Rainy Day Entry: Really Random and Honest Thoughts On Being a Self-Sustaining Musician

Okay, brace yourself. This is kind of a long one and it's a bit rambly and unedited but if you're game, grab a cuppa tea or coffee and read on.

It’s a rainy morning here on the Olympic Peninsula. I’ve done my morning yoga routine and am now eating breakfast. I’m also thinking about where I’m heading in life. It sounds so weird. These are thoughts that people a third my age are considering. But these thoughts have been on my mind for the past few days and there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer. This isn’t good considering my propensity to be scattered and always trying new things. It isn’t good either knowing that I love everything I do making more hard to make decisions. I just released a short vlog onto Youtube yesterday. The first on over a month. I haven’t felt like showing up lately. I think it’s because I’ve been feeling a little bit of burnout. You put so much energy into your work only to see it swallowed by this blackhole – you maybe get a few seconds of attention before people move on to the next thing. And I haven’t mastered the art of consistency yet. I’m not sure I ever will. It’s been a constant battle to stay on track but I know this is what works for people – to keep things in front of them. Social media can be a godsend for getting word out. And it can be a frickin bugger because everything is all about the sound bite. There’s nothing in depth anymore. I look at how music is “consumed” – a strange word for music. I look at Youtube, Spotify and the like and have learned that music is more to be used as background to the day’s tasks. Music to meditate by, music for sleep, music for yoga, music for studying. It seems like music is for anything other than for enjoyment of simply listening. I wonder how many people stop dead in there tracks when they hear something so beautiful is makes their soul cry. This isn’t to lament. Well, it is kind of but I’m just more curious than anything. It seems we’ve relegated music to a more utilitarian function when it’s so much more than that. I was reading an interesting article the other day about how simply listening to music for its own enjoyment is starting to make a comeback along with buying downloads and CDs. You can find it here. 

I digressed a bit. Not sure how. I meant to talk about where I wanted to head in life.   

So I turned 60 this past August. There’s something that happens to you when you turn 60. You start to see there is more life behind you than there is ahead of you. I can no longer afford to tell myself “I have plenty of time.” Well, that’s partly true and partly not true. I am realizing that if I want to be successful, I can no longer afford to dilly dally or more to the point be indecisive. I can no longer afford to be wishy washy about making money either – meaning harboring the idea that the motherlode will just fall into my lap if I just work harder and longer hours. I’ve always had this fickle and tenuous relationship with money. For those of you who haven’t tried making a living as an artist, I can’t even tell how hard it is to ask a fair price for what we do. To me it feels almost like a con job. How can I ask for money for something you can’t see or touch? Sure you can feel it in your heart and soul but it’s not a tangible thing. As a society, we’re into tangible things. Things we can pick up and hold or touch. Music isn’t like that. I can see from a customer’s point of view where you pay $10 to $20 for downloads and you get an email with a series of steps to follow. I know. I’ve done this too. It feels weird. You spend your money for an email of steps to download data that magically comes out as music? Perhaps I just think too much but sometimes it just feels weird to be a musician asking for support for something you can’t physically pick up….unless you buy a CD. But that can be another post. 

What I really want to get at is overcoming my indecision and self-doubt to make a good go of this trip as a musician. I feel every musician is faced with this dilemma. Hell, anyone creative, is faced with is. You’ve got his gift and you want to share it but it seems the only ones who really benefit from it are industry execs and charlatans. When you’re an independent musician (a musician without a label) you’re pretty much on your own to navigate your way through a business that isn’t always kind. And if you’re not savvy about things, this whole trip of supporting yourself with your art can swallow you and leave nothing. I’ve been close this edge.  I don’t’ intend to go over. For me, taking good care of myself, watching how I spend my energy, keeping my mind on how I want to nurture and grow this business of mine are keys to staying on track. Self-care can come in many different forms. For me, it means getting out and exercising (even on days like this), eating whole foods (I’m not always successful at this), meditating, and making sure I get enough creative time to accomplish something. As for social media, I’m always thinking of how I can get word out without tripping over those crazy algorithms. Or even better, getting said crazy algorithms to work for me. I’ve yet to master this one but it’s a work in progress. Also on the self-care front is marketing my wares. Like other musicians, I loathe the idea of marketing. I get the picture of a smarmy used car salesman. But when I look at marketing from a standpoint of self-care, then it makes more sense. For example, when I need to market something like an album, I ask myself “how can I do this in a way that feels like self-care?” When I do this, it make marketing and promoting more palatable. I’m finding it’s ok to put it out there that you’re supporting yourself, feeding yourself, allowing yourself the tools you need to improve your work, and even allowing yourself some breaks to have fun and fill your soul. I think people appreciate this kind of transparency. 

Anyway, I’m beginning to ramble a bit and this is getting a bit long. The bottom line is, I am so grateful to be doing this. Especially at an age when most people are preparing to retire. To take this kind of risk to support myself with my art  is the hardest and more rewarding thing I’ve ever done. The hardship and poverty have been stunning but so has the support from people. I’ve been and continue to be supported  in the most extraordinary and unexpected ways. Which, brings me to my final point if you’re going to attempt to support yourself with your art. Have a vision of what you want and feel you can get it. Also be open to the unexpected. The powers that be have mysterious ways of working and often times have way better ideas than you do. You will have moments of “what about this?” presented to you and it will be up to you to take it or leave it. Have the courage to try it. If it doesn’t feel right then stop and try something else. 

Ok, I really need to stop. This is a lot to digest and in looking at this whole entry it’s very disjointed…..much like life sometimes. 

Thank you for reading if you made it this far. I appreciate your time. 

Take care wherever you are in the world and stay amazing! 

Pam

Leave a comment