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Welcome to the EvO:R Tips Section. We call this section EvO:R-Pedia because it is like a complete
reference library for Indie musicians...Just about every tip has been used so you won't find false
promises and a series of books to buy after reading each tip. This section was put here by musicians
so that people that followed can take this knowledge and use it's power.
3P's of Indie Musicianship
by Jef Peace
Imagine if you will . . .
About the author
Imagine you've just told God that you had a beautiful picture in your mind and you needed a way
to create the image. God, never being one to make things easy, gives you a box filled with hundreds
of thousands of broken pieces of colored glass, a huge brick of lead, and a blowtorch.
Now imagine that the vision in your mind is keeping you awake at nights, effecting your eating habits
so that you begin losing weight rapidly, and causes screaming voices in your head that constantly push
you to share that vision with the world.
You have no choice but to begin sifting through the broken glass, trying to find just the right pieces
as you slowly and painfully assemble your vision. You cut yourself time after time, but you must keep
going. Finally, you have the vision laid out and you begin to glue it together with molten lead, working
feverishly for hours without rest, burning yourself numerous times.
Now, imagine that you have finished and fall into an exhausted slumber. You arise from your sleep and
slowly move your tortured body to look at your finished work. Your sleep-deprived eyes carefully scan
the finished project and, horror of horrors, they lock on one, small section that just isn't right.
You carefully remove that section and once again begin sifting through the box of broken glass . . .
3p's Defined . . .
pa·tient (adjective Middle English pacient, from Middle French, from Latin patient-,
patiens, from present participle of pati to suffer; perhaps akin to Greek pEma suffering
1 : bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint
2 : manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain
3 : not hasty or impetuous
per·se·vere ( intransitive verb) Middle English, from Middle French perseverer, from Latin perseverare,
from per- through + severus severe: to persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of
counterinfluences, opposition, or discouragement
per·snick·e·ty (adjective) alteration of pernickety
1 : fussy about small details, having the characteristics of a snob
2 : requiring great precision
My grandmother used to say "anything worth having is worth waiting for." I'm sure she was simply misquoting Ben Franklin, but in her error one finds a deep and profound statement of truth. You can work hard and still never have that which is worth the work, but if you remain calm and collected and keep your eye on the prize, eventually that prize will be attained . . . IF that prize is attainable and IF you are devoted and sincere.
Most indie musicians simply lack the patience to attain their goals, if they've even considered goals. There is a penchant among humans for wanting everything NOW.
Perhaps they look at overnight sensations like the winners of the popular talent contest "American Idol" and think "I've got more talent than that AND I write my own stuff, I should be where he/she is." This kind of mental poison is not only debilitating to your songwriting, it weakens the spirit in general and leads to bitterness that could kill the music inside you before it is given a chance to take physical form.
Please note that in the definition of "patient" it says "calmly or without complaint." This means subconsciously as well as consciously. Do not look outside yourself and measure your worth against anything or anyone else. If you are giving all you've got, you're giving enough. If you write something you think is trash and rework it or simply start all over without chastising yourself, your work was not a failure. Only if you believe you failed did you, in fact, fail.
In this world of "pretty" and "sexy" being equally important as, or even more important than talent, it could take several years before you achieve even a small measure of fame and subsequent monetary reward. If you understand that, accept that, and calmly go about creating your music, without complaint or bitterness, you have the first of the 3p's mastered.
"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."
"Yeah, right" you say, "am I expected to fall on my face, my ass in public view a hundred times and each time get up with a smile?"
No, you don't have to be smiling, but yes, you have to get up. You haven't failed until you stop trying . . . it really is that simple.
It doesn't matter if a thousand people say your music sucks, or even if a thousand people really connect with your music and flock to the stores to buy your latest cd.
If you're fortunate, the "sucks people" will be vastly outnumbered by the "connects people," but it really doesn't make your music better or worse. The Spice Girls sold millions of records . . . does that make them as valuable to the world as Mozart or Johnny Cash or Pink Floyd? Sales have nothing to do with the quality or value of your music. The only measure of your music should be how it moves you. The only opinion that counts is yours.
By perseverance, I mean that you have to keep working it until it's perfect in your mind and soul. If you ask someone else's opinion and adjust your song according to their input, you're writing it for them, not for you. By the same token, if you simply can't make the song work, you need to "scrap" it and move on to another one. You may come back to it eventually or you may never give it another thought, but if you keep working on something, you'll eventually find that perfect song . . . and then another and another.
It's almost a given that you'll be shot down by the masses time and time again. If you don't consider these times failures and simply start another project, time and time again, you have the second of the 3p's mastered.
Neil Young, once said during an interview something to the effect that he records and releases everything he writes and lets the public decide which ones are good. This apathetic attitude is probably why he ranks near the bottom of my list of musicians. He's written a couple songs that I absolutely love, but for the most part, his music grates on my soul as well as my eardrums. He's one of the most prolific and best-selling musicians of all time and yet, I have to wonder if he's a success.
In contrast, Madonna carefully constructs every nuance of every song she releases; from the words and music to the choreography for the stage performances. Every detail is hacked to death before the song is released. There are very few Madonna songs that I don't like and many that I listen to regularly. She draws more negative comments than almost any other artist I can think of and yet, she is clearly (at least to me) the very definition of success because she is so obviously doing what she feels compelled to do rather than what her agent or label is telling her to do.
While "persnicketiness" is a coined word, it is a vital element that indie musicians need to have in order to succeed. The less perfect a song is, the easier it will be to criticize it, or even worse, ignore it. Therefore, you have to pick it apart until your mind bleeds and it is, in your heart and soul, the perfect song before you give it life.
If you don't consider a song finished until you are in love with it yourself, you have the last of the 3p's mastered.
There you have it
I won't promise fame and fortune if you master the 3p's, but I will promise success. You'll eventually find inner contentment; not only with your music, with every facet of your life. You'll eventually arrive at that state of mind where the glitz and glamour don't even hold a hint of desire in your mind and the thing that is important to you is how you feel about your creations. You'll be writing music because you MUST write music. Your sole motivation will be intrinsic and not depend on any outside factors. You will be content and this, my friend, is success.
In addition to being a music distributor and the owner of a small but growing indie label, I'm also a poet and musician. I've written scores of poems and have, to date, "converted" 38 of them to song. With my old group, Jazza Diction, I've released a number of these songs on three cds, none of which have sold more than a hundred copies. Am I a success? I think so . . . I love my music. About a hundred other people think so . . . they love my music.
Would it matter if no one else loved my music? I don't think so, and I would still consider myself a success. Sure, my ego gets a boost when someone says "luv yer music, man" but I only get a soul-stirring moment when someone says "I get it, I really get it." This tells me that I expressed it the way it needed to be expressed and this tells me I succeeded.
I would like to leave you with another saying borrowed from my grandmother, who borrowed it and paraphrased to suit her needs. Her intended statement had nothing to do with music, which perhaps makes it a perfect ending for this article, even ironic if you care to bend your mind in that direction:
"Just 'cuz you hear someone singing your song don't mean the song is finished."
© 2004, Jef Peace
: Jef Peace is the co-founder and Senior Partner of PeaceWork
Music Net (www.peaceworkmusic.net), founder and owner of PeaceWork Records
(www.peacework.com/Label) as well as the co-founder and main writer and vocalist for
the band Jazza Diction (http://www.peacework.com/Label/jazzadiction.htm). He has
been writing, composing and performing for over 20 years and has been involved in
the business side of the music industry since 1999.