Enjoy this guest post series by our teacher, Rachel Rynick!
As a solo performer, the line between self-confidence and self-indulgence can often feel dangerously thin. If you aren’t assertive enough to share your art with others, no one will ever hear it, and you will never grow as an artist. And yet to assert to other people that your music, your voice, your instrument are worth their time, attention, and money can be a terrifying prospect.
Over the past few months, I have begun the process of recording my first studio album of original music, and have found the need to face my self-doubt head-on. This is the first in a series of posts that will explore all of the ups and downs and ins and outs of taking original songs into the studio to turn them into “real” music. I’ll discuss the weirdness of singing into a microphone instead of an audience, the fear of figuring out how to communicate what you want to an incredible drummer with what seems like ten limbs, and singing harmonies with a recording of your own voice!
The first step, however, is fundraising. When you aren’t signed to a label that is covering your costs (and often controlling you creatively), working with a professional studio and producer is incredibly expensive, but with good reason! First, the amount of time and money that needs to be invested to create and maintain a recording studio is enormous. Really nice microphones (that can pick up all of the subtle textures of a live voice) are really expensive. Putting a different microphone on every single piece of a drum kit (so it can be perfectly mixed in the recording) requires a lot of microphones. Not to mention the costs of amps, cables, software, hardware, and maintaining the space itself. And then there is the expertise of the producer, who (if you get someone good, like I did) has spent years and years listening with an incredible level of attention and learning how to construct layers of sound that blend perfectly and yet maintain their individuality. His time is valuable, and you want his full attention on your music!
In addition to those basics, you also have to pay musicians to play on the tracks. A professional drummer who has performed with the likes of David Bowie is way better (and way more expensive) than your friend who is just learning and can mostly hold one percussion pattern through a song. And once everything is actually recorded, you have the cost of the physical copies of the album, as well as the mysterious process of “mastering” that puts the final sparkle on the mixed songs. All in all, with the friend discounts I’ve been able to muster, I’m looking at between $5,000 and $8,000.
It is a struggle to make a living as a professional musician, and that is not the kind of money that I have lying around, so I decided to ask my family and friends, who have always been incredibly supportive of my work, to support me a little bit more concretely by contributing money towards the project. I set up a website at indiegogo.com, a crowd-source funding site, and began the very awkward process of asking people for money.
It is terrifying. To tell both loved ones and strangers that they should give their hard-earned money to allow my dream to become real feels like the height of selfishness. And yet, I firmly believe that music is something created in the context of a community, and carries its value in the people it touches. I have happily paid for the music I love all my life, thrilled to be able to support the creativity of those artists who have so moved and affected me. While I still feel somewhat outrageous claiming that I have any place among those giants, I try to remember the Martha Graham quote I often share with my students:
There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening
That is translated through you into action
And because there is only one of you in all time
This expression is unique. If you block it
It will never exist through any other medium and be lost.
The world will not hear it.
It is not your business to determine how good it is;
Nor how valuable it is;
Nor how it compares with other expressions.
It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly,
To keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.
You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.
Keep the channel open.
No artist is pleased.
There is no satisfaction whatever at any time.
There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction,
A blessed unrest that keeps us marching
And makes us more alive than the others.
Keep the channel open. This is my work, my calling, my life, and it is my responsibility to bring it out of my brain and into reality. I am actually doing it.
And along those lines, my fundraiser runs until December 20th. If you would be willing to spend what you can to help me bring this music into the world, I will be incredibly grateful. You can find the campaign at: http://www.indiegogo.com/rachelrynick
Next time… Writing Songs and Choosing Feel