Guitar Zen: More Thoughts about Creation & Money in Music

I really wish this video had gotten the views I think it deserves. Does that sound egotistical? Yep, but wait, there’s more! It isn’t really about the views, to me it’s about the message.

Perhaps I didn’t package it as well as I could have. I find that talking deadpan to a camera is really disconcerting because you get nothing back. No feedback. Just stillness. That’s why I decided to get better at this kind of speaking and make this Guitar Zen series in part for myself to develop better skills at ‘giving away’. I try my best to strive to be better than I was yesterday, not to be in competition with anyone else, just myself from the other day.

Stay with me on this.

Ultimately? Life is about giving. Art is about giving. Giving of yourself in a profoundly personal way to those around you. If you do it honestly, it hopefully will work out for you, if you do it dishonestly and it works out for you? You’re definitely in for trouble down the road.

Why would you hold onto an album or lifetimes worth of musical material? And in the microcosmic sense, why would you hold onto a song? Art is meant to be shared, truly, as the internet reminds us every day that sharing things has become the absolute norm. You can always try to charge for premium content, and for regular content, but ultimately if people want something they’d rather have it shared or given to them via a free avenue.

This issue of worth in music is unfortunately quite fundamentally broken right now: it’s fantastic that I can listen to the new Obscura record ‘Akroasis’ before buying it, but unless you put in the monetary worth yourself, will you buy it? It comes back to the whole ‘try-before-you-buy’ way of shopping.

We can do that with music now, whereas many years ago you had to perfect singles to get people to listen to the other, usually more meaningful and artistically personal songs on a record. Now, singles are still used in the same way, but they are much more accessible: internet killed the TV, TV killed the radio. You can feature other famous musicians on a single and push it and explode in popularity, forcibly pushing your music into new ready and eager listeners. This is great for marketing, and usually awful for art.

But because of the mass distribution, saturation and the amount of ‘free’ people have, it makes me question why I am in this business. Trying to break through the brutality of the industry is not for the faint of heart. In fact, I believe you have to be extremely masochistic to be a musician in today’s times especially if you wish to actually turn a profit. Here in lies the dilemma.

To be a musician, you must be much more than a musician. You must be able to market yourself, produce yourself, learn how to do simple video and have some skills in editing, be a businessperson, network, organize manufacture and maintain merchandise in (usually) an online shop, get artwork that is cohesive to your vision visually and sonically, and the list keeps going on and on from there. It’s really ten jobs in one. Most people do not realize this.

And to expect to give the most important part of it all away really is bittersweet. Everyone is doing it. And as such, again, cutting through the fat is really difficult for fans too. So why pay for music? Ultimately I believe if you feel moved by a song, it should be given its due payment. It really is pennies for an experience.

I’ll leave you with this anecdote.

People would gladly pay hundreds of dollars in one evening on alcohol and unsavory powders and pills for an experience people sometimes have no recollection of. Usually people do this to have a ‘good time’, to forget their troubles, and to ‘be social’. On the other hand, people will not pay more than $10 for a collection of songs that might move them spiritually, heal them emotionally, or change their world view. Because you can get it for $9.99 on iTunes and they have this sale coming up because it’s winter and blah-blah-blah. Artists have now short-changed themselves to such a degree that it begs the question, why?

Know what your product is worth. Know your value. If you are a musician who is ready to give it all away, realize that the people who made the products you purchase every day do not do that. Your guitar/trombone/cello was made by hard working people who got theirs. Not for exposure, not for anything other than to help you create something.

We as musicians pay to create with time, blood, sweat, tears and money. We give our lives to a noble pursuit in order to uplift our selves and others to new heights of emotional and spiritual peace – damn that sounds romantic, I’m gonna run with that line anyway.

There is the issue, right there in front of you. And I believe it is a deeply philosophical one. Some people have a mindset of lack, and some people have a mindset of richness, of daily improvement – of seeking a better experience. Not sticking to the same old tired and repetitive story of “I got so drunk last nite lol #hangover.”

Collaboration & Co-Creation

So many things that are exciting are happening in my life right now. I could sit here and whine about some negative things or things that I wish would happen but aren’t – but instead I have chosen the path of the champion. By being grateful and thankful for my blessings: in whichever sizes they come in. I received some cash the other day – that is always welcome! How much was it? It was a gift in itself to receive it, therefore the amount in itself is always an added bonus. Start thinking of things as blessings and you can begin to see the beauty in life.

I bring up Collab and Co-Creating things simply because a lot of that seems to be going on in my life. And that’s how dreams come true. So really, the reclusive and the people who aren’t very responsive to their environments or their lack of changing environments suffer the most because they remove themselves from the opportunity to make something really cool.

