By T. Perry Bowers
I love musicians. I have chosen to surround myself with them since I was seventeen years old, earlier than that, if you consider my high school musical theater career. Singing and playing instruments has been one of my daily personal disciplines (and loves) for over thirty years. I once thought I would “make it” as a musician. I saw myself traveling the world with my band. I saw myself in recording studios making hit records. I had it all…in my head.
I recently closed my commercial recording studio after almost twenty-five years in the business. I still have rehearsal spaces and a video production studio, but recording for clients is now in my past. I wrote a blog back in March about why I closed the recording studio, but I didn’t touch on some of the points I want to make here. There is another layer of reasons for closing the recording studio that I didn’t realize until a few weeks ago.
Renting rehearsal space, I don’t have to deal with the “I’m going to be the next biggest thing out of Minneapolis phenomena” quite as much as when I was trying to book my recording studio with paying clients. There is something about being a recording studio proprietor that makes you a target for delusions of grandeur coming from artists. Many artists confuse recording studios with record labels. Some artists think they need to impress a recording studio proprietor as if the proprietor is going to give them some sort of a “record” deal to make them famous.
That’s a fundamental misunderstanding that isn’t the artist’s fault. The media often portrays this myth. In movies and TV shows, you may see an artist in a recording studio. All of the players are there: producer, engineer, artist, agent, manager, A&R, rep, etc. They are all working together to mold the artist’s career and develop a hit song. But, the reality is (most of the time) the recording studio is just getting paid by the hour to record the artist. They have very little to do with the production or the artist’s career.
All of that is a long way of saying, that over the last twenty-five years, I have been able to see the flawed magical thinking of many musical “artists”. Again, I blame the media mostly for this myth. But, it is my mission to break musicians free of this flawed idea.
That is not to say that you shouldn’t believe in yourself. You absolutely should and must. You must program your mind to think you are going to be successful. You must visualize it. You must act as if you are successful without a doubt in your mind. There are many cutting edge thinkers and scientists that would agree with me. Your mind has everything to do with your reality. But what does it look like to have complete confidence and determination?
From the outside hardly anyone would see it. The person who is programming their mind for success would be busy practicing. They would be consumed with setting up high-quality gigs. They would be honing their song-writing skills. They would be respectfully asking successful people for advice and guidance (possibly even paying for it). In other words, they would be working hard.
They wouldn’t have time to tell anyone that they were going to be the next big thing. That would seem ridiculous. It’s like the advice I got when I took my conceal carry permit. The instructor said, “the only time anyone should ever see your gun is right before they die.” He meant, don’t go waving your gun around pointing it at people. That’s nonsense and it will get you killed. Keep your head down, avoid any dangerous situations if you can. Only pull your gun if your are ready, willing and able to shoot to kill. Statistically speaking, that scenario will almost never happen, which is a really good thing.
It’s the same thing if you are trying to “make it”. Don’t tell anyone that you are going to make it. It’s foolish and immature. Just focus on the things that will help you make it. Focus on things that you would focus on even if you never made it. Spend your time practicing your skill and programming your mind. When you have a real opportunity to take your career to another level, that is when you take out your gun (metaphorically speaking of course), not a second before.
Because I train in martial arts, I am always curious about how people fight. I often get caught up in Youtube rabbit holes that involve street fights, MMA fights, boxing matches, etc. One of the genres of these videos that I get really sucked into is “showboating” fighters. These are guys who talk a big game before the fight. They may even do some stupid moves while they are fighting, nonchalantly dancing in the ring, smiling, pretending to be better than they really are. The most satisfying videos are when this annoying showboat gets his ass handed to him. There is something so gratifying when the humble guy who never said a harsh word about his opponent, just kept his head down, hands the showboat a knockout. Bam! It’s over!
If you’re a showboat, going around saying things like, “I’m going to be the next big thing out of Minneapolis”, I guarantee there are people that can’t wait to see you fail. In fact, they may even conspire to help you fail. I’ve done it myself. I’ve had folks in my studio that tell me they are the bomb. If it rubs me the wrong way, I may decide not to take any more of their phone calls. It’s just not what I want to spend my time doing, promoting egotistical, narcissistic behavior.
I’m so grateful, now that I’ve shut down my recording studio, not to have to entertain these “next big things”. It’s not so much that I’m annoyed with them, it’s just that I felt disingenuous taking their money. I often found myself talking them out of recording with me. I would tell them that they should just go work on their craft for another year and come back. Because you know what? Almost all of the “next big things” were terrible. It seems like there is an immediate relationship between ego and sucking.
If you’re an artist who thinks you’re the next big thing, that’s ok, but look at it from another perspective. If you were someone who was experienced in the music business, like me, would you want to be told that someone is the next big thing? Or would you simply want to be surprised at their talent and their humility? Of course, it would be the ladder. As a studio proprietor who has been in the business for a while, I do have some connections. If I do come across someone or something truly remarkable, I often will make a few phone calls. But if that ego is flaring, that phone will not be engaged.
My advice for all the next big things:
1. Keep your head down.
2. Work hard.
3. Practice humility.
4. Try to be of service