Local musicians don't compete, even if it sometimes feels like it.
A few months back, I uncovered a car mirror visor CD case filled with mix CDs from high school. I popped one in my CD player that I labeled, "Pretty Good Mix - April 2010." This mix had everything from pop, to country, to rap, to EDM. I guess I liked variety. On the surface, these types of music have little in common with each other, except for me, the listener. I enjoyed all of them, and I didn't care that they were different genres.
Over the last few years of trying to build my music career, I've discovered a dangerous yet important part of being a musician, which I like to peg as Musician's Jealousy. This is what happens when other local talent seems to be getting more breaks than you, and it's "just not fair." Or, "she got to play that venue? Why won't they ask me?" "Why did they get to open for ____? I could've done that!" This is an elephant in the room for many musicians, and in my opinion it's not talked about enough. Musician's Jealousy is a trap, but other players in the game are 100% necessary.
I once had a conversation with a successful business founder. I expressed concerns about my career, and how there's so many musicians trying to do exactly what I'm trying to do. He told me, "That doesn't matter. No matter what profession you choose, there is always room for a good one." There will never be too many musicians, and most listeners don't want to experience just one artist. Variety is necessary; variety is good. Other players in the game that is the local scene are not your competition. Rather, they are peer mentors and people who challenge us to improve. If I see someone at a gig that I want, I push myself a little bit harder. I figure out what I can do to get there.
It's also important to have these local musicians as friends. meaning people you genuinely care about and respect. These are the people that you want to succeed. They won't block your way, because they're likely on a different path. If you're finding yourself asking, "What can I do for you?" instead of, "What can you do for me?", then you've probably got this figured out already.
Personally, I view my music as a business. I am (to reference Artist's Way) Lacey Guck, Inc. Sure, I love what I do, but there's a pile of work that goes on behind the scenes. Marketing, promoting shows, recording, designing merch, practicing, booking gigs, purchasing/selling gear, networking with like-minded people, distributing music digitally and physically...the list goes on and on. I'm sure this rings a bell with many other musicians. But the difference between musicians as a business and standard business-to-consumer businesses is that listeners rarely choose one or the other. If I go out to eat on a Friday night and I'm choosing between Vinyl Taco and JL Beers, one of those businesses won't get my sale. However, if a listener is on Spotify, he or she can skip between my song and every other local Fargo musician. For me, this concept in action has been me attempting to change my mindset. Rather than jealously thinking to myself "I should be playing here instead of him/her", I now try to think, "Good for them for getting this gig. I'd like to play here also." It's not this or that with music. In other words, the local scene is one big mix tape.
Jealousy can be a demon, or it can be a tough-loving enemy. Those who put in the work and view Musician's Jealousy as a means to improve are far more likely to succeed than those who let the jealousy eat away at them. Musician's Jealousy should never be used to put other artists down. Since we're all after a similar career, we might as well lift each other up and offer a hand where we can.