The Marriage Of Business And Art

Metal Hails. For this column, I want to write down some thoughts on a subject that I believe is interesting to many musicians. I am talking about fitting the "biz" into your daily life as a musician.

A long time ago I gave one of my early demos to a drummer from a well know metal band. I got a nice reply letter back saying something to the effect that everything sounded great, but what struck me was the last sentence in it. He said "Music business is the business if music. If you do not know what I mean now, you will later".

I often thought about it and I admit that I did not know what he meant. Did he mean that it is about the music and that is the most important thing you should concentrate on, or did he mean that it is a business of selling a product, which is music?

Over a decade later I do know what he meant - it is the business of selling music, which to most record company CEOs means that they do not particularly care whether they are selling music or fertilizer, as long the company brings in the profits. But, let us look a little more closely inward, particularly on how the business trickles down to a life of a musician.

Sure, some musicians blow off the music business part and are absolutely absorbed by their instruments which is very respectable, others like me balance the fine art of murder, ahem... excuse me, the fine art of balancing the biz with the art. Truth is, artists are no longer in the dark about the workings of a music business and most take reign of their careers. Artists have become educated and realize that they are ultimately responsible for where their careers are heading.

Here is the issue, however. I have found out that the more successful I become as a guitarist and the older I get, the less time I spend holding the guitar in my hand. Phone calls, e-mail, managers, booking agents, attorneys, contracts, bio updates, website updates, keeping a band together, interviews, appearances, deposits, mail-order, statements, taxes, 1099's, travel arrangements, and a lot more can easily absorb your entire day.

Get a manager, right? Truth is that I never was trusting of a manager taking care of every single task without me still being hands-on. A musician is a CEO of a company, you are the CEO, your manager is your company's manager (after all, managers work for you) and you have to stay atop of what is taking place inside your company. The bottom line is that I was always involved in the business side, no matter how much (or how little) help I was getting from outside sources. While I might have an attorney look over a contract and a booking agent book a tour, they still have to report to my manager who ultimately reports to me. You have to make the final decisions, answer your e-mails and get back to people via a phone call.

Truth is, there is no running from the business in the life of a musician, so it is best to embrace it and learn how to implement it into your daily routine. With that said, I concluded two points I want to share with you. Practice your instrument a lot in the early stages of development as a musician; put as much time and energy into it as humanly possible, because later on you will rely on your time invested when you have less time available to devote to your instrument. Second, I also realized that that there will always be another e-mail, phone call or a meeting to take. No matter how much time I have spent each week on the business side there was always more things to accomplish. I have spent as much as a week on the biz doing 12-hour marathons without touching my guitar and looking back at it, it was a mistake. What I do now is concentrate on the music business side during the day and in the evening I spend time with my guitar in my studio. Ultimately, the business is there only so I can enjoy doing what I do best - and that is playing the guitar.

When I was revising my new guitar instructional books "Ridiculous Riffs For The Terrifying Guitarist" and "Monster Coordination - Guitar Boot Camp", which by the way are available right here on the Guitar Nine website, I had to literally pry myself off the work that was still left to do each day and put a guitar in my hands instead. One side of my brain kept thinking that I have to finish the books, get the project done if I have the strength, but the other side was thinking more clearly.

The truth is, so what if the books are released a week later? However, taking a week from playing the guitar would mean that I would have to work hard for the next week and a half to retain my chops. Now, I do not even go into this thought process. At a certain time, I shut off the computer and my phone and go practice. The world will be still here tomorrow. Just to make it clear, when I am immersed in writing or recording music, I flip the schedule. I only do limited business stuff in the evening.

I do hope that some of the observations above will help you in one way or the other.

Metal Mike Chlasciak is most commonly known as the guitarist who helped Judas Priest's singer reclaim and hold statue as the True Metal God.

His latest solo CD, "Metal For Life", is an album full of incredible riffs, memorable songs and much needed attitude.

Metal Mike Chlasciak