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The Case Against Collaboration: A Solo Artists Manifesto

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Photo by Doug Seymour

With great power comes great responsibility. Whereas I could never give up the writing and arranging of my songs, things like footing the bill and promotional outreach I'd love to share with band members. However, they are employees because I am a solo artist and we are 'Brett Gleason'. The creative control and spotlight drew me to this position but the daunting tasks of promoting and funding a career keep most artists at bay, cause them to seek shelter in a collective in which not only is the risk spread but also the reward.

For the songwriter with a clear vision being a band member can be a frustrating experience filled with miscommunications and compromises that can make friends happy but minimize the purity of the original intent. It is a rare quartet who can birth a cohesive idea, each bringing a complimentary piece of the puzzle and whereas it may be a prudent band member who steers you from the cliff, it can also be a game of musical telephone where each person can't help but put their own twist on an idea until it is unrecognizable. Though some bands are greater than the sum of their parts someone needs to take charge and direct the group or it can become a struggle to lead as opposed to a struggle to create.

Making an album by your self inherently takes longer but what is lost in tedium is saved in translation. When one can delegate responsibility, write skeleton songs for others to flesh out, the creative process is exponentially accelerated but the solo artist can learn to play exactly what's heard, spend that extra hour searching for precisely the right sound. Recording my debut LP took more than five years but I now have the exact record I want and can think of no better way to start a career.

Of course not every artist can produce and release a record alone but for those with this option, is it the best route? Many don't have the right temperament or time to get a record out there; self-promotion rarely comes easily. I know I pushed too hard, too personally, burnt some bridges as I learned to navigate being the person and the product. Spreading out tasks such as press outreach, booking and social networking is an undeniable benefit to being in a band as is splitting the bill when gigging, rehearsing and recording. For a solo indie artist such as myself, breaking even can be a glamorous goal and selling CD's for a cab home a resounding victory.

The glory will be all yours but it is a long road there and a hard one to go solo.

For it is on my shoulders alone to assure that 'Brett Gleason' is not relegated to obscurity. The constant emailing, networking and out-reach is emotionally exhausting but who's going to work harder for me than myself? Solo artistry is not for the weak willed or thin skinned and what I previously lacked in assertiveness I've had to develop out of persistence and patience. The work is hard, the cost is great but for the artist with an uncompromising vision, the benefits more than outweigh the detriments.