HITTING THE WALL
copyright 1999 by Monte Nordstrom
from issue #61 - Cosmic Debris Musicians Magazine - Sept '99

In an industry where monster egos collide like icebergs grinding together in a freezing ocean, its easy to see that it takes a special kind of person to survive for any length of time.

The emotional peaks & valleys experienced during an artistic career are like being put on some kind of manic 3D snakes & ladders game. For every exhilarating high there lurks a corresponding low which can be terribly devastating if you are not prepared. The hyper-competitive field of professional music routinely chews up the denizens of its murky environs & spits them back out with disregard for their inherent sensitivity. You have to be able to roll with it.

It requires a complex blend of characteristics to cut the mustard. You have to be calloused enough withstand the impending & ongoing onslaught of slings & arrows. Conversely you must be sensitive enough to respond to your muse & be able to communicate your art to the masses. You must be methodical in order to accomplish the myriad of duties necessary to move forward. You must also be carefree enough to nurture creativity & recognize the demands of your unique artistic vision yet political enough to absorb the punches & not step on the toes of other folks in the business. It helps to have a masochistic streak, or least a very thick skin. It is NOT for the faint of heart.

As you hone your craft you must be prepared to operate efficiently on a variety of levels. Combine being organized, reliable, consistant & versatile for starters. Your ego will have to absorb rejection, experience subversion and disappointment.

If you are very lucky you may have to deal with heady praise, unrealistic fawning from sycophantic leeches & living in a world where people seldom say "no" to your demands. That end of the ride can be deadly if your foundations are not grounded with a sense of reality.

Either way it is important to have a second career to fall back on. It's the old proverb, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket".

The pressure of earning a living at your art is a two-edged sword. If you do manage to accomplish it for a good length of time you may find that the artistry has been compromised by commerciality. On the other hand if money & fame is the reason for your endeavor then art doesn't necessarily have a lot to do with the equation. You may just as well choose a more stable career option.

I don't want to create an image of hysterical paranoia here. Just be prepared to get short shrift from a variety of the following: club managers who have an evaporating bottom-line & a stubborn recession bearing down on them (the booze-mongering biz just ain't what it used to be); agents who have never seen your act, booking you into rooms they have never been to; a fickle public chasing trends; an ever-changing demographic of clientele; vicious time demands with scheduling deadlines, organizing calendars for publicity, recording, appearances & follow-ups; media hacks looking for an angle to get an edge over their rivals; self-agendized promoters operating a closed-shop empire; ever-growing budget requirements for recording, photography, artwork, manufacturing, accounting & taxes vs the complete lack of respect from banking institutions; technological requirements advancing with such rapid development that they are obsolete at their acquisition; bandmate split-ups & defections; etc etc etc...

If you have managed to get by the aforementioned obstacle course, try balancing this all with the challenge of having a family & personal life apart from the madness. That may be the biggest trial & reward of it all. Don't lose your perspective by getting lost in your goal-quest.

When it stalls, drags or all comes crashing down, which it will do from time to time, you have to step back & do an inventory of your goals & accomplishments. What is the point to it all? Rest & review. Take a break from it all. Get back to the basics of your particular gift. Forget about the BS & find your balance by getting back to what made your music fun in the first place. Play for the love of it & really enjoy yourself without all the pressure. Then you can re-assess your goals & build a well-thought-out strategy that is based on informed data. Remember the old adage, "Rome wasn't built in a day". Sometimes it takes a lifetime to recognize that you have actually been successful just by pursuing your elusive dreams. Being centred & at peace with yourself will take you closer to those dreams that made you consider the profession in the first place.

In the end, one may have to re-assess their definition of success. Sometimes in retrospect, your accomplishments along the journey are worth far more than the fabled "end of the rainbow". But as the late Stevie Ray Vaughan once told me, "Keep on keepin' on!" In other words, don't give up. You gotta roll with it & feed the flame of your creativity. If you have a gift it's a shame to waste it. Just don't let those flames devour you. Good Luck!

Note: Monte Nordstrom has authored or co-authored over 175 songs since he started writing in 1969. He joined BMI with his 1974 Columbia Of Canada release "Ptarmigan", which was produced by Paul Horn and published by Horn's "Samadhi Music". He is associated with the performance rights organization, SOCAN and formed his publishing company, "Northstream Music" in 1980. He has produced over 75 demos and has recorded 8 albums to date (Nov '99).
Monte performs regularly at numerous venues on Canada's West Coast.

You can email Monte at: nordstro@islandnet.com

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