Meteo Xavier

Things I've Learned In My Years Of Music

32 posts in this topic

I think we've exercised that particular debate item as far as it can go. Not much more I can say on it. You can quote me theory and namedrop as many 300-year-old music geniuses as you like, but as I sit down here to work on my current commission, I need to crank this thing out in the way I've learned to do it over 15 years. I certainly wouldn't call Bach dumb, but I haven't seen how effective he is in doing modern video game music on a deadline on top of a 60+ hour work week. :P 

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25 minutes ago, Meteo Xavier said:

I think we've exercised that particular debate item as far as it can go. Not much more I can say on it. You can quote me theory and namedrop as many 300-year-old music geniuses as you like, but as I sit down here to work on my current commission, I need to crank this thing out in the way I've learned to do it over 15 years. I certainly wouldn't call Bach dumb, but I haven't seen how effective he is in doing modern video game music on a deadline on top of a 60+ hour work week. :P 

Well, it's the most controversial point you made lol

Everything else is pretty much nail-on-the-head and tough to disagree with. But I suppose I could add another:

On 4/16/2018 at 11:34 AM, Meteo Xavier said:

9. "Value" or "reward" for your audio work is not always money. This is a VERY controversial and unpopular opinion, and there are good reasons for that, but the fact remains those who only consider value and reward to be coin or cash will find it much harder to navigate throguh business success here.

I know that when you say "reward" and such, you mean as in some non-monetary benefit that can help you further your career.

But I think this is something to be careful with for anyone who has professional aspirations: There is little point in pursuing a career if money is of no concern.

Musicians are very good at rationalizing failures that provide real, tangible "rewards" (most often money) or hitting real career milestones by substituting them with subjective things; they act like everything is just A-Okay even when it isn't. 

Many musicians work in dead-end jobs they hate because they offer easy exit strategies and time for their musical pursuits, but don't provide much money or personal fulfillment. Further, a lot of their money is re-invested into music anyway. When days, months, weeks, years start to go buy without a gig and you're pulling extra shifts at that crappy day job...shit gets real depressing, real fast. "But it's all good, fam! I'm real proud of my latest album and I'm up to 600 soundcloud followers! Success haha! :grin:.. :-).. :?.. :-(.. :cry:

This is just the complete opposite of how any smart businessman thinks. A restaurant knows its successful when it's turning a profit and its tables are full. All the positive Yelp reviews in the world aren't going to matter when your rent, loans, payroll, bills, etc. are due.  

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Making a successful restaurant is NOTHING like making a successful music career. Those two things couldn't possibly be more different for more reasons than I care to type out here. Among the main differences is that most people around the world will enter a restaurant at least once a year, whereas most people will probably never hire a musician for anything other than a wedding or something like it at its closest, much less an indie composer - in addition to the fact that it's very difficult or likely impossible to have and run a restaurant from your bedroom or living room. You can start a moderately successful music composition career with $700 on top of the computer you already own. You don't need to purchase or lease commercial real estate, trucks, vans, tools, hire employees, get special licensing, undergo training and government procedures (except for paying tax)... the entire cost/risk structure is completely different.

And I'm not too sympathetic for artists who have to work a "dead-end job they hate". No one likes work, that's what "work" is - stuff you only do because you have to in order to have objective needs met. It goes back to the unshakeable reality of life that sooner or later you have to sacrifice things in order to keep moving ahead. If it's not working a job you should be thankful to have floating your artist ambitions, then it will be the reality that you will have to compromise your art in some way to pay bills and eventually make your "passion" work; where it will give you stress, make you deal with unreasonable people, force you to turn out stuff that can tarnish your name... something always has to balance out there. If you don't choose that balance, reality will choose it for you.

In that regard, I'm actually fairly lucky - I actually love my day job AND it allows me to do my music ambitions as I see fit. Sooner or later that reality will no longer be true, but I will give praise to the God or Gods or powers that be that I have it while I have it. Those who can't appreciate what they have will contribute to their failure later.

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1 hour ago, Meteo Xavier said:

Making a successful restaurant is NOTHING like making a successful music career.

It absolutely is. Just because the logistics involved may be different doesn't mean the entrepreneurial goals are any different. You could say "Becoming a successful doctor is NOTHING like becoming a successful shop owner" for the same reasons, and still be missing the mark.

There is no point in pursuing a career in something if the financial returns, expanding operations, and bigger and better things are not the goal. It's all about growth.

Successful musicians have exactly that aim, and very much understand it as a "business". Bands want to play to more and more people, composers want to score bigger and better movies/games/tv shows, etc. and these also come with bigger paychecks. Just as a police officer wants to make detective, or a lawyer wants wants to take on wealthier clients, etc.

