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A lot of great comments on my recent piece for TuneCore, but one in particular sort of got my wheel’s spinning.

Ken Shane and I got in a bit of back and forth about – generally – what constitutes success in this music business model.

In attempting to address Mr. Shane’s point I suggested that for virtually every other artistic endeavor aside from music there is little-to-no expectation that most people will make their living engaging solely in this activity.

For example, few people think, “I’m a fine art photographer, and I should be able to just take fine art photos.” The vast majority of fine art photographers I know subsidize their gig by doing non-fine-art work (weddings, photo-journalism) and/or work completely unrelated to photography (stock brokering, etc.).

Same is true, of course, for writers, actors, painters…mimes, et al.

None of these people (particularly mimes) feel that they are somehow deserved of the right to mime and mime only — they have some other non-mime gig to subsidize their mime-itude.

Musicians, for some odd reason (and, arguably, actors too) tend to feel doing non-music work is somehow beneath them/hinders their ability to create great art. They often seem taken aback when it’s suggested that perhaps they have to do some other job in addition to creating their art. (Yes, I’m generalizing, but, in my experience, only a little bit.)

In reality, of course, it’s not just a bifurcated life that artists must live — having multiple jobs.

Who doesn’t have several jobs? My wife is a full-time mom who also does educational consultation and teaches bellydance. Don’t even get me started on my crazy-ass schizophrenic activity. Frankly, most everyone I know is juggling several “jobs.”

And yet musicians want one job: musician.

In any case, the message here isn’t that musicians are solipsistic, but rather what I tried to convey in my response to Mr. Shane’s comment to my TuneCore post: that we all must have jobs that allow us the time/money/freedom to pursue the work that makes our life meaningful (our art).

In other words, we have to have: The gig (lowercase) that helps sustain the Gig (uppercase) that sustains the Spirit.

Of course, the old adage of “do what you love, and never work another day” isn’t necessarily wrong, it’s just reductive.

No one is so monochromatic as to have a single thing they love; we all have a variety of interests, and, thus, we all do many things.

Some things we do because they align with our values and purpose, and some things we do in a purely mercenary manner so we can do more of our purpose-driven things.

Such is life. Thank goodness.

There’s a very specific mental and physiological unity that occurs when a parent holds his or her arms out to their approaching young child.

If you’re a parent you know precisely this moment. I’ve dissected it:

The knees bend, the arms outstretch, the gaze is intensely focused on your approaching child, and you smile in the most natural and unself-conscious way.

Your mind, all the while, attempts to propel love and confidence and joy directly to your child.

Once in your grasp, your eyes involuntarily close, your smile widens, you don’t breathe, and you raise your child briefly over your head, open your eyes, and look intently into their face.

You then bring your child to you, close your eyes again, kiss the top of their head, smell all that is good in this world, hold them as tightly as you can without holding them too hard.

You note almost subliminally that time has stopped, put them down, and then breathe again.

The moment is really all about the embrace. What happens before and after, however, defines us.

What or who we choose to embrace defines us.

All the work we do — as parents, as partners to our significant others, as friends, as good business people as good artists — on either side of those all-too-infrequent embraceable moments define the quality of the embrace.

If we imagine what we want that embrace to feel like — and remember, it’s only an embrace if it’s emotionally and physically symmetrical — our actions, pre and post-embrace, improve.

In business we call this imagining a “Vision Statement.” You imagine, in the most granular detail, what you want your business to look like, and how it will lead to the accomplishment of your mission (I prefer “purpose” to “mission,” but you know what I mean).

So, as you think about your businesses, whatever they may be — from the investment banker to the folk artist — consider that moment of embrace. That moment when the deal works for everyone, when the audience and artist are unified, when a piece of prose or a photo or a song transcends and it’s no longer about creator/constituent, but rather about the intertwining.

Imagine, if you will, you as creator/business-person holding your arms out to your approaching constituent(s). Imagine that all you do, all you create, all the businesses you start, all the deals you make are made with the same hopes that every parent has: that their child will see these open arms and accelerate their gait and literally leap into your arms with shiny eyes and open-mouthed smiles.

Happy New Year, and thanks to all who read my blog. I wish you nothing but health, happiness, and accomplishment for the coming year.



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