Sunday, March 2, 2014

Intact

To be a successful musician, you MUST put yourself and your music in front of an audience that doesn't know or care about you. That's “The Test.”

If you walk away from that experience thinking “My music isn't good enough” you got it wrong. Because you have no idea if you're music is good enough.

“The Test” is that you remain intact as a person. That you can walk off the stage and still smile. And mean it. That's a “star.”

It's really that simple – if a tepid audience doesn't undermine you, if you can still shake hands, get an email address and CLOSE a new fan, you're unstoppable. They'll be drawn to you.

Conversely, if you're reaction was “I'm not good enough” then you've set some thresholds for yourself that are unreasonably high, and for reasons that you really need to come to terms with. Hint: they have entirely to do with your ego.

I empathize: on the surface, the culture at large has presented us with really one option: massive stardom or abject failure. There's no real middle ground – everyone with an instrument is “trying” to get to the same place, and so many believe they're destined.

So let me illuminate a horrible reality, however unpalatable: unless you're a millionaire, or married (in some way) to one, you can't get “in” the big star machine in the first place. It costs roughly one to five million upfront to get you into that game. Think about it this way: that's a million bucks a year for five years – and that just gets you barely on the radar.

That pile of money is, in many cases, totally invisible to you because it's happening around you – it's a summary of the personal favors, donations, gifts, slim profits, hidden costs, freebies, re-purposing, tax rebates, the list goes on and on – and to be “successful” in that context, you must have ALL of these things and lack NONE of them.

Those odds are worse than your state lottery.

Assuming everything I've written up to this point is true, allow me to suggest an alternative framework. Your choice(s) are not economic (riches vs. poverty) or demographic (cultural relevance), but instead simply to be happy or unhappy.

You can (and should, IMHO) choose to enjoy your life, in whatever small ways you can. It's this internal happiness that you must connect to. Otherwise, you'll never “feel successful” and worse, you'll be unable to celebrate either your own or your peers success.

My prescription is to build a cadre of friends who are outside the music profession and not invested in your failure or success. Do things with these people that are not work-related: go to baseball games or car racing or skydiving or who knows what. But don't go to concerts or CD release parties, etc. You'll just start working when you should be resting.

Last, lower your goddamn standards already, Princess. If you allow yourself to be defined by the Matrix's parameters (and good God are they ever seductive) I guarantee you'll find yourself in servitude of that idea, with all the attendant demonic inertia and related increase in a risk of going off the tracks.

And that accident?

You won't emerge intact.

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