The View from the Sacbut Section

Musings of C. Clark Gayton, Jr.

A Working Musician’s Guide to Surviving Hard Times – You’re Dead – Now What?

Posted by C. Clark Gayton, Jr. on May 11, 2009

so the first thing I want you to do is…

Write your obituary

Seems like a strange place to start a blog about how to survive. But think about it. Your obituary depends on your surviving at least the next couple of years so that you can do something really memorable – something so amazing that others will reflect upon your genius for generations to come.

What do you want it to say?

So it’s not just about how wonderful you are – okay it could be about how wonderful you are, but describe yourself in a way that others would have done anything to work with you, to hear you play, or to be your friend.

Who would you want to know?

This can be an interesting exercise if you always wanted to brag about your accomplishments when, for so much of your life, there were folks who shot down your dreams, didn’t offer support, and used your CDs for coasters. You want everyone who ever thought you wouldn’t amount to anything to know about your success.

What would be important for others to know about you?

Are you going to create a persona, a mysterious past? Misdirect your fans so that they are always trying to learn more about you a la Bob Dylan? Are you going to be an exhibitionist, everyone who asks is going to know every minute detail, every dirty truth? Are there secrets that can finally be disclosed upon your death, for example, you really did like to play the recorder as a child and have scores of music you’ve written to prove it?  Think about what you find interesting about yourself.

Why would anyone care?

If you’ve come this far in your journey toward self-discovery, you have must do something in your career to cause someone to care that you’ve gone to the great beyond. Not just your family and close friends, but your fans. Do you want to be the musician whose death is announced and others think to themselves “Hey! I thought [your name here] died years ago!” or variably, “That MF [your name here] died without paying me back the $50 bucks borrowed for beer!” (See “Beer doesn’t equal rent” coming soon!)

2 Responses to “A Working Musician’s Guide to Surviving Hard Times – You’re Dead – Now What?”

  1. Okay, I sit here at the Higher Ground in Burlington – I decided to stay at the venue rather than go back to the hotel – and I’m thinking about this offer to write my own obituary. The problem is that ‘obituary’ implies that it is over (regardless of the stated years of survival). Sorry, I’m not dead yet. Besides, someone else has to write about me because it would be self-indulgent to write it myself. What comes out of the horn could be the preface to someone else’s vantage point.

    As for the temptress New York, well she’s been pimped already. I love her but I know that I am not alone, so that love has to be taken in stride. I’ll entertain her at my own speed and let her take notice, if she chooses to look away from all those dancing bears.

    And hard times? Look, man, I’m on a gig. Besides, times are always hard for me. Probably an accidental choice.

    -Buford OSullivan

    • Buford, old buddy…
      It’s just an exercise in how to approach shaping a career. Of course it’s not easy to look at, but neither is an empty wallet.
      If you’re working, and happy with how things are working out, than this is not for you to consider. It’s just a way that I look at things, and it has helped me to not chase my tail, making the same mistakes.
      Of course I’m not looking for New York to notice me, are you kidding? You’ve seen me out here longer that anyone, man! I do this because I’m a musician. I’ve been on the underground a long,long time, as you well know. I just choose to do a variety of things to maintain.
      Being a musician and/or a trombone player will always be a struggle. J.J. Johnson had a bleak end, as did Wayne Andre. Who are we? We can, although, choose a way to record our music, treat people differently from day to day, and improve our view of the world.
      Looking at the future can be daunting at times. but, you have to admit, that looking back at all the good times (do you remember sitting in for me with the Skatalites?) can be inspiring, while not admitting defeat. I try to envision my future and work backwards.
      Just an idea.

      All the Best

      Clark Gayton

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