Many of you who read this magazine are musicians. If not, you know a musician. If not that, you possibly have heard a musician before. If not that either, …why the hell are you reading this?
As several of you know I just had an album come out in October 2013. –SHAMELESS PLUG WARNING: “Wasting Time” by Six Minute Century on Nightmare Records. Stop reading this and go buy it. It’s O.K. I’ll wait for you to come back. Oh good you have returned now. Thanks.– Alright, we now return to the point.
I was trying to explain this modern clusterfuck of the music business to someone at work (yes, yes I have a day job. Being frothy has not been synonymous with being filthy rich…yet). They were extremely baffled as I explained the amount of money and time that went into creating it. They asked if I was going to make a lot of money. By their logic I should be rolling in cash. The band has a record deal and you can buy the disc at Best Buy, reviews are solid and when you follow that line of thinking to its conclusion you can only deduce that my limo, driven by strippers with the trunk full of cocaine, should arrive any day now. When I told them that the odds of us making the money we spent back let alone making a profit was slightly smaller than a snakes hind legs, they were flabbergasted.
I explained about the bazillion excuses why this is. You know , the usual suspects: Mutha humpin pirates, the internet, the times, those no-good-kids and their dog too, no radio airplay possibilities, niche market for prog metal, nobody gives a fuck about the bass player, the French, wah wah milk and fucking cookies. We will come back to this peanut gallery of bullshit later.
This only seemed to further their complete bewilderment as to why someone would sink that kind of cash into something that would, most likely, never yield a return on the investment. To help them understand the driving force I posed this query:
“How many times, in your entire life, have you thought about your great-great-great grandfather?”
A blank stare was the reply I received followed shortly thereafter by “Almost never.”
“In three generations that will be you. As if you never existed at all.”
And this is true for all of us, EXCEPT those that can somehow contribute to the culture. How do you do that? By creating a legacy that can outlive you. Write a book, act in a film, become a celebrated or feared person of political power, murder a whole buttload of people in a supermarket with an ice cream scoop…or…record an album. Yes that above list is exhaustive. Anything else you try will never work.
Just kidding. You can do anything as long as it impacts people, and particularly people that have never met you. It is in this way that you live forever.
Musicians, we live in amazing times. Yes, I know the dream died in the nineties and that we are not going to be mega rich superstars anymore. (If you are one of those hold outs that think you will, I wish
you the best, but you should probably get a clue. And please, please prove me wrong by pulling it off because then I will be able to believe in the fantasy again, and I would love to very much).
But look at what you got in return. Complete freedom.
If this was still a high dollar money making venture, no label at all would let you take risks. Everything you put out would be scrutinized and compartmentalized into the money making machine formula. It does not take long for things to sound stale and stagnant when innovation is crippled.
You can do anything right now. You want to make a Jews Harp opera featuring distorted mandolin that tells the story of Joseph Stalin’s homosexual adventures with a Hungry Hungry Hippo? Fucking go for it bro. Live the dream.
The point is that even though your creations may not be heard by millions of people, the fact that they are true art will mean that they will have a deep impact on a few that will cherish them and pass them down. The cult followings that you can create for yourself will be with you forever and will appreciate you for what you really create rather than the popcorn image of yourself forced upon the masses by the large machine.
This is of course taking for granted that you can create art and do not suck.
But then again, what sucks? Whose opinion is more valid than the other? I would venture a guess that if a single person that does not personally know you has their emotions manipulated for good or ill by your creation, that you have succeeded in making true art.
Stop making the mistake of placing the value of your music to be represented only by dollar signs. When something, no matter how much you love it, becomes your source of survival, the way you view it changes. It becomes work. You are more likely to “do a good job” when the rent payment is due. This will keep you from taking risks. This will, over time, destroy the soul of your art.
All those things that I listed before are not walls to keep you from being successful; they are your tickets to the deepest reaches of your imagination. The only limits are the ones you impose upon yourself.
The sky is the limit my friends. Find your immortality.