Tag Archives: soul

Why I will never quit the music business

Mary Kastle Why I will NEVER QUIT the music businessThis past year I’ve seen a growing number of my musician friends post “I quit” letters on various social media. The letters all have a common tone – “I can’t do this anymore. The music biz is bottomless pit. I’m going to settle down, get a real job, and hopefully be happier. It’s been fun, but now it’s a drag. Thanks for your support. Sayonara!” These posts undoubtedly prompt a whole stream of comments from friends and supporters. Usually a mix of “please don’t quit”, to “yep, blame Napster”, to “don’t worry, I’ll still come hear you play at the pub”, that sort of thing.

I find it disappointing, but I can definitely relate. After my last record, I was so burned out, I had to take a long break from touring, hustling, the whole scene. It took YEARS for me to replenish, reconnect, and get inspired to get back out there. I’m still not “back out there” fully, and maybe I never will be now that I have a child. But I will do what I can.

Because while I contemplated the word “quit”, I made a conscious decision to not choose it for my own trajectory. I might choose other words, like “evolve” or “grow” or “change”, but it became crystal clear that I never wanted to make the status of my music career the result of roadblocks, whether internal (frustrations, burnout, etc.) or external (dead business model, lack of funds, family commitments, etc). Thankfully, I never lost interest in going to gigs just to listen. I never lost interest in playing just for the sake of it. And most importantly, I never lost the feeling that I had something to say through music, even though it was buried far beneath my day-to-day artist survival tactics.

I had a lot of reconciling to do. It’s hard to swallow that you’re not “there” yet – wherever that is, arenas, world tours, throngs of fans, whatever. But I realized that I didn’t want to throw away all the ground I had covered. And yes, I might need to rebuild some broken bridges along the way, but those relationships I’d forged in the business were more than just a ladder to climb for me. They are my community.

So here’s my letter to you, my dears. I’m NEVER quitting the music business. EVER. I might need to take breaks. I might need to apologize for stupid things I’ve said. I might need to promote a lot sometimes, and less others. But I will NEVER QUIT. I will never stop trying to make records, or play shows, or tour, and honestly and gracefully share the music I make with you.

Why?

Because why would I deny myself the path, the long evolving journey of trying to figure out how to move forward and get better every single day?

And why would I deny YOU the opportunity to see what music I might come up with down the road? What if it’s something we both fall in completely and madly in LOVE with?

And why would I deny us both the chance to meet, literally or figuratively, and share our love of music, and then share it collectively with all the other people who might interact with it. The potential is endless and creative in of itself.

So even if I continue to toil in complete obscurity until my dying day, I will never stop writing or playing music, or calling myself a professional working musician. Because I have paid my dues. And I continue to pay my dues. And I’m still on a journey that is teaching me how to be vulnerable and humble in the wake of a force far greater than myself.

That force, of course is MUSIC!

I’m not here to criticize. In fact, I congratulate anyone who “settles down” and gets a “day job”. God knows I did. It can be an incredibly grounding force.

But, please, think carefully before you use the word “QUIT”. Why do that to yourself? Why do that to the world? We need you to take yourself seriously. (Ok, well maybe not too seriously!)

So here’s to growing and evolving and changing through music, through the music business.

LET’S ROCK!

I’m making new music this year

I'm making new music this year

I’m making new music this year and stoked to be back in the game with this website!

In fact, it’s funny that I haven’t given this website much love, because the truth is it’s ALWAYS on my mind. Music is without a doubt the closest thing to my heart. And despite my ebb and flow of energy towards it, it’s the one thing I always aspire to embrace more and improve at.

These days, I’ve been keeping a pretty low profile, only playing a few gigs around Bowen. Surprisingly, I’ve been ok with that, as I realized that my last record left me incredibly burned out of the music business. It’s been a long and slow recovery.

That said, it’s been five years since my last record and I’m ready to get moving again. I’m grateful that the Gods of Music Grants have shined upon me in a very small way, and I’m about to go into the studio to record ONE of my new songs. I’m stoked to have the chance. This time with music, I don’t want it to be a struggle to “make it”. I just want to actually make it – music, that is – and not worry so much about whether big-time success is waiting around the corner.

I’ve also come to realize that I have a lot to say about music, the “biz”, creativity, spirituality, and all that jazz. And it’s about time for me to put those thoughts out in a coherent form so maybe we can all learn from it. Maybe you’ll read something that inspires you back to your own creative muse, like writing has for me.

So, until next time, thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more posts about all of the above! 🙂

10 ways to be a happier artist in the digital age

happy musicianThere 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!!!