Column: [Can't Make A Living] – Perseverance Pt.5: Conclusion
Well, we’ve come to the last installment of our five-part special on the value of perseverance. It all basically boils down to this: “sticking with it” is the closest thing to a fail-proof tactic you’re going to get as a musician. There are (obviously) many other things that should be in place when you set out to conquer the music world, but resolving to see things through and having a thick skin are definite prerequisites.
John Dufresne in his book Is Life Like This? (a guide for novelists) hits upon an interesting point: “Know this: everything in your life is incompatible with writing and always will be. You are going to have to be fierce in defense of your writing time in these coming months if you are serious. The daily task of writing may cause some tension around the house and within your close circle of friends. So be it.”
I believe this is true for music – for all art, actually. The wheels and cogs of the day-to-day normal world are not conducive to your music career; in fact, they’re down right antithetical. It’s like that CURSIVE song: Art is Hard.
Of the three fundamental qualities that comprise my personal Big Why, obtaining an audience (or recognition) may be the most important – it simply comes down to personal validation.
Everyone wants to be liked and your music (Art) is probably tied into your sense of self. Besides, I don’t think art can truly function in society without an audience – not in the way our old friends, Marshall McLuhan and Leo Tolstoy thought it does. That audience doesn’t need to be huge either. It can be a few dozen people or an auditorium with thousands – the goal remains the same: to make a connection.
Here I’ve given you some examples of artists who have persevered in order to find their audience. People often use the terms “gain” or “build” with regards to audience, but I don’t like that because that sort of implies that you can persuade people to enjoy your work. Believe me, you can’t.
You can only put it out there and hope to attract the right people – people who validate your work through both praise and (yes) constructive criticism. In this age where there are so many options for disseminating your work, the very means you choose to do so can have radical effects on how it is perceived and liked – but that’s a whole other topic best reserved for future installments.
If you don’t have access to a major marketing firm or a record label, my advice to you is to find a natural and organic means of presenting your work to others and to be as prolific as you can be within the bounds of your quality standards. As you begin to find your audience, more avenues for exposure will open up. In other words, “keep up the work, kid.”
Next week, I’ll discuss the second fundamental quality of my Big Why: Subversion, or the hidden message in art.