If you are one of the few people that have been fortunate enough to pursue your art full-time, you will soon find out that work is still work. The difference between the soul-draining work you used to do and the life-giving work you currently do is quite simply the goal. Yes, the journey will inevitably be more enjoyable and the work will be more rewarding. But lets just say for a moment that a job is indeed a job; within your art you will find aspects of it that you loath, ne despise. When you come across aspects like that, there is where the work really becomes challenging and it tries your patience, your faith in your work and the belief that you are any good.
No one in this world will work as hard as you will for your work. Let me be the first to say that if you find someone who will join you on your journey without worrying about your art paying their mortgage; hold on to them. Those people are in a very special group, known as friends. Having great friends around you can really have a deep and profound impact on the outcome and journey of your art.
Is it to simply live a minimalist lifestyle with little to no lights or billboards with your name on them? Is it so that your art becomes an anthem for a generation?
Is your goal to make a living and just be known as an ‘artist’, no matter the monetary outcome?
If you said yes to all three or maybe just one of the above, there is a few valuable things you should prepare so that you have fertile soil to grow in.
This one is at the beginning of the list because though money isn’t everything it is one of the main things that can help a business run smoothly. There are plenty of artists out there that hate the business side of their ‘full-time’ status, so they just simply avoid it for the sake of ‘pure art’. These people are known as hobbyists. They might make some money here and there but largely they are simply satisfied with existing in life and giving their art in exchange for other services. If you are reading this and you have the wisdom on how to be a ‘professional artist’ simply by exchanging services, we really need to talk because I haven’t been enlightened yet.
Staying on this subject, all jobs have a business aspect to them. I have found a way to keep the stresses of the ‘business’ away from the joys of making art. They will collide and intertwine at multiple points on your journey, but learning how to consistently break up these fights or lessen the blow is all you can do. When dealing with business, have a set of 3 moral goals that you refuse to compromise on your journey. A couple of mine are; don’t forget my deepest friends and don’t reveal things talked about in private. Keep business and personal life very separate; that will aid in very healthy growth as well as preservation to keep your art authentic.
This one is second in line because money is a HUGE part of being able to go anywhere and everywhere the opportunity arises. Along with this point comes another very important aspect - relationships. If it’s an unhealthy relationship get rid of it - only you can truly know the vision. Keep your vision sacred. Revealing your vision to too many people increases the chances it will be compromised or watered down. At the age of 31, I am a single man, I’ve been engaged 4 times beginning at the young age of 19. None of those engagements were healthy; most of those women heard my vision and didn’t have the strength to follow it through with me. Maybe they had their own visions that they were hell-bent on fulfilling and that’s fine. The downfall was that we weren’t mature enough to recognize that we didn’t have the capacity to support each other. I can tell you from experience gentlemen, there are very few career-minded women out there in the music world - especially if your vision is being manifested consistently and theirs isn’t. Jealousy is a disease and most people aren’t mature enough to realize that it comes in many forms. Determine that in pursuit of your art, you refuse to become jealous of others success. Most of my past relationships included a woman that either didn’t have the strength to follow along with my vision or didn’t have her jealousy under control.
Whenever I begin to date someone, early on I will make sure to play “Gone Till November” by Wyclef Jean. That song has broken up more of my relationships than I can count because it expresses how I will live my life and make my living. I may not know the exact reason but let me tell you, being on the road is not something most significant other’s want. They want Netflix and chill, they want a staycation, they want a life where they are comfortable and stay home. For the last 10 years of my life it is clear that I’m a lone wolf in this game the call a music career.
This ties in quite nicely as number 3 because you may not ever feel lonely because the love of your life is right next to you even now, supporting you or even contributing to your vision. Let me just say, if that’s you I envy you. On the other hand, if you are the kind of person that has no ties to anyone or anything and you are ready to make this vision come to life, you will indeed feel loneliness. I believe even people that have everything they want are still quite lonely, but that is another subject. I could go on an on but I want to hit it from the practical application angle. If you’ve read to this point you are one of the few, the hungry ones that understand the struggles that will come and you aren’t scared of them at all. That is perfect, stay with me.
You will feel discouraged that your art isn’t good enough at times; be it that you got 3rd place in a competition or an art gallery rejects your application for a residency or even in my case where American Idol said, “We like your voice, so we would like to hear you again but we wouldn’t want to see you again.” As I had mentioned above, many of my past relationships fell apart because they knew they couldn’t support me in my vision and feel satisfied in their own lives. Be that as it may you must understand that rejection in life is inevitable. The only thing you can do is lessen the impact by simply allowing the art to live up to it’s own existence. What I mean by that is, if you have expectations on how the journey will unfold in pursuit of your end goal, you will have a more difficult time succeeding with art as your full-time job. Hitting this a little bit from the business side as well, not every business lands the major deal they want or hope for. They have to keep their composure in defeat or rejection and go back at it. There are a million and one ways to get to China, Spain, Ireland, etc., Some of these avenues are longer than others, but the only way any traveler can get to their destination is with patience, grace and no expectation of which way the road will turn. So long as you reach your destination in one piece or in one tattered mess, you have succeeded.
Number 4 kind of intertwines with the last point and in my opinion this one is definitely a job for me. You are going to meet people that get on your nerves or don’t want to go to the same places that you want to go; it’s ok. Rest in the fact that it’s ok to be different than others.
That being said, negativity is a real thing that exists for any person striving to achieve their goals. Someone will come along and tell you that it’s probably not a smart option to pursue your dreams without ‘proper schooling’. That one was definitely a personal experience. In 2012 I approached my uncle (by marriage) about investing in my future as a singer/songwriter/music professional. He is a quite successful businessman so I figured that he would see my potential and have an open hand. That was the furthest thing from what I had hoped. Instead he gave me these lectures about how his way of doing business is the best way and that includes going to school and having a degree. My goal was to write great songs so that I could use those songs to pay for homeless children have food, water or even help build homes. My music wasn’t merely a means to my personal riches. As I say this I can still very confidently say that though his intensions may have been pure, his words were quite negative and discouraging. My expectations of him were much too high for him to live up to. No big deal… until I became validated in my pursuit of this career when I signed an amazing record deal, with worldwide distribution through Universal Music Group/LRT/INGrooves. He was wrong for not investing in this dream because his vision was limited and full of judgment as to why I was doing it wrong. As it turns out, he is still quite wealthy and I am not. But what I have gained is something far more valuable, knowing that since moving to Nevada in 2011 I have achieved exactly what I set out to with no help from someone that has everything. I knew my potential and I am living it right now. No degree, no credentials, no investment from him, just pure success because I knew. Negativity will come in one very loud form. People that simply can’t see past their own advice or their own vision. I didn’t need him, so enjoy the negativity out of everything and move forward when people have limited themselves.
Let me just say in closing, this one isn’t an instant fix or one that I can even summarize in a paragraph. To even attempt that would diminish all that comes along the road. In order to move nations one much move themselves first. First, you must surrender your arrogance and pride. You may be talented but you are better than no one else. If you can’t objectively look at your art, you will lose your audience. Listeners, watchers, thinkers will NOT be looking at your art objectively. They will be coming into your art space with the weight of their world on their shoulders. You must be the one to bring their thoughts and feelings to the point of surrender. Depending on your form of art, your audience may be in need of harsh images or soft melodies, etc., Bottom line, learn your audience as deeply as you can. Endeavor to express your hurt, pain and triumph in a way that levels the playing field so that we all become one in this struggle called life.