The Road is Seductive
Warren Ellis has a terrific blog (Morning.Computer) and newsletter that I enjoy so much that they partly inspired me to restart this regular blogging practice. Currently, the post at the top of his site is titled That Shingy Life, a reference to the often maligned ‘digital prophet’ Shingy. Ellis’s post is about the speaking class, a roaming pack of ‘thought leaders’ who present in front of countless seminars and conventions. The problem with this lifestyle, with the goal of more speaking gigs above all other goals, is there’s nothing to show for it all. Maybe a couple of archived YouTube videos, but not much else.
Listen, the road is seductive; I know this. Once you’re in the circuit there’s quick money for just a couple hours work (though — important! — you’re not factoring in travel time and the day or two of not being productive at home), there are free plane tickets, there are adoring fans, maybe even alcohol and attractive people showing interest in you. It’s a lifestyle that’s hard to resist. And, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I am applying this Shingy stuff to DJ gigs.
I don’t live a life with regrets — it all has a purpose, right? — but if I had a do-over, I’d spend the 2000s creating things rather than being on the road. I had a ton of fun, somehow became an in-demand DJ, can honestly say I saw the world and forged some terrific friendships. That’s all wonderful. And I’m not discounting the memories and stories, but that’s all that’s left from a decade of my professional life. I think I’d rather have two or three albums of original music to look back on — something tangible and owned, and something that continues to earn as part of my body of work.
I talk to a lot of emerging solo producers and often ‘more DJ gigs’ is at the top of their goals list. It’s not, “I’ll consistently record great music, get known and grow a devoted fan base, and then DJ gigs will follow.” Instead, I repeatedly hear, “I want DJ gigs,” like it’s a substitute for everything else. That’s the seduction of the lifestyle, the allure of the short-term blinding the artist to the long-term. Know that if you desire to be an artist that lasts, to make a lifetime go at it, then gigs should be near the bottom of your to-do list. Focus on that body of work, and if it’s consistent enough and it’s great enough (and consistency often leads to greatness), then the offer of that high paying gig across the ocean will organically follow. I promise.
Ellis neatly sums it up with a plea:
A thought for the new year: try to stay home for a bit and make some things that might last, please?
That’s a 2019 resolution I can get behind.