Music, the least sensible business plan

Analytical thinking exaggerates reality, so I need to dilute crazy ideas before acting on a plan.

I am never quite sure if it’s a trait of British culture, to always seek the extreme negative view of any given situation or structure, or whether it’s my own individual experience. The environment you grow up in plays a big part in the habits you develop as an adult. But these become diluted as you make new friends from different social circles. Even more so when you travel the world or relocate to different towns or countries. All this will reshape your personality, childhood traits are rapidly lost, depending on how close you are with your carers. If you do keep in contact with those that raise you, because you enjoy their company, then you might not need to change much.

Today’s antagonistic, provocative social networks mean people can freely empty all their unedited thoughts for global consumption. We are having to learn to control our urges to share too much information. This model is beginning to crack, our personal thoughts have become entangled with marketing and media interests. We’ve reached the extreme whereby we are all compelled to be micro-branding agencies. There needs to be a business plan for every aspect of our lives. I only say this because never before have I been so analytical to an extreme, where everything I do has to be bullet-pointed and researched. I never started out in life this way. I only ever wanted to be a graphic designer or musician. Computers became my trusty toolkit in the 90s, through necessity, as the commercial arts went digital.

I’m doing lots of practical thinking at the moment, writing out alternative business plans. My career has stalled a little, so it feels like time to make a change. Each of us probably changes our career two or three times throughout our lives. For me in middle-age, whatever I decide to do now, will define me for the next decade and beyond. But the internet drives me to despair, particularly when you need to find information, which is always conflicting advice from an endless array of vested-interest marketers and bloggers. Usually trying to get you on their mailing list. I’ve gone further than bullet-point lists to flow charting alternative business ideas. You have to weigh up what you are good at against what you enjoy. The things you enjoy doing for fun are not always the wisest choice for a business.

Diver shot at Mono Lake, California for Pink Floyd album Wish You Were Here (1975), and burning man photo by Aubrey “Po” Powell. Designed by Storm Thorgerson.

I’m at a stage in life where I am increasingly conscious of any time that might be wasted on an unrealistic dream, that requires years of preparation or training. Time is increasingly a more valuable commodity. I had a brief mental flirtation with becoming a novelist or writing short stories. Maybe I can write the next Dickens or Harry Potter. Crazy really, though I think that bonkers idea has more to do with the pushy marketing of social networks. I only began writing regularly during the last year. Initially it was to improve SEO for my business websites, and yes, I became one of those annoying email pop-up windows. But I don’t have the right skillset to write full-time, especially if that means I am not making music. I’ve spent time trying to write more in-depth, with research, but it’s a real struggle.

Music feels like the obvious thing that I do well. There are many options to start a music business from sync licensing to session work. So far I have made music for fun, but there are viable ways to make it work as an income. Unless you’re an established star, music created for pure listening pleasure is tough going, streaming pays pennies. A realistic business model is music for advertising, video content or gaming. That’s if you need music to pay your rent or mortgage. Younger, upcoming artists should consider podcasting, TikTok and YouTube. Often an artist’s income is made from everything but the music itself, for example giving guitar lessons or production tutorials. It’s frightening that music is now devalued. But without it, the entertainment we consume online would be ineffective without music.

I’ve always been a behind-the-scenes production hand, a technician, whether it’s designing digital products or recording music. For all my career so far I’ve made my living from commercial design and computer code. Now perhaps, I can apply the same production ethos to music. I never planned to be so intertwined with technology, oddly, I’ve probably always been a mild technophobe, merely adjusting to industrial change to be employable. In many ways the guitar is also technology, though not viewed as such. Traditional musical instruments, like guitars, are emotional objects, more than just useful tech. However, when violins were first designed, around the sixteenth century, they must have seemed futuristic, a new tool for music making. Inventions become relics, feeding nostalgia for the past.

Career progress is not measured by technical advancement, but by how you test and update ones thinking, so you can form more effective habits that improves your output and quality of life. Returning to my over-thinking habit, how I always look at what can go wrong with an idea, I feel like a positive person trapped in a negative culture. Which is either personal experience or a wider issue with society.