Making it as an artist is simple. Based on my experience in the games industry, as a self-publishing author and as a musician I am writing this series to help other artists achieve success. This post tells a story not unusual for many artists.
22 years ago I took my first guitar lessons. Those had not been my first music lessons but it was the first time I knew that making music was going to be an essential part of my life.
I did not want to be a rock star, I did not care about girls melting at my feet or about being cool, whatever that means. I was just madly in love with music.
At that point I had already taught myself the basic chords. It took just an hour and showed me how easy things are when your priorities are set. The following years I spent most of my spare time with a guitar in my hands and playing like a maniac (I just dug up recordings from that time).
22 years ago I was a kid. Which made life even simpler. The only significant duty you have hereabouts is going to school. Guitar and music and school were all I needed to take care of.
Then school ended and things got complicated. Making a living comes into play and opportunities arise and you get confused. I clung to music for years after that but finally gave in and got a proper job freelancing in the video games industry (if you can call that proper in the 2000s). Fascinating, those things called career and work and colleagues and financial pressure: They pushed the guitar to a cobwebbed corner of my life out of which it only slowly made its way back into my life. I kept playing, but rarely and with little thought. And yet I learned vital lessons about creative work. Lessons that without my knowing then would help my success as a musician.
Several years later the games industry bored me and I quit and became a successful self-publishing author. I did not actually plan this. It just happened and it, as well, is quite an exciting, albeit labour-intensive job. Music slowly returned and I found out that I am not really a guitarist but a musician who happens to play mainly the guitar. As a self-publisher I learned many more crucial things about creative work and how to make a living from it.
The greatest love of my life came back with full force at some point in early 2012 and coerced me into writing and recording an album, finishing one song per month. That turned out to become the monster called Blood and Souls.
Two years later I followed that with another album, Love and Passion.
Both were and are successful albums. That is why the title of this post is misleading: In many ways I have already made it as a musician.
Making it is a vague term and I will explore that in detail in my next post. Let us for now agree that the definition of making it depends on your perspective.
As a devoted lover of music I take making it, first and foremost, literally: I have made it as a musician because I keep making music. I compose, I play, I learn. I have failed in the past. Even between Blood and Souls and Love and Passion I have sometimes failed. I will continue to fail from time to time.
But if I were to draw a graph between 1994 and 2016 you would only see a steep drop from 2003 to 2005, a steady increase until 2007 and a dramatic surge back in 2012. We all live through these highs and lows. They key lies in not quitting.
So making it as an artist, in the most general sense, is very simple. You need to make art to make it. It is incredible how many talented musicians already fail at this stage because they expect music, money or fame to just flow their way. But making music is work. Success is not in sitting at home and complaining about the state of the music industry.
Of course there are more specific definitions of making it and success. Those I will explore in my next post in this series.
My experience as a creative professional tells me what I need to do in order to accomplish my goal and I am going to share this knowledge with you. It really is quite simple. Most of the time it is not easy, though.
With many of you I share the desire to spend most of my time just making music. I want to write and play and record and perform and share my music. I am closer than ever before to that goal, yet not fully there.
But I am going to make it.
If you would like to follow me on this journey subscribe to my free newsletter. I am going to write about what exactly making it means next, how to achieve success and even how not playing music can make you a better musician.