"It ain't like it used to be."

This is easily one of my most loathed expressions that I hear on a regular basis. Yes, for certain things this is an objectively true statement but in practice people tend to use it when they are being negative and making up excuses for something not going their way. 

I don't like it as an expression because it is a great way to set yourself up for failure. It is saying, "What I want isn't possible anymore, so woe is me."

Fuck that. 

I hear it all the freaking time amongst musicians. The classical crowd that rolls inside arts institutions tends to complain that there isn't state support for art anymore. Or that there never was any to begin with (it depends on the country). The more commercially oriented crowd will complain that the recording industry collapsed. 

When people complain about change, they're ignoring one of the constants in business: the only constant is change itself. 

But, I'm not here to complain about complaining. 

At the end of the day, nobody has a time machine so we need to look at the state of things right now and decide how to proceed. 

The way I see it, there are three categories to unpack: the stuff that is currently easier (opportunities), the stuff that is harder (sticking points), and the stuff that is about the same as it ever was.

I'll be exploring all three in different posts.

First up is:

What Hasn't Really Changed

 

Producing great music still costs money.

Technology evangelists will go on about how producing music is free now because of software like GarageBand, the ubiquity of cheap recording equipment, and the ease of distribution because of social media (except it actually isn't distribution at all).

The truth is people still expect the highest level of recording quality and the good stuff doesn't come free. A ZOOM recorder still can't touch the quality equipment in a real recording studio, not to mention the expertise of recording and master engineers. 

Don't get me wrong, it is definitely cheaper than it used to be. But, cheaper doesn't mean cheap. Really doing an album right that can compete commercially is still expensive by a typical musician's standards. 

 

Meeting the right people takes time.

Despite how "connected" people are online, getting in touch with the right people still takes time. Leveraging virtual, computer based connections into action and real relationships is notoriously difficult.

That is why cities are still the best places for creative people. The likelihood of being in the physical presence of the right person is higher because there are more people in cities, and physical presence is always worth more than just a connection online. 

Who are "the right people"? That depends on where you are at in life and where the other person is and the circumstances of the meeting. Running into a live event promotor when all of your friends work in that business isn't right for you.

Maybe you need to be in touch with a teacher, or an engineer, or a publicist. It all depends on where you are and the resources you have at your disposal. 

 

You need to be strategic. 

The tech evangelists like to promote this idea of openness through technology that makes the world a better place. That's a nice thought, but in practice this turns into, "Hey you, make some stuff and throw it up on the internet and maybe something will happen." I drank that Kool-Aid for a while. It doesn't work. 

It's totally fine to just throw some stuff up on the internet if you aren't expecting anything. But, if you do want something out of the deal, you need to have a plan. Also, you need to have a plan to adapt and weather some storms along the way. 

I see this stuff as largely a "Red Queen" situation.

How fast or how we run makes no difference: these things seem to stay the same.  

What are your thoughts here? I challenge you to prove me wrong! This is a point I discuss all over the place in Make It, but I want to know your thoughts. 

Tweet me here or leave a comment below. 

Want some further reading? Check out the Freelancer's Union article that got my wheels turning about this.