Off of the Internet, into the Street

I've mentioned social anxiety and things of that nature so often in these blogs, it's no surprise that I occasionally get someone thinking that I'm going through some kind of mental breakdown. Rest assured, these are not “cries for help” or anything of that nature, I just want people to know they're not alone. As far as I know, I'm a fully-functioning, completely normal human being in spite of my hangups. Hangups that I've been incredibly open about, perhaps even to a fault.

Apart from music, one of my biggest interests has always been “what makes people tick” as the old saying goes. I've spent a lot of time watching people partly because I didn't feel welcome among them, but also because I used to think that if I figured out how other people behaved around each other, maybe I could learn how to fit in a little better. I had that whole thing wrong on a few levels, but thankfully I figured it out before it was too late to do anything about it.

The other reason why I keep bringing this stuff up is because creative people often struggle with their minds; alternating between crippling self-doubt and hubris. Being a musician these days requires you to be a business-minded social butterfly almost constantly; it's mentally exhausting work. I've been working on my own mind for so long that I'm finally making real progress and I'm glad to do my part to help others however I can, even if that means getting uncomfortably personal at times.

The world is full of dishonesty, so any time I can put some truth out there, I'm gonna take that opportunity. The music industry doesn't work so drastically different from any other that a non-musician can't apply anything they pick up from my (now bi-weekly) ramblings. No matter what you're pursuing in life, you're bound to run into mean-spirited, petty, small-minded people who are out to get over in any way possible. However, this shouldn't discourage you from getting out there in the world because there are a lot of great people out there too. Besides, you can learn a lot from dealing with assholes so don't be afraid of meeting one.

You've heard about how important it is to know the right people. These “connections” could get you an opening slot on a big tour or just get you a better day job, but either way, the friend will always get the gig over the stranger. I've never been a fan of this because it's simply not fair, but such is life. I hate terms like “fan engagement” and “networking” because they reek of insincerity, but that's how you're gonna get somewhere in music apart from putting in more effort than you can imagine. Having a bunch of money works too; you can buy your way to the top of any chart with enough money.

This is the part of the blog where you might expect me to offer a tip on how someone with social anxiety might power through their discomfort and work a room until their contact list is full. I could do that, but you're just gonna have to take my word that you don't want my advice on that topic. I have a method for dealing with crowded rooms that serves me well, but I can't suggest it to anyone else in good conscience. You're just gonna have to trust me on this one and find what works for you.

However, I will tell you that dealing with people in the music business isn't very intimidating once you've done it a few times. With some reasonably decent observation skills and some practice, you'll be able to smell a line of bullshit from miles away. You'll eventually figure out who to work with, who to avoid working with and who is pretending to be something they're not, but you can't figure all this out without getting out there and mingling.

As I mentioned, I don't particularly care for marketing buzzwords and I have a problem with things that aren't genuine. Even in social media, a platform originally intended for more-or-less regular conversation, you have people scrutinizing their posts to make sure it will bring “maximum engagement” to their brand. We don't even really talk anymore, we just sell. The whole social media experience, perhaps even the Internet as a whole, has stolen some of our humanity. Anonymity allows people to behave in a way they'd never dare to in public. I say bring on the crowd, let's go out and experience the world. In the words of the late, great Bernie Mac, “I ain't scared of you, motherfuckers!”

I may not command a room when I walk in, or even say a word for that matter, but I will at least be there listening and perhaps most importantly, not trying to sell you anything. I don't want to “engage my fanbase”, I want to “shoot the shit” and I don't think that's too much to ask. If nothing else, I'm beginning to truly enjoy going out because I don't see any ads before a friend tells me a story. I'd rather deal with a brief moment of public embarrassment than sit on the Internet all day reading links to articles detailing the latest thing that's sure to kill us all by this time next year.

Besides, the music business is full of some of the most interesting people you could ever meet, not to mention all the ridiculous conversations you'll have with drunk people. I'm sure all the world's problems have been solved several times over by intoxicated people in bars, backyards and wherever else there's music playing and booze flowing; the problem is none of those people had corporate backing. Sure, you can hear outlandish tales online, but it's much easier to spot a liar face-to-face.

In so many words, I learned to just stop caring so much and allow things to happen. You can only control a little of what happens in your life anyway, so as long as you're healthy, happy and present in the moment, there's really no need to worry or care about much else. Make the art you enjoy and don't get disheartened if it doesn't get the reaction you hoped for because that's not important. Live the life you want to live and never apologize for being yourself. Own your mistakes, help someone, be friendly, and expect nothing in return. Get off the computer and immerse yourself in reality. Say what's on your mind, and speak the truth because there have been too many lies told throughout history already. Do something you're unsure of, challenge yourself and don't be afraid to fail. After all, our time only gets shorter.

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