For the past three years now, I've been struggling with maintaining a balance between being attentive to practical details of getting music out there - promoting and marketing and all the other business-y details - and making art, if I want to be successful by this world’s standards. I've yet to strike that balance.
Like most artists, my head is more into the making art and music realm than it is in the business end of things. this means, I have to define my own version of success and then find ways and employ the tools to achieve that success. To me success is having an inspiring home, feeding myself healthy and nutritious food and making enough money to buy gear that inspires me to make better and better music, go and do fun things like take road trips, travel and drink awesome tea , take walks (or hikes) in nature and read fascinating books. Top that off with being with good friends and being surrounded by a support network that engages in this exchange of energy (through art and otherwise) that raises everyone’s vibes. Beyond that, everything else is just extra fluff.
For the past few months, I’ve been watching a musician and Youtuber named Venus Theory and in his many of his videos he talks about his struggles to maintain a balance between growing his business and maintaining a sense creativity of being a musician. I so feel that struggle. You want to grow enough to where you can feel a consistent support but you don’t want to lose the satisfying and often cathartic feelings of being an artist and sharing it with those who resonate with you. These videos (along with others) really get me to thinking about how much career growth I really want and how much I can handle. I know this sounds weird for an artist to say this but I'm not so sure I would want to handle that kind of growth. At least, not without help. I've seen over and over again with social media and the likes of Youtube how phenomenal growth can be so overwhelming real fast and how you can end up being a slave to it unless it's something you truly love.
And therein lies my dilemma and the dilemma of so many artists like me who struggle to be seen but not be overwhelmed. I do know I'm not willing to become a slave to this content-making machine spewing out videos, music, blogs, etc every week unless it's fulfilling, fun and purposeful. I don't believe in spewing out content for the sake of analytics and growth. I do pay attention to metrics and analytics from time to time but I don’t obsess over them. They are not my driving force to keep going. What IS my driving force are the people that engage with me telling me how my music or stories have helped them through things like the sudden and unexpected death of their son or a mental health melt-down or made them dance in their kitchen for the first time in months or how it just simply calms their nerves after a hard day at work dealing with incompetent co-workers and not-so-empathetic bosses. These (along with burning my own emotional gunk out) are the priceless reasons why I keep making music. Put this together with taking time out for long walks in the forest, road trips and sitting in a cafe for an afternoon writing or making music or working on a piece of art while nursing a cup of tea is, to me, the stuff that motivates and inspires me to keep creating. There is this thing in the book The Artist's Way called the Artist's Date, where you take time to go on adventures (pre-planned or not) to let the soul breathe in the life around you and then come back inspired.
Artist Dates are vital to artists and creators and I guard these days like a well-trained pit bull. I turn my phone off, forget I even have a computer for the day and disappear for awhile. When I come back, I am refreshed and ready to work on something. I can't recommend this enough to my creative friends or anyone who wishes to live a more creative life. Also, reading books like The Art of Asking, Show Your Work and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck help to keep me on an even keel not get devoured by the content-cranking machine of social media and the like.
This brings me back around to the question of “how do I grow my career without getting devoured?” So, right now, my fan base is really small and isn’t the size to be able to sustain me……yet. But I have this unyielding faith that if I can keep moving forward, stay balanced and share my experience along the way, the growth will happen. It's a bit like growing a garden which is part perspiration, part inspiration and part faith. Keeping your eye on the prize while going through the details and growing pains. Even though my fan base is small, it's very enthusiastic, loving and are my family and I am so thankful for that. We are a community among many other communities of artists and their circles that keep each other buoyed through the rough patches and celebrate the victories. To me this one of the healing powers of art – connecting people with each other on a level that transcends the boundaries we set for ourselves. It allows us to be ourselves without judgements or criticisms. This kind of liberation is medicine for the soul and we need more of it. This is why I feel it’s so important for me to maintain a sense of being an artist and balancing that with all the business-y things. Will I make enough money to sustain myself? Who knows. I certainly hope so but it's going to take a bit more exploring and experimenting on my part to see what can work for me.
We have been living through one of the most artist and creator-unfriendly periods in our history. We’ve generally relegated art to the back burner and deemed it not nearly as important as surviving this crazy paradigm just to build “wealth” for others. I would love nothing more than to see a time when we value the arts as a vital part of being human. We came close in the Hellenistic, Hellenic and Renaissance periods and there's no reason why we couldn't do it again and make it stick next time. There is a reason why we create the way we do. I believe it's an integral part of being human on both practical and mystical levels. For myself being a musician has helped me develop problem-solving skills through practicing technique in various instruments, reasoning skills through piecing things together in composition and building harmonious relationship skills through learning how things work together in music theory. Put that together with feeding my soul through emotional expression and sharing it with those who resonate with it is a huge win-win for everyone.
Many thanks for reading this if you got this far. Let me know if this resonates with you. I’d love to hear your thoughts! Also, if you’re feeling inspired after this little rant, then by all means, as Cameron from Venus Theory says GO MAKE SOMETHING AWESOME!