Mar 162018
 

I’m fascinated by the topic of drug use in the arts. You cannot separate the drugs from the art because without the drugs, in many cases, the art would not get done, or it wouldn’t be as “free from restraints”.

Booze, cocaine, speed, heroin as well as pharmaceuticals like Adderall and beta blockers, all are the fuel that drives the creative arts industry.

I’ve never done hard drugs myself. (Full disclosure: I’ve enjoyed some pot an a few occasions.) I’ve watched a number of friends use drugs to “get creative” but in the end it killed them and they were only, really, 1/10th as creative as they could have been because having a ton of great ideas and having a ton of finished works are not the same thing.

Many artist have said, both privately and publicly, that without their drug they “couldn’t do it”. That’s statistically true; most people are not creative and they’re full of anxieties. You give them some drugs and woah! they relax and the ideas come flooding in. I’ve always believed that there was a better way.

You have to also ask,”are drugs for artists like steroids for athletes?” I think that, yes, they are. Cheating really.

Cheating because, well, take speed or cocaine for example. Watch old footage of Tommy Shaw from Styx playing on that 12 string acoustic and just tossing it around while playing complex chord patterns. The drugs gave him “super-human” abilities. Abilities that are, really, a lie because without their magic powder those artist cannot perform the same way. You can see that in old videos too.

Look at guys like Jimmy Page. On drugs he was a god, now he can barely strum a chord. Others like Johnny Cash were fuelled by speed and whiskey, while being sold to the public as a wholesome country singer.

That’s why I believe that music made by drug users is false and leads to a shitty, selfish mindset in the public that says, “I don’t care if they fuck their lives up on drugs as long as ‘I’ get some good music to listen to!”. And that’s the very thing I have heard people say time and again, “…who cares about the drugs…the music is Great!”

A tragic downside to this is that it informs other up-and-coming musicians that they either must suffer from being not as good or fast or creative as the drug users or they should do drugs to compete; it’s the same quandary as athletes face vis-a-vis steroid use.

Having some music biz clown offer an artist cocaine is de rigure, that is to say, it’s pretty much a thing. A great line from, I think, (but could be wrong),  the movie about Judy Garland is, “I don’t care what’s wrong with you! Get those drugs into you and get the hell out there!” Regardless of what movie it’s from I have heard this said to musicians at real shows by real music industry people. No one should ever have to put up with that in their careers and we should not tolerate, let alone celebrate, drugs as a tool for art. Or worse, as a tool to enrich the music-management class.

We should not dismiss drug use in the arts just because we selfishly love the music. That concept is so lacking in human empathy and dignity that it reeks of a kind of black magic or voodoo, where spells are used to get others to do your bidding. No thinking, feeling person should accept it as the status quo.

When I hear music made by the drugs all I hear is the artist’s soul leaving their body through the doorway of the music. It’s a bargain with the devil. But more than that, when I hear someone doing something that they could not easily do without their magic substance putting a spell on them I know that it’s kinda fake. But it’s mostly just sad.

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Mar 152018
 

I see this argument a lot, “musicians put in a lot of effort making music and deserve to get paid for it. Music should not be free.”

The problem with this is that it refuses to see music as a business, but rather, it sees musicians as “entitled” to get paid. This is fundamentally wrong from a business perspective.

Music, like any other product that is offered to buyers in the marketplace, is also at the mercy of market forces. That is to say, it’s value is determined by those who have the money to buy it, and whether or not they choose to pay the price that is being suggested. If people are not willing to pay that price, then, it is said, “the bottom drops out of the market”. True with horse-draw carriages, true with music.

But unlike horse-draw carriages, dinning room suites, sticky buns etc, whose manufacturers do what they do specifically for the money they can earn, music makers are motivated by other reasons. I say this because music has Never been an “upwardly mobile” occupation. Other than the 1% who become actual “rock stars” musicians generally have never made that much money, compared to, say, a guy who’s a plumber, electrician, accountant or dentist. Those are Real Professions. They make Real Money. Music is, for the most part, not a real profession for the vast majority of people engaging in it as evinced by the constant whinging about there being no money. Not much of a professional career then, is it? More like wishful-thinking combined with tons of time, costs and effort leading to potentially fatal economic outcomes based on the Hope of success.

