I went to the BMG Chrysalis Christmas party last week. Judging from the crowd and the noise level, one would think that the music business is alive and kicking. Because the party sure was. Wall to wall happy campers.
As I weaved in and out of rooms and hallways, I (accidentally, on purpose) overheard snippets of conversation. People were talking. Talking enthusiastically about projects and songs and new artists they were working with. I'm sure there was a fair amount of exaggeration and embellishment, but for the most part the merry music makers seemed to be genuinely fired up. But, if we're not making money from album sales and we're not seeing significant revenue from streaming, what are we so happy about?
Inquiring minds inquire. As I ran into friends old and new, I asked them what they were up to. One told me he left his longtime A&R gig to start his own label/management company. Given the precarious state the music business, if you're not being asked to leave a job, it takes a certain kind of moxie to do so on your own. Must be scary. But exhilarating too. I know the feeling.
Another compatriot explained that she got tired of waiting for that ever elusive record deal to fall into her lap so she started uploading her videos onto Youtube and playing out wherever they would have her. At least she's sending her creative chi out into the Universe. She seemed kinda happy too! Really happy. What's going on?
I considered: What better time to take a chance on yourself? What have we got to lose? No one I talked with seem to have any reservations. On the contrary, they were excited to be in uncharted territory doing something they felt passionate about.
A lot of people introduced themselves to me and said they were enjoying reading my blog... MY new thing. That made me feel great! Talk about scary at first. But now I know I'm reaching people who face similar challenges and that I'm not alone in my cynicism or my optimism.
How will we support ourselves while getting started in these new endeavors? Well, perhaps we'll have to subsidize our habit with a part-time (dare I say it) day job... moonlighting as a bartender... so our rent gets paid and we have the freedom to write (or work on) whatever is truly inspiring us rather than what we think radio wants to hear.
Hopefully, sometime in the not too distant future, records will be flying off the shelves again. Well, probably not. But who could have predicted CDs? Or iTunes? Or Lady Gaga? It's hard to tell what will come about next. And whether or not that "next" will put some coin back in our pockets. Maybe we'll be in a place where all the players on the field will combine interests for the common good and share the wealth that's out there. For there is wealth out there. (And at least some of it rightly belongs to us.)
In the meantime we have a silver lining staring us in the face. We're venturing out and reconnecting with our bliss. That thing that made us start writing songs in the first place. Or wanting to sign bands. That je ne sais quoi that got us so high. Before the idea of making money from music was on our radar. What was that feeling? I almost forgot myself.
Oh, and one more thing:
In a crowded room with so much stimulation and confusion and noise, sometimes it's hard to recall the names of people you've known for years. So, I dreamed up a new app. It's called Shaz-I-Am. When you (discretely) step behind the person who's name you've forgotten and hold your iPhone parallel to their back it tells you who they are. Premium subscribers are also reminded of the name of the song you once wrote together. No more embarrassing pretending-to-remember moments. Maybe I'll get busy with a patent.
Merry Christmas everyone! May you go forth into the new year and follow your bliss.