There is just no other type of business or business person who thinks this way; that positive response or "artistic" goals alone make them "successful". Everyone works to hit a point where it is both personally satisfying and allows them to live comfortably. That can depend on the person's needs, but the reality of whether or not one is in that situation is undeniable.

1 hour ago, Meteo Xavier said:

And I'm not too sympathetic for artists who have to work a "dead-end job they hate". No one likes work, that's what "work" is - stuff you only do because you have to in order to have objective needs met.

You later contradict this point by saying you "love" your job.

No, it's completely untrue that "no one likes work". Musicians tend to act like every other job in the universe is horrible, corporate enslavement or something, but that is far and away from the truth. There are plenty of fulfilling, good careers out there. Plenty of people love their jobs.

1 hour ago, Meteo Xavier said:

It goes back to the unshakeable reality of life that sooner or later you have to sacrifice things in order to keep moving ahead.

You don't, though. This is one of the things that among "artists" of any kind contributes to the rising levels of depression: The idea that you HAVE to give up things to be successful and that the greater your sacrifice, the better your odds.

It's not true. You don't have to eat nothing but cheap noodles and live under the stairs at your day job (Axl Rose), to make it in music. You just have to put some time in learning how to compose and use your virtual instruments (which is really a lifelong study anyway) and meet some people; the rest is up to fate. The better you are, and more people you know, you just have somewhat better odds, but still no guarantee. You don't have to quit your job or even cut down your hours, you don't have to give up other hobbies or social lives, you don't have to hold off on some other career for fear that it will interfere with your music dreams because the truth is: if you're good, and you're going to be lucky, it's either going to work out for you or it's not. You also don't have to sacrifice music should you wind up in another career or whatever.

1 hour ago, Meteo Xavier said:

Those who can't appreciate what they have will contribute to their failure later.

Appreciating what you have doesn't mean jack if you're about to have nothing when your landlord is going to evict you. If you've chosen to try and provide for yourself by being a musician, but are unable to do so...you're not succeeding as a career musician. Doesn't mean you haven't done anything cool, that you're not good, or that it's not worthwhile.

It means that it is still a hobby or a side-job at best.

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All dues have to be paid at some point, they just aren't equal in consistent in who or how much does what. Sometimes it happens in the form of someone who struggled for 20 years and finally got their break into success, sometimes success comes immediately with the price of failing each time afterwards (and subsequent drug habits, downward spirals, etc.), sometimes it's eating nothing but ramen noodles for 3 years, sometimes it's doing it while one of hundreds of other precedents and scenarios play out - either way, all success has a price and it gets paid one way or another.

If freelance composers want to believe they have the same business model and social importance as a restaurant, plumber, lawyer or something like it, that's their business and I hope it works out for them, but I expect composers who call themselves "professionals" to have a really, really good understanding of what they're trying to undertake and how sickeningly overstuffed in supply versus demand the freelance composer market is. Instead, what I see are thousands and thousands of unproven, no-name musicians who want AAA recognition and AAA money doing the same music as everyone else, conforming every aspect of their artistic identity down to what they think producers will want instead of doing much to stand out, and focus their entire advertising plan on going to GameDev websites and posting "Hi, does anyone need a composer?" Then when they don't get the jobs and money that proven, known composers get, they shift the blame of not being able to afford their $2,500 a month townhouse in San Francisco on game music ALONE on their target employers, high schoolers and college student devs who don't already have a composer in place, not being able to afford $30,000 for a soundtrack and people who do it for fun instead of profit. They box themselves in with this thinking and stubbornly refuse to deviate even the slightest to try to risk some innovation and cleverly get AROUND their employment obstacles. They are destined to make a failure rate much higher than it could be and they have no one to blame but themselves, no matter who they put the finger at.

I'll believe the validity that music composition is the same business model and infrastructure as the aforementioned businesses when I see people making and running restaurants in their spare time, or 19-year-old plumbers flooding (pun intended) forums with "Hey y'all, does anyone want free plumbing work? I'm looking to get experience and get my name out. My work is inspired by Roto-Rooter and LemKo Leak Prevention. Here's my portfolio on Toiletcloud.com!" - you know, things that generally aren't considered fun pasttimes for most normies that they would get into after work was done...

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8 hours ago, Meteo Xavier said:

All dues have to be paid at some point, they just aren't equal in consistent in who or how much does what. Sometimes it happens in the form of someone who struggled for 20 years and finally got their break into success, sometimes success comes immediately with the price of failing each time afterwards (and subsequent drug habits, downward spirals, etc.), sometimes it's eating nothing but ramen noodles for 3 years, sometimes it's doing it while one of hundreds of other precedents and scenarios play out - either way, all success has a price and it gets paid one way or another.

