A couple days ago, I referenced a post from music industry blogger Bob Lefsetz where he challenged Hollywood to re-focus on telling a great story versus filling a screen with special effects. (From his lips to God’s ears.) In a similar post, aptly entitled “Credibility,” Lefsetz warns musicians about obsessing over inking the record deal or getting airplay. Before long they lose site of the music itself.
This is about sharing your passion. It’s about that sweet connection between musicians and audience when the rhythms and melodies turn perfect strangers into friends. It’s about doing what you love and inviting others to be part of it. And it’s about giving voice to other people’s deepest hopes, longings, joys, and sorrows in a way that they cannot themselves create—but they can enter, with full solidarity, into what you have created for yourself to make it their own.
Lefsetz provides thought-provoking tips on what musicians should do instead (excellent advice for other artists as well. Read it!). But I’d like to focus on a poignant response from Colin Hay, former front man for 80s mega-hit band, Men at Work. Speaking from experience, Hay concurs with Lefsetz and writes about his life now—post-Top 40, MTV mega-stardom. He talks about rediscovering the music, along with the fans, who actually come because of the music versus the image.
He talks about his new CD, Gathering Mercury, and jokes about building his audience to a “massive 900 people or so in New York City, or Philadelphia, or slightly less in charming Clayton, NC.” He expresses a rich appreciation for the fans he mingles with on tour. “When I got dropped by a major label, my live audience was all I had…They let me be myself. And isn’t that what we all want…to be who we are, and not who someone else wants us to be?” He goes on:
… You are correct when you stress the importance of establishing a core audience… My old band had massive radio success and MTV exposure to the max, and when that went away, so did most of the audience. It’s like building a house with no foundations, you can’t.
…Last year I was sound checking at the Birchmere in Virginia, a delightful venue, and I was filled with an inexplicable euphoria. Its intensity lasted a few seconds but it was powerful. A simple experience, the wait staff was setting up tables for the night, the sound crew were twiddling knobs, and I realized that I was exactly where I should be, doing exactly what I should be doing, and all was well in my world.
…I did make a big splash, I did descend into obscurity, and alcoholism. But, my salvation was, and still is, artistic expression, and a vague quest to strip away and reveal something essential, which is seductive, and ever elusive.
Best to you,