The "comparing mind" and the emerging artist
I recently had a fantastic gig at the Brooklyn Coffee and Tea Room in Providence, RI. I was one of three performers with the host Steve Allain doing some “warm up” music as the host. This was a true “listening room” in the sense that the primary purpose of people being there was not to talk, or drink or eat, but to listen to the music being played. It was simply wonderful. As was my usual practice, I got to the venue early (early is the new “on time” in my book) and began warming up. Given how long I’ve played guitar, my “warming up” can look like a performance of sorts.
As the audience crowded in I noticed that much of the people arriving we’re of college student age and they had come to see one of the three of us showcase performers. While watching the two other showcase performers, in the back of my mind, in the narrow recesses of my unconscious, I was critiquing their technical and performance skills as compared to my own. As soon as I realized I was doing this consciously, I shut it down firmly. This is a natural human reaction which my friend Ellis calls the “comparing mind”, when we stop listening to the music being played and start analyzing it for perceived deficiencies. In the final analysis, this type of thinking leads to a dead end and leads to the corrosive internal questions, “why can’t I get a better gig?” And “what does he/she have that I don’t that they have a bigger fan following?”
Lets face it music is not necessarily a “meritocracy” where the technically best performers are the biggest stars. This was proven in miniature at this gig as the vast majority of the audience was there to cheer on the youngest college student-aged performer. She had mastered the quintessential requirement for a professional emerging artist: having a strong enough relationship with her fellows to be able to get them to walk a full half-hour to listen to her perform. This is why the “comparing mind”, that is based on technical proficiency, can be a dead end because it misses the point of the exercise: envy will not get you an audience, relating to others will. As it turned out, many people were blown away by my performance, including the venue owner who wanted me to come back and perform a fuller set because he really enjoyed my performance and now such arrangements are being made. In the final analysis, the only real competition we have is ourselves and what others do to advance their music career is theirs to follow and should not deter us, as individual emerging arts, from following our own muse to musical success.
Food for thought
Yours in DADGAD