Was at a show a few months ago. It was held at a venue that I'd been to several times before, but wasn't intimately familar with.
The place was packed. I got in a line, waiting for the restroom, and waited...
After a few minutes, I realized I was actually waiting for the merch booth.
It reminded me of a story about processionary caterpillars that I first heard from Earl NIghtingale. Jean Henri Fabre, a French entomologist studying these caterpillars, once led a group of them onto the rim of a large flowerpot. When he was finished, the lead caterpillar was immediately behind the last caterpillar in the procession, forming a complete circle.
Through both habit and instinct, the ring of caterpillars circled the flowerpot for seven days and seven nights, until they died from exhaustion and starvation. Although an ample supply of food, which would have saved them, was close and plainly visible, it was outside the range of the circle.
How many musicians act in a similar way?
The answer is that most musicians act this way. Are you one of them?
Look, I'm not one to judge. Both behavior patterns and ways of thinking can easily become habit for even the most aware of us. And even if we see it happening, it can be difficult to break away, because we don't want to risk leaving the comfort of our group.
You may be in Hell, but at least you know your way around.
This is one of the reasons why kids in Austin wear cowboy hats, kids in Boston would never be seen in a cowboy hat, and certain college students think "butt chugging" is a perfectly good way to consume wine.
Just because it's easier and more comforting to go with the flow doesn't mean that it's the best way to do things. In fact, it's usually not the best way to do things.
While you may feel safer following the rules of others, it's doubtful you'll feel happier.
It's also doubtful that you'll find success that way.
Happiness, freedom, and success come when you trust your own sense of authority and make your own rules. And that can be a bitch, because not only will it upset your comfort zone, it upsets the comfort zones of other people as well.
That's a small price to pay for happniess, freedom, and success though.
So many musicians miss the boat because they're trying to play the same game as others. They don't trust their own instincts about how to write good songs, what fans want, or how they should mold their careers.
Did you know Meat Loaf was signed to Motown in 1970?
That would have been a good idea for a soul artist!
But Meat Loaf isn't a "soul" artist. He's much more intense than smooth. He’s the type who cries when he sees a greeting card commercial and throws tantrums when he doesn’t get his way. He’s a “rock opera” singer who will jump into the audience and kick your ass if you taunt him.
His Motown album tanked.
On the other hand, his album Bat Out of Hell has sold 43,000,000 copies.
Bat Out of Hell is an intense album. It’s Meat Loaf in audio form.
In 1993, while looking back on Bat Out of Hell album, his partner on the project, John Steinman, said it was "timeless in that it didn't fit into any trend.”
And it still hasn’t been part of any trend.
“It's never been a part of what's going on,” Steinman said. “You could release that record at any time and it would be out of place."
Every musician has his own version of this, yet very few have the balls to actually put it out.
It's easy to "get in the wrong line." Once you're there, it can be tough to go against the masses and walk away. Acknowledge that. Then do it anyway. It's the only way you'll get what you want.