years ago I attended a week-long music conference which held several
different competitions for musicians and songwriters. The prizes
were enticing and held the possibility of real discovery and success
for the hundreds of aspiring artists who entered. To my surprise,
however, I noticed as I flipped through my conference booklet that
there were sessions available for contestants to meet with trained
psychiatrists at various points throughout the week. Curious, I
asked one of the conference staff about these counseling sessions.
I was told that in previous competitions several of the "non-winners"
("loser" is such a harsh word) had become so depressed about not
winning the coveted prize that several had actually attempted suicide!
of no other industries where expectations are so high and where
fantasy dominates so completely as in the Entertainment and Music
Industries. How did Hal David put it?
is a great big freeway -- put a hundred down and buy a car
In a week -- maybe two -- they'll make you a star
Weeks turn into years -- how quick they pass
And all the stars who never were
Are parking cars and pumping gas 1
certainly not hard to understand how a series of shattered hopes
and expectations could lead to major depression and a sense of abysmal
failure. What happens if you have an incredible talent that is never
nationally or internationally recognized? Is your life over and
your talent a waste? My answer to that one is: You are only a failure
if YOU think you are.
defines "equilibrium" as a state of balance or adjustment between
opposing or divergent influences or elements. For anyone who
has begun the journey into the Music Industry or for anyone who
is even contemplating it, equilibrium is an essential if you ever
hope to come out alive. There are many opposing forces that you
must keep in balance for mental/emotional health and, in my opinion,
for ultimate success. Here are a few:
Serious About the Craft but Light-Hearted About the Results:
I can't tell you how many songwriters and artists I meet who have
this balance reversed by 180 degrees. They dabble at their craft
but expect international recognition. This will never work!
In my opinion, anyone who hopes to achieve any measure of true success
-- and satisfaction -- in this industry must be head-over-heels
in love with Music and be ultimately motivated by that love alone!
Such people do their best work every day and keep stretching and
growing in their craft until the day they die -- whether they ever
become rich and famous or not. They know themselves and the principles
of songwriting so well that they know when they have created
true art. Focusing on the results is called obsession.
Focusing on the process is called excellence. Be sure
you don't get these two elements transposed. It will only lead to
Between Dabbling and Commitment:
I have been a jogger for over twenty years. I jog 5-6 times a week
-- three miles a day. Every year on the first of January I meet
a whole host of new faces on the track -- all sporting their new
Christmas gifts of running shoes and co-ordinated running gear.
By the middle of February most of the new faces are gone. Were those
new people sincere in their intentions? Absolutely! The missing
ingredient is something called "commitment." I often counsel aspiring
writers that if they are not willing invest at least fourteen hours
a week into their Music goals, they really are not committed --
only dabbling at an enjoyable hobby. When you have a "day gig,"
fourteen hours a week may seem like a Herculean undertaking -- and
it is! But it is the least you can invest if you hope to become
knowledgeable about the business and excellent in the craft of Songwriting.
Let me hasten to say that there is nothing wrong with "dabbling."
I dabble at a lot of things that I enjoy but don't want to give
my life to. Only you can decide if you want to dabble or commit
yourself to your craft for the long haul. If you decide on commitment,
Short-Term AND Long-Term Goals:
Long term goals are the stuff of fantasy, and unfortunately, that
is where most aspiring songwriters and artists focus their attention.
"If only" and "Someday" permeate their thoughts and speech. They
dream of becoming "overnight successes" and when -- as Huey Lewis
commented -- it turns out to be "a hell of a long night," they lose
it is certainly important to have long-range goals, it is also absolutely
imperative to have more achievable short-range goals as well. If
you are a gifted songwriter or artist, there are places of contribution
and growth right under your nose. Are you…..
an active part of your hometown music community?
writing songs for local and regional artists? for your neighborhood
summer theater program? for your church Christmas pageant?
not, you are definitely missing some of the most motivating "perks"
of this whole business. Success hasn't been likened to a ladder
for no reason. Most of the time success is achieved one rung at
a time. If you start where you are with what you have, you will
be amazed at how one success builds into another. Each one will
motivate and reward you and lift you a little higher above the crowds
of "wanna-be" musicians. Never underestimate the importance of the
rungs -- otherwise known as short-range goals!
in songwriting is a lot like the balance we must find as parents.
Our songs are our babies. We need to love them, nurture them, give
them the very best we have. And then we have to let them go and
just watch them find their place in this world. Great songs -- like
great kids -- will never disappoint us.