Room at the Middle
If your experience was anything like mine growing up, when someone told you they were a full-time musician, I thought they meant one of the below:
- A musician in a symphony or jazz band (so they actually were serious and worked)
- A rock star that was either already famous or well on their way
- A blowhard that lived on his best friend’s couch and said, “Dude – I’m totally good for the rent, just give me another month”
The option that never occurred to me was that someone could be a full-time “popular music” musician, and be making a decent living just doing that. We’ve all been conditioned to think (because of American Idol, The Voice, America’s Got Talent, or my personal favorite when you combine them – “America’s Got an Idol Voice”) that unless you win the proverbial lottery in the music industry, you will never really be able to be a full-time musician.
The fact of the matter is, these shows are all that is left of the traditional music industry model of the “we’re going to make you a star” ideal. Bands/DJ’s/artists that are out in the world actually creating and performing music on their own have greater resources to find and play to their fans than ever before. I would argue that this is one of the greatest things to happen to music in decades because we will continually see a rise in the number of musicians that create music because they love music and the art form because they can actually make an honest (even if it’s not a luxurious one) living by doing it. We’ll also see a decline in the number of people who want to be involved in music just so they can “make it big,” because the chances at stardom are more slim due to the market being so segmented and diversified now.
All of this is not to say that the best artists still won’t rise to the top. Revolutionary artists will continue to shift the paradigm and reflect culture as often as they might influence it. The revolutionaries just might be in a day and age where the distractions of fame and wealth won’t be the factors that they were before…and for that, I can happily say that I welcome it.
I’ll see you all somewhere in the middle.
The image of a 37 year old man waking up on his parent’s couch in the basement and shuffling to the kitchen at 2pm to have a bowl of cereal before he “starts” his day is a stereotypical view many have of musicians and other creative types…are they justified in thinking so?
There are always exceptions to every rule, however, I would argue that even the most hard-working creative type can err towards the ease of saying, “I’ll just finish that project later” - the statement that usually leaves painters with canvas upon canvas of unfinished paintings, authors with novels and short stories that trail off before resolve is found for their characters, and songwriters with dozens of songs that have a first verse and a chorus, but the elusive second verse is lost in a sea of Word documents and eraser shreds.
Is that to say that all artists are lazy? No. Is that to say that we all can’t benefit from some discipline in our craft and the practice of our art form? Almost certainly, we can.
Inspiration is very difficult to generate – some might even say impossible. However, we can train our brains to be more prepared to expedite the creative process when inspiration rears its mysterious face. This can involve anything from training your mechanical skills (practicing your scales with your instrument, bettering your brushstrokes, etc.) to developing the process by which you get into your creative mode.
I’ve begun (at the advice of a book entitled Writing Better Lyrics) writing for a designated period of time each day – that’s something that I haven’t done for years. The purpose of doing that is to train the creative side of my mind to more easily get into the “creative zone” and for the flow of the writing process to go more smoothly and more expeditiously. I love exercises like this. No matter how far along we are in whatever we do, there is always room for growth. The illustration of athletes in training is perfect to draw an analogy to this – the creative “muscles” can certainly go into a state of metaphoric atrophy if they lie dormant for too long. Keeping them in training and practice makes them much sharper and able to be called upon much more quickly when inspiration strikes.
So, as any personal trainer, tutor, music teacher, creative writing professor, or brew master would tell you – just keep doing it, it’ll get better.
Stay creative my friends,
I Am Entertainment magazine reviewed my EP, New Eyes, and gave it 4 out of 4 stars...swish! Read the review here:
Thank you to Mr. Ben Gibbard for capturing in nuance how so many feel when a new year unfolds. 2012 is here, and unless you’ve already moved your stockpile of canned goods and CB radios into your basement to prepare for Dec. 21st, you’re probably excited/uncertain/curious about what this year will bring.
Musically speaking, it feels like a time of transition for the channels we all use to discover and listen to music. Itunes posted record revenues in 2011, but the app store accounted for a greater share than music sales did, and predictions show that music sale growth will be flat for 2012 onto 2013. Services like Spotify are definitely increasing in membership, but with a user base of about 1.6 million people, it currently is reaching a fraction of what Pandora’s listener base is on a monthly basis, and conventional radio is continuing to see a steady decline in listenership...that’s the business/delivery side.
The creative side is seeing more people having the capability to create some fantastic music, both in artistic integrity and sonic superiority. This era has never seen its equal as far as ease, affordability, and access to almost any tool or instrument imaginable in order to make music. Truly, it’s an exciting time.
What does that mean?
Both of these elements support my theory that, unless 2012 brings a format or channel that completely redefines the way we hear music, I believe the era of seeing “Megabands” surface is over. That’s a double-edged sword – on one hand, it’s great because we will start to see (and are already seeing) bands who continue to write and perform music with less of an emphasis on getting paid, and more for the sheer enjoyment and art of it. On the other hand, bands in which labels have invested time, money, development and all sorts of resources are becoming a thing of the past, so we aren’t seeing the same kind of talent development take place on the label level, or for that matter, at any level.
Where do we go from here?
I think we are going to see a further increase in artists and musicians that are creating for the sheer sake of creating – not that anyone will turn down money given the opportunity to make it necessarily, but the dollar factor will continue to decline as a motivator because it might have to. I’m looking forward to 2012 as a year where I will release my record, History, (which, I will provide more information on in the coming weeks), and I am focusing on writing and co-writing more this year than I ever have before. I’m also working on new ways to make concerts better for everyone going, and I’ll roll out those ideas as the year progresses.
Thank you incredibly to everyone who supports music, who is a fan, and who continues to listen – we’re here, making music, and will continue to no matter what the economy or the industry looks like. Here’s to a great year in front of us.