Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I think I remember music...

July has pretty much come and gone. Most of my time went to day-jobs. Accounting is fun! (That's what I'll keep telling myself anyway). There have been some rewarding little things... like:

  • The convenience of direct deposit. I don't get paid much, but it sure feels nice when the money just appears magically in my bank account.
  • The convenience of not having to collect from my clients. The temp agency pays me every week, wrestling money from the client is their problem.
  • Bored-at-work time online. Like the time I'm spending right now writing this blog post (oh wait, I shouldn't publish that, huh?)
The Source Festival came and went, and I spent a whole bunch of that bored-at-work online time yesterday and today fussing with the festival producers about my payment. I won't type up all the stupid details, but basically we had a misunderstanding about how much I was going to get paid. The real problem is that most of the festival performers were not paid at all and did it "for the love of it." No surprise that the results were amateur vanity projects that got bad reviews. Unfortunately, that's not how the festival was presented to me in the beginning, when I was invited to participate. At first, I was asked if I'd be interested - and there would be a stipend. I said I might be interested, and when the invitation arrived, the stipend idea was gone, but there was a split of the box office. This amounted to very small amounts of money for the artists, but I said yes anyway and did it. That was my big mistake. I had no burning desire to collaborate with other dance artists (I've done plenty of that over the last few years), and I don't need a venue for my work, so I wasn't so interested in participating in the festival - as an opportunity to show my work. I wanted a paying gig. Seems like I got on the wrong bus with that one...

I have had some clarity recently, regarding my motivation for making music. My own ego / vanity was a big part of it previously. Not as much now. Which is surprising to learn, actually. It turns out I'm quite happy to play good music in Ben's basement (with DCIC), or in my basement (with the Low End String Quartet), or in Trav's basement (with my as-yet-unnamed instrumental rock band). I don't actually care so much about having a public venue and an audience.

Ok, that's not entirely true... I do want people to hear my music - and enjoy it. I do. But that's just part of the process - not an end in itself. DCIC needs to have gigs on the calendar in order to give us the incentive to get together regularly and practice (and to give media outlets some reason to write a review of our album, which I'm quite proud of, and I do want people to hear it).
(and reviews are coming in the fall issues of Signal To Noise, and Cadence magazines) (and the Signal to Noise issue may or may not include this unfortunate photograph)

Similar situation with the string quartet. On one hand, that project is a grand experiment to see if we can find an audience for contemporary chamber music by playing in bars. At the same time, we have to be out in the world performing in order to raise the money to keep the group running (and to make some recordings). Maybe I'll write more about my ideas for the business side of the string quartet later... this week I want to focus on the artistic side. Tomorrow is actually one of the few days on my calendar this month that I'm able to set aside for composing and I need to finish one more piece for the quartet. We need to be out playing in order to be able to leverage the resources we need so I can hire the players (myself included) so we can play good music in my basement. (And then hopefully play it as well in the recording studio)

And we'll see about the rock band. That's moving forward, slowly. I'm honestly in no hurry to play out with them. I'm enjoying having a regular outlet for rocking out. We practice almost every week, one evening after work (they all have day-jobs, too). I'm also feeling like it's a good idea, in terms of process, to let the music evolve slowly and to take our time figuring out what we want to sound like. I was joking last night after rehearsal when I said we'd be ready to play out this time next year - but actually, that's more realistic than I first thought.

In general, I think the lesson I'm learning lately is to say "no." Say "no" to unpaid (or poorly paid) gigs (except local shows for DCIC... since we're doing that for free anyway?). I still need to learn to say "no" to other music-related tasks that I don't need to do myself... like blogging, making a website, sending out promo emails, updates on myspace, etc etc. Now that I'm not as concerned with cultivating an audience (except where that's part of the business model for the string quartet), I'm hoping I can cut down on a great deal of the music-related admin work that I do on a regular basis. (Know anyone who wants to be my intern?)

So what does that mean for Improv Arts? I started this nonprofit that also houses Daniel's dance company. He benefits greatly from having the nonprofit infrastructure (and free bookkeeping), but I'm not sure that I actually need it for much. This is something I need to think about in more detail.

July has also brought some non-musical things to my attention. Like peaches. And zucchini that we grew in the backyard (although our plant seems to be dying now, after producing quite a bit of zucchini for us). And we went to Fort Reno last week with the dogs. That was fun. And Cameron and I have been beating the heat by staying inside and playing scrabble. She beat me so bad I shouldda called the cops last week in an online game (see bored-at-work bit above) but I redeemed myself when we faced off last weekend in real life. And I think I've got my work schedule and yoga schedule worked out so I'll be back on practicing 3 days per week, which should make a big difference in moderating my grumpiness (and maybe my weight gain).

And why not put in another picture of our foster puppy Oreo, because she is soooo cute, she de-zerves to be no.1

So here's looking forward to August. I have (miraculously) hired a new bass player AND scheduled rehearsals with the Low End Quartet; DCIC is playing at Velvet Lounge with Circles and Richard Lloyd (of Television); Low End Quartet is playing at Velvet Lounge the following weekend; and then the quartet gets to go to the studio on Sept. 1st. Lots of fun stuff to look forward to!

1 comment:

Alex said...

The ability to say "no" is sooooo important, good for you! My 3 top criteria for accepting gigs are:

1. Does it pay decently?
2. Does it provide the opportunity to work with exceedingly cool people?
3. Will the finished work be presented somewhere interesting, or somewhere I've never had a performance, or somewhere that will pull in a different audience than usual?

If the answer to #1 is no, then the answer to 2 and 3 MUST be absolutely yes. :)

That puppy is crazy cute!