Time = Money?

A common complaint from artists is that they don't have enough time to create, and support themselves. Its a frustration that stems from the expectation that they have a right to make money from their art.

Our society has perpetuated the belief that our "career" is something that pays the bills, and everything else is a hobby. While career in the accepted sense denotes expertise, hobby is thus for the amateur. Therefore to be a successful musician, you must be making the majority of your money from music.

Consider Einstein's story for perspective. He wrote most of his influential early work while employed as a clerk in a patent office. Einstein didn't use time as an excuse to not write - he had the determination to create because he was driven by his desire to understand the universe, to develop ideas, to solve problems. His intention was strong enough to reward him and keep him moving forward. And although his "career" was as a clerk, he was still very much a scientist.

You define what success is for your art - and the only barrier to that is any belief that you hold that stops you from delivering. The driver is your intention - if you're struggling with barriers, look at your reasons for creating in the first place. Time and money are not variables that are beyond anyone's control.


Flow - The Ultimate Reward?

A state of ecstasy. Of happiness.

This is flow - found in activities of creation. Most musicians will probably recognise this place - getting lost in pure concentration, of time standing still yet passing so quickly that it seems to disappear, of satisfaction and achievement. Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi has spent his career understanding this state of being, and how it contributes to our happiness. His research - found in his book and on this brilliant classic Ted talk - points out that despite our material culture, wealth alone cannot give us fulfillment. His interviews with artists, musicians, poets, athletes, and CEOs revealed that those who can enter flow find meaning and happiness.

Czikszentmihalyi attributes several qualitative states to flow. One of them has always stood out for me:

"A sense of serenity - no worries about oneself, and a feeling of growing beyond the ego."

To me, this is flow. Where the world simply melts away, and all that matters is the act of creation.

It strikes me now how contradictory this is to commerical music. What happens when we leave the state of flow, and come back into the material world - how is it that the ego returns so quickly, and suddenly demands that vast sums of money be immediately forced from the hands of our listeners into our pockets as a just reward for what we have created?


"If" Isn't a Strategy

If only my lawn was emo then it would cut itself

If we only had a bigger budget.
If only people didn't steal music.
If things were like they were before.
If only we had better PR.
If only we had their contacts.
If only we had a major label deal.

It's easy to get stuck in this spiral, but "if" will never be a catalyst for achieving goals - no matter what industry you're in. The blame involved establishes you as the victim - the only way to move your music career forward is to take responsibility and create a full strategy for your work that puts you in control.
Artists involved in the piracy debate often fall into the downward spiral of "if". Major labels have tried their best to convince us; if only the evil pirates could be stopped, then the music industry would be saved, and all would be as it was before.
The fact is - file sharing is a reality. Blaming piracy for any lack of your own success is useless - artists themselves cannot stop file sharing from happening.
Instead of "if only" - what are you doing to take responsibility for a strategy where you have outlined what you want to achieve, and the steps to making it happen?
Image from Flickr by Martin Deutsch