Music, business (part 1)

As many of my devoted fans know, I’ve been blessed throughout my life with a lot of very talented friends, some of whom have gone on to varying degrees of success. I’m happy for them and proud of them all, but of course this can also bring up occasional flourishes of envy or of nagging self-doubt—especially when some of these successful friends give me pep talk/lectures.

“It’s the music business,” says one.

“The business side of things is just as important as the creative side—you should think of them as the same,” says another.

“Think of it as a marketing installation,” says yet another. (I admit that this perspective on the situation spoke to me a bit more).

Are these things true? Why didn’t anyone tell me earlier? And would I have even listened?

A few years back I was reading an article by Exclaim’s music business journalist Allison Outhit. Some guy she interviewed gave a quote along the lines of “If you’ve been working hard for 10 years and you’re still not successful, maybe you suck.”

The quote stayed with me, bringing along with it a stark self-questioning: if I’m not successful, does that mean I haven’t worked hard enough? Or that I suck? (Allowing of course for the possibility of a third option, that this guy is a goddamn asshole).

In 2008, I quit my job, where for the first time in my life I had a respectable income and was settling into middle-class comfort. I felt I wasn’t putting enough time or effort into my creative work, and wanted to take a genuine crack at an artistic career, which I had never truly devoted myself to before.

Two years later I found myself, for the first time, questioning the value of carrying on this project in the face of profound non-reaction from labels, promoters, and the whole trend-obsessed music business machine in general.

It’s hard to write about this kind of thing for a few reasons. First of all, I’m very grateful for whatever small impact I’ve been able to make, and I’m also acutely aware that certain things I’ve accomplished (getting played on the radio, touring internationally, collaborating with famous people, etc) are things that some artists only dream of.

Secondly, I generally feel that it’s unbecoming for anyone to bitch and moan about not being more successful.

Finally, if certain people believe that I am successful for the reasons listed above, a pretty big part of me feels that I should let them have that illusion—it’s a win-win situation for us all.

That said, there are some things that I need to get off my chest and goddammit, what is the blogosphere for if not the shameless combination of self-pity and self-promotion?

To be continued.

One thought on “Music, business (part 1)”

  1. Man, I totally feel you. This is my 10th year at it (I’m 28). The good news is I didn’t die last year like so many other creatives, although I think it probably would have only helped my career.

    In regards to others successes you said “this can also bring up occasional flourishes of envy or of nagging self-doubt.”

    I can really relate to that. I see so many folks that I used to be miles ahead of, nip at my heels and then surpass me.

    I hate it because I want to be happy for them, but it’s hard to be happy for anyone when you’re not happy for yourself.

    I quite my job in 2006. I’ve had varying degrees of income and housing situations (including living in rehearsal spaces and cars).

    I’ve done pretty well in the spectrum of things but I’m not “there” yet. Wherever “there” is…

    I’m making music that people like, I’m seeing the world and I don’t have to spend all day at the office. I guess I do have it pretty good.

    I came here looking for a pep talk. I feel a little better knowing that I’m not alone in the struggle.

    Lets not give up.


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