I once asked a colleague I often work with if they’d be interested in being part of a project I was involved in at the request of another colleague. My colleague declined stating they were not interested and only really wanted to take low maintenance gigs. This colleague gigs as often as, if not more often than I do, so I completely understood the sentiment as it’s one that I have when it comes to taking on gigs or new musical projects.
I do a lot of covers. In a sense, I spend most of my musical life doing covers. Playing a Beethoven Symphony? Cover. Playing a 14th century Turkish Mevlevi song? Cover. Playing a piece I wrote? Cover.
“But you’re playing an original tune, not a cover,” you might say. Well, as I’ve been saying for the past couple of decades, “If you’re not improvising in real time, then you’re just covering yourself.” In other words, “Original” music can also be “Cover” music.
I spend so much time reading others’ thoughts about the music business that some folks might consider it a waste of time. That’s neither what this post is about nor do I think I’m wasting my time doing this kind of reading. Neither is this about all the time not doing music in service of music career (e.g. travel, set-up/break-down, networking); nor am I talking about the endless hours doing inefficient rehearsals or practicing.
This post is about the actual musical activities musicians do that tend to be a waste of time. And here, by “waste of time,” I mean that these are things that will have a low Return On Investment (ROI).
Last Thursday I went to what was the final show at Dreamland and was able to get a copy of the cassette release of Chris Kincaid’s Overshot for String Quartet and Electronics (listen to excerpts of it below). This is something I recorded for Chris back in June of last year (as well as an earlier version for multiple cellos) which he used in sound installations. It’s now the latest of a growing catalogue of album releases on which I appear. I’m often asked why I don’t have any solo album releases or if I plans to do one. Usually I’ll respond that I have a few on the back-burner that I haven’t had the time to complete.
As I book out into 2019, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I got to this point in my musical life. There’s the received wisdom for most artists in any field that until you make it, you should keep your day job so you can have a solid financial foundation while you work at your art. The downside is, with a day job, you generally have less time to focus on your art which in turn decreases your ability to turn it into a full time career. It’s a delicate balance between having no time to do your art because of the time you put into your day job, as opposed to spending less time at a job (and thus having less financial security) to focus more on the art. The ideal balance is to transition into turning your art into your full-time job.
The risk of that, though, is burn-out.