Tracy Morgan as Hustle Man… there really are no words, but I was thinking about his character today and how he relates to an article I posted on the GFM FB site yesterday. You can read the article here, but the short of it is that the “indie” band Two Lights basically invested $100,000 in their burgeoning “indie” career and are wondering where the stardom is… I guess?

Two Lights provides a laundry list of itemized expenses from private lessons, to rehearsal space, to gear and on and on and on. Which is what lead me to think about the beloved Hustle Man.

Music/Art there are no guarantees, none. You cannot necessarily go out and get a “music” job with a music degree (trust, I know firsthand about that) but what you can do is to learn how to work constantly and consistently to ply your trade and I would hope to think that you could do it for a whole lot less than $100,000.

I remember being in “music” school and railing about this very issue. You would have some kids who were extremely talented musicians who didn’t have the financial resources and so as a consequence certain opportunities were not afforded to them. Then sometimes you would have students who were blessed to have the best of both worlds: a boatload of talent and financial support. Then of course my favorite: miniscule talent if any at all but loads of financial support.

Here’s where I believe the economics of it all is truly bull-ish on the side of the bridge and why I feel that I Can Help Your Music Career for $19.95: Most (if not all) of what will make you great will cost time, not money.

Sure if you are going to play an instrument there will be the cost of the instrument and maintenance and lessons to get you a good foundation but riddle me this? Can you name the private instructors or schools of some the greatest musical innovators of the 20th century? Those mentors and teachers were most likely players and peers and the school was the gig. I’m not saying that formal school can’t be important or teachers can’t open windows for you, but the important learning does not occur in the classroom. The classroom equips you with tools, the learning occurs when you go out and apply those tools. Sometimes you’ll fall flat on your face, sometimes you’ll be successful but all of that is up to you.

Quite frankly (myself included) I don’t know how anyone gets any practicing done these days between all the check-ins, tweets, updates etc., man that ish is for playtime after the work is done. I did something this past week that I had not done in a long, long time: I set aside a couple of days to just be able to finish reading a book uninterrupted. That may sound like a small task and you may be wondering how that relates to this post, well the way it relates is two fold: There was a goal and in order to achieve that goal there had to be a certain amount of discipline enacted so that the goal could be completed successfully. Sounds simple enough, but that’s how I believe many get twisted up in this notion that you can purchase success. People are often looking outward to something they can buy or involve themselves in that will solve a problem when really if they had the self-discipline and internal initiative they could do it themselves for a lot less. A whole lot less.

You wanna learn how to read music? Do you know how to read words? Cool, then go get a book and spend as much time a day studying how to read music as you do talking about wanting to learn how to read music and you’ll be halfway there. Truth be told music school, lessons et al are really beneficial at teaching you two things: What and how to practice. The rest is up to you.

So for $19.95 (and you can send the do-re-mi[bad pun, I know]) instead of $100,000 you might just want to do a couple of things:

1. Listen to great (not good) music the first thing in the morning, the last thing at night and all day in-between.

2. Focus in on great artists whose voice, or style are somewhat accessible to you. Listen to everything possible that they’ve recorded and then listen to their influences and the influences of those influences. Spend an enormous amount copying them, yes I said copy the hell out of them initially.

3. Experiment with every nook and cranny of your instrument. Some days just pick it up and play or sing like you have no idea what you are doing (even if you do) you may discover something new in the process.

4. Stay steadfast and diligent to your practice time whatever time that is and however long that is. It is an appointment in your book, time to not be distracted and it has to be consistent.

5. Read and work very hard to comprehend everything you can get your hands on about music. Notice I didn’t say the music business, get the music straight first then…

6. If you plan on writing or producing repeat steps 1-5 substituting writing or producing for instrument.

7. Play in front of people when you are ready, for money. I didn’t say how much money but get paid something, oh and do this a lot a whole lot.

8. Record everything you do, good, bad and indifferent. Notice I didn’t say go into a recording studio, I said record.

9. Don’t listen to critics. Ever. By critic I mean those folks who can’t play, write or produce ish, they just talk it.

10. Never put a limitation on your creativity or an end date on your career, to do so means that you have already co-opted your career to the corporate. What in the hell do they know? All of their success is in hindsight, after the movement has begun.

We’ll stop there today and let you redeem this for the one-time price of free 🙂 Don’t tell anyone because then the streetz might think I’m slipping.

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University's Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.