In my interview this issue with John Patitucci, we talked on a subject that I’m sure all of us have put a spin on. The music business these days (a quote from Jeff Berlin) isn’t the music business anymore, it’s the entertainment business. I feel certain I don’t have to qualify that statement… it’s something any devoted artist can easily comprehend. I’m of the opinion that there’s always been room for both, but somehow along the way entertainment has become the modus operandi for the recording industry. Here is an interesting quote from John Kennedy: “If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him”. Those rights that Mr. Kennedy spoke of for the artists “are in place”, as they always have been. But the ability to exonerate those rights and maintain one’s art if you don’t fit the industry’s paradigm has become a serious challenge… once again, this is not hard to comprehend for many of us in the industry.
Human nature easily perpetuates doubt for those “having a vision”. Will I be able to sustain myself by following my heart instead of my head… a tough question indeed! We’re all looking to be successful, but I would propose taking a look at just exactly what that word means to you personally. I believe it is an innate human quality to base our perception of success around other people’s opinions, not to mention the amount of money the media invests to create and sell the illusion of “their” vision of what a “successful” person is. Here’s a quick story to exemplify the danger of letting others define success for you. You’ve advanced in your career, and your spouse is thrilled because now your kids can look at a better school to go to, but your best friend who just opened up his 25th chain store thinks you’re totally missing the boat. If you’re at the mercy of these outside forces defining your status, you can easily see how you could lose your focus in terms of having a vision of where “you” want to go, and what “you” think you should be investing your time into. Add to that the complexity of the music business, and it becomes obvious that time spent on developing your own agenda as far as what “you” feel is relevant in terms of being successful becomes essential… tricky game.
So let me offer to you a profound analogy that John mentioned in speaking of his long time friend Wayne Shorter. He explained how Wayne, his band mates, and himself had discussed the importance of being mindful about the direction of society. And for Wayne, it was this simple; be honest with your art and be willing to take chances… then, try to encourage people to do the same whether it’s their art, or their life. Looking for a mantra? I’d be hard pressed to find a better one. Where would your music reside if that mantra became an axiom in your life? And if enough people (artists) followed through with that, I just wonder where the “business” would reside. Would this be a long road to undertake…you bet. But if philosophers, religious historians, and the great minds of our past are correct, it’s not about the goal, it’s about the journey. And with that potential axiom in mind, it begs the question; why “shouldn’t” I go for it? You might want to toss that one around for a while… anything’s possible.