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3 Lessons I Learned About the Music Business From Sports

3 Lessons I Learned About the Music Business From Sports
Written by Robin Yukiko - August 25th 2012

Before I begin, I’d like to preface this by saying that I am not athletic. I was the last to be picked in kickball and the only afterschool activity I did was chamber choir. That being said, there are a lot of things to be learned from sports that yield immediate results.

Activity: Volleyball.
Lesson: Go for it.

My coach in my Volleyball 101 made a good point. If the ball comes at you, hit it. If it’s far away, run to it and hit it. If you think you won’t make it because it’s too far, run anyway because you MIGHT HIT IT. If you don’t run, guess what? You won’t hit it.

It only took a couple tries before I realized the truth of this. I started running for every ball that was even remotely near me and, ‘lo and behold, I hit some! Me, the non-athlete.

Soon, I discovered I could apply this to other areas in life, mainly music. Sometimes this manifests itself in just showing up. Cold-calling. Asking a question, like “Can I book my band here?” or “Do you mind if I put you on my mailing list?” Like my dad, a pro pianist, always says, “You never know what can happen when you show up for work,” and in this business, going to a club could be part of your job. So go for it!

Activity: Cycling.
Lesson: Choose your course, choose your speed.

While I was teaching in Japan near Tokyo, I was temporarily sent to a small town on Shikouku where I was given a bike to get to my classes. I went from taking the train twice a day to not going near a station for two months. Every day I rode by a koi pond that paralleled the sidewalk. I purposely built my route around it. On Sunday I rode to the next town over just to see what was there (the answer was nothing. What do I regret? Same answer). And I didn’t spend a lick of gas to satisfy my curiosity, only my own energy.

I realized that the amount of beauty I see in my life is up to me, as it how long I want to spend on it. On that bike, I’m in complete control of where I’m going. I rest when I need to, and, if I get lost, I find my way back.

I feel the same way about busking. How long I play is up to me, how intensely, how personal. Where do I put myself? Sell CDs, have an email signup list. Or just use it as practice time.

So, choose a destination or just enjoy the ride.

Activity: Walking.
Lesson: Don’t wait for a bus that won’t come.

Have you ever been waiting for a bus for too long only to discover it was cancelled? Just start walking.

I have let so many projects stall out because I was waiting for someone who kept flaking out. Let’s be honest--we usually know who they are before they disappoint us. And even more brutal honesty--it’s most people.

The lesson I truly learned by walking is that, in the music industry, you have to keep moving. Even slow progress is better than sitting still. As long as you’re headed in the right direction, building resilience, you’re doing something right. Keep playing, keep writing, keep networking.

Keep walking.

Bonus tip: If you see a bus along the way, flag that sucker down!

P.S. Walking is totally a sport.

Robin Yukiko is a Berklee College of Music grad, singer-songwriter, pianist, and music educator in San Francisco. She hosts the SF Singer-Songwriters’ Workshop at the Musicians Union Local 6. Learn more at


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