Minimalist Motivations

It seems these days that many musicians have one goal when it comes to their craft. They want to “make it big” or be “famous”. This need can be divided into two motivations:

1) There is an unconscious or even sometimes conscious need to leave behind a legacy after they depart from this existence. This also includes any egotistical posturing that is meant to meet this goal. 

2) There is a need to secure material wealth so that they don’t become a “starving artist”. Since the art of music takes a lot of time and focus it only makes sense that turning it into a way to support yourself financially would be ideal. This way, music consumes every aspect of life.

I’m sure that there are cases where musicians have found a unique way to be happy and content while being famous but I think that it is extremely rare for that to happen. As musicians we have to come clean and be honest with ourselves:

1) If every musician aspired to be famous, it would be impossible for all musicians to be famous. If everyone was famous, no one would be famous. In reality, a very very small percentage of musicians “make it”. By the way, even those who are famous can’t agree what it means to “make it” because it’s a mere subjective opinion.

2) Even out of those musicians who are “famous” many reveal to the media they aren’t happy and many are even tortured by fame. The grass is always greener (looking) on the other side, but what if being famous means: less artistic freedom, more stress about money and contracts, forced obligations and less privacy? Take a moment to weigh the pros and cons in a realistic manner without thinking of it as a fantasy.

3) Somewhere out there, there is a better musician than you. Even if you are a big fish in your pond, as soon as you enter the ocean you’ll get swallowed whole by some whale of a musician. You may think you’re pretty good, and chances are you are a great musician, but is it really worth it to strive to be the best?

4) Striving for musical perfection ruins relationships. This is true for any hobby or profession. Think of all the work-aholics that are addicted to their profession to the point of neglecting meaningful relationships. If all that is on your mind is “making it big” or “being famous” how much time do you think you’ll have for other people in your life than yourself?

5) You probably won’t get famous after all your hard work. The odds favor the likely possibility that unless you know some people in high places, all your hard work towards being famous will amount to nothing more than a starving artist or maybe you’ll get lucky and get 15 min. of fame. Is it really worth it?

6) Leaving a legacy means nothing. Realize we live on a tiny planet in this vast universe, a pale blue dot in a sea of vast emptiness. If time were measured from the beginning of the universe and packed into a calendar relative in scale to a month, human history would account for the last few seconds of the entire month. One day the sun will explode and destroy the earth. What then of your legacy as a great musician? It’s a sobering thought but it helps put things in perspective. Happiness and contentment in this life is more important than some fading legacy.

When fantasy is exposed to reality, it becomes apparent that striving to be famous will more likely make you miserable instead of fulfilled or happy. Does that mean I’m trying to advocate a “give up” or defeatist attitude towards being a musician? Absolutely not. In fact, it’s not being famous that makes musicians miserable, it is the striving to be famous that kills the spirit of so many talented musicians. It all comes down to priorities: which is more important:

*Leaving a legacy after you’re gone or being happy in this life?

*Making money from music or creating lasting contentment and happiness from music?

*Striving to be the best musician or simply enjoying playing music?

*being a profesional workaholic musician or being a musician who has close friends and meaningful relationships?

In minimalism it is recommended to embrace the essential and let go of the rest. In this way minimalism can be a tool to dismantle destructive attitudes towards what it means to be a musician in order to promote happiness and contentment. In that case, living a content simple life with meaningful relationships should be the priority while being “famous” should be recognized as a by-product and not an aspiration.

In closing, ponder the benefits of living a musical lifestyle of anonymity: complete artistic freedom, separating music and your career creates less stress and pressure while writing, no contracts, no forced obligations to do things you don’t want to do, complete privacy.