I decided to be a singer in 1992 (at the age of 26), but it was four years until I wrote my first song. After that, I began performing with friends sporadically and it was several more years before I had a repertoire of originals and a real band. In my most miserable years (my late thirties) I produced the most music: I played open mics and bar gigs, wrote songs about living in the moment and being single and making money, and paid the best instrumentalists I could find to perform and record with me. From 2002-04 I was working a cushy corporate job and had plenty of money for this. I managed to put together nine broadcast-quality songs, although I didn't have the follow-through to actually turn them into a proper CD.
Then I met Bob [lighting change, music shift] and I stopped feeling miserable. I actually became happy and the music stopped. In 2006 I didn't write a single song. For a year and a half I had no performances and my electric bass collected dust. I thought maybe I was done and the music had simply been a coping mechanism.
It is now summer 2007 and after a nineteen-month intermission, I'm making music again, but not for performance. I've realized I don't like performing, at least not the way many bands do it. I don't like bars, smoke, alcohol, being out late and I really can't stand the decibels at which live music is performed. I also don't like the burden of having to generate my own audience: posting flyers, sending out supplicant emails, doing open mic's and acting like the Pied Piper of "Come to my gig!" I'm not good at promotion and always disliked it. Self-marketing, plus the loudness and the lateness of the music scene, completely repel me, so I'm leaving it behind.
I'm now focusing on making recordings of as many original songs as possible and seeing if I can sell them. I've let go of the fantasy of one day hearing my voice on the radio. I no longer want to become even locally well-known if it means more self-promotion and more late nights in loud bars. I've stopped dreaming about being Discovered. For years I've been caught between the desire to be heard and the fear of finding out I'm really no good. Being a great songwriter with an incredible voice has been the most important thing to me and I think it's really hampered me. Terrified of finding out I wasn't a great songwriter with an incredible voice, I've always stopped myself before I really accomplished anything, before anyone could really hear me.
Listening to myself after my nineteen-month hiatus, I'm realizing that I'm not that great a singer. In fact, my singing voice might just be mediocre, but suddenly that feels fine. It no longer feels like my self-worth depends on how good a musician I am or how much people like my music. I don't really know why. I imagine some people aren't motivated until they decide they want to be Great. For me, letting go of having to be Great is finally allowing me to accomplish something.
Now I just want to generate some income from work I've already done. I love the idea of royalties: getting paid for work that's completely accomplished for as long as someone continues to use it. If one of my songs ends up in a commercial, that might mean royalties that stop after a few weeks or months, and many jobs will produce one lump payment. But I'm excited about the possibility of receiving money for an indefinite broadcasting period -- years? Oh, to hit the Gilligan's Island of music royalty deals.
I've joined TAXI.com, a company that supplies music for record companies, TV and film producers, and anyone else who need music for any kind of project. It could be months or years before I make the deal that pays me for music I've written and it's a process that requires great patience and persistence, but so be it. It'll take a couple of thousands of dollars in musicians' fees and recording fees to make these songs market-ready, but I've got to try. I believe it will eventually pay off.
Now I spend a good portion of my days rewriting lyrics, revising charts, practicing my songs and preparing to record them. I've got piles of original songs I've written over the past ten years. Why not try to make some money off of them? I just know there's someone who can use a children's song about being magical, an anthem to atheism, a soliliquy about facing death. Oh, I've got songs. I can supply a ballad about realizing you're middle-aged, a why-does-my-life-suck rant and a driving mantra telling us to "be here now." And I think there's a love song in there somewhere. Songs I got, and there are more where those came from.