The reason(s) why I have pretty much given up on trying to get live performance dates for the Panache Orchestra.  

Listen while you read to a live recording with drums of “A Shitty Day”, another unpublished piece that we hope to someday amass sufficient funds to record properly.

CAUTION: LOTS OF COBALT LANGUAGE COMING UP AHEAD!

“If you’re enjoying the process, it’s your dream. If you’re enduring the process desperate for the result, it’s someone else’s dream.” -Salma Hayek

ca. Winter 2012

Ok, I get it.  “Nobody”* cares about originality or innovation, or even quality.  “Everyone”* just wants the “tried-and-true, safe-and-familiar same-old same-old”.  What-the-fuck-ever.  The good news is that I no longer have to spend all of my “free” time slaving away at shitty work I viscerally loathe, like begging people to book us and spending endless time in a futile effort to keep up with social media profiles for the band and the fool’s errand of trying to keep my email inbox(es) clear of the endless spam they generate while slogging through a day job all week to support the house.  Enough of that!

If people want to see us perform, then they are absolutely welcome to tune into our live stream (with apologies for the loud, obnoxious commercials that precede every clip since we can’t afford to pay $45/month for the premium “commercial-free” service, at least at this point) that we broadcast from the comfort and good acoustics of our own living room, or book us for a logistically airtight show that pays enough to be worth doing, and if they are interested in our recordings, they are available at various well-known sales points.

Since we gave up on chasing marginally-extant work as side players and shifted our focus to our own original project, the overwhelming majority of the burden for making it all happen landed squarely and singularly on me, along with the entire burden of financially supporting and seeing to the upkeep of our household.  During these past few rather miserable years, I have had the following conversations with myself over and over:

“I absolutely fucking HATE having to spend all of my ‘free’ time (and a hell of a lot of my sleep time) trying to figure out all this crazymaking technical gobble-de-gook to promote our band!” (websites, social media, etc.)
“Then why do it?”
“Because if I don’t, then we won’t have a web presence, and that is critical to any business.”

“Man, I really, really, fucking HATE feeling like I have to go around begging people to book us!”
“Then why do it?”
“Because if I don’t, then we’ll never get booked.”

“I really, seriously, fucking HATE having to spend all of my ‘free’ time ‘promoting my band’, (read: begging people to check us out, listen to us, like us, etc., etc.)”
“Then why do it?”
“Because if I don’t ‘build a fan base’, then we’ll never get booked.”

“I really don’t much care for having to get up at the butt-crack of dawn on weekends when I’m exhausted from slogging through a day job all week and drive all over hell to work my ass off for free, feeling like I’m begging in the street for handouts.” (I particularly detest that last part!)
“Then why do it?”
“Because we have to have performance dates on our calendar to look busy and hopefully pick up a few more fans or downstream (paid) work”

“But you’re doing what you love, aren’t you?”
“Well, no.  In truth, I do not ‘love’ giving up my ‘free’ time (i.e., ‘free’ from the day job) to schlep heavy, cumbersome gear around and drive all over hell to work for free (plus out-of-pocket costs such as gas, meals eaten out, etc.) under conditions that are often demeaning and/or distressing (i.e., loud, poor quality sound, competing background noise, playing to an inattentive or non-existent audience, etc.).”  I would honestly rather be home playing with my cats or demolishing my bathroom.

“Man, it annoys the hell out of me when Chi clamors for us to go on a “vacation” trip, and then turns around and demands that *I* turn it into a ‘tour’ and set up show dates!” (read: stress-stress-stress!!!)

And now for the real kicker:

“Am I enjoying this, or otherwise getting anything out of any of it?”
“Not really.”
Then why do any of it at all?!”
“Good question.”

Ok, I really should come clean and admit that I’m doing this more for for Chi’s sake than anything else since performing is his primary calling, and honestly, he doesn’t seem at all willing, or possibly even able, to do anything else.  Unlike him, I have no imperious drive to perform.  While I do enjoy creating and performing music (as long as certain conditions are met), I am not driven by it the way he is.

Quitting actively pursuing performance opportunities will relieve me of an enormously time-consuming, oppressive, toxic burden while (hopefully!) freeing me up to do what I actually do enjoy, i.e., making music without the ordeal of having to make it for other people.  If nobody is interested in it, then fine.  What-the-fuck-ever.  I can carry on quietly building stuff and making music while Chi satisfies his need to be performing constantly by doing acting work instead, which he’s also very good at as far as I can tell.  Maybe someday our two callings will meet somewhere in the middle and become economically sustainable, and then perhaps we can offload the administrative and PR nightmare onto someone else?

