Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Getting There - Part I

Last night during Tyler's live YouTube stream, where he played a few previews of music from his new album and answered questions sent-in online, the question came up again: "Do you have any advice for an up-and-coming musician?" Looking to capitalize and perhaps expand a bit on Tyler's answer, I present the following post.

Now, before we get too far into this, I want to say that at times, it does feel weird to answer this question for people. Realizing that I can't speak for everyone else in the crew, I will admit that I feel like I both have and haven't "made it". On the one hand, I am living my dream of playing music and touring the world in order to perform. On the other, most of us still haven't gotten to that level where we feel like we've really locked a long-term career into place. So, of course, it seems that there are different degrees of making it, so take my advice from that proper perspective. That being said...

1. Keep Going
The more and more I think about this issue, the more I conclude that perseverance might be the ultimate factor in determining whether or not someone gets to live their musical dreams. Sometimes to complete the journey you just have to keep placing one foot in front of the other, no matter how small the step.

It took me around 10 years to get from the point where I decided I was going to go all-in to become a professional musician to where I felt like the dream was legitimately beginning to come to fruition. And there's been a lot of ups and downs along the way (to score some points for the most overrated sentence in the history of blogging). But the way to frame the question is like so: is a decade too long to chase after your dream?

2. Be About Passion, Not Money
If music is just a means to an end and if that end happens to be wealth, my advice would be not to bother. There are much easier, much more accommodating ways to get rich. I once heard Sting say in an interview that it was just a matter of luck for him that success in music was such a lucrative venture - he would have been willing to do it for minimum wage. And I couldn't agree more. If money's what you're really after, there are more efficient and much less stressful ways to go about getting it.

3. Learn Your Craft
The music world is full of successful acts that aren't actually good or even decent musicians. Everyone knows this and it gives people the impression that being a good musician isn't a requirement for being a successful one. For this reason, music tends to attract the kind of people who gravitate towards the path of least resistance and would rather do the smallest amount of work possible in order to achieve a huge payoff.  But this perception shouldn't be taken overly seriously if a life of music is what you really want. If you want to excite the other musicians you play with and bring something to the table that listeners will appreciate, (thus earning you the kind of attention that will lead to musical success), be serious about being good. Practice. A lot. Find teachers and constantly push yourself to be better at your instrument. Nothing bad will ever come from being good at what you do.

To be continued...

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