Music as life and as a living
I'm infuriated. I'm inspired. I'm a lot of
things right now. I just read an article that was in my inbox that was
part of ASCAP's Daily Brief. The article was on why music can't be
free. You see, I'm angry not because I believe that music should be
free, but because this point even had to be made. And in a blog - no,
wait, in TWO blogs no less!
I have been a musician my whole life. From the time my feet couldn't even touch the pedals beneath the piano, I knew I was in this for the long haul. These weren't just piano lessons I endured week after week - this was training - boot camp - for my life as a professional musician. And from day one, it was drilled into me that music is a respectable, viable way to make a living. I saw my teachers do it. I saw my grandmother do it and raise my aunt and my father. I saw artists that I looked up to do it. So why should it be any different now? Because we have the internet? Because we have slowly shifted our mindset to believe that if we cannot physically hold music in our hands (ie a record or CD) it doesn't exist in a form we have to pay for? Because the landscape of the industry has shifted to make up and coming artists think that people are doing them a favor by giving them free exposure (ie not paying them what they deserve)?
Let me tell you that life as a musician - life as a recording artist with a record company behind me - is hard. I am not rolling in hundred dollar bills, living the high life. No man with sunglasses came up to me in a smoky nightclub and offered me a briefcase full of cash to sign me. That's not how this works. We work HARD for our money. All of us. We put in countless hours behind the scenes and before the show. We write, we edit, we re-write. We run through. We rehearse. And then we rehearse some more. We practice on our own. Hours, days, months, YEARS get put into perfecting our craft. By the time most of us have become full time professional musicians (ie able to support ourselves soley by music), we have put in the same amount of time as a doctor going into private practice - over 10-12 years! And may I add, most of us are just as much in debt as a newly graduated medical students. And we get just as little sleep. We may not be saving lives or delivering babies, but what we do is valuable in its own way and deserves compensation.
Let me also say this: I am not an indie musician. I think indie is great, but for me - I am a backer of the labels. I am not saying that I agree with the way they pay artists (last and least), but I am saying that I know a lot of people who claim to be indie proud who would sell their soul to have their face on the side of a bus or on a billboard in Times Square. So, long live the labels I say. It is, after all, business. But also long live true artists!
I will be honest. My record company has slashed my budget to near zero. But, they have stood by me in many ways. My A&R is a great supporter of my music and is a great supporter of me as a person. And while I am seeing the proverbial downfall of "the label" first hand, I still believe that record companies are of paramount help to recording artists. Being on the roster of my label has opened doors for me that I didn't even know existed. And I am parlaying those opportunities into other things.
Just because I have a record company behind me - again - doesn't mean that I'm rolling in dough (as I said before). We are struggling to finish the album, which has been on hold since July. We have entered my first single into a song contest to gain exposure and (hopefully with the support of my fans) win the Euro 10,000 prize which will go to finish the album (and oh yeah, throw a massive thank you party to the fans for voting).
Here's how it works right now: label signs artist to roster, promises good size budget. Fans download and steal music without paying for it. Label doesn't get paid from distributor (who also makes no money) so they are forced to tell the artist they can't pay for recording and promotional costs (or cut their budget by enough that it's a problem). Artist's song stays released for public consumption but no one buys it because there is no money for promo. The single dies a silent death because there is no album to back it up, no tour to back up the album. And then the artist is forced to self finance. Then the fans hate the label. It's a vicious cycle.
I'm proud to be an artist with a label. I'm proud to be a full time recording artist. I'm proud to do my part to support my family with the songs I write. I'm proud of my team who works so hard to make sure I can work. I am proud of my band who rock with me. And I'm proud of my fans who are so supportive and understand that we work hard at what we do.
If your head is spinning from my tirade, let me make it abundantly simple for you:
The next time you walk into the GAP to buy a shirt -- don't pay for it. Just take it. Because you like it. Because you don't know the person who made it, designed it, drove the stock to the store. Just take it. See what happens. Will the GAP fold immediately? No. Of course not. But you'll be guilty of theft.
To see the article that lit the fire under my ass click here:
To help fund finishing my album by ensuring I win the grand prize, vote for "7 Steps Away" here:
Rock, roll, and respect,