There is a post over at Seth Godin’s blog called “Borrowed Time”.
It goes like this;
All of us are on borrowed time. There are no refunds and there are no guarantees.
At some point, the only time you’ll have to worry about is the time you’ve wasted.
Life is short and a career in music is even shorter and a career at the top of the charts is even shorter than a career in music. There is no safety net and no guaranteed wage or income.
For every person who works what is known as a 9 to 5 job, they could have a job today and not tomorrow. For every person who is a casual, they could be called in to work today and not again for weeks. For every person who embarks on a trip some will return and others will not return. For every artist who writes a song, they could get paid for it or they could not.
Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing is certain.
Jon Bon Jovi was happy living a life in the 90’s from the royalties and advance payments he received from his 80’s output, along with “Keep The Faith” and “These Days”. Then Napster came and blew up the monopoly the record labels had on the distribution. Suddenly the band Bon Jovi from 2000 and onwards became a different beast, releasing music almost yearly and touring constantly.
If you are a musician, you could slog it out for years and get no commercial reward. But you would get the joy of creating and playing. These days, you could spend years building an online presence and it does not equate to dollars in the bank account when your music comes out. No one knows why, things become successful and no one knows why, things don’t become successful.
Vito Bratta was asked to write hits for the follow up to “Pride” and he didn’t know what the record label rep meant. As far as Bratta was concerned, he wrote songs and if any of them became hits, great, if they didn’t, still great.
So don’t develop a mindset which tries to create something that you think people would like. Create something that is true to you. And if the first attempt fails, try again and again.
If you look at music history, the 25 million selling “Black” album was created the same way that every other Metallica album was created up to that point, James and Lars would take all the demo ideas everyone had, go away to one of their houses and piece together the songs. The album then goes nuclear worldwide and the band is writing songs with all the members in the room and Kirk is doing rhythms on the album.
The “Load” and “Reload” albums have beautiful moments and a more swingy kind of groove based on Hetfields love of Corrosion of Conformity. Hetfield and the other guys in Metallica created albums true to themselves. And even though the band was accused of further selling out, they never catered to anyone except themselves, which is so evident on “St Anger” and then their new take on an old sound with “Death Magnetic” and “Hardwired To Self-Destruct”.
So don’t waste time thinking about what people would like and what people would expect, be productive and do what you want. Take the risks and see what happens. You might fail, you might succeed and you will learn. And remember nothing is guaranteed.