By: Marie-Lynn Hammond
York Region just has its first big arts conference, Arts Exposed, and I sat on a panel called “Succeeding in the Music Business.” I joked that I really ought to have been in one called “Surviving in the Music Business,” because that’s how I generally think of my career.
But one of the other panelists pointed out that success is relative, and we know there’s only so much room at the top for the Neil Youngs, K’naans, Shania Twains and Celine Dions. So for most of us working musicians, he said, we’ll pay the rent, create some music we’re proud of, and have a core group of fans who stick with us. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
(And, being Canadian, we’ll also get to travel thousands of kms through snow and blizzards to play to the other five people who were crazy enough to head out into the storm to hear us play. But I digress…)
And I suppose the same goes for the other arts as well. We can’t all be geniuses — or, in the case of Justin Bieber, lucky. But many of us can make an okay, or even very decent, living as artistic creators.
I’m currently recording a new CD, and I know it won’t get commercial airplay. I did three shows last month, to a total of probably less than 200 people. But I got an encore at each show (including a standing ovation – at an informal house concert, no less!), and I knew that I had taken those folks on a journey with my songs, from laughter to tears and back again. So am I successful? Well, I was those nights, for those audiences.
But, okay, I’ve never gotten rich from my music. I’m far from a household word. Heck, I’m not even a hallway-closet word. Still, when I was a shy, miserable teen secretly making up songs in my bedroom, with no encouragement and no sense of whether I could even sing in tune, if someone had told me that I’d eventually have a listing in the Encylopedia of Music in Canada (http://is.gd/oclkan), I’d have told them they were nuts. So given that, I guess I have succeeded. Like I said, it’s all relative.
So what about you? What’s your definition of success in the music business? Join in and share your thoughts!
Marie-Lynn Hammond is a co-founder of Stringband, a seminal Canadian folk group, and a critically acclaimed songwriter living in York Region. In past lives she’s written plays and magazine articles and hosted national CBC radio shows. In between working on two new CDs, she freelances as an editor of both fiction and nonfiction. www.marielynnhammond.com