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CDs and Books and Massive Anxiety Attacks, Oh My

There is a lot of talk these days about the perilious future of both recorded music and book publishing. As a recording artist and author, I furrow my brow in the general direction of both topics. I was intriguiged by this recent article by music journalist Chet Flippo. He refers to a "massive anxiety attack" that has plagued the music industry for some time and discusses specifically his concerns that commercial uncertainty is breeding an artistic insecurity that is robbing recording artists of their "mojo". (I think one can draw some parallels to what is happening to many authors in the world of book publishing as well.)

I just began recording my 10th CD in August, and I have difficulty giving a solid business rationale for the undertaking. Digital distribution models (both of the legal and pirate variety) have radically changed the income potential for artists, which is a nice way of saying I won't make very much money. And my plans to record songs that would fit neatly in the direction my speaking and touring career has been going were all shot to bits when a passle of new songs literally showed up and wrestled me to the ground -- songs that remind me of a line from an old Mark Heard song: "I'm too sacred for the sinners, and the saints wish I would leave."

So what am I doing? Why am I doing it?

The other day an acquaintance asked me (in a non-threatening, interested way) what my objectives were for the new recording I was working on. And I hemmed and hawed for a bit and then finally told the truth.

I want to sing honest songs. I want this cd to be better than the last one--a deeper pocket or a sweeter line. I want to record some bit of something that gives me and maybe someone else goosebumps. I want to be moved, and to move someone else.

Like most artists who are also Christians, I walk a fine line between calling and indulgence; I could not honestly tell you the ratio between flesh and spirit at any given moment. But this is what I know. We must all tell our stories, as truthfully and as beautifully as we can, and God is such a good God He can and will use our efforts. I've seen it more times than I can count. And I don't know if that gives me mojo, but it gives me motiviation. And I can't wait for the next recording day.

I think the Flippo article reaches a pretty fine conclusion:

"So what can we as individuals do? I try to follow the advice of my high school Latin teacher, who I have increasingly realized was a very wise woman. 'Just tend to your own garden," she would say. "If we all do that, things cannot help but get better.'"

I don't know the future of recorded music or book publishing or painting or sculpture or theatre. But if we tell our stories, as honestly and beautifully as we can, things can't help but get better.




Tags | Music


Wow. Awesomely said. I'm not sure if you've read any of my stuff on here but this is what I've been trying to say throughout my blogs. As an artist, it's easy to get scared into the realization that everything is changing so dramatically, but this is a great piece of advice. Thanks!

Thx CJ! And I've been enjoying prowling around your blog. Keep writing/thinking/dreaming/creating.

Impeccable timing on this post. My husband and I are both following a call from the far more predictable and lucrative (if not soul-killing) world of business into an uncertain (yet far more fulfilling) pursuit of the arts. Your call for honest stories told as beautifully as inspiration allows is wise guidance that I will be sure to remember. Thanks.


Joan -- wow, sounds like you are on a journey! Blessings on your adventure.

Hi Carolyn, I remember we discussed this topic before - I had asked how long you would keep at this and you replied until whenever "they" stopped you, although you didn't know who "they" were. :) It's unfortunate that easier access to music means that artists have to work much harder for the same revenue. I truly enjoy listening to every story you tell in your songs and your words have constantly moved me. I hope "they" never stop you from sharing your stories through your God-given talents.

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