it.

But doing what you like does give you the best chance at doing something well – and the best chance at persevering at it.

That’s how you succeed.

I’ll leave you with this:

All of the musicians you love the most have leaned into the things they like. You love them because they do the things they’re naturally good at.

Follow their lead.

If you love lyric-writing but can’t play lead guitar to save your life, don’t waste your time trying to grow into a lead guitarist. Write more songs and bring in session players to come up with lead parts.

If you love music production but could care less about lyricism, don’t waste your time trying to become a singer-songwriter. Max out your production talent and work with talented writers.

This principle, of course, goes for music marketing, too. Don’t feel forced to market yourself in a way that doesn’t fit. Don’t be pressured to be on a platform you can’t stand. All you need is one way to reach more ears. You don’t have to do everything.

I’m talking to you – yes, you, the one squinting at this screen and growing tired of me singling you out – but I’m talking to myself, too.

Do what you like. Do it well.

I’ll see you next week, but not on TikTok.

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