Maybe you flaked out last minute. Maybe you left them on read. Maybe you can’t keep up and you’re letting everyone down. You never go out anymore anyway and when you do you don’t contribute anything meaningful or uplifting to the vibe.
You’re a hollow skeleton roaming through modern life alone with a big fake exposed smile. As you wonder through rock and roll haunts, empty streets void of friends, and back to your pad, a song has been stuck in your head – that song is “Friends” by Rhinestone Pickup Truck.
The song reminds you of everyone you’ve been meaning to talk to and hang out with. It has become quite the long list. It’s exhausting and overwhelming. You could reach out, but it could just open up a whole can of worms. You know it’s easier to just stay in, work on that new song, or just endlessly scroll through your phone.
‘Liking’ your friends’ posts counts as being an engaged friend right?
Who are you kidding? Look at yourself. You’re losing all your friends. Just be real about it. You’re not a social butterfly anymore. It’s time to own up to your flaws. Let it all out. The song in your head is an apology.
Hopefully we can all be kind to one another, learn to forgive, and understand each other. If you’re not sure what to say to the people you’ve lost touch with – just send them “Friends” by Rhinestone Pickup Truck. It might just be an apology they’ll gladly accept.
It’s Friday night and your band just finished the first song in your carefully curated six song set. You played so well that people actually came back inside from their smoke break to see your performance. The small but dedicated crowd has formed and now they are ready for more music.
Okay, perfect. You know what do! Right? Wait, what’s your drummer doing?
Yeah, I know they sometimes sing back up vocals on, like, that one song, but what are they doing with that microphone? Oh no, red alert!
The drummer has gone rogue. They’ve got poorly planned banter and they plan to use it. You look down and hang your head, waiting for the inevitable train wreck of embarrassment as the drummer begins his slurred announcement…
“This next song is about quitting a job you hate! 1 – 2 – 3- 4!”
The crowd applauds and cheers! Crisis averted. The guitarist goes into the main riff and two beats later the whole band joins in. Everyone is happy and the audience is loving it. You got off lucky that time, but don’t get cocky, kid.
Dodging a Banter Bullet Songs are creative metaphors of thoughts, feelings, moods and ideas that go on internally and are expressed outwardly through music for an audience – and luckily, they are open for interpretation. Banter is a direct bullet – careful where (and how) you aim that thing.
You and your band have put hours (or at least some effort) into practicing your songs, but have you considered practicing how you talk before and after songs in your set? You need to put some thought into what you say between songs. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but it is not something you want improvise.
The Good, The Bad, and The Banter Good banter talks about what the audience cares about: Who you are, what your song is about (in a short statement or one to two words), and how they can deepen their connection with your music.
Bad banter is when you make it all about you, your needs, your wants, and your expectations. Narcissism is a turn off and will cause people to leave the room.
Give & Take Here are some examples of bad bater that you can replace with better banter:
Bad Banter: ‘How yall doing tonight? Oh come on, you can do better than that!‘ Good Banter: ‘How yall doing tonight? Thanks so much for being here and thank you for having us!‘
BB: ‘You can find us on the social medias at www dot at symbol underscore x dot capital L…’ GB: ‘Good evening, we are [band name], if you’d like to get to know us more swing by our merch table after the set and we can geek out together over guitars, beers, or whatever you think needs to be on our radar. We’d love to meet you!‘
BB: ‘That last song we played is a new unreleased track we are still working on, but I think you get the idea, I don’t know, that wasn’t our best performance of it, but it’s going to be really good eventually…‘ GB: ‘This next song is about finding true love on Tinder!‘
Your banter between songs might be ruining your set and you don’t even know it. Banter allows you to clearly communicate and connect with the audience. The audience deserves the best experience possible when they see you perform. Having a banter strategy won’t make a bad performance any better, but it can make it suck less.
So the next time you’re on stage and get tongue tied or diarrhea-of-the-mouth just remember some of these banter go-tos and your audience will thank you. They may even stick around for the encore.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Some of us had an idea, stuck with it, and who they imagined themselves growing up to be became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
For everyone else there’s Master Card – and an ever-present cloud of existential dread supported by a preoccupied mind of career identity crisis.
But don’t worry, you can still become whatever you want to be, didn’t you hear? You just need 10,000 hours. Wow! That’s all it takes, just time… Yup, Time. You know, that thing you are running out of on a daily basis and had a surplus of as a kid – before responsibilities and hard earned comfort slowly crept into your life.
