“Ignore Everybody”

If you’re just visiting my site and wondering what the heck I’m doing writing about Hugh MacLeod’s Ignore Everybody, I’ll tell you.  Derek Sivers (Founder of CD Baby) sent out an e-mail asking if anyone would be interested in receiving a book and then writing about it.  Derek’s other criteria was — must be a working musician, currently releasing and promoting music and have a blog.  A lot of people responded, and I was one of the lucky ones Derek chose to be involved.  I should also say, Derek sent out these books at his own expense, which was incredibly nice of him, and I’m also very thankful for the time he’s put into organizing this project.

Now Derek wasn’t interested in a simple book review, but a working musician’s viewpoint — “How can I apply this to my music career?” [As an aside, I truly enjoyed Ignore Everybody.  Lots of great insights that pushed me and I liked that.  Also I found the book funny and engaging.  Okay that was my review.]

For me, the main thing that I took from Ignore Everybody was: Be less vulnerable.  Notice I didn’t say don’t be vulnerable — I don’t think you could be an artist (musician, painter, writer, whatever) if you weren’t vulnerable to some degree.  But making yourself excessively vulnerable (no I can’t define excessively and I think it’s different for every one) is, as Hugh illustrates, counterproductive to creative freedom.  Whether the vulnerability comes from the need for external approval, laziness, lack of money, buying in to the “artiste” mythology or any number of other pitfalls, excessively or blindly falling for these traps almost always ends up in some sort of artistic compromise.  So, know yourself and get out of your own way!

The book is broken down into 40 short chapters, each with it’s own take on how to be more creative or more effective in what you do.  I think I’m already doing some of the things Hugh recommends and there are a few similarities between Hugh’s and my own approaches.  Like Hugh I’ve “put in the hours.”  Lots of hours. I’ve also reserved a pure art/music side that’s for me alone in conjunction with the corporate jobs and more commercial music that I do.  I like them both.

Where I do less well though is that I often don’t know how to say no.  Do I want another plugin for my DAW?  Yes!  Do I want to play two three-hour gigs in one day?  Yes!  Program my own database?  Yes!  Learn a few more classical guitar pieces?  Yes!  At a certain point, and I probably reached that point years ago, your focus gets blurred.  Where do I use my time and resources most effectively?  Right now I don’t know that answer, but Ignore Everybody has me thinking.

Still I’m not going to dodge Derek’s initial question: “How can I apply this to my music career?”  I want to give some concrete examples.  First, I’m going to spend more time on music and less on business.  Music is the core of what I do.  So to give me more time for music, I’m going to streamline how I do business.  I don’t need the complexity of FileMaker Pro, Bento suits me fine.  I don’t need to be on ten social networking sites, a few of the big ones are enough.  And if the workload gets too heavy, I’m going to outsource the jobs.

Second, I’m going to look at how I make music.  I need to narrow my sonic choices — more is not always better.  This is going to mean reducing the number of plugins and samples I have (I may take them right off of my computer) and committing to the remaining ones.  I also need to practice guitar more — to practice every day regardless of how many phones calls or emails I have to answer.  This matters.

Third, I’m going to try to ignore everybody and be, as my wife calls it, fearlessly myself.

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