I've been on holidays. The perfect excuse to forget what I did when. I did practice. Sitting in a hotel room strumming my travel guitar, felt like a rockstar.
I met quite a few new people on this trip. Not being one to waste good stories my musical life came up a few times. The one question that never gets asked is: "Why do you bother?" I can tell when people are thinking it, usually after I make a statement like: "Nah, we don't make any money." There's lots of good reasons to play music outside of financial ones, I've mentioned them before.
On the flight home I was thrown a curve by my seatmate. She called the band a hobby. I was a little miffed by that. To me a hobby is something one does for the entertainment and nothing else. It implies that one isn't serious about it, and not being serious the activity isn't essential. I'm not sure I could stop playing music and still be happy. Hobby isn't the right word, maybe obsession?
It really shouldn't have bothered me, I like to tell people that I've given up the dream. I don't expect to ever make a living in music. But somehow the word hobby rubbed me the wrong way, in part because of the financial implications of the term. If you make money it's not a hobby. Why do I associate musical worth with monetary worth when I know the two have only a tenuous relationship?
It might have to do with music being a spectator sport. The audience is an essential part of the experience. Making music can be satisfying even without an audience but is so much more with one. Audiences however, are expected to pay. In North American society financial judgments of worth are so ingrained that it takes a conscious act to notice them. When was the last time you went to a free performance expecting to hear something good?
I wish this association was more motivating for me. A classic type A person would use such a thing to push themselves until they were making money. Unfortunately I'm a type Z, a lazy whiner who doesn't value the talent he has. Mistakes I make in performance and composition make me want to bury the results rather than work at improvement. Why I don't give up is something of mystery to me, but that's another thought for another time.
I'm going to have to do something about this. The financial unease I feel about my musical life doesn't motivate me. It only makes me feel bad and causes occasional fits of rudeness to perfectly nice airplane strangers. I'm afraid it goes deeper than just some latent capitalist tendencies. I suspect that it's part of a larger issue involving validation.
I don't have any real internal validation. I always feel like what I do is crap, even when I know intellectually that it isn't. The problem is that external validation doesn't work for me either. At almost every gig I've done at least some of the audience have said good things. I've even been complimented on my playing by musicians I really admire. Doesn't make me feel good, and, in a startling lack of respect, I usually dismiss such compliments. Whinge, whine, moan, poor, poor pitiful me. There, the pity-fest is over.
So what the heck am I going to do about this? I need a way to truly believe that my musical endeavourers are valid. Gobs of money aren't going to do it. On the other hand no one's ever offered me stupid mad cash. Hmmmm, the ad could read: One musical soul for sale, slightly bruised but in reasonable working order.........
Then again, maybe not.