— by Anna Madorsky
As a songwriter and writer, I’m deeply engrossed in stories: how we’re shaped by them, how we use them as touchstones, how we wrap our psyches around these metaphorical bits so that we can make sense of the complexities of our own lives as we allow imaginary universes to ignite our purpose and fuel our trajectory.
As an artist within the shifting landscape of the music industry, studying and observing its narrative from the 20th century to the present is a lot like watching a giant, lumbering, alien alpha beast attempting to survive on a planet that likely can’t support its infrastructure or feeding habits; at least not for very long and without a whole lot of casualties.
For the past several years, the industry has been dismantling into a new sort of organism: one that’s been brought to its knees by natural evolution and must adapt to survive. Hierarchies are flattening, gatekeepers are becoming increasingly obsolete, and music technology has become unshackled from obscene costs. Both business folks and artists have been scrambling to adapt to new roles, new sorts of relationships, and new self-perceptions. These massive shifts force us to reexamine our purpose and trajectory.
Frankly, I’m glad for the reinvented plot.
The new playing field for artists and musicians is one where we are all required to think mindfully and purposefully about business. In its essence, is it not the same kind of process we go through to create our art? We make decisions as to the kind of ethics (or lack thereof) we are inspired to see reflected in our stories and lyrics, and what kind of value system governs the characters. And in the same way, we have the creative power to spearhead the economics of art with our day-to-day choices, how we treat people, and with whom we build alliances.
When I was about ten, I asked my older brother, “Why are most songs on the radio about romantic love when there are so many other topics to think about, sing about, and discuss?”
His answer was “that’s just what people spend most of their time thinking about.”
But I don’t, I thought, and found myself constantly wondering:
If I exist, aren’t there others like me?
For me, the shift in the music industry is best expressed as the liberation of the Idea. Without radio formats, I can defy genres. With easy access to technology, I can stretch my skills as a producer and arranger. Without strictly controlled channels in a male-dominated industry, I have the option of what kind of woman I want to be. With the disarray of the music business, I can push myself out of my comfort zone to become a better and more passionate entrepreneur.
It serves no one to sever the roles of artist and businessperson, or to think of them as ideological opposites. Rigid definitions of ourselves are something we do when we are threatened, and enlightenment does not happen without painful and uncomfortable growth. Downstream from this expansion, it is the listener who benefits from having access to music and artists as idiosyncratic and unique as they are, and it is the listener who will reward the artist for giving them access to stories and storytellers who have the power to open them up to parts of themselves that they may have forgotten about or didn’t even know existed. Belief systems, familial structures, gender, sexuality, the unspoken ambivalences within relationships, and sociopolitical ideas: these are the stomping grounds of art, not of an archaic business framework too afraid to take risks, too mired in tightly controlled messages, too vested in the dogma of a power structure it does not want to upset.
I cannot remember a time when I didn’t ask the difficult and uncomfortable questions that seem to be constantly rolling off my tongue. And although I’ve never really questioned if this ferociously inquisitive streak in me would ever subside, I have frequently doubted that I might ever find a good home for it.
If I exist, are there others like me?
When I first started working with the folks at CJG Innovative, I was a lone wolf, a fiercely independent survivor with battle scars that were in some ways overshadowing my authenticity and my strengths. After years of self-stitching, I had reached a point in my evolution as an artist where I simply could no longer do surgery on myself. To go into the details of all the ways that CJG has fostered my growth would be to double or triple the length of this piece, but I hope it might suffice to say that it takes a special kind of creative team to catapult a growth that arms an artist with the fluidity and skills to navigate the uneven terrain of the new music industry whilst embracing and developing exactly whom the artist is. To hold to the principle that you are viable and vital because of your uniqueness rather than despite it… Now that is something indeed. Every artist has a specific outpouring of essence that can create a magnificently enriching ripple effect to her or his particular audience. An enterprise such as CJG that has its sights set on catalyzing that energy is the natural ally of artists such as myself.
The music industry of old and those who endorse it may be formidably ruthless, but not nearly as formidable as the kinetic energy that is commanded when the creative and fiery spirit of art converges and collaborates with the warmth of mindful, resourceful, and creative business. When ideas are liberated, we are all freed.