If one were to Google “This Is Your Brain On…”(fill in the blank), they would find everything from drugs, to football, to Jane Austen. This Is Your Brain On Music spent over a year on the New York Times bestseller list. Empathetic humans have a basic need and survival tendency to understand ourselves, and our behavior. Music has proven to be somewhat of an outlier and unifier simply due to the capability for a universal method of notation and expression. The expansion and sharing of music leaps from country to country, from people group to the academy and back again like wildfire. In culture, it is often a greatest common factor.
Entries in Creativity (12)
- Kelland Drumgoole | How Stuff Spreads – Gangnam Style vs. Harlem Shake
Money. Many artists struggle with it: either we’re poor at managing income or we lack creativity in getting it. It’s clear that with the shape of the music industry, most artists aren’t making a living from record sales. So how are they getting the support that they need?
You might argue that some bands make their money from performing: they command large guarantees when playing a show. Another popular idea is that most bands survive because of merch sales (few promoters provide a decent guarantee, if one at all). Others see crowdsourcing as the new golden calf.
I don’t think there is a one-size fits-all model for all artists. What artists need is something that is personal, transparent, and appropriate for their career. In 5 Non-traditional Ways to Promote Your Music, I called upon artists to use their creativity when it comes to music promotion. I think the same could be said of your sources of income as well.
Seriously. Do you give your best to your art?
Maybe you do creative work for yourself, maybe you do it for others. Maybe it’s a mix of the two. In any case, whatever you’re up to, if you’re not serious about it, it probably won’t amount to a hill of beans.
Sound a bit harsh?
Yes, it is. Go ahead, test it yourself. See if you end up playing Nickelback covers at weddings, or scribbling half-baked sonnets after an awesome night of PBRs. See if you find yourself hanging out at Starbucks talking to no one in particular about the novel you haven’t started yet.
Not the prettiest sight.
But there’s hope.
If you’re a musician, you probably get asked whether you do original songs or covers. And as unassuming as that question sounds, it’s actually a hornet’s nest buzzing with speculation on your intent, ambition, and talent. Do you have your own thoughts? Do you have something engaging and identifiable to say? Or do you just echo the ideas of other writers?
Are you an artist or a mimic?
Why do you make music? Write books? Make films? You might know, you might not. Either way, you do it for a specific reason. Maybe it’s to explore. Maybe it’s to affect other people. Maybe it’s to inject a little fun and excitement into your life.
That reason gives your creative work context. So does your interest in sharing what you do. If you share your work with your family, that’s context. If you share it with your friends and acquaintances, that’s context, too. If you share it with everyone you can, every chance you get, like an Energizer Bunny of sharing, that’s context, as well. And if you keep it to yourself? That is a context all its own.
Keith Sawyer, a psychologist at Washington University, has summarized the science: “Decades of research have consistently shown that brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas.”
Innovators are a strange breed. What makes them move ahead against all odds? Especially hopping over the road blocks and avoiding the potholes placed there by zealous department heads who are managing according to company policy and frameworks, plans, etc. The very fact that a plan is notated and written places it firmly lying down in the past, while the innovators are working in the present, edging toward the unknown of a future.
Malcolm Gladwell’s latest New Yorker article, “Creation Myth - Xerox PARC, Apple, and the truth about innovation” is a must read for all those in a business that fosters creativity for both fun and profit. While Gladwell details the failings of the day-to-day managers who ran Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), and the bigger corporate brass of Xerox, to fully understand the future of personal computing as a mega-billion dollar industry, the article does impart a different view to the oft-held idea that Steve Jobs stole his future Macintosh while the giant of a Xerox slumbered away. Basically, Gladwell asks, what did Xerox know about computers and building a whole new industry based on the cool things their engineers had created in Palo Alto?
Creativity is as much a sickness as it is a gift.
On the one hand, creators are blessed with a lifetime of opportunities to bring their visions into the real world. On the other, most of them are tormented by insecurity, doubts, and the never-ending struggle of trying to create the ideal things their imaginations conjure up. The latter is one of the subjects in an editorial, “Found in Translation,” that the Pulitzer Prize (and PEN/Faulkner Award)-winning author Michael Cunningham published in this past Sunday’s New York Times.
“Found in Translation” begins by discussing the mechanics and challenges of translating a novel from one language to another, before moving on to the more personal challenge of turning one’s vision into a piece of art. The transfer of instincts, ideas, images, and emotions to words on a page or computer screen is, after all, basically just several layers of translation, and midway through Cunningham’s editorial, an unusually honest passage can be found:
Here’s a secret. Many novelists, if they are pressed and if they are being honest, will admit that the finished book is a rather rough translation of the book they’d intended to write.
This post comes from Fred Wilson’s blog. The quick video below is worth watching. Not only is the content within the video interesting, the video itself is a great example of leveraging the creative use of video to promote something else (a book in this case).
I love the final quote in this video: “Chance favors the connected mind.”
Do you ever dodge your creative work? Say, your practice time arrives, and you race off to do some chore. It might be a chore that you detest, but now it calls to you. Then, instead of refining your music, you start cleaning the house or doing whatever. If that scenario sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Artists of every sort contend with avoidant behaviors. Why do we sidestep doing what we love? The answer often stems from the nature of creativity.
Whether we plan to create the likes of a recording, composition, concert tour or promo campaign, we have to launch our project and work on it regularly. But we all know that creative ventures often fizzle because we, the would-be creators, stall. We convince ourselves that no one will care. We procrastinate. In the end, far too many of us never get started on the things we hope to create and thereby cheat ourselves out of meaningful accomplishment.
Personally, I don’t intend to miss out on forging a meaningful life. I’m committed to doing the creative work that matters to me. The key to my output is that I live by the following six habits that enable me to get started on my projects every day.
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(Updated July 8, 2015)