Hope is not a strategy.

Other professional careers generate money because they are essential services. Music is not an essential service, no matter what musicians egos tell them.

The biggest thing that musicians overlook is the lie they tell themselves about how important music is to society. It’s not important at all. According to Neilson/Soundscan greater than 80% of all people will NEVER purchase music. Ever. And only about half of those people will go to see a live performance. Ever. Many people will never attend more than 5 performances In There Lifetime. A solid 20% will never attend even one performance. Ever.

That’s just the reality of it. They listen to music on the radio in their cars or at work and that’s it. It’s just background noise. There’s a real, biological reason for this, but it’s too long and complex to get into here.

Music buyers have always been a niche market. That’s to be expected and predicted in what is called the Pareto Distribution. 80% of a thing is done by 20% of the people and it has a long tail that predicts that at the 50% of the participants mark the number of people who profit from their efforts will drop to zero. It’s just a true fact.

But musicians don’t want to believe that. They want to believe that “everyone loves music” and they then inject the flawed inference that “everyone who listens to music should be required to purchase music” and then it just goes down the slippery slope of bad logic to, “therefore all music should cost money or you shouldn’t get to hear it” (which I’ve read countless times in the music whing-o-sphere) and further down to the bottom of the barrel of fallacious thought that, “I’m a musician, therefore You Owe Me Money for my music”.

No one should get paid merely because they make music any more than any other maker of any other thing should get paid merely because they made something. It’s what you do with it in the marketplace that counts.

So, what to do to make money then?

Making money from youtube or any other internet display site? Nope. Won’t happen for the vast majority of participants. It’s a numbers game just like a “getting paid at the door” gig. You bring fans to, say, youtube, then you can get the Subscribers and hours of view required to meet the qualifications to get paid. Like a gig; no one comes, you don’t get paid.

People buying your CD? Nope. CDs are dead, unless you happen to have an existing fan-base of people, mostly older people statistically, who still listen to CDs.

So, digital downloads then? Probably not. Again, without the fan-base who the heck do you suppose will buy your stuff?

Okay, streaming! Right? Good luck with that. Like all things Internet, streaming, just like youtube or soundcloud or, well, the entire internet, really, is just advertising, promotion, PR. Traditionally, all other businesses pay BIG BUCKS for these things. But musicians somehow feel that they should be exempt from paying promotional cost associated with marketing their product. See the problem?

Musicians believe that they, and their music, are special and are entitled to, nay, Deserve! to get paid for their efforts. I always tell musicians who believe this to Sell Your Gear and get a real job because you clearly don’t understand how either music-as-a-commodity or business-in-general works and your delusions will only lead to a life of bitter envy, resentment and disappointment.

So, am I saying that musicians should not get paid ever for anything? No, of course not. Musicians should, and do, get paid all the time, though usually not much and never enough to recoup operating costs. My live guitar rig alone is worth around twenty grand. How many gigs do I have to do before I break even on that up-front cost and begin to turn a profit? Most musicians will tell you that the cost of hard-goods, tools and ancillary expenses of doing business are sunk costs and therefore a loss. This, of course, is a form of Gambler’s Fallacy where you count the winnings but don’t take into account the losses it took to get you there. Musicians, like gamblers, will pay a thousand dollars to get fifty bucks.

This is why even gigging is economically treacherous. Clubs and venues are only in it for the money: they are capitalists, not socialists. They have bills to pay and that can’t happen if they are paying musicians. Sports TV is much more cost effective.

If you want to gig you have to step up your game and play, what the AFofM traditionally designates as, Class-C or Class-B venues. Actual venues. You’ll need a real-world booking agency to accomplish this. You’re Wednesday night open-mic that hopefully leads to a Thursday night gig for a hundred bucks will only disappoint you and further stall your career. Sure they can be fun, but do them because you want to, not because you Have to.