And that’s just what is happening with me right now. Several projects all at the same time. Several people wanting my attention asking me for help as well as people that want to work with me that intellectually and personally inspire. I’m a normal human being like everyone else, but man, some ideas that come together due to the collaboration between seemingly normal folk really begin to shoot into these ideas that are just astronomically genius. It makes me really proud. I have a team coming together. Music is coming together.

As ASAP Rocky says, Extraordinary Swag. In my case, this is in the vein of amazing ideas and amazing people coming together in my life. Useful acquaintances and good friends.

Be happy.

Be grateful.

Drink some water.

Get playful.


Writing for the Soul

It seems that whenever I am reading a self-help article online all it ever mentions is how a person got into writing and how they attained great success whilst doing it. Doing workshops and talking to people – selling ‘better’, all of those mundane things seemed to be ‘improved’ after they took up writing and some form of meditation.

Well I usually think such things are hogwash; but I recently came up with a pretty solid idea for a series of Novellas. It may or may not work but it would definitely flex the creative muscle inside of me in a completely different way. And considering how much soul power I need to write an album that means something to me; I must admit I’m curious at the idea of writing for, or from this place.

Now don’t take my meaning of soul as something that involves god – no I’m talking merely the creative and free spirit that resides inside and says all the things you wish you could say and does all the things you wish you could do.

Anyhow; it turns out I’m not the only one into writing. After a lengthy chat with a friend recently it was realized that they too were on their own path of change and of creativity through the soul in their own writing and it dawned on me that in that sense the universe is telling me to get myself in order. The logical side says coincidence; but the spiritual side does not believe in it. Pseudoscience aside; I stopped believing in coincidence a long time ago.

Positively influencing those around you – sounds like something some hippie moron might say to you after a HARSH bong sesh. Truly though it is something profoundly revealing of your own capabilities if you can positively influence someone and they actually appreciate it and thank you for it. Through words this can be done at a speed so fast now that we have the internet that it is RIDICULOUS to think of any other medium that could do so.

Then we got video.

But this post is about the evolution of the person and the mind. If you are able to sit down and write 500 words like I am today and it is about a fiction-based tale or a fantasy or a dream you once had and then you build upon it – the dream becomes a fathomable reality unto its own via words. You are literally taking subconscious thoughts and images and playing them out into your own opera. There is something very magical about that.

Perhaps I sound old and out-dated and not ‘with-the-times’ but I think that the simplistic idea of taking something that is only entirely into your head as a thought of a story or of a life goal and then making it a reality in a very easy to communicate way is something absolutely brilliant. If we had more children expressing themselves this way rather than being forced to do detrimentally boring and un-stimulating exercises I could only imagine the evolution of art.

As we are still a fledgling society in a world made small by rapid communication; I think it a dire necessity to remind ourselves of the infinite creativity we all have. To those of you who believe you have none: change your beliefs about yourself and you will be a happy, happy person.

In childhood; whenever Ms. or Mr. Teacher gave us 45 minutes to write down a story, or perhaps we had a spare half hour to write down some thoughts about something, I would abuse this time as it would be my favorite. I would not waste a moment; minute or otherwise. It would allow me to be creative in a totally unscripted and uninhibited way without having to worry about what anyone thought about anything. It was bliss. I hope some day that everyone realizes what they are doing should be feeling the same way. It was not work. It was not school. It was playtime with pencil and paper.


Spiritual Awakenings?

It seems that I do not create art or music or extended works of creativity without the idea that the initial concept is going to be a life changing experience.

Fear the Angels was a demo; albeit a long one, but ultimately it was an experience. I did a lot of soul-searching and digging up of old histories to inspire myself into writing music that would attempt to suit those atmospheres and places I could literally only imagine.

“Land of Secrets” has turned into one of those spiritual adventures where I had begun to question where my spirituality had gone. It turns out it had morphed into several things; firstly it had played a role in ego in a way that kind of explained the way I looked at myself.

And upon further moments of personal change and development I realized that this idea of Anubis striking Earth did in fact come from a place of old imagination and fantasy. Back when we were all children we had inspired notions of the way the world and the universe was. That all got washed away through monotonous education and ‘life’. I seem to delve back into that place mentally to produce something creatively and auditory. I hope to continue to share those childlike inspired stories of sound with who ever is willing to listen.

I have had a record of 2 albums recorded a year. I hope to keep that suicide-pace/rate for a long time. Music is an unending art form. Records can be played on a loop for as long as the contraption has power enough to amplify it. There is something profoundly humbling about that.

I am infinitely grateful for those of you who do listen and appreciate the music I am trying to articulate.


Lesson Price Update!

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