Hate to break it to you Mr. Gladwell, thanks for the 10,000 hours tip, but to be honest… Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That!
Opportunity Beats Mastery Be your best at everything that comes your way in life and you will be satisfied. You can’t be the best at everything, and if you’re like me, you may not be ‘the best’ at any one thing.
Say ‘Yes’ to things you don’t know how to do – and quickly figure out how to do them behind the scenes. Life is too short to have the mindset of “I don’t do that because I am a master of this.”
The Mystery of Mastery If you still feel the need to have mastery at something, but don’t know what to invest your efforts into, don’t worry, life will present it to you because there is no shortage of problems and problems will find you. If you take on the tasks of attempting to solve these problems you will start noticing a pattern. Therein lies the clues to your mastery.
However, you only see how the dots connect later. You have to take on a variety of problems over the course of your life and only when you look back you’ll see what it is you’ve mastered.
An Interesting Frankenstein’s Monster is an Interested Frankenstein’s Monster Mastery is overrated, but continued learning never goes out of style. Existence is interesting and has many interests for you to pursue. Don’t be overwhelmed, try a little bit of everything. It’s what makes you unique. Eventually you’ll be able to piece together all the skills and interests you’ve acquired in order to create a beautiful unique monster that only you can provide.
So when the world is looking for something new and unique you can proudly present your monster and shout “It’s ALIVE! It’s ALIVE!”
Meanwhile the people obsessed with Mastery will be having a pissing contest and fighting each other to the death for lowest bidder in order to do work for a client who has many options of so proclaimed ‘masters’ to choose from.
“Don’t care about what others think!” is terrible advice. It’s short, simple, hollow, and easily thrown around by people who obviously don’t put themselves in other people’s shoes – so at least they’re being honest.
Maybe I’m projecting, but I feel like the people who give this advice also have a large, engaged, and adoring following. It’s like a rich person telling you that money doesn’t buy happiness, but then they get upset because they couldn’t get a discount on that ski-doo they really want.
The worst part of this advice is the guilt it brings upon others like myself. Great, so you told me to not care about other people, but no matter how many times I repeat this piece of advice to myself like a mantra, I still do. I guess people like us are doomed, right?
Otherly Impossible If we live in a world where we don’t care about what other people think then you can go ahead and cancel your band’s gig Saturday night. You can cancel your art submission to the gallery show. I don’t need to publish this blog post and I certainly don’t need to wear clothes to work. Don’t you get it? i dOn’T cArE wHaT oThEr pEoPle tHiNk!
Other Meanings Okay, I have another confession: I know I’m reading into this advice the wrong way. Don’t get me wrong, as a creator you should create from a place of non-judgement. Allow whatever is inside of you to emerge out into the world. This stage of creation is not the time for any external worries – worrying about what others think in this part of the process will choke your creativity.
Now that you have birthed this creative idea, how do you raise it? You can’t raise a baby in a vacuum. Eventually your baby is going to be around others. Are you really going to be one of those parents who takes their child to public places and ignores it while it destroys every product display in sight?
To Serve Others – No, It’s Not a Cookbook I care about others and I care about what others think. The world is better off if we serve others. Ideas are pure if they dance like nobody is watching, but they become a movement when we connect ourselves to the greater whole and create something that resonates with others.
If I create work and edit work through the lens of serving others, my ideas spread. When my ideas spread I get more work. When I get more work I am able to provide for others I love and care about. It’s a healthy cycle in my eyes.
So the next time someone tells you to not care about what others think – look behind them and see how many dedicated followers they have nodding in agreement about advice they all care about and mutually agree upon.
See if they are actually following their own advice.
In Shakespeare’s Hamlet there is a scene where Hamlet lectures a group of actors who are about to perform for his father. In his little pep-talk he mentions they are to “hold a mirror up to nature” – a statement that has always stuck with me as an artist.
I don’t think Hamlet expected his actors to literally go on stage and place a full length mirror by the prop flowers down stage left. Actors don’t think that literally anyway.
I know the ‘nature’ Shakespeare is referring to here is ‘our nature’ – human nature, the inner workings of what’s going on inside of us. But I’m a fan of homophones and love that the word nature is used in this idea.
Because it works both ways.
