Anything You Want: Creating an Independent Artist Utopia

5 Oct

Have you heard of CD Baby?  This company sells independent music online and was founded by Derek Sivers in 1998 and, despite his intentions, became a multimillion dollar business.  A few months ago, I read his book Anything You Want that detailed what he learned about starting and running a business, etc.  His book is not the typical business leadership book – and I loved it! I often find myself coming back to some of the nuggets of wisdom in this short read when making plans and goals for our future, especially in regards to Adam’s music career.

Business is not about money.  It’s about making dreams come true for others and for yourself.

Starting with no money is an advantage.  You don’t need money to start helping people.

When you make a company, you make a utopia.  It’s where you design your perfect world.

I love that Adam and I can create his own “musician utopia.”  There are no “rules” that we have to follow.  There is no record label dictating his schedule and how he spends his time.  He is not confined to a specific genre and does not have to fit a certain type of mold.  Our family can still be a priority and he can write songs about his faith without being confined to the Christian music category box.

Recently, I ran across an old post at Indie Vision Music that asked people what they thought of an article written by artist Gungor on his website, titled “Why the Christian music category shouldn’t exist.”  The post brought up some intriguing points and the comments that followed were pretty interesting, as well.  I know that categories can be useful, but they can be limiting, as well.  Also, it seems odd to me to confine songs about God to a small section of the music industry… Let me know what you think!

A big part of creating our utopia is figuring out how to use Adam’s talents to help others.  I love the following quote by Aristotle.

Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your vocation.

If we focus on how Adam’s music can be used to help others, then I think we will be on the right track.  We used to be so consumed with how and when Adam could be a big enough artist to support our family, but now we’re not focused on the money aspect.  Money and fame are not motivators for Adam.  I, personally, just want Adam to be able to enjoy doing music without putting additional pressure on himself.  We are both blessed to  have jobs and be able to spend so much time with our daughters.  God has provided for us time and again financially and I know that He will continue to do so.

Also, Adam wants to be true to himself and his beliefs and sing about things that matter.  He doesn’t like how the music industry panders to a certain demographic.  Country music is a perfect example of this.  Many (superficial) singles on the radio right now have to do with trucks, dirt roads, and drinking.  What happened to the country music of 10 years ago that inspired Adam to move to Nashville? What happened to meaningful songs about love, faith, and family?  I like a fun, upbeat song as much as the next person, but seriously, where is the substance?  Even Vince Gill, Adam’s musical idol, has commented on this topic.

In addition, while social media has given artists more ways to connect to people than ever before, it also forces one to constantly be promoting and thinking of the next gimmick to get everyone’s attention.  From trying to make viral YouTube videos to coming up with a unique merchandise item to sell, it almost seems like there is more effort put into “attention-getters” than the actual music itself.

Of course, doing things on our own is more challenging and time-consuming than if we had a team of professional industry insiders to guide Adam’s musical dreams, but how much would we have to compromise?  How would our marriage endure?  Would our family suffer?  I’m so excited that Adam can release an album (yes, he’s working on a full-length album as opposed to the popular 5-song EP in this radio single-dominated market) full of whatever music he wants.  Some songs are upbeat with irresistible melodies.  Others are thought-provoking, insightful and inspiring.  We are learning how to do new things in order to be creative and professional on our tiny budget.  The freedom that we have is definitely worth the extra time.

Welcome to our utopia- where God, family, being real, and figuring out how our dreams can help others rules our ever-expanding little world!

What does your utopia look like?


8 Responses to “Anything You Want: Creating an Independent Artist Utopia”

  1. Kristen Hardin October 5, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    Love this, Stef! Another great post 🙂 We need to all get together soon– it’s been too long!

    • A Dreamer's Wife October 5, 2012 at 11:07 am #

      Thanks! I know – it feels like forever!! We miss you guys!

  2. susanwbailey October 5, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

    The temptation to create a niche, aka “Christian Music,” is strong because it’s so much easier to market. A niche is concrete and the group is small and focused so sales are easier.

    BUT, it is stifling creatively. I used to be a musician in a very narrow niche and it killed my music. I am now writing and approaching it in a much broader way with my new blog. “Selling it” has been a lot harder (getting search engines to see it, etc.) because the topic is broader, but I feel a lot freer creatively and I know I will, in the end, produce better work.

    Derek Sivers is one smart dude!

    Good for you and Adam, charting your own course! My favorite author, Louisa May Alcott always used to say she would prefer to paddle her own canoe. 🙂

    • A Dreamer's Wife October 5, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

      Thanks for commenting! We know we are definitely doing some things that don’t seem to be on trend with what the money-making music industry is doing, but we’re okay with that! Although Adam’s music is commercial, he never has really fit into one genre… So we’re not stressing and just doing what seems to make sense for us!

      You definitely have a lot of experience in a variety of things!

      • susanwbailey October 6, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

        Let’s just say I’ve tried a lot of things. 🙂

  3. Stephanie October 10, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    The Gungor article’s interesting…I’ve never been to a Protestant church, but I have heard about the concert-like nature of some worship services, especially at megachurches. Even within the Catholic Church, though, I’ve seen a little bit of the “show” nature he talks about. My parish growing up had a fantastic Lifeteen youth group and choir who sang for an evening youth Mass. They were beautifully talented and elevated the Mass for sure, but I often got the sense that some of the youth came only for the music, as in they weren’t as pleased to go to another Mass, although the sacrament was the same. Just a step on the journey, I guess, getting past that emotional point to a more willful kind of love.

    In the last year or so, I’ve drifted away from listening to a lot of the Christian music I used to listen to all the time. I still enjoy Praise and Worship, but I’ve become much more drawn to secular artists with a spiritual bent. People like Mumford and Sons, The Avett Brothers, and Jon Foreman (his solo stuff) make their scars and their longings so clear in their lyrics, and I love the honesty that’s there. It’s not just about the praise and good feelings, but about the real struggles of being faithful, you know? By the way, I’ve been meaning to listen to some of Adam’s music…I’ll have to do it soon!

    • A Dreamer's Wife October 10, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

      I’m totally with you! Adam grew up protestant and told me that he often struggled with whether he was enjoying the music rather than the real purpose of being at church. We don’t listen to Christian music much either because of the same reason you said about wanting to hear songs about struggles and real life! That’s totally where Adam is at in his music, so we’ll see what happens next!

      Thanks for taking the time to check out the post and comment! Definitely on the same page!


  1. Social Media and Independent Music Promotion « Artful Toronto - October 6, 2012

    […] Anything You Want: Creating an Independent Artist Utopia ( […]

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