Remember the famous sociology study where academics studied trends on the East Coast of America and noticed that statistically eating ice-cream was a high predictor of getting shark attacked? The statistics were accurate. But the conclusion missed the point. The unidentified factor was the heat. On hot days people get ice cream. They also get in the water, making it more likely that they get shark-attacked. If people ate ice cream on cold days, the statistical connection would vanish.
Alright, so I’ve been filling up my page with all of these heavy-handed articles on the music business, revealing to all of you the vast reaches of my critical nature. So, let’s have a little fun.
I’m going to share with you guys a major pet-peeve of mine in the songwriting world. Here is the basic structure of the annoyance: Roger Rockstar begins a music career. Roger posts all over social media and proves that he is an ambitious “in-it-to-win-it super serious musician”. Mr. Rockstar talks about chasing his dreams, craves international fame and glory. Roger achieves a small corner of that goal, gets picked up by a good management company or label, and gets sent on tour. The following year Roger Rockstar releases a new record, and it is chalked full of songs of him whining and complaining about how hard it is on the road and how much he misses home.
The satisfaction of getting your music heard is easier and more accessible than ever. Labels used to be the only avenue for mass distribution. One reason why so many musicians are broke is because they are shooting for mass distribution without a label, and that takes an office of people who light up cigars rolled in 100-dollar bills and laugh villainous laughs at you crazy hard-working types. So, maybe don’t think about mass distribution. Maybe think about how you can get 100 people in your town to come out for a show. Maybe think about how you can use live streaming to be a part of people’s weekly lives in a meaningful way. Maybe work on the craft of writing songs that folks will keep coming back to when they need those sounds and lyrics to speak to them again. This industry is filled with people who are suggesting last century industry strategies in a new century market.
When I think about genres of music in America that are traditional, few genres come to mind that would outperform Country-western music on that specific characteristic. Perhaps Blues, which traces its origins back to slaves singing old spirituals while working crops in the fields. Otherwise I would think Country-western music is high on the list of traditional genres that American music listeners enjoy. As a good American boy from Texas, it’s easy for me to think that country music has just sort of always been here. But lately, I’ve been learning some history that has caused my perspective to change.
It would be easy to just assume that my career should follow the path template that is provided by the apparent successful in my industry. But I think that blind following of another person’s path is what leads some of us to achieve all of the markers of success, only to find ourselves depressed and empty inside.
I have done my share of ranting about the modern country being manufactured in the Nashville music industry. But today, I want to take a little time off from the rant, and I want to say that I’m excited about what is happening in Nashville. Here is why…
Imagine for a moment that you are the owner of a lucrative retail business and you are hiring a new CFO to manage the financial accounting of your company for the next decade or beyond. You invite a new young gentleman into your office and sit him in front of your desk. You have heard hype about this new business climber from many of your gazillionaire colleagues. You hear he has great personality and he really knows how to dress right. You pull this new prospect’s resume’ and give it a glance. You notice that he credits himself with three Chapter Eleven Bankruptcies for past companies that he has managed. Do you look him in the eye and say to him, “Man, you must really know your stuff with all of these failures on your business record! And you certainly have the image we are looking for. When can you start? We would really like to give you a chance at taking our company to the next level!” Would you respond in that way?
It’s weird, you know, because most people, myself included, tend to always want more. We think some long-awaited accomplishment will fix some of our major problems, or solidify our personal success. Then we reach that long-awaited accomplishment, and lo and behold, there are still problems! Seems to be a defining characteristic in the human condition. At least it is in mine!
When tempted with the fast-track of Texas Country success, I remind myself that the slow trudge of building a true grassroots following might be the way of keeping a long, sincere, heart-felt music career in my life. I have no clue whether you will ever see me on the mainstage at LJT. But I guarantee you I’d love to see you at my show this next weekend sitting on that little patio and listening to my songs. I hope you introduce yourself. I hope you ask where I’m performing next. I hope you keep in touch. These are the things I hope for.