Playing For Life
(18 Feb 04)
What is your definition of a successful guitarist? I would answer, one who plays for life. If you love music, and love playing the guitar, wouldn't it be great to play for a living your whole life?
I'm still relatively young by most standards and I've done okay so far. Even though the average guy on the street doesn't know my name, I've managed to survive as a guitarist and I'm going to tell you how I've done it up to this point. How I satisfy both my financial and artistic needs and how you can too.
What's the difference between an artist and a musician?
The Artist - I'll start with the artist. The artist plays for himself for the most part. His objective as a guitarist is to please his own artistic hunger. He strives for artistic elegance. Don't get me wrong, this is not necessarily a bad thing for me and you. It's great. Artists make life for the rest of us better. Artists create art and art is beautiful. I have Picasso hanging on my wall, not something a graphic designer drew that I found in a magazine. The problem with being an artist is that it's rough to make ends meet. Artists are generally only brilliant at their own music or when working with artists that fall into the same category as themselves. Artists study art rather than demographics. That's the reason it's hard to make a living. The artist is always striving to create better art and because of that, he runs the risk of creating art with such high standards, that the average Joe may have a hard time understanding it. The artist may get so involved in his music that in the process he may end up creating a gap between himself and the masses, and that's not good for his financial health. I'm not saying all artists are broke but it's a gamble.
The Musician - The musician is a different animal all together. The musician is a hired gun. Although he may have musical preferences, he isn't picky about what he plays to pay the rent. While the artist may be particular about what he has to play to get paid, the musician will play anything. He is well versed in all styles and can mimic various players. These types of players make good studio musicians, session players and teachers. They usually do all these things.
Like the artist, the musician is always working on learning new skills. The only problem with the musician is that he tends to find himself artistically frustrated. Let's face it, deep down inside, we all really want to be the artist. We want our music to live on after we're gone. We want someone, after we die, to send one of our CDs off into deep space so some alien can find it in a million years and say; "them earthlings wrote the most glorious music in the galaxy."
Balance - Which would you rather be, the artist or the musician? Remember the phrases; "the starving artist" and "the struggling musician."
I personally would rather struggle as a musician while I commit myself to creating art. I think the best way to live a satisfying life as a guitarist is do dedicate your life to both of these ambitions.
Most guitarists get themselves in trouble by focusing on only one of the two. Most of the money I have made in the business as a player came from playing other peoples tunes, not from my own CD sales. But to be honest, releasing my own CDs is way more rewarding (mentally, not financially). Doing both makes my career well balanced. One feeds the other.