All the money in the industry is made by people who are beating their brains out touring. Touring WHILE having a day job, I might add. My friend Troy worked at a music store during the day and toured Thursday through Sundays, and one solid week per month, while promoting their first TWO albums. BTW, they were well funded and signed to a real record label. Selling Fenders on Wednesday, playing to fifty thousand screaming fans in Brazil Saturday, selling Fenders again on Monday.

That’s the pure, economic reality of the music business.

And THAT is why I firmly believe that music should me made solely by people who love music so freekin’ much that they would make it anyway, regardless of whether they get paid or not. The rest of the poseurs, egotists and colicky wannabes should sell their gear and get out of the way. The marketplace doesn’t need to be more diluted with low-effort, low-talent offerings that diminishes the ability of real artists to display their work. This “talent” glut hurts us all, because it creates a buyers market, one where music is so ubiquitous and plentiful that it’s value drops to near-zero.

Just look at the 2017 Neilson/Soundscan stats. 96% of all the money in the biz is being made by less that 1% of the participants and, here’s the real kicker, of the 80 million, 80-frickin-million, songs on the internet, 79 million, 79-frickin-million of them have ZERO plays. That’s Zero as in “no one gives a fuck about your shitty music” Zero plays. Even your fucking Mom didn’t listen to it. Yet all of these hopefuls think that they “deserve” to get listened to and paid just for having shown up. Participation trophies all-around!

And THAT is why I, in my business model, give away my music for free.

Now, that’s not for everyone. But if I were a painter or sculptor, would I charge people to see my art? Don’t be daft. So why should I expect them to pay to hear my music? For record pressings and live shows, indeed!, no one should work for free, but to hear and enjoy the fruits of my creativity? I say, “Free the Music”.

Music is for the enlightenment and edification of all who enjoy it. It’s a cultural enhancement that beautifies the hearts and souls of those who hear it. Should people have to pay to be spiritually enlightened by music? Perhaps, if they feel they want to help support the efforts of the artist. But they are by no means obligated to. The world is made a better place by those who choose to ornament it with music regardless of it’s financial outcome.

This is what I do. This is what I believe. This is what I teach.

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Nov 012014
 

It’s been said that art is not a ‘thing’ it’s a way of life. Art is just the end result of that.

Some might ask at this juncture: “what way of life will lead to art?” but I think that this question is backwards and won’t lead to an artistic life. The real question, in my mind, is; “How can I enjoy the life I have so much that it produces art?”

But are there things, one might naturally ask, that are common to the lifestyle of other artists?

Well, yes and no. Living someone else’s life will not guarantee artistic results and may actually make you neurotic, as the quest no longer becomes the art but now becomes the emulation. What someone drinks, or doesn’t, how someone sleeps or doesn’t, foods, personal habits and routines are all just individual idiosyncrasies that we all have, the artist as well as the layman, and are not in and of themselves the kindling for the fire. However there are some things that most artists have in common, courage, a visionary imagination and more than anything, a desire for self-expression through creativity.

Creativity, if it’s to be an authentic representation of your innermost being, must be examined by separating it out into its constituent components. At its root is the word “create”. To be creative is to be creating. Previous to that there must necessarily be Imagination, something you can imagine that you can create and previous to that must first come Inspiration.

Inspiration – Imagination – Creativity.

You might see a lovely glass object in a store window and it touches something in you that sparks your imagination. Maybe it’s creating another, more evolved, glass object that you imagine or perhaps something in a different medium, even music. From that you feel the spark that the glass object triggered in your heart, in your mind, and you let that spark become what it will, become something more personal and connected your own, unique inner world.

This is the inspirational thing that sets the wheels is motion. From there you can take your inspiration in whatever direction you choose to achieve a strongly held imaginative object, an object that inspires you to take initiative in moving your inner life into the outer world in the form of a created thing be it a painting, a video or a song.

In the bigger picture I think there’s more to it than that, which goes even deeper.

Rosemond Harding in his book “An Anatomy of Inspiration” said, “Originality depends on new and striking combinations of ideas. It is obvious therefore that the more a man knows the greater scope he has for arriving at striking combinations. And not only the more he knows about his own subject but the more he knows beyond it of other subjects. It is a fact that has not yet been sufficiently stressed that those persons who have risen to eminence in arts, letters or sciences have frequently possessed considerable knowledge of subjects outside their own sphere of activity.”

