Published March 28th, 2012 at 10:00 am EST/EDT

As promised, here’s another installment in the series “My Experiences with Learning How to Bard”. This week’s topics will be much more philosophical than last week’s. Keep an eye out for future installments as well, as I’ve already got some neat ideas planned.

Last week I ended by talking about how you shouldn’t let other people discourage you from being a musician by telling you you’re not “good enough”. My main argument was basically, “Being ‘good enough’ is not necessarily the point”. I wanted to continue on that train of thought by saying that any perceived lack of musical talent doesn’t mean you’re not a bard (or a minstrel or rocker or rapper or whatever suits your fancy). If it’s important to you, never let your music escape you.

The reason I keep ranting about this is because, at least in the US, we have developed this mentality that if you’re not a good enough musician to be a professional musician, then you shouldn’t be a musician at all. I find that to be a horrible way of looking at something that is so intrinsic to our humanity that it’s one of the most universally valued things across all times and cultures. In this country, we package and cultivate musical talent until it becomes a sterile, soulless representation of what everyone has inside them and we encourage the philosophy of That’s How It Should Be.

But music doesn’t have to be “pretty”. Music doesn’t have to be “good”. Music only has to be whatever you want it to be, especially if it’s your music. If you need a flawlessly executed aria, then that’s what you need. If you need to just make primal sounds for your own brand of catharsis, that’s ok, too. And yes, over-processed, vapid pop music has its place, as well. As I said, it’s about you getting/creating what you need at the time.

So experience music however it is you need to experience it. And don’t feel like you have to exhibit your music publicly in order to qualify as a musician. As long as you get something out of it, that’s really all that matters. I’ve said that I primarily view music as a vehicle for storytelling. But writing this I realize I can lump a few more concepts into that category—healing, for one.

In addition to the above, I would also like to encourage anyone reading to be bold enough to be independent. And not only with music, though that’s the only thing I’m going to touch on in this particular blog entry.

For a very long time, it’s been the case that, for most people, if you wanted to be a professional musician and actually be able to, you know, eat on a regular basis, that you had to get signed to a label. From where I’m sitting, getting signed to a label had and still has three primary benefits for an artist: Legal protection, which I won’t get into here, promotion, and recording.

All three of these services are very expensive and require many man hours and resources. In Ye Olde Times, they were prohibitively expensive for small-timers and independents. And not only did you have to have access to things like recording equipment, you had to have access to someone who knew how to use it, too.

A lot has changed. A lot. Of course, there’s still plenty of stuff that’s the same, but one of the biggest differences between then and now is that now you don’t have to be signed to a label in order to make a living from music.

For me, this particular light bulb went on when I started seeing SJ Tucker in concert. She breezes through Indianapolis every once in a while, puts on a heck of a show, and then heads off for her next gig somewhere in another state. And she does this full-time. She has almost a dozen professionally produced albums and various singles for sale on her website. Of course, she also vends at her shows, as well. She plays at conventions, she plays at festivals, she pops in to someone’s house for a day or two and rocks the shit out of things. And she’s able to make a living at this because over the course of the somewhere-around-seven years she’s been doing this, she and others have worked tirelessly to promote her and her music.

It wouldn’t be fair to say she does it all herself because I know there are many awesome people who join in the fun. But she sure as shit isn’t able to do this because a big label is financing everything for her. She is a musical entrepreneur, and she is one of many of them out there who is leading the way for the rest of us dreamers.

So there’s a precedent. It’s possible. You want to be an independent musician? You can actually make a living at it these days. So many things are so much more accessible now than they were even ten years ago—hell, I have a pretty decent recording studio in one of the spare bedrooms of my house and I paid for it by saving up money while I was a student in college. It’s not fancy and it’s pretty small, but it suits my needs. And with the internet, the promotional possibilities are staggeringly greater than they were in, say, the 1970s. Musicians don’t need labels anymore. Quite frankly, I think the labels need us a lot more than we need them.

So there’s your bit of whatever this qualifies as for this installment. My next topic will be my various instruments. That entry will be posted the week after next, as next week is the next Lyrics Dump post.

I’m really looking forward to the next installment in this series. I’m planning to show off a picture of one of my body parts that only a select few people have ever seen.

Until then, proceed with the kicking of life’s ass.

2 Responses to “My Experiences with Learning How to Bard Pt. 2 – Going Pro”

  1. Jen Midkiff says:

    I was just talking about SJ last night with Rick, at the end of the evening’s studio session. He spent 2 1/2 years touring (literally 50 weeks per year!) and loved it. We talked about how the networking has changed: you once had to have an agent, now you just need Facebook and lots of friends. :) It’s still time-consuming (more time than I have, at least until our debt load is smaller), but…it was a dream of mine, growing up: just me and my music and the open road. Now that would be a family and an RV and music, but. . .maybe it’s still achievable!

  2. firesongblog says:

    Right now it’s definitely one of my fondest dreams. It’s definitely helpful to be working with two VERY talented people who would also jump at the chance for that sort of career. So we’re working on it, and hopefully the work will pay off : )

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