Hey, Adam Hill here. I used to play guitar and write songs in Nashville’s The Sunday Best. Over the last few years, I wrote a novel about the Stringbean murder called Old Timer’s Blues. My wife has tried to read it but can’t finish it, “Because it’s just too sad and the people are too awful.” Netflix, sad and awful is your product, feel free to reach out.
Last post we talked about FB and IG and the promise they make to get fans for your art. The internet made a-lot of promises. All of them about you and getting you attention. Let's keep going.
I recently read in The East Nashvillian magazine about Tommy Womack’s memoir Dust Bunnies. There’s a line in the interview,
“A lot of people [find emotional release in writing] letters to people that they never send, or they write journals that they never let anybody see, writing something doesn’t count for me — and I don’t get any catharsis — until somebody else reads it.”
That’s why I’m blogging my midlife crisis. A private journal wouldn’t mean anything. Maybe I’ll turn this blog into a memoir. But the world isn’t asking for memoirs by failed songwriters. Tommy is a local hero. If I’d stayed in Knoxville I bet I’d still be making songs. Still get a gig. Still get a mention. Get a little nod now and then. I’ve thought of the title of my memoir, It’s Not a Memoir About Failure if You Keep Writing. Blah blah blah, what he’s saying is you need that good old somebody reads it bit. Well you can pay for it, like anything, but it’s a gamble. Since this blog is about finding joy, meaning and happiness with your art after your art fails, let’s ask, “Should we just throw more money at it?!”
I’ve thought about running an advertisement for my book on Amazon. I’ve sold 0 copies the last 3 weeks. I decided to stop looking at the sales. That’s it’s own social media of sorts. “Did I sell any?” Which is essentially, “Did someone hit the like button?” If I sell books Amazon will email me. That should be the extent of my part in this if you want the truth. The artist as marketer, website host, sales clerk, manager, publicist is a bunch of internet era B.S. if you ask me. I want to wear a suit and be eccentric. That’s being a writer. Full stop.
An advertisement would cost me about 50 bucks. I already spent a few grand on a book that sold 45 copies. I get that writing is just the beginning and that you have to invest to get a return. But there’s a-lot of things I could do with 50 bucks. Rob and I were talking about Joseph Campbell last week and the values of a society as evidenced by their buildings. Ole Joe once said the following.
"You can tell what's informing a society by what the tallest building is. When you approach a medieval town, the cathedral is the tallest thing in the place. When you approach an eighteenth-century town, it is the political palace that's the tallest thing in the place. And when you approach a modern city, the tallest places are the office buildings, the center of economic life."
If I’m looking at my life, I’ve spent a-lot of money on guitars, records, strings, microphones, amplifiers, making records, websites, and book work. I’ll be honest I was always really cheap compared to everyone else making stuff around me. To me, I didn’t get paid to do the hard work of MAKING THE DAMN THING so I never could understand why everyone should make money on it before I did. Let’s get philosophical. How much time did I invest in social media trying to network? I’m at a point in my life where a main question is, “Why spend time and money on something that is not giving a return?” What is the biggest building I made in 25 years of investment?
For instance, I need a new bed. Our bed is 25 years old. For what I spent on my book, I could have bought a new bed. A Sonos speaker isn’t looking too bad right now. I keep saying I need a record player but I don’t see me using one. I should but I’m not that guy and the Sonos could stream white noise. White noise is the jazz for the age of anxiety.
I could get a month of ancestry.com. I want to know if my family are Melungeon Appalachian Gypsies with Cherokee Indian and Scotch Irish blood. Melungeon could mean Puerto Rican or African American. I’ll probably find out I’m German and English. Maybe I am. But how boring would that be?
Ever seen the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy wants to sculpt? The art store clerk tells her she’s talented. Lucy tells Ricky this when she gets home. He says it was because he wanted to sell her art supplies. Why do you think there is CDbaby, Bookbaby, Kindle Direct? Artists, we are a revenue source. Vanity publishers appeal to our ego to bleed us like ticks. It always makes me think of that Macklemore line,
I call that getting swindled and pimped.
I guess it’s nothing new if it happened to Lucy Ricardo but it makes me miss the world where you had the records that the labels made. They spent money on the artist, they cultivated, that’s always been the word, cultivated, like a crop. Now you have artists that are good at networking. The rest of us, who aren’t, get sold products to goose our vanity. Anyone can make a record, anyone can make a book. What do you think all those people with products need? Products to make them feel like they are going to sell them.
You see I always thought, I’ll spend the money on the art and it'll come back to me. I kept thinking you gotta invest. That’s what books tell you. So there I go thinking, “I’ll make the book or the song and finally someone will hear it and cover it and buy it and I’ll make millions. I’ll be the captain of my ship, I’ll be set for life, I’ll be make the Doctor come to me rich, I’ll be walk in closet full of suits and sneakers rich. I’d feel safe, secure. I could go all Howard Hughes.”
That kind of artist doesn’t even exist anymore. I don’t think it really did when I was a kid. I read too much about Picasso and The Beatles growing up. I read mom’s old copies of Art in America. All the artists they interviewed lived in lavish homes. Maybe just being southern lower middle class did it. Maybe it was all the middle aged rock music that came out when I was in high school. I thought all rockers were old rich dudes like Rod Stewart, Pete Townsend, or Robbie Robertson sitting in a nice hotel room doing interviews.
There was this Paul Westerberg interview, I can’t find it but essentially he says, “Michael Jackson wrote Platinum as his goal on his mirror, I wrote ‘Buy Milk.” So I knew the answer. I remember that interview. That was the answer. That’s all there is. My own heroes goal was just to buy milk. But I never even made it to where I could buy milk with my art. Hey, good on you if you can do it. I'm tired of getting my hopes up. My hopes are tired.