If you’re stuck, if your human nature is too much to reflect on, if you want to feel fresh – take a moment to hold a mirror up to nature. That’s right, the great outdoors.
Stop trying to explore the murky waters of your subconscious for a moment, take a break from translating your anxiety into an abstract painting – find your nearest plant and observe, absorb, and reflect.
You’ll get lost in drawing the different textures of bark. You’ll discover new ways to describe the smell of honeysuckles. You will find flow because it’s hard to overthink something in front of you that just simply exists. In the moment there will be no hang ups – your only job is to hold a mirror up to nature.
Good pep-talk everyone. Now go out there and break a leg.
More gyms need felines. I think it would humble any gym member to see an unimpressed cat staring at you while you’re doing your impressive curls and deadlift reps. Plus, all the cat hair would actually get people to wipe down the damn equipment before use. I think we’re on to something, just sign this document, convince a majority of your gullible family and friends to invest, and you too can own your own business with Feline Fitness LLC… It’s totally not a Multi-Level Marketing Scheme. I swear.
Do You Even Create, Bro? Muscles, for the most part, make sense. You move them, they work. You move them with intention they grow and change with intention. With some hard work and determination you can achieve the results you are looking for.
Creativity, let’s be honest with ourselves, isn’t like a muscle. We’ve all done it, you’ve set up a system, signed up for the course on Skillshare, put together a little encouraging art area with a token and your magic mantra written on the wall… But your ‘after picture’ might as well be a mirror held up to your ‘before picture’.
Maybe your aren’t working at it hard enough, maybe you need some questionable enhancement vitamins that fitness dude posts about every three posts on his instagram, or maybe what you really need is to take some time and play with a cat.
Don’t Play with the Cat – Let the Cat Play with You For the most part, you don’t just chug a cup of coffee, run up to a cat, lift it in your hands and shake it. That might be how you approach working out, but that is not how you approach playing with a cat.
How do you play with a cat? The same way you should be playing with your creativity. You have to woo it. You let it know of your presence and let it come to you. When it brushes against your leg and makes an inviting sound, you can assistant it by lifting it up and setting it in your lap. The key is being gentle.
“But my creativity – I mean cat – is an asshole! What am I to do?” Say to Hell with it and walk away. Go to another room. Trust that it will follow you.
Imagine you’re stranded on a deserted island and haven’t eaten anything in weeks. One day while you’re going over your new poem with your Volley-Ball-Headed friend, Wilson, a cargo container falls out of the sky and lands directly on your now deflated friend. Upon impact, the container busts open and you discover it is full of food. However, it’s broccoli, nothing but broccoli, and you hate broccoli.
I guess you’ll just have to starve right? Hell no!
Now is not the time to be a picky eater. Not on a deserted island and especially not in the creative service world.
Protein Substitues I try to avoid eating meat when I can. Luckily, there are so many Substitutions for many of the meals I enjoy. Soy chicken nuggets? Sure, let’s at least try it. Veggie paddies on the grill? Put it between two buns with some cheese and let’s eat!
I see many artist not willing to pivot or be flexible with their craft/skills with substitutions. You’d really spend 6 hours of your life getting paid $8.50 an hour when you could perform with a cover band for $100 for two hours of using your creative skills?
You’re a photographer, but you know that you’ll never do weddings, engagement photos, or real estate photography. But yet you complain about your day job that doesn’t value your insight or creativity.
You’re an abstract visual artist, but you’d rather starve than try to design a logo for someone’s new business – which happens to be a gallery for upcoming abstract visual artists.
The Dollar Menu
Look, I’m not saying you can’t have it your way. It’s obvious you are creating what you truly want to create whether someone pays your or not. I just hate to see you starve. It is making you weak and tired, it actually takes away from your art, and it’s really annoying how you complain about it all the time.
It’s time to take a second look at the dollar menu. Next time you are overwhelmed and start labeling yourself as a Starving Artist I want to you to come up with a list of quick ways you can use your creative skills for profit. This will be your artistic dollar menu. The menu can range from services or creations that start at $1.00, then $5.00, $20, and over time you can add to the menu to higher priced items – like your weird toenail sculpture that you plan to sell for $1000.
You Are What You Eat Maybe you’re having artistic career stomach pains not because you’re starving – it’s because you’re eating things that don’t agree with your gut. Maybe you’re work isn’t selling because it doesn’t connect with your true Self and doesn’t connect with others.
