This came from the wonderfully informative and opinionated (in the nicest way, of course) Bob Lefsetz. It was a response to Bob's column regarding "quality". It was so resonant for me and so important that I felt that you would all benefit from Bob Ezrin's (http://www.theplugg.com/bob-ezrin-legendary-music-producer/) comments. Here they are in their entirety:
I usually sit on the sidelines and eat my popcorn as I enjoy the theater that is you and this wonderful newsletter. You're better than most movies and just about any music that's out there right now for entertainment. And even when I think you're being a stick in the mud, you do it so artfully and passionately that it's ok and I enjoy the performance for its own sake.
But this one has to be answered - with affection and the deepest respect of course. You start this with the word "Quality" and then you proceed to counsel struggling musicians to contort themselves and what they do to fit the market so that they can "make it in this business". But here's the true bottom line: This business of exploiting art and entertainment is built from it's very inception on creativity and quality, on special things made by special people that touch, inform, elevate, divert, soothe, numb, challenge or sometimes even drive other people enough so that they are drawn to it and want it to be a part of their lives - either for the moment or for a very long time. When they want it, they sometimes pay for it in one way or another and this special stuff sometimes accrues a value beyond the ephemeral and actual makes money for its creator and for the folks who help to support and market it. Sometimes it becomes more vaulable than gold and stars are born.
But unless it is especially touching in some way (even if it's in a juvenile or prurient way), nobody will care and it will end up having no value at all. Which then goes to your title "Quality". If a thing lacks quality of some sort, it will not touch anyone. It will simply be a not so special thing in a world of not so special things. It will blend in and disappear. But if a work or performance is of high quality and special, then it has at least a shot at becoming valuable to someone - and the person who creates it has a shot at being appreciated and rewarded for it. If I were talking to "struggling musicians" I would say:
First, be special. Make something of such high quality that anyone would care. And that's not as easy as it sounds. Just because you can use a sequencer and play an instrument doesn't make you an artist. You have to create something that is special - unique and capable of moving others in a meaningful way. Once you are truly special, truly great at what you do, you may have a chance at finding an audience willing to reward you for your specialness. More than likely you will not, because special - by definition - belongs to the very few. But if you do, then someone somewhere might recognize that and show up to help you to take your creativity out to a wider audience.
How do you get recognized in the first place? Play to people as much as you can. They will let you know if and when you are truly special because they will either begin to pay you to do this, to be able to be close to you - or they will ignore you. Play: in your town; at your school; in the next town over; on the web (but that's a whole other and longer discussion); at parties - anywhere you can. If you have created something truly special someone will recognize this and the ball will start rolling.
But whatever you do, DO NOT pick a market and try to create for it. You may decide to do that later in life when you become so good at your craft that you can aim your creativity wherever you wish, even when it doesn't please you. But you cannot start there. No one is born a hack. Hacks are failed or jaded artists, each and every one. First you must be able to create for yourself and find the way in which you may be special, and then you have to work on becoming really great at that. Create from your heart and from your will. Your will is what you use to keep you practicing and trying and trying to get better at what you do. Your heart is where the inspiration comes from to use that ability to make something really truly special. But above all DO NOT listen to critics, pundits or "experts" who try to bend you to what is happening now. By the time you get there, now will be long gone.
Dedicate yourself to quality, to being the very best at what you do and then use that quality to create or be something truly great. Then you may have a shot at "making it". But whether you become a star or not, you will have become and will forever be someone very special. And others will know you for that.
End of lecture.
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