I appreciate comments people have made regarding my recent posts on reconciling faith and the creative industries. So, on this note, I wanted to share the little tidbits of knowledge I have regarding the music business, the pursuit of making music your career and striving for the higher things in life. Something to consider is the term ROI- return on investment. What is it truly doing for you in business?
4 points to ponder in this world of music:
1. Open mics are good only if you don’t use them as an end goal. Should you be willing to try your stuff out on new audiences? Yes, of course. If you want to work on trying to hone your and calm your nerves in performance, can it be helpful. Yes! And it can also be great for meeting and gaining prospective contacts, booking people, band members and various talented people in the field with whom you should become acqainted. But here is where I begin to caution you. These “shows” should never be used as a landing pad. They should merely be launching pads to bigger and better things.
It would behoove a musician who “eagerly desires to make music a career path” to not play open mics 3 nights a week (even once a week might be a little too much, do you really write that much “new” material every week to test on new audiences?). My dad taught me an invaluable lesson this past week. If you want people to see what you do as having value, then you should be willing to put a price on it. I agree. I want people to take art seriously. For that to occur, I MUST TAKE ART SERIOUSLY, showing that it is a valid and necessary career choice. And here’s a side tip, maybe we should start telling people “Oh my real job is blah blah blah and I play music on the side.” Do you want to eventually make music your “real job?” Then treat it with a little respect.
I recently helped an artist friend get paid for her work designing for a band in town. Why? Because I believe very strongly that artists are not just some creative children roaming the streets. They are people who work desperately hard at what they do and deserve to be treated with respect (if they are fueling the same respect toward others in their industry and communities of course).
2. Work toward finding creative ways to generate revenue. I won’t go into a dissertation on how the music industry is a-changin’, and how record labels are going out of business. We know this, but what are we going to DO with this knowledge? Clearly you won’t pay your rent or even pay for upkeep on your instruments if you play 3 nights a week for free, waiting for your “big break!” Isn’t it ridiculous that we musicians have been taught to think this way. I myself have thought if I could only meet the right person or get Jack White to notice my music (which will happen because I have a brilliant plan to hatch) or whatnot, then I’d be set. Something quick and easy is all part of the American Dream baby. If it’s hard or requires days of creative brainstorming and years of having your nose, mind, blood, sweat and tears to the grindstone, we tend to walk away. Without sheer determination and innovation, though, we’d be sitting in dark homes without planes and trains and definitely with no blogs to read on laptops. I encourage you to take heart commit to never. giving. up. (Leah speaks to herself here).
3. Don’t spend copious amounts of time striving to please specific people in the music industry whether they wear the title of booking agent, venue owner, producer, or musicians who look at you blankly when you share your vision. If you have to dig a mole out of a hole and practically die in front of someone to attract their attention, maybe the return on that investment won’t be as great as you’d imagined. Let’s not forget the importance of growing an organic community of tribe. Do you sit at home and hope for a music career? No, but neither should you run yourself into the ground trying to prove to others and yourself that you belong in this creative realm.
Sit down, my friend. Look inside and realize that if you are truly what you profess, then nothing can diminish your role as an artist or whatever in both a small and larger community. Whether you sing to the trees in the forest or on a stage at Bonnaroo, you are still the same artist. Don’t let recognition become your destination. Rather, let it be something you accumulate in the form of blessings along your path.
4. Be confident in your music, branding and the story of your product. I truly am speaking to myself on this one. I listen to so much music that sometimes it’s hard to not compare myself to others. But I think that it is important to somewhat take a step back, say you can always improve on and hone your talents and then be confident that what you are creating is needed somewhere in the fabric of society. This isn’t easy, but by creating anything original, you’ll begin to develop your own voice in your corner of the market. People will then recognize that voice and eventually, people will come to want to hear that voice again and again.