Tuesday, November 25, 2008

That'd Be Nice Woudn't It?

Wow, I sure did get a lot of responses to my last post. Any entry I make here to the Rockumentary magically becomes my Facebook status, so I now get a lot of responses there rather than here in the comments. Anyway, it just goes to prove that the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

I think, since I'm not the best writer, that some of my last post was misinterpreted. All that whining that I was displaying there doesn't really convey anything new. I've been driving out to play crappy shows for years now and often, afterward, I feel the same malaise as I wrote about yesterday. It's just part of the experience of being an independent musician.

On our ride home from New York, Brian, Max, and I discussed the whole music game. We talked about how we have been pretty lax lately as far as sending out our records and stuff to reviewers and radio etc. The thing is, it is really hard to remain enthusiastic about doing so when we've seen the same outcome played out so many times. It's difficult to stomach sending out your record when you have seen where they often end up. You can still buy unopened brand new Aloha Steamtrain albums at Amazon for a buck fifty. Those are CDs that we sent out to radio stations or music publications. The people who received them, didn't even unwrap them, they just turned around and put them up for sale.

I've been on the other side of the whole scene, too. I've hung out with booking agents who get CD packages in the mail every day. A lot of them go unopened, or perhaps worse, opened and made fun of. Those are people's dreams that they are sending out, but it's nobody's responsibility to see to it that everyone is coddled. I don't blame any of these folks out there. It's a crazy game. There are thousands of artists all trying to do the same thing and to stand out from the rest.

So, we spoke about this on our ride home and I raised the question: "What goal would we be trying to reach by sending out these records?". It was our consensus that, really, we just want as many people as possible to listen to and be in some way moved by our music.

I am convinced that the most powerful way to discover new music is through word of mouth. When a friend recommends something to me, that's when I give it a listen. The internet is the ultimate word of mouth machine. It can snowball like mad when the right thing starts to flex that I-gotta-pass-this-on muscle.

The things is, we are musicians not sales-people. It's a constant struggle to not get all tied up in the whole business aspect of this nonsense. There's nothing more natural to any of us than sitting down and creating some music. All the other stuff is forced. In a perfect world, we'd have people who do all that other work for us. For some people there is nothing more natural than energetically spreading the word about things like music. However, there's currently not much in it for them. Besides, I'm a huge control freak and I've yet to meet someone who I would trust to speak for me in such a way.

It's also embarrassing. It's embarrassing to try to push your music on someone else. It's embarrassing sometimes to be in a band at all. Am I too old to be doing this? Am I just acting like a teenager? I've been asking myself this stuff for years and years. Heck, I was embarrassed of it when I WAS a teenager. But, then I step back and I think, wait, what would I do if it wasn't for all of this? This is who I am. This is what I do.

I look to folks like Robyn Hitchcock or Ray Mason and I see in them something that I would like to see in myself. An unwavering belief that they are what they are. I know what I am good at. I'm good at writing and arranging songs. I'm usually good at making a crowd laugh or listen. I'm an average singer. I do an almost-adequate job of producing and recording (always improving). And I'm incredibly good-looking.

So, right? That's the deal isn't it? Find what you love to do and what you are good at and do that. Maybe it won't pay the bills all the time, maybe you won't go down in infamy, but maybe that's not really what's important. Maybe the practices with friends are the highlights and the record sales and what-all are the side-effects. That'd be nice wouldn't it?


Rick said...

This is extremely well put. I have internal dialogues like this at times, and am often at odds with how much effort should be put into a band (which always contains other people who do not share the same commitment to, or interest in, the making of music or running of said band) compared to the level of energy I invest personally, because music is what I've always done.

Fortunately, like you I'm also incredibly good-looking, so there is comfort in that.

Mo said...

What a beautiful rant. That would be nice, wouldn't it? If just doing *that* could be enough.