Making Art for a Living: Why uncertainty shouldn't be scary.

Being in a nomadic arts occupation, uncertainty rules my world. I have to surrender to it. I don't understand the rooms I wake up in, I have no idea who/what will stand in my way, and I don't know what waits around the corner on the foreign streets that graciously allow me to exist upon them temporarily. 


Uncertainty keeps my life fresh, but contorts my rhythm and wants to throw my brain off the tracks. Uncertainty has a rep for being "bad"...because it can feel TERRIBLE and scary. I live for it, because it is exciting. Uncertainty is a beautiful by-product of freedom. 

My career is uncertain. I am operating on an indie level without a safety net or security for the future. Sometimes 21 people come to my show, sometimes 1000 people come. I play a giant festival one day, and a stank-ass dive bar the next. I am fed a delicious feast by the promoter one night, and a rotten hot dog the next. It's pretty exciting actually. 

I know nothing else. A life of tour buses and cozy green rooms is a myth to me. I never want to set foot on a tour bus. You can get addicted to that shit. $1000+ bucks a day for a tour bus. That's not sustainable in my most worlds.

My buddy Steve plays stadiums in a famous rock band. He doesn't have to load gear or sleep anywhere besides sweet hotels. He feasts like a king every night. He can't go back to "DIY Hell" as he calls it (I just call it reality:). Comfort is a drug. I can't get too comfortable. If I do, I won't be able to do this for a living anymore. That is certain. 

A Motel 6 with boogers on the wall is a luxury to me. It's a step up from the bed of pizza boxes I slept on in Pittsburgh.

Here's the blatant reality of the modern music/arts industry. If you're selling 1000 tickets/night, you can't expect to do those numbers next year. There are too many bands and too many shows in the world. Listeners have so many options and you must be prepared for them to leave you. Every hour, a hundred bands are breaking up and 200 are starting up. 

 "The Toilet Bowl" circuit (a term coined by Frank Turner to reference 'small dingy clubs') is always lurking in the rear view. If you want to make art for a living, you must embrace that you'll be back on the Toilet Bowl Circuit at any moment. The truth is, It's amazing to be on any circuit at all. No one stays on top anymore. There's too much stuff. 

I'm trying to embrace the rickety roller coaster. The way up is exciting. The way down is terrifying. Those clackety tracks make the car shake and it hurts my balls and my brain. If you're making art for a living (or you want to), all I can say is ride the highs and write great stuff when you're in the lows. The uncertainty is a luxury. It is fuel. It is un-tapped momentum. 

I believe every "creative person" gets their golden moment. Perhaps mine has passed. Perhaps it's still coming. Fortunately, I will never know. The uncertainty keeps me doing this. It keeps me hoping. 

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