Last year I bored you with an in-depth show-by-show analysis of my clumsy cruise across the country. I gave a detailed explication of every failed adventure, every success, every moment of discomfort, and every moment of terror. This year, I will skip the minutia and focus on the big picture. I only have a small amount of time to write, anyway.
So, here it is: Part one of the Johnny Unicorn 2011 Northern tour
I. I do not have a car stereo, and I tour alone
a. I get these songs stuck in my head all the time
1. Theme from “Paperboy”
2. Disco Inferno
3. Maybe I’m Amazed
4. Theme from “Contra” (base levels)
b. I write songs while I drive
1. I wrote the song “Dance Dance Dance Dance Dance Dance Dance Dance Dance” but I might find, when I actually sit down to record it, that it was
really an existing song that was stuck in my head (for me, this calls into
question the entire concept of copyright)
2. I wrote another really great song…but I forgot it
c. I do vocal exercises when I can
d. I’ve been directing music videos in my head
e. sometimes I just burp for three hours
f. I use up a lot of time developing my own opinions about important topics
II. Booking shows is really difficult.
a. Just because I once confirmed a show doesn’t mean it will definitely
happen. I have to keep in touch, even though it’s hard to on the road.
b. Some places aren’t set up for my act. Sometimes I can’t do my full show.
And I’m too forgetful to remember to ask about their setup.
c. I don’t know how to get people to come to a show in a town I’ve never been
to. And sometimes I’m the only act.
d. Some people cannot imagine how anything I could do could be remotely
entertaining. Sometimes I agree, but I know some people like it, so there
must be something to what I’m doing.
e. I contacted ten times as many venues as I got shows.
III. I don’t tour because I enjoy sleeping in my car, or imposing on people in their homes, or not knowing if I will be able to make enough money to eat. I tour because:
a. I like my own music, and I want to find everyone else who might, too,
because I don’t want to be alone doing this stuff, and…
b. if I can find all the fans, then maybe I will someday be able to afford to
do the music and actually make a living that will allow me some healthcare
and some shelter and decent food.
c. If I can get enough fans, I’d like the option to perform in theatres instead
of places where the main work I’m doing is indirectly selling drinks. My
shows get limited by performing in spaces that are not mainly performance
spaces. For once I would like to have a set, lighting, dancers and enough
musicians on stage that I can walk around without an instrument. For once
I would like to be able to do a sound check before anyone enters the building
so that I can give the audience a full show that is 100% show. Though if I ever
get to that point, I would still perform in coffeeshops and some bars that I
like, just because I enjoy those kinds of shows too. I just want the option of
a different kind of show.
IV. I keep running into talk about “fame” or “stardom” whenever I talk about being a musician. There seems to be some confusion about what it means to be an artist and what it means to be a celebrity. I wish people wouldn’t talk as though they expect me to be an aspiring rock star. A rock star is a different occupation from musician. To be a mostly unknown musician and have people thinking that I’m attempting to operate within the same entertainment system that is giving us Nickelback and Lady Gaga is disconcerting. In the “music industry” someone who only sells a few thousand albums is considered a failure. And I feel like most people go with the same line of thinking that the people in the music industry does. It makes my whole project seem more unrealistic than it is. If I truly wanted to be a star, that truly would be an unattainable goal, as long as I’m doing the kind of music I like. And that makes me feel like I’m doing nothing more than couch-surfing. My goal is to be able to reach all my fans, and it is my hope to make a reasonable salary from doing medium-sized shows. I would have to be well-known to get anyone to show up to a concert, but I am not seeking celebrity. If I were, then it is almost a guarantee that I will be a failure all my life, no matter how successful I am. I am close to breaking even on my latest album. That would be the biggest musical success of my life so far. That’s more people than ever that have liked my music enough to buy the album. That’s far from going gold. It’s far from any metal.
Next time, I will actually tell some stories. I’m not done yet.