Self-indulged and sick with it


“The self-indulgent man craves for all pleasant things… and is led by his appetite to choose these at the cost of everything else.”
― AristotleThe Nicomachean Ethics

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Photo Courtesy:  George Eastman house photostream

We are self-indulged.  And we’ve never truly known poverty or hunger or bitter cold.  Much as we’d like to deny it, there isn’t much we can’t have right at our fingertips at any given point and with the right amount of money.  And if we are forced to “wait,” we become quite impatient and angered at the situation.  Believing we are self-made men and women, we have slowly drifted into a mindset that we really have no need for God.  Why depend on someone when we believe we can do it alone?  We are self-sufficient and have no desire for anyone telling us what to do or how to live our lives. Sadly, this quote by Aristotle rings true in the world of musicians.  Therefore- a picture of a self-sick society…

Life was good there.  And in this prosperous society, there was a sect of people.  They were called musicians and they lived in their own separate world, believing no one understood them.  They were continually busy with distraction, every form of media on which to plug themselves and their talents.  Their pursuits and fever for fame flooded the bulk of their thinking, acting and discussion in the community.  While those in the worlds of ancient Greece and Rome worshipped physical idols, the musicians had no need for these.  The idols were rampant in their hearts- held up daily as they bowed mentally to them both day and night.  They could have been faulted had it been completely their doing.  Rather, they were products of their society to some extent.  They were put on stages, high above the crowds.  Looking down on others always helped one to feel loftier than the others below.  The observers would scream and chant praises.  Others would grab at their legs, longing for one touch.  And still others would emulate their style and strive to meet them backstage. 

It was innately human, though.  Like all beings, they had a need for association and to become a part of something bigger than themselves.  In the music industry, they had found something to fill the void.  God had made them with this need for acceptance and to connect with something grander in scale.  But this desperate need for association had become misdirected somewhere and was funneled toward a people, performance and things.  The musicians were sadly warped in their thinking.  They knew that the world did not revolve around them, but somehow, they had been led to believe that it did by a self-sick society.

Moral to the story:

As musicians, we must work to not become saturated with ourselves.  What is continually in our thoughts?  That is what we are serving.  We often say daily that we are “pursuing” something.  Our truest pursuit should be toward the ultimate Creator and then whatever goals we work toward are merely just honing our skills and talents in this and that area.  It would take an immense pressure off of ourselves if we let go of the thoughts that we had to prove ourselves to the world, become well-liked by everyone (which is a total joke) and that success in music was only measured in terms of dollars or facebook fans.

No wonder musicians have such a warped view of themselves.  We commoners treat them as gods.  But what if we treated musicians and the actual process of making a living at music as less-dreamy and as something that required hard work just like an architect or a teacher or a dolphin trainer.   If we put jobs on respectable, even playing fields and believed that everyone should use their talents to better the world at large, we might not see the arts as being so lofty.  If we viewed it as a normal career path that one might pursue- and not some lottery, one-in-a-million chance to make you a big star- then society might begin to view musicians in a healthier light.  My feeling is that as musicians, our business models should begin to include more service and a change of heart toward fans and a respectful kindness toward all we come in contact with.  I’m not sure how start this change on a larger level, but I welcome ideas in the comment section below.  Feel free to leave comments and thoughts!

Enjoy your Tuesday!

~lme

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My musical journey thus far: Why I play music but try to separate myself from the music industry


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Photo Credit: New York Public Library photostream

They tell you good things take time.  I can see the beauty in waiting for the right time in my life.

I began writing songs at the close of my college career in my one-bedroom apartment in east Texas.  I still remember my first open mic, shaking hands and the honest statement before I sat down saying “I am not a professional.”  But I began to write and play and create in a way I never had before.  Shortly after college, I moved to Austin, the live music capitol of the world.  At 23, I wanted a music career.  And at 24 and 25 and 26 and so on.  I wanted to find the person who would help me launch my career.  I wanted to go, move, meet everyone I could.  Someone once told me “I had the fever.”  It was funny, but it was true.  I observed an industry guy at South by Southwest one year with my business card, wanting to drop it into his briefcase at his side, hoping it would be discovered and appreciated later.  But I now wonder whether my fever rested in the actual love of music or the pursuit of fame and fortune.  I confess at times, I really became stary-eyed for the hopes and dreams and pursuit of being something wonderful to the world.  In those early twenties, I had an innate desire to prove myself to a world that I believed did not understand me, family included.

Since that time, I have grown to realize some things about myself and the industry as a whole that have shaped me.  I’m not totally jaded and walking away, but that’s probably because I haven’t gone deep into the recesses of the music industry abyss.  I always thought dancing on the sidelines would hold me back.  And in a way it did.  I was never willing to sacrifice my faith, my dignity, my conviction or my vision for what others were willing to sell it for.  I respected myself, my conviction and my art.  And I wanted my music to sell itself.  And I knew that those who sacrifice more and faster would get farther down that career road faster than myself.  But I still refused to follow the path of least resistance.

