Being a musician; Being a musician in the commercial environment vs being a musician in the professional environment.
Combining my work as a therapist and as a DIY (and major label) musician has provided me with great experiential insight into the tensions that build.
I was recently asked to differentiate the struggles in the three main areas of my own musical experience.
The first broad area is myself as a musician. This involves the continuous tension between practice, performance, creativity, composition and mastery of the instrument. As a musician I strive for my instrument to be an extension of ‘me’ to enable the purest form of expression possible. This only comes with physical practice and aural development as these two paradigms are bridged closer and closer. This ‘lifelong’ pursuit is both a blessing and a curse as there is no definitive ending and the expressive outcome is predominantly subjective. The end point is always ambiguous and ever-changing which in itself makes for a constant source of glorious struggle.
The second area is being a musician within the commercial environment. This again increases the load on an already pressured internal structure of being an artist. If we are to exist in the commercial world we need to be able to see ourselves as part of a ‘business’, a commoditised structure. I initially struggled with this but have been able to adjust accordingly over time. This area can be the most damaging in terms of the demands put on our mental and physical health but it can also be the most satisfying in terms of popularity, commercial and financial gains.
I have covered lots of this in previous interviews, blogs and ramblings etc…It’s very topical in the media at the moment.
The third area is that of being a musician in the professional environment. This is the domain of the ‘working’ musician. Before ‘making it’ in the commercial music industry I spent many hours, days, months playing in covers bands, DJing, and playing functions. These professional engagements are the staple of a high calibre of musician. This area differs from the ‘commercial’ environment as there is a greater emphasis on ‘taking care of business’. This sector doesn’t rely so much on the ‘industry’ machinery of hype, PR or branding so alleviates some of the psychological stressors of the ‘commercial’ sector yet it still involves a commoditised approach.
To conclude, the above is a brief outline of the inherent struggles of being a musician and the additional factors that impact us when we place ourselve in a position where we want to present our art to others. Musical pursuit has, and always will be an integral part of who I am, it has both saved me and at times taken me to the brink of collapse. It is an in built need which continually twists and turns as it evolves under different guises in different environments.