I stand by it: There is no "sacrifice" necessary for music or really any other art and what you're describing in the first half is just hardwork and persistence. You don't have to "give up" anything. This is purely a myth perpetuated by the survival bias that the public has placed upon famous musicians, actors, etc. "See! Tommy Tallarico moved to California at 22 with no job or place to live and slept on the beach! But he got a job at a music store and a game producer offered him a testing job at Virgin mobile after seeing Tom's video game shirt and the rest is history! Being homeless was a necessary sacrifice to become one of the most successful game composers!" Nope lol. It really all just comes down to what T-Shirt he was wearing that day; sleeping on beaches not required, but I see reasoning like this all the time.

One of my game composing gigs happened because I went to this bar that it turned out held local game dev meetups. A co-worker at a former dayjob wound up in the film industry with some of his friends and they hired me to write music, etc. Any job with music I've ever had, happened by being in the right place at the right time and being "the music guy". If, one day, I really luck out and hit it big, it will happened just the same, just like it has for everyone else — I don't have to forfeit anything.

Surely, you must see the contradiction here: You argue that being a freelance musician in the business of providing custom soundtracks is nothing like a restaurant owner because of the capital and risk required. Well, a new restaurant owner will likely go into debt and that will be seen as a necessary risk, but this doesn't happen in music. So why do you still you have to "pay dues" with it? IMO, this kind of thing is a dangerous way of thinking about something like music, and has lead to many people making really bad life decisions that were totally unnecessary. 

I'll never forget about 4 years ago, when the vocalist for the Acacia Strain announced his departure. He was quitting because he was turning 30, getting married the following year, and tired of playing over a hundred shows a year just to live on 200 dollars a month. Fans in the comments said stuff like "He's just not dedicated enough!" or "Yeah? Well that's what it takes!". Madness. Living below the poverty line for your entire adult life is plenty dedicated and a complete waste for a band that obviously never became lucrative anyway.

8 hours ago, Meteo Xavier said:

If freelance composers want to believe they have the same business model and social importance as a restaurant, plumber, lawyer or something like it, that's their business and I hope it works out for them, but I expect composers who call themselves "professionals" to have a really, really good understanding of what they're trying to undertake and how sickeningly overstuffed in supply versus demand the freelance composer market is. Instead, what I see are thousands and thousands of unproven, no-name musicians who want AAA recognition and AAA money doing the same music as everyone else, conforming every aspect of their artistic identity down to what they think producers will want instead of doing much to stand out, and focus their entire advertising plan on going to GameDev websites and posting "Hi, does anyone need a composer?" Then when they don't get the jobs and money that proven, known composers get, they shift the blame of not being able to afford their $2,500 a month townhouse in San Francisco on game music ALONE on their target employers, high schoolers and college student devs who don't already have a composer in place, not being able to afford $30,000 for a soundtrack and people who do it for fun instead of profit. They box themselves in with this thinking and stubbornly refuse to deviate even the slightest to try to risk some innovation and cleverly get AROUND their employment obstacles. They are destined to make a failure rate much higher than it could be and they have no one to blame but themselves, no matter who they put the finger at.

I'll believe the validity that music composition is the same business model and infrastructure as the aforementioned businesses when I see people making and running restaurants in their spare time, or 19-year-old plumbers flooding (pun intended) forums with "Hey y'all, does anyone want free plumbing work? I'm looking to get experience and get my name out. My work is inspired by Roto-Rooter and LemKo Leak Prevention. Here's my portfolio on Toiletcloud.com!" - you know, things that generally aren't considered fun pasttimes for most normies that they would get into after work was done...

First, this entire rant has no relevance to anything I said. Second, plenty of people over-estimate the value of music, but you my friend definitely undervalue it and by extension, yourself. You can't sell yourself short, either — people will exploit that.

The point I'm trying to get across here is simple: Being successful as a career musician, is no different than success in any other business. You're a successful business if business is good.

We've both seen it: Some person announces they're quitting their job to become a musician, and then months later they still haven't had any gig or income from it (I've even seen some turn to kickstarter when times get tough), but hey — at least their new album is killer and has 50 likes on soundcloud! Success, right?

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I'm not going to do point-by-point responses here - it's exhaustive and the time spent doing it doesn't amount to anything (some of this shit gets REALLY long). If you're better off thinking sacrifices are not required to be made for freelancer success, than that's exactly what you should have in your mindset to keep going. One good thing that the subjective intangibility of the art scene is that a good mentality, even if its motivated by theoretical/academic nonsense, is better than having a poor mentality that is precisely correct. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, guarantees music success better than to simply keep going, so that's what you'd prefer to think on it, more power to it.

Even if it wasn't beneficial to have a good mentality on it no matter what, I still don't have too much a vested interest to change your mind on it - composers who are too stubborn to get around the difficulties of finding work with creative risk miss out on opportunities that composers like me get to potentially clean up on. They lose, I win. :D

I'll have a new subject here soon when my availability next allows.

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