"You have to learn to fail efficiently - because you're going to fail" – Devin Townsend's shares his real world advice for musicians

(Image credit: Future)

Devin Townsend has weathered more musical industry storms than most, constantly finding creative ways to strengthen and grow a considerably loyal fanbase. So when Ultimate Guitar asked him what his advice to other artists would be to avoid industry pitfalls, his answer was clear and succinct.

"I'll say this until my dying day and I only have one piece of advice for musicians as they come up," replied Townsend. "You have to learn to fail efficiently - because you're going to fail.

"If you are so easily deterred from your vision that the opinions of others and their perceived failings of what you do is such that you can't continue, then it's good to get that out of the way really quickly and know you can't take it.

"It's not a macho thing either, it's just that for some people it's not healthy for them to pursue that. For me, I'm sure there is a callous that I have built up around it that makes it marginally easier.

"Learn how to get over it and move on"

"But if you can get back up after failing publicly - if the humiliation of the perceived public failure is such that you're afraid of it, you're not going to be able to proceed, you're just not.

"So learn how to get over it and move on. Forgiving yourself is a huge part of that. Even going back to my time with Steve [Vai], as much as it would be easy to say, I regret this or that... I don't regret it.

"I just had to recognise its function in my work and in my life and get over. That's the biggest piece of advice I can give." 

(Image credit: Future)

"It's a hugely toxic environment"

But when it comes to how to get yourself out there as a musician, Townsend has one further piece of advice to offer with regards to uploading YouTube videos of your playing… 

"I can't imagine another way to do it right now. People just starting out will sometimes ask me what they can do to get into the music industry and my honest answer is that I don't know anymore.

"The way I got into it doesn't really exist anymore. That being said, YouTube is a platform, and to be critical of it, I mean you could have been critical of the way [the industry worked] when I was a kid too.

"I think you just have to use the technology that is available. Just be careful with reading the comments, that's the biggest thing.

"It's a hugely toxic environment and it has become a game for a lot of people to see if they can get under your skin. So don't allow that to take hold... but that's difficult."

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.