I have always termed this stage, “Loading”; the more you know, do, experience, learn the more informed your mind is and the more intellectual art supplies you have at your disposal with which to generate and develop your inspirations into quality imagination-objects that drive your creative expression.

Another aspect of inspired imagination is the notion that when you decide you wish to create something the initial journey is one of discovery. A true artist is, by nature, a discoverer, an explorer, an adventurer that is cutting a new path or breaking a new trail into unknown territory in hopes to find an imaginative gem of great value. That value is often not monetary, but is always the seed, the soul of the artistic idea. It’s the reason why the artist is determined to create.

Part of this process involves a tenatious, methodical and analytical approach. An observation that always struck me was how others would treat their music in an “approximate” way, touching the subject of the song in a gentle, not-that-accurate way and how those others who lived the artistic life made music that was purposeful, verdant, thoughtful and, more importantly, reproducible for future enjoyment.

Having the tools to propel ideas in fruitful directions is essential. If you want to discover something new you must prepared for the adventure. Like trying to capture an elusive animal, you’re going to need a plan, and a cage.

This is the qualitative difference between the one-off meanderings that define the hobbyist and the adventurous yet deliberate improvisations into new musical discoveries of the artist-as-musician. When combined with the tools with which to capture and reproduce new musical discoveries the art of the musician takes on a whole new direction.

But to think like this, to do this as part of the artistic lifestyle means that one must, as the late, great William James put it, “choose purpose over profit.” This is the most difficult thing for any artist to do, but it’s the very thing that defines art and the artistic life more than any other quality.

When you place the need for artistic-expression over the need for money, that’s art. I’ve always said that it’s more important to write and record an album of music than it is to sell it, the noble drive to create things being more important than the banal drive to sell things. If you can accomplish both, kudos. But if you create and are satisfied with your work, that’s the heart and soul of the artist and the artistic life.

The reason I believe that this is true is that deep, unabashed self-expression is rare, valuable and life enhancing regardless of the financial outcome, whereas having sales as your stated end goal will, by the very nature of the marketplace, force you to either redefine your art as craft or to retool your art to conform to the fickle whims of the marketplace. Either way it stops being fully artistic self-expression and become the manufacture of mundane artifacts that in the marketplace must compete with low-wage craft from third-world counties and the voluminous kitsch clogging up the discount bin at Wallmart.

But it has a more sinister underlying quality: trying to please everyone, all the time. The true artistic lifestyle, as has been stated time and again by artists, authors and musicians, is one of doing what one believes in and not merely performing, like a trained monkey, for the generic passers-by of the world.

Art is not there to please people, it exists solely for the edification of the artist and those people who can relate to whatever statement the artist is making. For this reason, true art attracts it’s own following. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If the beholder fails to appreciate it, then so be it; move along – nothing for you here. Once one begins to realize that, indeed, water does find it’s own level, that birds of a feather really do flock together, then and only then will the imaginationist begin the journey to becoming the artist, for he now realizes that art finds its own audience, no matter how broad or limited that audience is. Therefore, more correctly, the audience is attracted to art it finds appealing and no one else will, or even should, care, including the artist. The art might be absolute crap to others, but to a certain group of people, your fans, it’s a thing of beauty and magic. Which is why the artist doesn’t fret that they have only a few fans. Better 10 true followers than a thousand mere well-wishers.

If you, as an artist, can find your soul and display it, warts and all, to the world it will only come from the belief that the life you live, your artistic lifestyle, is the incubator from which the art is born. From there you, your lifestyle, your art will attract those who feel the same thing, hold the same values and aesthetics and will, as a natural consequence, call for more creative output from you because you’ve touched them in a way that makes them feel like they are both special, unique and individual, and at the same time connected and in touch with the art and, by extension, the artist. They, in some measure, will see themselves in the art and become one with it at some subconscious level where it becomes a reflection of themselves and their deepest inner fantasies regarding who they believe themselves to be.

In the end, the art, the artist and the lifestyle all become one seamless, overarching work of art that unfolds to reveal that the artist ‘is’ the art.

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