The All-Pro 50-50

Posted on September 11, 2010


You may have heard this in reference to a lot of things, and it can be considered true for any attempt at success in life. There’s a fifty-fifty chance you will make anything happen, but that isn’t the direction I want to offer you; it’s about how you divide your time and efforts.

When becoming a success in the music industry, you will learn quickly that it’s a learning game that changes everything immediately. There is NOTHING normal about the lifestyle and finding a balance point is one consideration of the term fifty-fifty.  Work and play, creativity and commercialism, waking and sleeping – all these things have to share a fifty-fifty role.

A successful career in music requires, unfortunately, selling music and creating music that will actually sell.  This is the difference between a professional artist and a general music artist. If it’s a profession than you are making a living at it. Performing occasionally, recording from time to time and hanging out in the music store isn’t a profession if you aren’t making a living doing it. When you refer to yourself as a professional musician, or not, it doesn’t mean you are less of an artist if you don’t make the professional title. It’s just a matter of terminology.

However, when you do achieve the level of financial success you dream of with your artistry, it’s going to take maintenance of the fifty-fifty balance to keep your head above water.  Review the lifestyle of a professional musician. Look at the work habits the successful ones have and take note of the model. They are born entertainers, but they have learned the art of business along the way if they weren’t aware of it in the beginning – and few are.

On the third interview of the day an artist is facing the same questions he or she answered twice already that day. It’s the drive to be an entertainer that creates the verve and excitement with which they answer those questions over and over – it’s the business side that gets them to and through the fourth and fifth interview later that day. It’s a balance … fifty-fifty. To maintain that process, an artist has to have their head in the right place. Keeping the psyche in check takes time off from the game and I hope to impress you on the stresses and relief of the stresses that you can do if you take the time. This takes a different kind of fifty-fifty balance.

My friend Louie is a great songwriter, an educated guitarist with a degree in music theory and classical guitar with a history of performing and recording with a label owned band that had three successful release and tours. Lou is in the process of recording a guitar-virtuoso type album and the first three tracks have had great reviews. It’s slow going as he is in the studio by himself and sometimes it gets long into the night when he finally puts the guitar down and settles his frustrations into sleep to try again tomorrow at that one riff he wants to get perfect.

The other night I dragged Lou out of the house and drove us down to Moonshadows in Malibu. We had a beer and spent an hour and a half watching seagulls float up and down in the moonlight on the tide. We sat on the back deck, not really talking about much, just breathing in the air and enjoying the solitude of Malibu at midnight.

The next day he recorded a complete track and wrote a new song too.

What he did by spending those couple of hours outside of the recording process was let the hindrances fall to the side and clear his view of the project all together.  He took his mind off the songs, off the recording process and reset his focus on what was important in all of it. Just a couple of hours that he might of otherwise been sitting in front of a monitor and recording tracks over and over trying to pinpoint the details that were jumbled together from three days of consistent recording.

Louie has the business side of the fifty-fifty down pat, his drive is amazing; but the creativity side occasionally needs a restart and getting out of the studio for the other fifty percent of the time is important. You need to be sure you do this yourself. By avoiding it, you are prolonging the time it will take to get to the professional artistry that requires the next level of balance.

Take a walk around the local lake, visit a jazz bar and have a glass of wine listening to something that is left field to the rock and roll you are working on. Spend a night around friends without talking about the music. Take in a baseball game or something that keeps your mind occupied in anything that doesn’t have to do with your music. Reset your creativity. Without the radio on, maybe without a band in front of you and totally without the artist chatter of what’s going on musically in your life. It helps. It’s mondo importante.

A good dinner or a bad fishing trip can be all you need to get things moving ahead, especially if you’ve been engrossed in the music for months at a time. Take the time to balance the personal with the professional and the get some sleep! Recharge, reset and review as you get back into the studio or the rehearsal space with the band. It’s a fifty-fifty thing. Listening and talking, recording and performing, sitting and standing – it doesn’t matter what it is. Keep the balance at 50-50.

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