Music & The American Dream re: [Harp-L] Death of Live Music
- To: harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx
- Subject: Music & The American Dream re: [Harp-L] Death of Live Music
- From: Damien Masterson <dzm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Mon, 2 Apr 2007 16:49:19 -0700
- In-reply-to: <200704021854.l32IsTwJ009342@harp-l.com>
- References: <200704021854.l32IsTwJ009342@harp-l.com>
On Apr 2, 2007, at 11:54 AM, harp-l-request@xxxxxxxxxx wrote:
From: Michael Rubin <rubinmichael@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: [Harp-L] Death of Live Music
My belief says you are the obstacle. Argue for your limitations
and they are yours. If you want to make a living playing originals
in an unusual genre while staying in your hometown, make it
happen. I just cannot believe that a clear vision, determination
and hard work cannot overcome any of these issues you guys are
That of course is true in theory. And how will we ever know if we
don't try? What most of us discover is we want more out of life than
what we can get from being a starving artist.
I know a good number of people who are working full time as
musicians. They, for the most part, don't have families, don't own
property, can't afford to turn down work or take vacations, don't
have health insurance, etc... Most of them live with somebody and in
spite of their hard work, are still subsidized in some way. Their
plan for home ownership is waiting for their folks to die. They live
from hand to mouth.
They're not complaining! They're following their dream. If they
don't get self destructive, they can do O.K., especially if they have
chops. They are predominantly rhythm section players, especially bass
players. Everybody needs certain instruments to perform, even if
you're paring down. Horn players, harmonica players and the likes are
a luxury many can't afford nowadays. (Unfortunately for us, even if
they can afford a harp player, they still do it themselves, to our
Believe me, I spent a lot of time meditating over this "myself as
an obstacle" factor, which is huge. The bottom line that I came away
with is this:
I spent almost 20 years of my life shedding, gigging, traveling,
spending tens (maybe hundreds) of thousands of dollars of my & other
people's money ALLOWING me to be the kind of musician I thought I
needed to be. You may love Jason Ricci's playing, but he has to pay
that band, has to pay for bills and hidden costs, support himself,
and I guarantee you, that money is coming from somewhere. By the time
I finished, I was $50k in the hole, had a garage full of CD's that no
one knew about, and I wasn't enjoying playing music any more.
Granted, I wanted to be a star, a bandleader, fame and fortune and
the likes. If I had only chosen to be a good sideman at an earlier
age, maybe things would be different. Live and learn. Ouch.
Today, I'm married, have a step daughter and a cool dog. We live
in a beautiful house which we own. I can afford to take $50 gigs with
people I like and turn down $300 gigs playing crap. I have faced my
demons and vices and so far am on the winning end. Oddly enough,
today I am closer to being the musician I always dreamed of, without
the stress and pressure of outcome, when the "big break" will happen,
or when the money will run out. I am very happy. I love music and
practice constantly. Our family business pays the bills, not music.
I'm very fortunate things turned out this way.
Many won't share this kind of info with people, because that
"create an illusion of success" B.S. permeates through everything in
this country, or they are still hanging on to their dream and don't
want to give up. But I have poor boundaries and a weird ego, so there
Maybe I wasn't smart, maybe I was undisciplined, maybe I failed
at my dream of being a touring, self sustaining "live musician"...
but when you peel away the romance and mysticism behind everything,
it's a very hard life. Many of our idols lead tragic, unstable,
broken lives, with multiple failed marriages and no pot to peepee in.
They drink and drug themselves to death, they have no life skills.
But we support them because we want to vicariously experience our
fantasies of that life through them. They are mannequins for our
dreams of what it would be like.
My advice: If you think "a clear vision, determination and hard
work" are enough to make a decent living in the music business,
especially the performance end of the business, in today's
environment, then by all means, have at it. I still have my dreams,
too, even if it hurts that my wife laughs at me when I tell her I'm
going to make money playing music... But I'm not going to move to NYC
and arm wrestle with Gregoire over the few harmonica gigs that
Galison would do a much better job on. I think I smell dinner being
Damien Masterson http://www.damienmasterson.com
or enter my name in any search engine
415 305 7138 dzm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Damien Endorses Hohner Harmonicas and Audix Microphones
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