Since I was a kid, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with fame. It’s been extra confusing for me because I’ve wrongly been conflating “fame” with “success” my whole life.
I grew up making music, releasing my first album and getting press coverage from the time I was 18. After 34 years and 19 albums, I haven’t come remotely close to breaking into the mainstream. In the aughts my albums landed on 300 college radio stations, and recently my tracks have been getting thousands of spins on Spotify. The rub is the money. I always felt that I needed to make money from my music, and at $0.003 per spin you can have a million spins on Spotify and still net only $3000. At the end of the day, I’ve spent tens of thousands on radio, press, and now streaming promotion, for little to no financial return.
My huge misconception is that I needed to make a living from music- that that was what really defined my success. The confusion with fame came in because in order to make a livable wage doing what I do would require some amount of notoriety on my part. I was dying to be a real musician, but realized recently it’s got nothing to do with fame and that I have- as it happens- been a real musician this whole time.
It used to be that artists would tour in the interest of selling more records- which is how bands used to make money. In the age of streaming, the model has flipped. The music is free to consume, and the hope is that those Spotify spins will get fans out to see the live show and buy merchandise, which is now the earning part of the equation. Although I’m not against playing a few shows, the idea of touring at the level necessary to make a living sounds grueling- especially when you’re just starting out. The best case scenario for somebody at my level would have been to get signed (which doesn’t happen until you’ve got millions of streams anyhow), get an advance for $250,000 or whatever, and then hit the road for 200 days a year. No thanks.
I spent years doing web design “gigs” to make money. It was fun, but I soon tired of keeping up with the tech and consistently worrying where my next paycheck was coming from. I wanted a job. So, after years of hit-and-miss freelance work, I’ve gotten a 9-5 job that affords me a place to go during the day and co-workers to talk to. I love the structure it gives me. There’s a joke that when people quit 9-5 to do freelance, they quickly learn that they’re now working 24/7. I love getting home from work and having no responsibility until 9 am the next day. I’m also free from constantly thinking about money. Finally, the job takes pressure off my music creation. I can simply enjoy the pure process of creation, rather than have the component of marketability hanging over my head- which I’ve always pretended was never a factor, although I see now I have been obsessed with marketability in my own way.
I now consider my lifetime musical endeavors to have been successful, and am excited for what the future may bring now that I’m no longer staking my happiness on the external rewards of social follows, fame, and riches.
Keep your eyes out for my next single, “I’ve Got The News”, coming April 14th.