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Don't drive yourself outta your mind as you are left behind

The pandemic pretty much tanked the live music business in 2020. In response, many of us started live broadcasts from social media. At first, I felt like I was getting more attention and attendance than when I was performing live. But eventually I started missing the experience of playing in front of a live audience, even if most of the time people aren't paying close attention to me.

Many musicians also did recording projects during this time. I did not. Recording and producing an album takes $ and a creative drive that I lacked during 2020. In 2021 some performances resumed, and things looked better for the next year. I stated on social media, "You don't have to be productive creatively during a pandemic, take care of yourself." Everyone else was saying, "You MUST create during the pandemic." No, no, no.

Which brings us to now, the middle of 2022. I've had a fair number of good local gigs this year. And meanwhile many musicians I know are doing shows all over the world. And seemingly out of nowhere, local festivals popped up with full line ups. What is this? Were these the line-ups from the canceled festivals in 2020 and 2021? I have no answers. I have no emails. No phone calls. The less I do the less I seem to matter. A neighbor recently asked me, "How do you get gigs?" I answered, "I don't know." I was only half-joking.

The gigs I do seem to be in a mirror-realm of the conventional music business. With farmer's markets, emails get responded to more than 95% of the time, instead of less than 5% of the time. Performance is in the day time, outside in the sunlight. I don't have to worry that the venue will stiff me (ask any musician about waiting around at the end of the night at a crappy bar for someone to pay you what someone else promised you). People are (mostly) sober. There are children about. People are eating healthy food. The manager is cool if you have to cancel because you aren't feeling well; there's no "the show must go on" BS which means you show up sick at a restaurant. It's like I'm a reverse vampire.

All this would be fine but for one thing: the gigs I do seem to be the perfect preparation for doing festivals. I'm used to performing outside, often in the heat, to crowds of people who may not have heard of me before. But because I'm not doing "conventional" gigs, my name isn't out there.

I don't have any advice here, except to say that if you are a musician reading this, and you've been struggling with anxiety, depression, etc, ESPECIALLY after dealing with all the music business BS, I will say: it's OK to take a step back. I don't care what the "experts" say. They want you to burn out, they want to consume you.

I've been (slowly) working toward making a more sustainable music business model. But the first step is protecting my own mental and financial well-being by choosing the things that are right for me.

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