There are so many articles floating around about the dismal career prospects for an independent creative person in our day and age, it’s time for me to add my two cents, and hopefully shed some positive light on the situation. After all my years in biz, it’s as much my manifesto as yours. If you’re already playing the big concert halls of the world, then this won’t apply, but if you’re not quite there yet, that is ok! Life is long. Read on and enjoy…
10 ways to be a happier artist in the digital age
1) Accept that you might need several jobs to support yourself along the way. Embrace this by making art, having a life outside of art, pacing yourself accordingly, and not beating yourself up for needing financial stability. (Read Christa Couture’s eloquent blog post on this topic.)
2) If you secretly enjoy working with other artists (ie. music teacher, grant writer, audio engineer, session player) do it wholeheartedly and don’t let old wives’ tales like “those who can’t do, teach” get in your way. Enough with the shame already! Accept that your career will be an amalgamation of tasks. We’re all artists, we’re all teachers, we’re all a lot of things in the digital age. See #1.
3) Come to grips with the fact that there is virtually no money in selling music anymore. Read this iTunes report showing that the average person spends $12 a year on music. That’s one album, per year. Release your expectations that it will be yours. Reconsider calling this the music “business”. Your “living” will be a patchwork of gigs, teaching, playing in cover bands (or with other more successful artists), and hopefully a few placements and royalties, all amounting to somewhere around poverty-level wages (maybe more if you are a good hustler or have good patrons). See #2 and #1.
4) Accept that piracy is rampant. We are all “part of the problem” and we will all be “part of the solution”, whatever that turns out to be. Be encouraged that as much as people don’t want to buy music, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to listen to it.
5) If you find it stressful promoting your art to your friends, asking them to buy your stuff and come to your shows, you might be happier doing something else part-time to offset that burden. Remember, no shame! See #1 and #2.
6) Don’t forget that art is the most powerful language we have as humans. You can still do it despite the challenge of making a “living” at it. Enjoy it for what it is, and don’t let the “business” kill your passion. See #1 and #3.
7) If your music resonates with the public so much that you rise to the top and make some money, enjoy it! Don’t waste your energy having a temper tantrum (like this artist). Stay calm and negotiate your music’s worth like any other business transaction in any other industry. Enjoy that brief moment when there is actual money on the line and it actually becomes a business.
8) Keep learning about the parts of music you love. There is so much to learn and you will be reminded that making art has always been a struggle in every century. The digital age is no different.
9) Focus on refining your craft and making innovative music (see #8). You will have less time and energy to worry about the external world attributing some abstract monetary value to it. See #6 and #3.
10) Respect the artists who have had success on their own terms. Learn what you can from them and trust that you are on your own unique path with art. See #2 and #9.
*Bonus* Read Stephen King’s fantastic memoir On Writing and be reminded that art is a support system for life (ie. food, shelter, family, health) and not the other way around.
Now go, go, go, make some art with all your heart!!!