I woke up thinking about the music business today, not that I haven’t been for the entirety of my adult life. I bite my tongue most days. No one wants to hear the whining of a lowly musician who chose her own fate and should shut her trap and deal with it. But I find interesting the contrasting ideas about music that most people have. Art VS Money is a good one. You should just shut up and understand that you are lucky to do what you do.
The only thing I can offer is my own experience.
Artist. If you are going to do what you love, don’t expect to be applauded. In fact, expect to be reprimanded and/or shunned by the music industry. This goes all the way down to the venue owners in small clubs that don’t even register as a blip on the map. (You don’t play with a full band? What’s this one-woman-band shit?) Doing what you love as a job is already a sin to the majority of the United States population. If what you love is unique, eccentric, strange, new, different, then consider yourself a future resident of Hades.
In fact, you won’t even be able to enjoy a life of sin in public because unless you conform to suit the standards of the time, you’ll have to play for your cat and dog in a corner of your furniture-less room. I say these things as if they are universally permanent. It’s not true. I live a full public life of sin on stage.
What is universal and permanent is the struggle. I couldn’t possibly put into words all the factors that create success because everyone’s version is different. So if my version is to have sold-out shows and make a decent living playing music, then I’ve got my own swamps to wade through.
Persistence, they say. Keep going, they say.
What if you go forever and never get anywhere but a handful of decent songs with only a handful of listeners? Are you going to be okay with that? Answer me! Now!
I don’t know. It seems success and popularity go hand in hand.
A songwriter told me the other day that he loved music because it got him away from the popularity contest that is high school. Becoming a working songwriter, he now he finds himself back in it’s stiff competition. I agree that the music business is like high school, and I’m beginning to believe I haven’t progressed as quickly as I wished because I haven’t hob-nobbed enough.
Thus brings me back to artist. A text displayed on my phone the other day read: What you are doing has purpose. And it has originality. And truth. The world could do with a lot more of those three things.
I agree. And to offer those things you must have a love for the craft. But what if your love doesn’t include hob-nobbing and social media-ing and self-promoting… -ing? Then you are screwed so stay home and make it a hobby and get a job at HEB. Thus the world will have to do without purpose, originality, and truth.
I may be writing this because I’m just tired overall. Tired of life in general. Tired of the universal struggle. I won’t say that I don’t enjoy my life, but I find I need more and more caffeine to keep my furnace burning. When is it over? When do I stop and say, “Well that was a good try”? I hate to say it all has to do with money, but in a way it does. How else does such shitty music make people filthy rich?
Speaking of money, who in their right mind would allow themselves to live below the poverty level for 13 years? Me. I did it. I’ve sacrificed for my sins. I’m going to Hades. If that means doing only the things I love, I can’t wait.