I just celebrated the 11th anniversary of my first steady paycheck as a staff songwriter. Somehow or other, for the past 11 years, music has been keeping me fed, clothed and sheltered. Music has taken me to places I never would have been, introduced me to dear friends I never would have met, and allowed me to spend every day focusing on doing what I love.
But it’s funny how even when you’re doing what you love, you still find a way to get frustrated, disappointed, overwhelmed, insecure, and distracted from what is truly important. I guess it’s the human condition.
You can spend your time feeling bitter about the “down” side of it….in a business where, on average, you have to write at least 100 songs in order to get one recorded, you can get very frustrated that song after heartfelt song that you write is collecting dust on a shelf somewhere because the demo recording wasn’t mixed right, or the company you were on staff with doesn’t pitch it, or for one of any other myriad reasons.
You can also spend your time getting distracted by the “up” side of it…when you experience success, you can ride the wave of it like a surfer, soaking in the attention that it brings, checking the charts every day, analyzing the market and trying to come up with a recipe for how to do it again.
But looking back at the “successes” and “failures” in my career over the past 11 years, I can say that I’ve learned something. If you’re in this business to make money, you’re in it for the wrong reasons. If you’re in it for the accolades, the attention, and the success, you’re in it for the wrong reasons. Those things are nice if you can get them, but they’re just the gravy on what is important, and they will never truly satisfy you in the end.
The most important thing is to do it for the music. Love your music – love every second of it. You don’t have to have a song on the charts to get high on the rush of adrenaline you get from finding the perfect rhyme to finish out your phrase. You don’t have to be standing in a spotlight to sing a melody that brings tears to your eyes. Accolades and success will come and go, but that is the kind of happiness that you can have from the day you’re born until the day you die and every day in between, and no one can take it away from you.