Music is not about playing the correct notes. It is not about being rewarded for being a good musician. It is not about being better than others, having the teacher, conductor, or producer stroke your ego by telling you you are better than others.
Music is not about being cool. In his post, “Are jealousy and Sour Grapes Killing Your Music Career” at the CD Baby DIY Musicians blog, Chris R. posits that there is no such thing as cool. I have to agree with him on that–taste varies so much, it really is hard to see how the goal of music is to get you into the cool crowd.
Music is not about putting in a little bit of work in order to become the center of attention at gigs. It isn’t about having a bunch of people tell you how pleased they are. It isn’t about having everyone listen to you, where usually you spend your life stuck listening to what others have to say without getting your say in.
What is music about? It is about playing, that’s all. Like little kids playing a game simply for the fun of it. There’s a saying that baseball legend Willie Stargell used to say, and it is probably older than him, “They don’t call it ‘working’ baseball. They call it ‘playing’ baseball.” Baseball players are playing a game, no matter how much money and how many TV cameras are involved. It’s still the same game that little kids play in their back yards.
And music is still just music. It’s little kids banging on pots and skillets. It’s five little kids honking on little harmonicas all in different keys, making noise and having a laugh. Read about Mozart’s life, and you will learn that he had dirty jokes and an impish side to his personality, though he wrote such elegant, transcendent music.
After all the workshops on how to market yourself, how to record your demos, how to book your regional tour, how to promote your gigs, how to sell CDs once you’re at the gig, and how to follow up with your fans after the gig–after all the self-management and self-promotion and self-franchising, it’s just music. You’re still a little kid banging on a toy piano, just for the fun of it. That’s the only way your music will mean anything to you and your fans.
Stephen Nachmanovitch’s book , Free Play, is an inspiring read for musicians and other artistic people who need to foster their improvising impish side. He writes about losing yourself in the music and regaining a child’s playfulness. Give this book a look if you feel that your artistic side has become too serious or too depressing for you. You will fine it a big help in getting back to the simple playfulness of your creative pursuits.