This is an excerpt from a Seth Godin post. You can find the middle bits here.
The creation of worthwhile work is a duet. The creator has to do her part, but so does the customer...
Movies, writing, sushi, safety ladders, high-powered magnets, saxophones... it doesn't matter. Every creator that desires to fly higher needs an audience willing to cheer them on and go for the ride as well. That's our part of the deal.
I skate where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.
Singer/Songwriter Ralph Murphy shares his insight and experiences from his 30+ years of being in the music "business". This is a fantastic lecture that took place at Layola University. He stresses over and over about how this is a business.
He also stresses that all artists need to know how to craft a song so that it appeals to your audience/fans. If you can keep you fans entertained and wanting more then you will remain in the business and potentially make a pretty good living. If you neglect the basics of songwriting you will more than likely not be in the business for very long.
Below are a couple of gems I picker out as points to remember for up and coming artists like yourselves.
"What brings you to a song 100% of the time is melody. What keeps you there is lyric."
"For you artist or singer songwriter a song is not a song, a song is a linear lyrical conversation between you and every single person in that room."
"Music is the underpinning of society."
"The three things you ask yourself when you're finished with your work are, what's in it for the listener? What's in it for the listener? What's in it for the listener? If there's nothing in it for the listener you're wasting your time."
Here's a post from Brian Thompson over at MTT. He raises some very good points about the downside of becoming an overnight success. I posted a comment on his original article, but I'll reiterate some of my points here.
I've been in this business a long time. I've seen artist come and go. Sometimes they burn out, maybe they want something more or they simply want a laid back lifestyle. Starting a family and creating a "normal" life is probably the biggest reason for voluntarily leaving the music business.
More often than not, however, the biggest reason an artist or band is no longer in the business is because they received too much too soon. They weren't prepared for the potential consequences of being an overnight success. If you're in the music business, no matter what level, you want to make a living creating art. We all do. There are, however, some pitfalls and I think Brian has outlined a few below that most new artist should be aware of.
When one of my clients says "My dream is to get signed and become famous!" I always reply with "Be careful of what you wish for. It just might come true."
1. You won’t be mentally prepared to deal with all of the fame, fortune, and international attention.
2. You won’t be well-rehearsed or experienced enough and your performance won’t be ready for overnight global attention.
3. Critics and fans will eat you alive for every little misstep you do, crushing your soul and spirit in the process.
4. You will have a very short career. Overnight successes do not create life-long fans.
Whenever I work with a young artist I stress the facts that it's not about the gear, the studio, the producer or anything external to your original intention of what you're creating. You are making art so make it the most it can be without worrying about what others will tell you they think it should be. If they are so good at making music then they should go ahead and make their own art. In the meantime you, as the working artist making your mark on the world of music, should only focus on what you want to bring into this world. That being your version of the art that you are making for your fans and yourself.
Below is G Love's version of the same conversation. As someone who's been writing music for quite a while now he certainly knows the difference between what people think makes a great record and what really makes a great song.
It's all about the song.
By G. Love
Its all about the songs, its all about the songs. Its a line you hear a lot when we talk about successes and failures in music.
Ultimately, you will succeed or fail based on your ability to write great songs. All of my talk about business hustle, practicing your guitar, life on the road and everything else really doesnt matter if you dont have the songs to back it up.
Hendrix, Clapton, Page and all the great guitar players were obviously masters of their instrument, but the fact is there are a thousand guitar players who can play that good. The main reason we know and idolize these masters of guitar are their songs.
Jimi Hendrix could've just been another unsung excellent guitar player in someone elses band if he hadn't written his first smash single and blown up overnight. We love and can sing Jimmy Pages guitar parts by heart, but we wouldnt even know all those riffs and solos if Page and Plant hadnt written the greatest songs of all time. In the end, its the song.
I write songs. Day in and day out, they wake me up in the morning, I dream them, they give me inspiration and make the hairs stand on the back of my neck. They can make me happy, they can piss me off and frustrate the hell out of me. Writing songs gives me a reason to live. I always think about my songs as my children. You have a burst of creativity — ahhhh, that felt good, and then bang — another song is born.
This is a great article and I suggest the serious songwriter to continue reading it over at Guitar World.