Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Musician or Entertainer?

At rehearsal last night, I lamented to my fellow bandmate that this past weekend's gig blew my voice out. You see, late Saturday night I was singing a rousing set of dance music all clumped together for a heart-pounding good time, when my voice went KA-POP-SQUEE (that's the technical term), right at the end of "Shakey Ground."

So, I did what all good musicians do when they can't make music... I entertained. My little butt shimmied out on the dance floor, mic in hand, livening up the crowd and getting them to sing for me. How brilliant I was!

Now, a good performer is both a talented musician and stellar entertainer. They are capable of getting the crowd on their feet, or at least tapping their toes, often through a combination of skill, good looks, high energy, and a smattering of luck.

You may be thinking, "Good looks? Luck? What does that have to do with music?" Well, after a decade of playing live, I can tell you that this is the ideal combination and if you lack in one area, you better make up for it in another.

Think about it... Some of our best looking musical celebrities really can't sing all that well. And some of our best singers aren't that pretty to look at. And luck? Let me tell you, anytime you play in front of a live crowd, something will go wrong. Your mic will cut out mid-phrase, your amp will feedback, your monitor will burst into jets of white-hot flame...

Okay, maybe not the flame thing, but it could happen!

What I'm saying is that sometimes you have to keep on keeping on for your audience, and this applies to near any aspect of life where what you do is being judged by others. Or, as my mother used to say, "If you can't dazzle them with your brilliance, baffle them with your bullsh*t."

Feel free to share your own baffling moments in the comments!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rule #1: Create for you, share for others.

A blog I frequent recently asked the question, "Why do people want to be published?" As you can imagine, there were numerous responses, most of which focused around the following...

1. I want money.
2. I want to be accomplished/validated in my work.
3. I want others to read what I have to say.

Those who wanted those things, said so in the most flattering light of course. Wrapped up in their words like good writers, only a few were frank enough to say they wanted the money or the success or the fame.

Let's be honest, there is nothing wrong with wanting those things. In an ideal world, you should get paid to do what you love. As an artist, however, most of us keep day jobs to pay the bills. We toil with our art forms as a labor of love, getting up at 4:00am to write before the kids have to go to school, or staying up until 2:00am because you can't stop the jam session now.

We find a way to fit the dream into reality because it's our passion. We can't stop; we have to do it.

We create for ourselves.

However, when it comes to publishing, performing for an audience, or displaying your painting in a gallery, whatever form your art may take, you should be sharing it for others' sake.

Other people do not care how much of your heart and soul is invested in your work; they do not consider how much coffee you were forced to drink, how many pizza dinners you ate to avoid time spent cooking, or how many ulcers you developed stressing over your work.

They only care about being entertained and/or informed. Fail to do that, and no one will give a rat's patoot about your creation.

You can write purely for the joy it gives your soul. There is nothing wrong with that. But if you decide to venture into the world of publishing, you better do so with the idea in mind that this is no longer about you. This is about your reader's experience.

Some haughty writers may criticize my viewpoint and say, "This is about art! Surely, if he is an intelligent being, he shall appreciate my work! Only those lacking opposable thumbs would dare disdain upon my creation!"

To them I say, "Good luck." Succeeding in the entertainment business is equal odds to getting struck by lightning. By carrying this kind of attitude, you're verging into getting-hit-by-a-meteor territory. Though, I suppose you're making it one less person I have to compete with, so... go ahead with your bad self!

Keep the audience experience in mind as you labor, or you'll find out that the only one who will ever be captivated by your creation, is you.