Sep 252011

Recently a friend and I were talking about how brilliant The Clash were. Those guys made music that was smart, tough, and constantly new. The Clash are an example of a band that held its artistic ground while fighting against a rigid music industry and a stifling society.

To me, it seems that rebellious artistic spirit is harder to find in today’s music. In many ways, the musicians finally won. The music industry is no longer overpowered by a few large record companies. Most of the money is still there with those companies, but today we see musicians making their careers work as independent artists. Being indy wasn’t as viable a generation ago.

Being indy means that the musician is her own tour manager, producer, public relations department, and stage designer. OK, not always. Many indies hire a great team to handle those business matters. In any case, being an independent artist means you aren’t fighting someone else for creative control. It means you’re not fighting someone to get more money. It means you are the one trying to make some money while putting together some good music.

When I read blogs and articles for songwriters and indy musicians, it seems that the most popular topics are promotion and marketing. How to use social media, how to bring the crowds to your gigs, how to woo them to your merch table once they’re at the gig. I guess a lot of people are more interested in having the baddest email list around rather than writing the baddest songs around. That trend is logical–musicians more than ever need to have skill and savvy to put together a tour or a radio promotion campaign. But sometimes reading article after article about business strategies and kick-starter campaigns leaves me longing for someone to write about the music itself.

I imagine a restaurant that has a great location and ad campaign, but the food is a mediocre afterthought. Then I imagine a restaurant that has fabulous food but is tucked away in a quiet spot that doesn’t get much notice. I’d rather be that uncelebrated chef with an unshakable vision and passion for his food and his customers. Hopefully there’s still room out there in music for the wonderful unknowns to have a little space for themselves.

Sep 052011

I like to think about and write about the creative process, but I often focus on my favorite parts of that. Creating space for inspiration and imagination, managing time, making plans, doing the hard work of evaluating and revising. One area where I am trying to study and observe a bit more is connecting with others as an artistic person.

A lot of artistic people feel shy in social situations. Painting, sculpture, writing, and practicing music are all inwardly focused experiences. Artistic people have much more personal stake in their creations than people at many other vocations and jobs. A cook in a diner takes pride in what she makes, but a chef in a fine restaurant even more so. A truck driver may take pride in his work, but he would probably not consider it a personal form of artistic expression. Artistic people can get really wrapped up in their own inner worlds, which contributes to shy and awkward interactions when meeting others and talking about their work.

I’ve recently read First Impressions by Ann Demarais and Valerie White. The book is a practical guide on how to make a solid first impression in professional and dating situations. The authors work from the premise that one must be socially generous in order to make those around them feel good. The authors recommend smiling, showing interest in others, and bringing an optimistic tone to the conversation.

For artistic people, this kind of book might help with art shows, gigs, book signings, negotiations, auditions. Even band rehearsals and interviews could benefit from a bit of social generosity. I am not the type to read breezy, step-by-step self-help books, and this one definitely feels like it falls into that category. I have put it down and picked it up a few times, just taking breaks. But there are some practical gems in here for most of us, once we realize that we may not give others the impression we think we do.

Aug 302011

Here’s a helpful little post at about career planning for musicians.

The article addresses people currently attending music school, but I think it applies to lots of others doing artistic work. Dream up a lot of career options for yourself so you can find the directions that fit you the best, not just the most common ones. Work on your image and relationships, because artistic work depends so much on a strong support system.

There’s more from this author in his book, The Musician’s Way. Check it out below at Amazon.