Throughout my stint in Austin, I began to meet various musicians, booking managers and mentors in the field.   Flaky musicians, waiting for producers who never showed at coffeeshops and disappointing recording experiences were all the continual existence of my world.  The music industry and its people began to manifest themselves as saturated with addiction and selfishness.  I saw people who had fallen into difficult times.  I also saw good families falling at the feet of the music god while neglecting the spiritual welfare of their children.  My heart hurt when I lost friends or felt rejected.  Most importantly, God began to open my eyes to an existence that began to look empty and fruitless.  But in my heart, I felt pulled by a passion that I could not deny.  I knew I had this gift of writing songs, connecting to people and inspiring others on a daily basis.  I will always remember my continued grappling with my talents while questioning who I was supposed to be in God’s kingdom.  I also remember struggling with why others were living my dreams and the near tears I held back once when leaving a show for wanting it so badly.  In my heart, I longed to be doing what I loved and what I knew I was good at.

Somewhere around 26 or 27, I arrived at a monumental conclusion.  If I was ever to make a career of this music thing, I would not be able to follow the same path the others had followed.  I didn’t feel comfortable playing in certain atmospheres, so I was picky about where my performances occurred.  I was highly selective about band members, because I knew that people you spend copious amounts of time with will undoubtedly affect and change you.  I never wanted a manager who didn’t understand my vision and direction.  I also began to realize that trying to get recognized by a record label might not be my best course of action unless it was an an ideal label that respected its artists.  Rather, I decided to become an independent artist.  I would self-produce an EP and create my own “cabinet” or network of trusted designers, printers, booking people, photographers, artists and videographers.  I would be able to control what I created and the image I would ultimately project into the world.  This would force me to become creative in both revenue generation as well as promotion.  I realized after a conversation with a band manager that I would be viewed as either a pioneer or a purist who was holding onto the way she believed about certain things.  Though challenges were undeniable, I still felt compelled to try.  I had grit, and I knew with some hard work, something could be achieved.

I have often felt that even if I did fail at this, I would still be happier than never having tried.  With a father who started his own business and a grandfather who was a gifted salesman, I felt like it was in my blood to pursue an entrepreneurial path.  Now thinking about business plans for my music, I am challenging myself to see things as truly beneficial or not.  I have both 3-5 year goals as well as short-term goals.  My current goal is to complete my first EP by the end of August and have it mixed, mastered, packaged and ready for all of you by mid-September.  I am blessed to have Michael Estok and Vibe Dial Studios for this.  After the release of the EP, my next goal is to play 4-6 shows in various cities in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia to begin this train down the track.  All aboard.

I want to create something meaningful and relatable.  I believe in my vision of a career of writing, playing and singing music while involving great people along the way.  But I guess the larger theme of what I’d like to do is to change the musician stereotype of self-centeredness.  Throughout my endeavors, I want to incorporate the aspect of service into my character and my business model.  By spreading revenue to positive organizations as well as helping with benefit shows and selecting service venues to play, I believe this will help keep me grounded and give back to communities small and large.  I believe in the need for more musicians to perpetuate a healthy perspective by viewing our gifts as something we’ve been given.   And they are gifts we are forever indebted to share with the world for good.  May we never forget that God bestowed us with gifts to enjoy for ourselves and for others.

So now, here I am at 28.  Five years after I began writing my first songs.  I hope at this point, I have a better head on my shoulders than once was there and a little more savvy in the way things work.  I know I have much to learn and will always be learning.  But here’s to future goals, projects and endeavors.  Let’s all work to have the best attitude and be both thankful and effective with the gifts we’ve been given J

Not Fans but Friends


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Photo Credit:  Library of Congress photostream

So, they tell you if you can procure 1000 true blue fans as a musician that you will be able to make a little living for yourself.  Perhaps it would help to not focus on fans (people who adore you or your music) but rather try to meet and develop real relationships with people who believe in more of a mission than just a face or sound.  There are concepts larger than ourselves and maybe it’s time we focused on that instead of ourselves as musicians.  I haven’t obtained this selfless sense as a musician, but it would be a good goal to stay grounded as we grow as artists.  Though, I’m not exactly sure what my fans turned friends would look like, I do know some characteristics I imagine they would possess and characters they would be.

  1. Genuine-ness- whatever they do, they do it heartily and sincerely.  They try their best to live every day with some purpose and include others in the process.  They don’t pretend to be something they are not and they don’t speak loftily to make themselves sound like more of a big deal than they are.  They accept who they are, what they do and are accepting of their strengths, flaws and those who have helped them get to where they are.  They appreciate art, music, and action of any kind with substance and meaning.
  2. Givers- they believe in the art of contribution, giving back and even in small ways making the world a better place each day.  They know change isn’t easy and sometimes it takes more than one to get something off the ground.
  3. Dreamers- those who are a little different, who people deem as strange or too idealistic.  They know that ultimately others’ opinions are merely just opinions and letting themselves be swayed by them is often unprofitable.
  4. Believers- they believe in things beyond themselves and Someone higher than they.  A spiritual nature is something that is manifest in their everyday life as well as something that touches everything they do, say and think.
  5. Innovators- those who are pioneers and believe in things that have not yet been created.  They ask why not more often than not.  They live in a realm of hopefulness rather than pessimism.

All of that being said, I should like to announce that I am currently in the studio working on my first EP.  My goal for the end of 2013 and all of 2014 is to begin sharing music, stories and a vision larger than myself with others through shows, service and relationships.  I have some great people who are eager to help, so if you’d like to hear the EP once it is out and possibly book a house show, please feel free to drop me a line in the contact form below.

And if you feel like hearing some demos as a pre-cursor to the EP, feel free to visit www.facebook.com/leahemusic

Thanks for being supportive and keep living creatively and thankfully! ~lme