You might be inputting things you think inspire you, but it’s just indulging your ego. You are trying to run a marathon after eating only a chocolate bar – your taste buds really wanted it, but now the rest of your body hates you.
Well, I see another cargo container falling from the sky. I hope it’s not broccoli.
There are seasons in my life where it feels like everyone is asking me “Are you going to keep renting? Have you thought about buying a house? Why would you just throw money away renting when you could throw it away on home repairs and HOA fees?”
After the bombardment of questioning has settled, I go down a rabbit whole for two weeks or so trying to weigh out all the different pros and cons, wonder if my landlord is actually evil incarnate or not, and add another string on my conspiracy board that connects how houses were invented by banks as an excuse to lend you money.
All of this boils down to the simple fact that the best time to buy a house is when it feels right. Do it when you’re ready. Buying vs Renting? It’s personal preference.
The same goes for situations where you will be getting paid in exposure. It’s personal preference.
Should you turn down every opportunity that comes along that isn’t a paid gig? When people present this option to you are you going to bark at them with a list of your rates and costs? Are the people presenting this ‘paid-in-exposure’ model friends with my landlord who may or may not be evil incarnate? Give me a moment, I found another connection thread I need to add to my conspiracy board.
Go For It I think people who don’t know a lot about the creative service world will present the whole ‘But you’ll get paid in exposure’ idea. They know they would like you to be a part of it and they honestly may not have the budget to pay you anything. If you aren’t slammed with other creative opportunities and it works for your schedule, I’d say go for it. The worst that’s going to happen is you get no exposure and you get more hours focused on developing your craft. You might think you know it all, but you’re always a few hours away from discovering something new about your craft. If you aren’t discovering something new about your craft, then congratulations, you just found your next assignment.
Filter Out Manipulators Whenever these ‘getting-paid-for-exposure’ opportunities arise (and trust me they never really go away) it’s a great time to work on your discernment skills. I imagine my sight becoming like the weird alien-vision in Predator, except it doesn’t seek out Arnold Schwarzenegger and company, it alerts me to manipulators. These are the opposite of the naive, no budget, craft lovers I mentioned earlier.
Manipulators can take photos and achieve the most basic of photo editing for free, but they don’t want to. They don’t care about your craft or the art you’ve produced, they know you have a pure love of the craft and want you to do all the work instead so they don’t have to.
Manipulators don’t put in the work to promote that upcoming live show. Since they are manipulators nobody wants to come out and support their band to play anyway – they’re jerks. They want your band to play for free, do all the work it takes to promote (because they aren’t), they’ll make you play dead last at the end of the night, because they want your friends and fans to sit through their set while they wait for the real set they came for.
Manipulators don’t want to do the work, they don’t love the craft (they love their ego), and they know someone else is always looking to develop their own skills. I know we should all grab our pitchforks and torches, but the best thing to do is to decline their offers and hope they come around. Like Snickers, they aren’t them when they are hungry. If they continue with this type of behavior it will catch up to them eventually in some way.
In the meantime, let’s keep getting paid in exposure and be on the lookout for manipulators.
I typically get off work at 5pm. My dog has been in the house by herself for the past 8 hours. I’m fortunate enough to live close to where I work so I pick her up at 5:20pm and take her to the dog park where she trades her 8 hours of being alone for 1 hour of puppy play. I stop by the grocery store on my way home to pick up ingredients for dinner. We arrive home at 6:30pm. By the time I finish cooking dinner, eating it, and then cleaning up everything it is 8pm.
Now would be the perfect time to decompress, talk to my partner about each other’s day, and relax on the couch while we watch roughly an hour worth of television followed by an evening shower, some ice cream, getting in bed by 10pm, reading till I fall asleep at 10:45pm – approximately the same time your band is just now getting on stage… all of this on a Tuesday night mind you.
I thought this blog post was going to be blaming a lot of factors why you don’t see me out at live gigs – as a non-drinker I don’t like being around drunk people or alcohol if I don’t have to be, I don’t like being on my feet for 3+ hours straight after working on my feet for a full 8 hours, and I don’t like how shows always start late with my friend’s band playing dead last.
It’s not the band’s fault that live local music sucks, it’s not the venue’s fault, it’s not the drunk people at the show, it’s not anyone’s fault but my own. The type of life I live makes it unenjoyable for me to attend most live shows.