So yeah, I guess I did the impossible, and I feel like I deserve something of a victory lap. A year ago I dropped out of college and hopped on a plane to California for a doom metal festival. Now I’m getting ready to go on tour with one of the hippest metal bands in the world (Tengger Cavalry) who I happen to manage. I’m making more money than ever before. I have no debt. I have a group of friends who I treasure. I have ambitions that seem like they are falling into place. It looks like this summer is going to be my busiest, most successful and fun yet. In other words – I think I might have made it in the music industry after dropping out. This isn’t due to me being great but rather the network of people out there supporting me. So in doing the impossible, here’s what I learned.
The main thing that I learned was that you may be down, but you are only out when you decide to be. I won’t lie and say that this last year was a piece of cake. There were times when I was living under the poverty line and really had to tighten the belt in order to survive. A very wise man said to me though, “If you can keep figuring it out, well then maybe that’s a sign that you should keep doing it.” So somho I’ve always been able to scratch forward. Sure it isn’t always self evident, and a lot of times actually left me in despair, but as a rule I’ve always been able to grind forward and keep doing it, somehow the opportunity was always there for me to keep moving and expanding. You need to capitalize on your network of contacts in order to build up these ideals and create a safety net.
That’s really been the struggle of my last year – establishing a safety net. What I’ve learned is that there is no such thing as a sure thing in the music industry and every time that you think you have started to find a path to victory, you find yourself drowning under a more existential struggle. You need to keep on pounding the pavement and driving forward if you don’t want to completely screw yourself over in music. I’ve learned that you need to have dozens of contingency plans and strong relationships with those who currently do pay you in order to make sure that even if they have to let you go you can cultivate future partnerships.
I’ve also learned that being your own boss is far more rewarding than having someone tell you what to do. This is not an indictment of anyone who might have been labeled my boss in the past, but I have realized that thinking of people I work with as ‘clients’ rather than ‘bosses’ has helped me a lot. Changing the power dynamic in your head, if nowhere else allows you a lot more freedom and opens you up to new things. It feels a lot less intimidating when you know to put yourself in the position of power. The added responsibility is certainly a struggle, but finding that balance is always going to be a problem in an industry that is so largely freelance. Ultimately what thinking of people I work with as clients rather than bosses has given me is a better sense of self worth.
Perhaps, more than anything else, that is what this entire year has been about – self worth. It made me realize that even when I was down I could find a way forward. It made me realize that there was a place for me in this world – even though I so often felt alienated .That might come across as some emo kid whining, but it really isn’t meant to be. Rather it’s my way of saying that I have found freedom and peace, a way forward even though it seemed for so long that everything would be a struggle. It made me realize that anyone can do this. A lot of the music industry is just being diligent and having the courage and tenacity to carry on. Nothing is particularly challenging if you can trust people and move to face a new day.
It gets easier. No matter how hard it might seem at anyone particular moment, it gets better. Every project you engage in you learn something from, even if you don’t think you did. It allows you to grow your network and be more capable of helping move the world of music forward. I’m doing stuff now that I would have failed at as recently as a few months ago. I have long term plans, tactics set up that are going to change the world and a sense of forward momentum that I think will keep me moving for years to come. In other words – years of hard work do pay off – just sometimes not in the way you expect.
In short – maybe dropping out of school to pursue a career in music isn’t an option for everybody, but know that it IS something you can do if you want it bad enough. There are going to be a lot of hard times – in fact there will be more hard times than good times, but that doesn’t change the fact that you can be a part of something greater than yourself. You are part of a neverending struggle to fight against larger entities and save the world. I know that sounds romantic and silly, but I’m starting to genuinely believe it. We need people who are willing to give it all up for rock and roll. The impetus thus moves over to you. Are you ready for it? I needed to drop out because I need my personal autonomy. This isn’t a life for everyone,but it might be the one for you.
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