I recently got re-acquainted with a producer named Joe Reineke that I used to create music with pretty regularly. As always, I was struck by his musical insight and maturity and immediately began to think about how much better my songs WOULD be if I worked with him again. Of course, rightfully, he wants to be paid for his expertise. Now on the eve of submitting what will be my 11th musical creation to the distributor and with the thought of investing more money into my creative craft I am forced to again ask myself the question……WHY DO I KEEP CREATING MUSIC?
It makes zero sense. I have a career that rewards me handsomely. I rarely even accept any money we receive for performing at a gig, I usually tell the venue to roll our proceeds into the other bands on the bills compensation because I know very few are lucky enough to have the type of career that I do. The market for music is completely saturated, and the modern-day streaming model has once again shifted any monetary rewards possible to an elite few at the top of the heap. Currently if you go on Spotify and listen to one of my songs the reward is $0.0056. As in the “glory days” of the music industry, it once again takes lots and lots and lots of money to break through the noise and create any sort of volume that makes music a sustainable form of expression.
When people ask me how my music is going I usually say, “good, it’s a really fun hobby.” I say hobby because there is zero chance I would ever be able to make a living off of it. I could climb into a van, and drive back and forth across the country, making enough money to pay for gas and a burger to get me to the next dump to play in front of no one. But why? Like everyone I like to have a home, some sense of financial security, some sort of conviction that I will be ok into old age when I can no longer work. Does being a musician create this opportunity for musicians? I would argue absolutely not. In fact, it is a terrifying thought of what is going to happen to all these idealistic artists as they transition into middle/old age? I think it is quite clear politically that social security is not a given. These musicians have spent their 20s and 30s perfecting their craft, slinging their music across the country. So now as they enter into their 40s they will have no resume, no education, no financially marketable skills, and a billion Chinese and Indian immigrants with technical skills/degrees gunning for their piece of the American dream. Seattle recently saw this reality in action as my favorite local Seattle singer/songwriter delved back into the world of tech, succumbing to the pressures of life and the economic realities of being a musician. The simple truth is that the music industry has never been a great generator of equity, and what it does produce, gets soaked up by the top. It DOES NOT trickle down in any sort of meaningful manner.
Why do I keep writing song after song? Why did I convert nearly half of my livable space in my home into a personal studio and practice space for my band? Why do I invest in studio equipment and watch endless youtube audio mixing tutorials? Why do I put up with band mates who refuse to do even an ounce of the leg work required to make this band a thing? Why do I still check my streaming stats and update my website constantly? Why do I podcast the “stories” behind my songs? Why do I run facebook ads and try to figure out new marketing techniques to get the music heard? Why do I spend hours searching for the perfect font for my next singles cover art? Why am I thinking about starting a live streaming type musical experience online? Good God why!?
Cause I fucking love music that’s why. I love writing and releasing something into the word that has never existed before. I love the endless pusuit of that next bigger better song, like chasing a ghost that never really materializes. It’s a relentless pursuit, not for fame or fortune, not because it is always enjoyable, or because its financially viable, but because music is fucking awesome. I’m not delusional, I know I will never win a Grammy or get one of my songs onto a major television show, I will never play my favorite venue in Seattle or open for any of my favorite Seattle bands. But at the end of the day my music is my creation and it gives me purpose.
Because of the nature of my profession it legally forces people to retire at a specific age. I work with so many people at the end of their career that have absolutely no idea what they are going to do when they are forced out the door. It is very sad to watch people who have no purpose outside of their profession. Plenty of money, no purpose. I have no fear that I will be like them. I will welcome my retirement because it will give me even more time to sit in my create space writing music, recording music, mixing music, playing with my band, and having a damn jolly time along the way.
Life is good, music makes it better. That’s why.