Feb 23, 2011

(no) Money For Nothing.

Dear Ask A Punk-
Seems like unless you're Lady GaGa or an 11 year old boy with fucked up hair, you can't make a living playing music anymore. My band has been together for seven years, we've put out a couple of EPs, we've got all the online stuff going that you're supposed to have these days. We seem to have actual 'fans' in places other than our hometown and all of that. But this Fall we did a van-tour and played something like 35 shows in about 42 days... and in the end after expenses and all were covered each of us in the band (there are four of us) took home maybe $400 or so each. For a month's worth of hard work. I'm actually thankful that the winter has been so bad that we haven't been playing out beyond the usual hometown gigs because it gives me a chance to clock some real hours and get out of my financial hole at my "day job" which I don't despise, but it certainly isn't my dream occupation - but I'm getting tired of this. How does a band "get to the next level"? or DOES a next level even exist anymore? - road dog(tired)

Dear RD(t):
That is a tough one my friend, but it isn't a new problem. You have to remind yourself that 'The Creative Life' comes with no promises that you'll ever really be able to live on your art, no matter what it might be. I currently live in Los Angeles. I see countless people who are undeniably talented and trained and dedicated to all kinds of creative endeavors... and at least 90% of them are not directly supporting themselves with their art... or if they are, they are living very frugal existences.

I count myself as part of that 90%. I've been writing this blog every week for 3 years and counting - but I'm not exactly fending off book or movie deals .... or even advertisers. I played in bands for years too - but back then none of us ever expected to make a living at punk rock - heck, the few times I got paid anything I remember being sort of stunned. I don't play in bands any more, but I always have a guitar out, tuned and ready to play. I write something EVERY day - a script, a song, a blog post, whatever... and I work on creative projects of my own in every medium and genre you can think of (except maybe drawing/painting, good god, I can't draw to save my life.) Sometimes I make money at these endeavors, often times I don't... but I can't imagine not doing them. I can't stop myself from doing them... even when the feedback is bad or (more often) non-existent.

We fall in and out and back in of love with our various creative endeavors, sometimes in the course a single day, and usually that 'falling out' of love is caused by frustration at the lack of interest from the outside world. Our heads start to hurt from all that banging on walls... believe me I know the feeling... but you have to ask yourself if you would be even more miserable if you stopped. Was your plan, from day one, really to be a rich (punk) rock star? ...or did you just want to get up on stage (any stage) and have your loud say ? Can you find joy in the process - everything from rehearsing with your bandmates, to writing new songs to doing your band-related 'online' stuff? If yes, then you haven't lost the spark of what drew you to the creative life in the first place. If no, well, you've got some soul-searching to do. No one is forcing you to do this stuff, and if you want to hang it up and take some accounting courses the world isn't going to mourn... but will you?

Think about it.
Good luck.