Thursday, November 5, 2009

Starving Artist Denial Syndrome...or the SADS...

I was thinking about this the other night for some reason...It happened a few years back when I was playing for my church...I do this often. Keeps me grounded, let's me give some of my talent back, and is part of my threefold philosophy with drumming...

There are 3 types of gigs that you should be involved with at all times...

1) Paid (The most popular by far)

2) Experience (These are sometimes paid, but oftentimes when they are it's not much...these are the learning times. That group you took on because the music was really challenging or you saw it would give you the chance to stretch out a bit in the music...yada yada yada...)

3) Unpaid/Charitable (Church, Christmas volunteer stuff, etc...)

I was playing with a bass player I had played with once before and I couldn't remember his name. After rehearsal we exchanged niceties and I got his name again...we'll call him Fluff...and asked him what he did for a living, to which he replied, "Well, I'm a bass know, lots of studio stuff, some live stuff..."

Cool, great work if you can get it, albeit rarely stable work.

So here's the problem I had...I knew for a fact that playing wasn't all Fluff did for a living. How, you might ask, did I know that?

Rewind a few weeks...I was working my cash job (go here to see what that means). I'm a personal trainer and not ashamed to say it. That brings in the majority of the cash money at my house. Music brings in some too, but as you know, I re-vamped how I'm doing things a couple of years ago...

Anyways, I was working my cash job...and Fluff was working out in the same room I was training my client in (I casually brought my gym up in conversation later just to make sure this was the same guy...). I guess he overheard us talking about my kid. He grabbed one of his business cards and popped over to tell me how I needed to get my son some of whatever it was he was trying to sell me (it was some useless commodity that no child really a life insurance plan or something like insurance for me, check. Life insurance for my 2 year old, probably not...) was obvious this guy sold a good bit of this stuff, he had cards, an office, yada yada...

So why did he tell me he played music full time? Why was he afraid to tell me he sold such and such commodity as well as played music?

Seems I run into alot of folks like this in Nashvegas...

They're in the second stage of what I like to call the Starving Artist Denial Syndrome...or the SADS (the first stage is when they are actually in fact starving from lack of work and unwilling to get a job that will allow them to eat anything besides ramen noodles)...they can't face up to the fact that they haven't positioned themselves within the musical market well enough to have a steady stream of income from it, so they go get a "real" job and convince others that they really are , in fact, working full time as a musician, this other work is just extra.

Rock on Kennedy.

They're scared too...they have no clue how they'll be able to ever get music to be a full time thing. Only thing they can come up with is maybe they'll land that dream road gig...or become "the" session player in town...or whatever...and this job will just "get them through the lean times"...all of which they have no actual control over.

So what did I say when he asked what I did?

I told him I was a personal trainer. Period.

Do I play music for pay? Sure. Do I make well at it? Some months more so than others. Do I have a game plan for increasing my capacity and pay in the musical arena? You freakin' bet I do (Watch this space...)

I gave up a long time ago trying to convince people that I played full time when in fact I didn't. What was I gaining from lying? Absolutely just made me feel like a moron for not having more gigs. The real problem was that I didn't have any sovereignty over my work...I didn't say when I played, for how much, for whom, etc...I was waiting on the calls, and that sucks and is never steady.

So 2 years ago I took on personal training.

One of the best things I've ever done. I say who I work with, when I work, when I'm off, how much I work for. And that goes for music now as well...if I don't want to take a gig because I don't like the players or it doesn't pay quite enough for me to "want" to do it, I don't. Period.

It was a huge ego hit at first...I went through some mad depression about it...all because I tied my self worth to my playing.


The sooner you get that through your skull the better.

So why did Fluff's denial bother me so much? Because I don't think he knows HOW to make the music thing work. I don't think he's figured out how to gain sovereignty over his playing and career. Have I? Not fully, but I've got a better idea than 90% of the folks out there waiting for gigs...

and how do I know that?

I'm way happier than most of them. Very content with where my career is and where it's headed. In no rush to get there because I want it to look just like the image of my career I have in my head. I love my original project I'm involved with...I love playing at the church I do (they have so many killer players there!)...I dig the session work I've been doing...the road work and live gigs I've been doing have been top notch on so many levels...etc...

So when should you face up to the fact that your career isn't what it should be and start taking steps to fix that?

I don't know...I'm still figuring things out for's different for's a huge step, but one well worth taking. You owe it to yourself ...and to the rest of the world... to reach your full potential.

It's like George Bernard Shaw said:

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

I've decided to be the unreasonable man nowadays...


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