This is a big one. A really, really big one. Sadly most people don’t realize it.
It took me some time to work it out, but by watching other aspiring musicians in forums, business people in places I worked and in questioning myself, what I saw is that people commonly shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to following their dreams.
When I sold web sites, people wanted something great but wouldn’t put in the effort. Musicians hold up (or throw out) songs or even whole albums just as they are getting somewhere. This isn’t sensible, definitely not conducive to letting fans get closer. If there is a terrible website that obscures the product or no album released the outcome will be the same. I always wondered why people did this.
I have heard a lot of excuses but to me they don’t really make sense. The most common excuses presented are; time, money, perfection and talent/ability. I’d like to break them down.
Time is a great excuse because it doesn’t exist. Ok so technically it does in terms of physics and all that but try showing me five minutes and you will fail. Time is a great excuse because no-one can really argue with you over it simply because it is too hard to quantify. It is so easy to say: oh I don’t have time to do that or I ran out of time. If you aren’t dead then you didn’t run out of time. You ran out of willpower.
Money is another of those that is hard to call people on. It is not easy to say to someone so you could invest in beer but not in making something that will be with you for at least the rest of your life (longer if you get fans). Money comes and goes, sure most of us don’t have as much as we would like. You ran out of courage.
I’ll let it out when it is perfect. It needs to be perfect. Also hard to argue with as who wants to step in to say near enough is good enough. Who is qualified to tell Van Gogh that a few more brush strokes will not make that painting any better. If perfect existed it would be God, but oddly enough he wasted time making and managing us lot with all the mess we make. If perfect existed he wouldn’t have felt the need. You ran out of faith.
Talent & Ability
I’d love to make a Jazz record but I can’t play Jazz, I don’t have the talent or the ability. Ok so if you really wanted to play Jazz you’d be playing Jazz. You may be making a real mess of it but you’d be playing it. Many Jazz greats couldn’t read or write music (or even words) but they could absorb the music and pour it back out. You ran out of passion.
You ran out of excuses
We Can be Heroes
Do you think Phil Collins looked at his talent/ability level before he started drumming? I don’t. I reckon he just hammered on in and grew as he went. Do you think Phil spent a lot of time questioning his talent before he made his first record? Nope. In each case Phil did his best, used what he had and let someone else hold the axe.
From what I read, John Martyn didn’t ever really ask permission of anyone. He did what he did and what an amazing thing it was he did. I had never heard of him til I borrowed his “Live at the Camden Palace Theatre London 1984” DVD from the library. This is truly amazing stuff from a fellow who seems to have pretty well made his own rules about how to play guitar and sing – even when things went very wrong.
At least half of what you do will go wrong. I have seen or heard Elvis, Bruce Springsteen, Gary Numan, The Church and Powderfinger lose their way in a song and manage. They made no excuses, acknowledged it went wrong, and kept going.
I am watching a Michael Bolton concert. I won’t say I am a fan but everything in here is quality. He just said something; whilst announcing a standard he talked about the song being from a time when songwriters aimed to write songs that would outlive them. That is a huge call. An arrogance perhaps. Oddly the same arrogance that drove Achilles – it’s right there in the movie Troy. Heroes do amazing things when they give themselves permission to do things that transcend the normal, the average, the excuses.
Just because the marketing on your DAW says you can do everything from the software in the box, doesn’t mean you can do it yourself. You don’t even need, or want, to do it yourself. For every singer there is a guitarist looking for a singer. For every duo there is a drummer looking to tap skins (watch for those who only want to bang them). For every trio there is a bassist/keyboard player looking to join in. For every band there is an engineer looking to record. For every engineer there is a Producer looking for good records that need to be made. For every good record made there are fans waiting to hear it…
…if you will just record it and help them to find it.
Fear is the Mind Killer
If you don’t have the passion, faith, courage and willpower to go all the way (or as far as you can get) then make that decision. There is no shame. Either choose to be a lot smaller (like singing oldies at the local retirement village) or let yourself out altogether and find something else you can commit to with pleasure. You need something or you’ll be unhappy.
- I can’t tell you how to have willpower but I can say that if you turn up every day and commit your best then you will get a result worth having even if it is now what you expected
- I can’t tell you how to have courage but I do know that courage comes when you just do something regardless of whether you think you can or not
- I can’t tell you how to have faith but I do know that, bar something that changes everything, the sun will rise tomorrow.
- I can’t tell you how to have passion but I can say listen to the things that give you passion. Take it in and pour it back out in your way. We all use the same 12 notes so there is nothing new you can do there. What you can do is tell your story.
Hopefully someone will call you on it, next time you try to use excuses instead of getting out there and making the music you could if you just would.