Balancing Art And Commerce

Posted by Aaron Davison on Tuesday, June 18, 2013 Under: June 2013

When you start pursuing music as a profession sooner or later you are confronted with reconciling the need to maintain a sense of artistic integrity with the need to pay your bills and make money.  This can be tricky because on one hand I think most musicians are drawn to writing songs and playing music because of the sense of inspiration and purity that comes with writing music.  There's something very pure and genuine about tapping into that part of yourself where music comes from.  It feels great and I think most people who write songs want to share that feeling with as many people as possible.

But on the other hand, anyone who has been a part of the music business for more than like 60 seconds knows that the music business is about much more than... well... music.  For better or worse everyone involved in the music business side of the music industry needs to make money in order to make the whole thing sustainable.  This reality doesn't really make me cynical anymore (it used to) because I understand it for what it is.  When you book a show at a club, the club owner needs to make money to stay in business.  No matter how great your band or act is, if no one shows up, it's hard to stay in business.  The same principle is true for every aspect of the music business.

The music licensing industry is certainly no exception to this rule.  Your music needs to be "marketable" in order to be licensed.  If you already write music that fits into the sometimes elusive category, great.  But sometimes the rest of us have to be flexible and make short term compromises in order to achieve our long term goals.  On my path I've made some compromises here and there with my music and my vision.  I've written songs that sound like bands I didn't really like that were used on TV shows (soap operas!) I didn't really like. BUT... I don't have an ounce of regret and I'm EXTREMELY grateful for the placements I've had - all of them!  Why?  Well besides the obvious fact that it's helped me financially, I also think any endeavor in life is a process.  By writing music for money and having my songs aired on TV shows, it's both kept me connected to the music industry and has k ept me connected to my love for songwriting.  And believe it or not by exploring styles that I'm not normally drawn to, it's also really improved my overall songwriting chops and has really helped me solidify and appreciate my own sound. 

The other upside of succesfully licensing your music is that it creates a very positive feedback loop.  It feels great to know that your music is appreciated and it inspires you to keep going!  It sure has for me at least.  I love writing music so much I would probably keep doing it no matter what, but when you start generating income from your music it really inspires you to keep going and keep honing your craft.  It's a great impetuous for moving forward and continually improving. And of course the more money you're making from your music the more time you'll have to write music and stay true to your overall vision! 

So... there's my two cents on this issue.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.  I think it's important that we as musicians and songwriters not lose sight of what really inspired us to write music in the first place.  We also have to eat though:)

In : June 2013 

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