As musicians, I believe we all exist in varying levels of our own narcissistic paradise. We are, by nature, some of the most self-absorbed people on the planet,
Yes, we all care about making “music for the people,” but let’s face it looking out for “number one” is a high priority in order to get to the top of our cutthroat industry. Unfortunately, it is across the board, country, pop, and yes, even Gospel, all seem to deal with the same ego issues and the same characters pulling the strings.
Do we really need more cutthroat, solely business-minded egomaniacs in popular music? Or do we want more actual human beings, that actually care more about music and people more than fame and the amount of money they have in the bank ?
And anyone who wants to be romantically involved with us better buckle up, because our hearts have already been taken by our first love a long, long time ago. Music is our heart. Music is our life. And for some of the lucky few, it is also our livelihood. Anyone who sees an entertainer as a “catch” should be forewarned, just ask my wife. 🙂
The musician life is a little different than MTV makes it out to be. Uprooting yourself to live on a tour bus (or even in a car) for months on end, spill your innermost thoughts and emotions to crowds of strangers night after night, not see your loved ones for extended periods of time while on the show and press circuit, and sign your freedom away to a big corporation for the slim chance of hitting the big time.
And we’re all a little neurotic, because on some level, all of those things are what we dream of, aspire to, and live to experience. Yes, it’s true that we want our music to touch and help people, but because our conscience is clouded too heavily by ego and the unwavering desire to be great, we’re often blinded of one simple fact:
The world is full of talented people! No matter how much we practice, or how many times we’ve been told how awesome we are by our family and friends, the facts are the facts. There are a lot of very talented people out there! And unfortunately, talent in and of itself just isn’t enough. We all know tons of gifted artists who have never had their talents see the light of day commercially. The professional musician landscape just doesn’t make room for everyone who feels they deserve to be on the front lines. The sooner we can accept that we are one of many, the sooner we can get to the bottom of how we can, indeed, rise above.
Talent alone doesn’t pay the bills. The next time you think your amazing voice should be enough for you to get a one-way ticket to the land of fame and fortune, just remember that your landlord doesn’t accept rent payments in the form of epic musical riffs. The first thing you need to do is be honest with yourself about what you know and what you don’t know. Once you’ve accepted that you’re just not as good at, say, contract negotiations, as you are at rivaling Mariah in your whistle register, you’ve made the first major step toward taking your talent and career to the next level.
It’s imperative that you’re serious about your business if your business is music! Some of the most well-known artists in the world have gotten to where they are today with a stellar business team behind them and just enough talent to stay afloat. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
Trust me when I tell you that there is nothing more humbling than being surrounded by some of the most talented people in the world. There is one thing I learned very early in my career: It’s not the most talented artists who make it. It’s not the ones with the biggest dreams. And surprisingly enough, it’s not even the ones whose daddies have the biggest pockets. It’s the ones who put in the work!
Welcome to the new music industry. It’s arguably the most exciting time to be a creator right now. The old model has been crumbling before our eyes for the last decade, and there are infinite new avenues to get your music to the public. The internet and social media have undoubtedly created a new landscape for music sharing and discovery like never before. There is no excuse to not have your content readily accessible to fans (or soon-to-be fans). Remember, people can’t like you if they don’t know you exist. And if they don’t know you exist, they can’t be part of the paying fan market that allows you to continue to create quality content.
We all know well that this is an expensive industry. Recording time, photo shoots, videographers, session musicians, and entertainment lawyers do not come cheap! Know exactly what you want to negotiate, what you’re willing to give away, and what you’re prepared to walk away from. I believe success is determined by freedom, whatever that is to you. For some people, it’s financial. For others, it’s the chance to see the world. For me, it’s the ability to wake up every morning and be able to do something that I love,
It is always going to be a delicate balance, but I believe Art and real life can mix. It is always going to be a matter of putting first things first. Somehow by keeping our priorities in order, it all seems to work. Taming the ego seems to be the starting place – realizing we have all been given gifts, none higher none lower.