Well, I guess while I’m at it, I should also disclose the awful truth that I am really up against my tolerance for working/dealing with Chi, who most of the time is an unbearably abusive, narcissistic, drug-addled, mentally disturbed asshole, and the stress and toxicity from that has significantly altered my personality, and not for the better.

Naturally I am haunted by the question of whether I gave up too early and threw in the towel just as we had all the required elements in place business-wise since I burned out before I ever really put them to use, but now that all the required elements ARE in place, (well, I can’t predict whether our drummer will still be interested and available going forward or how much longer I am going to continue to put up with the very messed-up relationship with Chi) when and if something worthwhile does come up, we’re ready for it.

For the time being, I’m just taking a desperately needed break from running myself into the ground doing shit-work I hate while trying to make something happen that quite possibly isn’t meant to be.  In the meantime, I think I’ll see if I can get back to the point where making music is enjoyable again, or determine whether music has been permanently ruined beyond redemption for me.

For readers unfamiliar with the music business, I’ll elaborate a little bit.  The music “business” has undergone profound changes over the past couple decades, and that has profoundly impacted the people who have derived their livelihood from music.  Music isn’t the only field in which this has occurred.  Another example is how the advent of computer-aided design put a whole class of people out of work, leaving them with the choice of either making a total career change or developing the necessary skill set to integrate the use of computers into their art.

So, applying this to music, we’re players who also compose.  Well, unless someone is willing to make a substantial investment in us and absorb the cost (and risk) of getting our music recorded at a high standard and promote us extensively to generate interest in us, we’ve got to do that ourselves if we want to earn income in this particular field.  Ok, great.  So let’s learn about recording engineering and invest in some decent equipment and record our music ourselves.  We’ve already got the performance skills and a good collection of instruments.

Ok, so after a LONG and arduous learning curve that resulted in substantial degradation of our performance skills since we had to spend so much time learning how to use this stuff at the expense of face time with our instruments, we’ve got a record.  Awesome!  Now we have to slog through another long-winded, crazymaking learning curve figuring out how to use social media to draw attention to our music and hope someone likes it.

No?  Well, shit!  Now I’ve just wasted several years of my life and a hell of a lot of money chasing my tail when I could have been doing something more enjoyable and rewarding.  Basically, everything about this entire process has totally ruined making music for me, so I’m just not interested in doing it anymore, at least for now.  It doesn’t have a sufficient reward to effort ratio to engage me at this point, at least in the context of being a “working musician”.

Again, let me clarify what I mean here. I am interested in learning how to do recording engineering for my own enrichment. It’s the part about having to flog the product in the context of trying to make a viable career of it that I’ve hit my tipping point of total disgust with.

I guess that highlights another awful truth of the matter: that my attitude is such that as long as I am going to spend time and effort doing something, I need to see a reward for my efforts, and so far becoming proficient as a musician and in composing/arranging music has not produced any particularly useful result, while on the other hand, spending my time and effort growing a potager garden has given us lots of beautiful, delicious things to eat, and spending time/ effort/ money/ etc. on renovating our home has given us a much nicer place to live.

And the day job? Well, that’s just eight hours a day of having to overwrite myself with some sort of zombie robot persona in exchange for a regularly-occurring amount of income sufficient to support the house at a subsistence level. I am still working out what to do going forward since I have once again given up on music as a career path.

Ironically enough, here is my horoscope that appeared on the day I originally felt ready to post this piece:

Friday, April 13, 2012
By Rick Levine
You may have grown discouraged over these last couple of months with assertive Mars retrograding in your 10th House of Career. You had no idea that it would take so long to accomplish your career goals. Now, as things start to pop, you can see the wisdom in the long gestation process. Nevertheless, don’t worry about what you might have accomplished if you were able to work harder or faster; just pay attention to the tasks in front of you and give it all you’ve got.

I have NEVER worked so hard for such an abysmal return on effort!

* I know these statements (at the top of the post, in case this footnote thingy doesn’t turn out quite right!) are patently untrue, unless all the hundreds of people who have expressed heartfelt praise and appreciation of our music over the years were just blowing smoke up our ass (which I don’t believe at all), but it just hasn’t lead to “critical mass” or anything remotely close to it in three years.

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