Being An Introvert In The Music Industry
by Scott Clarke
Scott Clarke is a 25-year-old producer/multi-instrumentalist based in London and Brighton. Having spent their life dealing with the challenges that come with being shy and introverted, they lay down their tips and tricks they’ve picked up along the way that may help those that are worried about shyness holding them back to compete in an industry where making a racket about yourself is not only encouraged but expected.
Something that has always caused confusion for my friends and family is a contradiction that I seem to embody as a musician and an artist. They will happily point out that I do not seem all that fazed with stepping up on stage to play guitar and sing my songs, whilst off stage and in everyday life sometimes my anxiety can be so overwhelming and debilitating that a simple task like a phone call or using staffed checkouts are impossible. This is a struggle that I have had to deal with for most of my life and what has further complicated this situation for me is a fear that I need to be more extroverted to have a chance whatsoever to succeed in this industry.
At the time of writing, I want to make it both as an artist and as a producer. I’ve been working on my original music for my entire adult life and had to work hard to succeed the at the second time attempt at university and nab me a BA in Music Production. Currently in my musical journey I’m trying to work out how to convert those successes into a fully realised career, a task that has me filled with more dread than any show in a dimly lit basement venue with a beer-drenched PA and ill-tempered sound technician.
Playing with deafpony at the Komedia in Brighton for a livestream event
I thought it might be useful to write out the tips and tricks I’ve come across when managing that part of myself and not letting it hold me back when it really matters. So below are four things to keep in mind:
1) Be honest with yourself
Start the process of embracing that part of you. The first step for me was to accept that being shy was intrinsic to who I am, and that’s okay. I had to realise that I wasn't going to change overnight,
but this was something I can work on and work around over time, developing new strategies and coping mechanisms to try and make manoeuvring my ambitions into place less hassle and anxiety-inducing. Once you’ve accepted that part of you, then it becomes so much easier to identify the areas that you want to work on. Which leads me swiftly onto my next point:
2) Work out exactly what it is that makes you uncomfortable
For example, is it a struggle meeting new people? Or do you find it uncomfortable talking about yourself? Identifying exactly how your lack of confidence manifests itself is going to be super useful in tackling it head on. And there are almost certainly workarounds that you can use to get you started; maybe you are okay with talking to camera and could create a video portfolio on YouTube that you can share with people instead. You might be able to turn being an introvert into an advantage, so you need to work out exactly what it is that you find it difficult to do.
I find that the second step needs a sprinkling of tough love. I had to suck it up, embrace pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone and work through the resulting fear. Make sure to hold onto the success and learn from the failures. Whilst I will go on to detail further steps in the process, I constantly find myself floating around and circling back to step 2: remember, you don’t change overnight so we’re in it for the long haul at this point. Your ‘comfort zone’ is considered comfortable for a reason. I attended a masterclass recently where I sat at the back of the room and didn’t really engage with what was going on, so next time I find myself in that situation I need to push myself out of my comfort zone. I won’t beat myself up about it, it's important to keep that in mind for next time.
3) Use social media to your advantage
Social media is arguably one of the most powerful tools at your disposal when it comes to networking and interaction. You don’t need to be present at every industry event to make an impression. Whilst I’m not advocating never utilising professional spaces for networking, so much of the hard work can be achieved through savvy social media use. Creating an online presence has never been more accessible, and it's easier than ever before to create a buzz with the content you want to make.
Content creation is also a fantastic way of generating opportunities for collaboration, and that’s as easy as making TikTok's in your bedroom. Putting yourself out there on YouTube, Instagram or TikTok lets everyone know what you’re interested in and what you can do, and content creators are always looking for people to collaborate with. Opportunities I’ve gotten recently have directly resulted from someone discovering my content online, for example being approached to do a livestream by someone that discovered my band through Instagram reels.
4) Take your time and don’t give up
I touched on this briefly already, but I’ll happily reiterate this again: this will likely be an aspect of yourself that will need to be worked on and nurtured for a long time and you may not see the results immediately. But it’s important not to give up. You need take control of your intentions and put yourself into a proactive mindset. That will help you to take advantage of the confidence you’ve built up for yourself in the meantime and make it easier to grab opportunities as they come your way.
Rocking out during a music video shoot, an opportunity that required collaboration and networking to get going
Take some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. There are plenty of examples of successful musicians who struggle with social anxiety and can either overcome (or at least mitigate) those feelings on their road to success. There are times where you’re going to have to be uncomfortable, but is that so bad? I find it helpful to ask myself “what's the worst that can happen?” then work backwards from the answer I initially land on. Almost every time the level of discomfort I was anticipating was nowhere near to what I ended up experiencing, and it’s important to keep that in mind and carry that through to the next situation that triggers the sweaty palms and rapid breathing (you know, talking to people and such).
This is by no means a comprehensive list of everything you can do, but this is what I found has worked for me. Ultimately, embrace who you are, be true to yourself and you should be able to approach being shy and introverted in an industry full of characters with a strategy that works for you. I’m still working on it now, often referring to earlier steps in the process so I can continue making some progress and it certainly brings me comfort knowing I’m not the only one who struggles with this. So, I hope this advice finds you well and that the intimidating networking events (and indeed those that run them) are quaking in their boots at the prospect of dealing with your presence. Or at least you make some bangin’ TikTok collabs.