I have had some conversation in the last few days with a fellow from parts unknown, nationality, race, gender, age, aspirations… all unknown. The conversation has solely been around him wanting me to help him Produce a song or songs of his.
Part of the reason I mention my lack of knowledge on him is that he has not attempted to share much of anything with me. To be honest I am still completely unclear on what he is wanting to achieve. I think he can’t even explain to himself what he wants to achieve.
Midas In Shadow
In “Art Of War” Sun Tzu goes on about Strategy, Tactics & Actions. About knowing yourself, strengths, weaknesses, your position in the terrain, what you can do, what you can’t do. What deceptions you can give, what you can’t give. He was a smart cookie and is still probably required (or encouraged) reading for any Military Officer anywhere in the world.
If you don’t have a workable understanding of at least a passable amount of this stuff you can expect to fail. I know self-knowledge is the most uncool thing ever to the Hipster mindset, but if you can’t even understand and express a clear distaste for Corn Flakes but a love of Rice Bubbles it is going to be a hard life (my daughters do this).
Back to my new friend: I surmise that he has a few songs in his mind that he has done some work to, put on paper in part, on tape in part; he has hopes that somehow, by the magical process of producers with professional plugins, that his grand ideas will become amazing work that captures the masses. Nice dream.
Sharing The Night Together
After a few emails, I was none the wiser of who, what, where, when, why… on this fellow. I asked him to go read my article on Making a Pitch. I don’t love doing that but with no information, no songs, nothing I could work with coming across, it was the only hope I had of helping him.
He asked if he could just send me a song and read the article later!!! I suggested that this was not the right approach. I mean really, right now it feels to me that he has ideas in his head and because he knows it, I know it. I can be good, but ain’t no one that good. I feel like he thinks I am a tool of his existence, like a peon in one of those world building games where you poke an icon person and tell him to do a thing and he does it without question or flaws. You are the God, the puppet-master.
This is not how real people work, especially other Artists/Craftsmen. I commonly write these people off as time wasters but something made me want to help this undefined person.
Sadly his resulting Pitch was barely better as it was just a set of words in a JPG + sounds in an mp3. Not together. Not a song. No info other than this has been around for four years and now he’d like to do it again, only differently. (Oh and he had made it clear that he had no money to commit to whatever this work was.)
This distinct lack of ability to share, to articulate, is a real problem. I am not judging people solely on their Pitching skills but if the Pitch can’t sell me on the Act & the Song, how can the general public get into it? The answer is it can’t.
Let It Grow
Jane just told me that in her reading that she found that the average length of a Social Media post was 10-15 words. This sounds about right as many of the requests I get from people to do something complex like make their song into a hit or build their website are about that short. How can get anything done with such a narrow communication? The Dalai Lama has more to say than that.
Try to really explain Love to me in 25 words or less and you’re fucked. I like so totally hear you trying to give smart-arsed, cliche, Hipstery answers like “Love Is My Daughter” (you read that on someone’s fridge whilst getting avocado didn’t you). I met your daughter, she’s an immature bitch and the two of you argue like cats & dogs. That response is a cop out. Really you are fucked! That is OK as Shakespeare wrote whole plays on Love, sonnets on it, and he wasn’t done by a long shot. Be honest. It takes more words to cover even one facet of love.
We need to learn to share more fully the freedom that we have. That has to start by taking in information. Then we can put it back out styled by our unique selves. Only taking things in in sections of 2-5 minutes or 35-40 words at a time is not conducive to making a more vivid life – more vivid Art. You need to read and listen voraciously. You need to converse voraciously to develop a voice that you can use to explain complex things like Love or what your song is about and what you want done with it.
Sand In Your Shoes
Here’s the dilemma: if the artist can’t express whatever it is that they are trying to tell the world then they are not ready. Worse, they are not even an Artist yet. If the song is words on a page and sounds on tape but the two aren’t together, there is no song.
Becoming an Artist, finding your Voice or Story, is all a result of learning to solve problems. If you can’t sing but feel the drive to write songs then you either find someone who can sing or you learn to make do. Maybe you even get smart and make a feature of your “special” & “unique” voice.
The drive to complete & publish your message is greater than any problems that you meet. Not because things become easy, they sure don’t do that, but because you make like Sun Tzu and learn to see your problems in new light and how to take advantage of them in some way. This is like the difference between us Euro-Whities who increasingly tend to approach a fight with an overwhelming fist to the face, whereas the Asian approach is to let the face-puncher get close then use his force to trip and throw him to the ground a few meters behind the un-punched face. Kung Fu thinking. A true Artist does this naturally (regardless of race, color, creed, culture etc.)
But many aspiring Indie Musicians never think to learn to do this.
Here’s the reason: people have lost the ability to know themselves coupled with the ability to express themselves, especially through anything approaching adversity. This has been a few generations coming.
Here’s at least some of how I think this came to be. The Baby Boomer generation were the first where they were raised with the idea that things should be easy. Their parents & grandparents had been through 1-2 major wars (incl a pretty sizable plague in the Spanish Flu). They suddenly decided that everything should be easy. Life should contain no challenge anymore – that their kids should have no adversity. As a result kids were allowed to have it easy. No mucking out the horses to ride to the shop to buy a bullet to shoot the pig to get bacon for dinner. Clothes washed themselves, dinners arrived in front of the TV in trays you could toss in the bin instead of washing up.
The next generation expanded on this with the idea that kids should just be kids. Remove all sense of the flows of life from their upbringing. Wrap them up. They would work it out when it happened. “Based on what experience?” is the question no one thought to ask. Disney movies became the closest most kids had to learning to deal with adversity. Parents were increasingly busy with their own lives, jobs, problems that they kept siloed away. It was increasingly easier to take kids to therapy and mark them as “broken” than temper (strengthen) them with life.
Then along came the Social Media explosion and suddenly everything was about being the most extroverted & shallow version of yourself you could be. Nothing wrong with being an extrovert, provided you actually are one that is, but why should anyone on the other side of the universe care what you are having for lunch. Bad sharing. Why should everyone have to be that & only that?
Paris Hilton, the Kardashians, and the idea that anything that wouldn’t fit into 140 characters (incl the #hashtags) wasn’t worth saying or knowing. This crippled people for being able to know themselves, what they had to say, how to say it and how to persevere past the first 140 characters to deliver something that had an impact.
Sharing a Story: as an Artist, it is your job to do it better, to take detail and make it compelling. Not to make it easy on yourself, or even necessarily easy your audience.
You are ready to consider calling yourself an Artist, ready to release your first songs or record, when you have solved enough problems to have a compelling story on the page. Not before or you will do yourself a world of damage and not realize it.
UPDATE: I let this kid go. Shuffled him along. As I managed to learn more – like pulling teeth – it became clear that not only did he not want to invest any money, he didn’t want to invest himself. There was something special in some tracks but his vision of himself included being completely invisible and not doing any of the work needed to lead people. Boy George led people, Mick Jagger led people, Robbie Williams led people… If you want to be noticed, you have to be prepared to back, and be, your vision. If not, then why would anyone want to follow you, be like you? Sadly he also ensured the end of any relationship by writing me an email making threats if I dared steal his work and use it elsewhere. Reality is that he wanted to sample some of my material, and probably has.