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The Channeling (Ways to reach your Muse)
Totem Poles
By Shaman Sean
1999-2001 Shaman Sean. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission.

What I really try to achieve with music is communication; when a person performs on stage, they are presenting a living art form. Of course, like everyone else, I strive for success in the recording industry and improving my songwriting craft; but maintaining your artistic integrity is vital. Without it, the whole entire struggle becomes meaningless. There are many easier ways to be rich, famous, and a cultural icon.

There are a bunch of artists with well crafted songs and no substance. I'm an artist, not a left-brained business man. If you try hard enough and look right, you too can be a Vida-Loca. (Not to insult anyone. I'm sure he's a fine person, but he represents everything I'm against in the music world.) Stand up there be a poster boy (or girl); have a bunch of people write music for you; smile big; rely on marketing, and do what you're told. Case closed; this is business. But I'm more about the business of real expression.

Think of all the artists that you admire and aspire. Are any of them Vida-Loca? When I ask, Led Zeppelin, and the Doors come to my mind. Two of the most famous and zillion-dollar rock bands in the world. Hundreds upon hundreds of musicians from all styles trumpet them as an influence. Why?

You can treat songwriting like any other craft: carpentry or basket weaving. You could become very good at it, and sell big. I would honestly be happy for you and wish you well. In the end, however, you have to look at yourself in the mirror. And if deep down inside, you wanted to change the world one song at a time; or if you wanted to make people feel something by contributing something to the world; you will have a difficult time looking yourself in the eye when you come to realize that you left those reasons behind for a bag of silver coins.

People are not stupid. Treat your audience with respect. Give them something that's not really you, (but only a bunch of 1s and 0s), then that's the level of dedication you should expect from them. You are insulting them and insulting the muse. But if you affect them deep, then you just might be the next Led Zep or Doors. Don't be phony, be true to you. You have something to offer the world. What I want to accomplish through this column is to make that alive in you at all times. Your muse should be your primary motivation. People are waiting for you to channel for them using your gifts.

I see record companies and deal makers scouring the world for the next big thing. Are you the next big thing? If so, it should eminate from you and your art no matter what the venue. If you do this and do it well, you will be remembered, they will see you. A&R knows that if you have "it", then you are what they are looking for. Seek first the kingdom of integrity, then riches will follow. All the people you remember as the "greats" did just this; follow in THEIR footsteps. I've read bio upon bio of the "greats", they all speak this message: The trade of music was a tool for them, not the end. When you get up on that stage, give it your all. Don't write songs that are not alive in you.

Music is only your tool (your mode), the better you become, the less of a hindrance it is to your expression. Become the best you can be, but do not sacrifice your soul. Build a building that will stand. If you build it, they WILL come. All people want is honesty. All the artists you remember are alive to you for a reason; the people you forget are dead for a reason. There is no secret, but it's easy to get lost in the workings.

Right now, take some time to reflect on why you play in the first place? Why do you write songs? What is your motivation? All the greats say to write from your soul and be true. Tools are great, use them; use the best tools you have. You can use tools to build a woodshed. Given enough time, everyone can learn how. But don't build one and expect it to be received by the masses like a totem pole. (It's a woodshed !!!) Instead, concentrate on building the real totem pole. The totem pole that only you were made to build.

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