A Matter Of Survival

Wic in Ybor CityI’ve been thinking about music a lot lately. Or, more precisely, what, if anything, I intend to do with my life musically. Right now I’m playing in two bands, and neither is very satisfying, so I don’t expect to charge up the proverbial hill as a bass player in a great band (which, of old, was all I ever really wanted). No, I’m beginning to get it through my head that if anything is going to happen for me musically, it’s going to be a solo effort. Not because I think I’m such an incredible musician that I can only achieve great things if I do them alone or anything misguided like that, but simply because there’s no one else in the entire world who is interested in and capable of helping me get it done. Musically, I’ve never felt more alone in my life. That’s a strange pill to swallow, when you find yourself playing in two different bands, remembering vaguely that this stuff used to be fun. Now I just feel like I’m repeating myself.

There are a couple of things that have me thinking about this stuff today. One is that a guitar player, Shelby Williford, is supposed to come out tonight and jam with Systematic Chaos. Shelby is, from what I’ve heard on his MySpace page, a very good, technical guitar player. I don’t think he’d have any trouble whatsoever with any of the tunes we play, and I’m sure he’d bring a lot to the band. If I have any reservations, it’s that nearly every really good guitar player I’ve ever known has had an ego the size of Texas. This is only a problem when you consider that at my age my tolerance for bullshit is at an all-time low. There’s also the possibility that Shelby won’t show up at all. He already blew us off one time. I’d like to think that he’ll show up, we’ll jam and things will click, and Shelby will want to play with Systematic Chaos, allowing us to stretch out and challenge ourselves a bit more. But for some reason, I’ll believe it when I see it. Maybe I’m being pessimistic, but I’ve been having doubts that Systematic Chaos will amount to anything for some time.

Another thing that has me pondering possibilities, and the possible need for going “going it alone”, is an account I recently created with ReverbNation. I was mostly interested in some of the functionality that they provide, in the form of web site widgets (I replaced my Gydget widgets on both of my MySpace pages with ReverbNation widgets immediately), as well as their service for getting your music on iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Napster and eMusic. This has me thinking about finishing an album I’ve been structuring for months now, because online distribution would free me from many obvious problems which arise from the physical production of CDs or CD-ROMs. First is cost. We don’t have the money to get CDs professionally manufactured. Second is the instability of CD-ROMs. CD Baby will let you sell CD-ROMs, but I unless you’re getting your CD-ROMs manufactured by a company, your results are going to be hit-and-miss. So… with everything shifting to digitial distribution anyway, why even bother with pressing physical discs?

Actually, the thought of being able to complete an album and get it onto iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Napster and eMusic is a major incentive. All I’ve ever really wanted was to be able to reach out to a potential audience. Rather than look at it unrealistically as a lot of artists do (expecting they’re going get their music online and suddenly become financially solvent), I’m mostly looking at it as marketing. It’s good to have a presence on iTunes and Amazon, because it makes you seem more professional. Rather than just being the guy who’s noodling around in the local music scene, suddenly people can download your music onto their iPods from iTunes and Amazon, and that has to be make a better impression than just offering a few free downloads on your web site that no one ever visits.

If I put together this album, though, it’ll be tied to the book I’m writing. Looking farther down the road, if I get a book published and people find out that there is associated music available for download from iTunes and Amazon, sooner or later I’m bound to start generating income from those downloads. Not that I’d expect to get rich or anything, but that’s never been the goal, has it? I’ve always said that I’d be happy if I could just generate a living by making music and writing. As long as the bills are paid, I’ll consider myself successful. That’s all I really want.

So… looking toward playing yet another free gig at Market On 7th tonight, I’m re-evaluating my options, and reconsidering the time and energy I’m expending on playing bass and singing with two different bands that are never going to benefit me artistically or financially, I’m wondering if I need to be applying that energy in more productive, and potentially beneficial, ways. If nothing else, I need to consider that if I don’t start getting something out of my musical efforts, whether it’s money or just artistic satisfaction, the Depression monster may overwhelm me again. It’s already eating away at the periphery. Honestly, I’m beginning to wonder if “going it alone” may simply be a matter of survival.

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