James Holmquist writes:
Subject: Time spent outside the music business.
I was just reading about Kris Kristofferson. His story is incredible. He was in the army, he was a helicopter pilot, he worked odd jobs and eventually became a successful songwriter, performer, poet and actor. You say that it should be the goal of musicians, song-writers, and performers to be able to survive without having to work a day job. However, I was wondering if you would say a few words in your blog about how experiences working outside the music business as a young adult can shape one's creativity and make one more successful as a musician, song-writer or performer in the long run.
p.s. Any words of encouragement would be particularly helpful to me. I'm working on a PhD. in ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA but I take time out for creative projects. I'm still trying to fine tune my writing, performing and recording abilities and reach people here in L.A. and over the Internet who would enjoy the music I make.
Careers are like fingerprints, from a distance they all look the same. Up close, each is different. Most successful musicians work many years to develop a viable act and acquire performing skills. There is a story attached to each success and every failure. Few biographies provide the romantic details Kris Kristofferson experienced as a cross over artist in entertainment. He is certainly among the one percent of stars who make ninety percent of the money. Kris is one of our greatest song writers. His earthy descriptions of real life situations imply actual life experience in the real world. Without all those adventures he would not have such a wise and observant voice.
Everything you think, guides what you do. Everything you do shapes who you are. All actions in pursuit of your goals provide experiences of success and failure. It is important to remember the feelings of both winning and losing. We learn from our victories and we learn even more when our plans are not realized. Our minds cannot tell the difference between an actual experience and a vividly imagined one. Duplicate the processes that bring your goals to fruition. Avoid the circumstances that contribute to failure. Imagine yourself winning.
The music business is about songs. Songs are stories that describe life. Creative song writers describe the comedy and tragedy of the human experience. Only the most obsessed artists will rise above the competition. Ten percent will make a living, ninety percent will quit and return to the real world. Most artists write about their lives and endure day jobs along the way.
The first step out of the garage and into professional showbiz is to perform your songs in front of a live audience. This is not walking naked in the woods singing with the birds. An artist performing songs, accompanying himself on an instrument, is putting on a show. That is the art. Drawing customers to the show is the primary activity of the commerce of music. That is the business.
Musical careers usually begin with solo artists. Draw power dictates the rate of growth for "the band" that haunts every musician's dreams. If you can draw a crowd to the show you can share in the gate. Music making and marketing is conducted on the Internet. It is the most congested and competitive environment on the world wide web.
When you put your hat in the ring, and on the ground for tips, you are declaring your professional status. What starts in the streets has a mighty mountain to climb if it is to achieve solvency. Recording and solo performing are low cost activities and musician's love to share their "gift." The night club scene is the competitive edge. If you can't make it there, you can't rise above it. A great live act is imperative. A creative booking mechanism is mandatory. And, its NOT a part time job.