“Is this all you do?” When I get asked that question from people I know what they are probably asking but so I usually have no outward reaction. “Don’t take anything anyone says, compliment or criticism personally” I remind myself. I’ve also learned that not every question merits an answer just like not every door needs to answered, every phone, email, text etc., either. What is it about people that we need to quantify everything in life? Being a musician is a numbers game for sure. If you know anything about major labels and how many of the great artists got screwed out of their royalties you know you have to sell X amount of Units just to cover your “recoupable” costs. Did you really think the studio time, producer and case of single malt scotch was paid for by the record company? Silly boy.
Of course I’m an independent artist so the KOA campground fee, tin of salmon with Tabasco and crackers comes out of mine—and you the fan who actually pays for the download on iTunes—pockets. Recently I played a festival where it seemed some guys were just either really bored or were writing a book about me. I don’t know. As I do more often, I had a booth selling my “merch” as we call it in the biz. In addition to my music I sell t-shirts, bumper stickers but also the jewelry I make as well as hand-blended aromatherapy massage oils and some beautiful flutes made for me by master flute maker Michael Graham Allen. Why? Income primarily but also I enjoy being an ambassador of the Native flute, talking with people, making that connection, hearing stories, taking pics with fans, signing CD’s. The flipside it is exhausting. You set up your tent, which is a chore, your booth, display are on your feet most of the 10-hour day and scramble for someone to watch your tent while you headline the main stage. Afterwards you run back—a gaggle of new fans following you—have no time to compose yourself before you spend the next two hours using the “knuckle buster” credit card swiper, signing CD’s answering the same questions 70 times and all the while smiling. That’s the easy part though. I love what I do and am one of the privileged few who get to do it. It is my passion and why I’m here. I have to put that in because I hear from people all the time telling me how lucky or blessed I am….yada yada yada. Yes, I am aware. However, sometimes it is nice to have someone say “You really work your ass off don’t you? I’m glad it is paying off. How can I help?” ha ha
Really the main drawback for me, and probably other vendors at shows, is that you are captive. At the festival I mentioned several guys knew my entire Youtube catalog and asked specifically what I did 2:21 minutes into the song on this or that video. Huh?! Here is a sampling of actual questions I got in one day at the festival:
- Do you know where Singapore is? I bet you can’t tell me where it is.
- How many gigs do you average a week? A month? Or do you go by year?
- Tell me everything about how I can make it. I’m fucking awesome.
- How did you start?
- What advice do you have for me, I want tour?
- Okay, tell me what Canyon Records is looking for? How do I get signed to them? Seriously?
- Have you always been a musician or?
- Is this all you do?
- How long did it take you learn to play the Native American flute?
- How long did it take you to learn the Hang?
- My mom wasn’t at your concert. Can she see you Hang drum?
- How many CD’s do you have to sell per concert?
- Do you know _________?
- I’m 1/64th Cherokee. Do you think I could learn the flute?
- Do you make your own flutes?
- Did you make that thing? (Hang)
- Where/how did you get it?
- How much did you pay?
- How long did it take you to make it? (this is making it?) geez
- Who made your CD? Who produced it? Who does your artwork? Who books you? How did you get booked here? Who is your agent? What camera do you use on your videos? What software? What mic? What program do you use to record? Where do you record?
- How did you get on Mystic Soundscapes? Hearts of Space? Etc.
- Are you like a “real” musician? (my favorite)
It goes on but I want you to keep reading so I’ll stop there. Usually I can deflect or temper any question, but this time I had an arthritic flare up in my knee, was dehydrated and in more pain the my usual Aleve could handle. I finally asked one guy if he was interested in buying my cd’s or flutes and that shut him up and moved him along. I later overheard him trying to trade a gun for a flute at another vendor’s tent. Yikes. To surmise. While you have to quantify what you do in order to set goals, make an income without going bankrupt, get bigger gigs, get air play, et al, the one thing you can’t quantify is the creative drive. It’s like we are privy to a secret source that once you sign onto, goes through you and you must do something with it. You must distill, translate and document the creativity by honing your craft, practicing, being receptive and working as hard as it takes through challenges, pain, relationship troubles, dogs dying etc. When you try to block it or dismiss it you pay the price. That is for another blog though. I’ve accepted this responsibility. One thing I did tell the one guy was when he came by and said, “Okay dude, I’m getting ready to leave, but do you have any last advice you can give me?”
I said, “As a matter of fact yes. But you can’t tell anyone because it is a secret only the top musicians share. Okay? Well the secret to making it as a musician is……. To work your butt off all the time and when you think you are working hard enough, you probably aren’t. Blend passion with compulsion and at night dream about what more you can do the next day. In fact in the hour you’ve been asking me all these questions, you could have been working.”
I’m updating my calendar, though slowly as I am working on many other projects at the same time. Check it often or bookmark it. www.randygranger.net/calendar.html I’ll be returning the World of Faeries Festival in South Elgin, IL, the INAFA 2010 Convention in Eau Claire, WI, Native Rhythms Fest in Fl and at Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, the first International-Tribal Powwow in El Paso among others and with much humility I’ll be playing at the prestigious Rothko Chapel www.rothkochapel.org in Houston with Bowl and Gong artist Jodi Roberts www.sacredinspiration.com and Violist Stephanie Phillips www.myspace.com/humantrio
Many of you know me for my Native Flute and Hang music, but I’ve been a professional musician most of my life as a Singer, percussionist and guitarist. Here is a quick recording and video I did of the Rogers and Hart standard, “My Funny Valentine.” Happy Valentine’s Day folks.