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Individual artistic identity vs. getting real work.

Discussion in 'Ask Justin Meldal-Johnsen' started by Benjamin Strange, Feb 18, 2013.

  1. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange

    Dec 25, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    Hi JMJ, I've got a question I've been mulling over the past few months and thought I'd posit it here in hopes of gathering some insight.

    At your level, you probably don't struggle with this kind of thing, but an issue is starting to come up for me that is clouding my career path. I make weird music, delving into microtonal ambient stuff, mixed with industrial-ish, prog-ish metal stuff. It's pretty experimental, and certainly will never light up the pop charts. I have heretofore released all my stuff under my own name, but increasingly I'm getting calls as a session and touring bass player for much more traditional styles, like blues, funk, jazz, etc. On a pickup gig the leader told me that after he booked me (based on another leader's recommendation), he went to my website and listened to my music, and then started to get worried. The gig went fine, but that comment made me wonder: am I losing work because of my music?

    I'm considering creating a band name under which to release my music, and renaming all my previous work to reflect that, in hopes that it will create a bit of a divide between my artistic work and my bassist-for-hire role. I'm concerned, though, that this could create even more confusion, especially in terms of how to contact me, what my role is, and how to disseminate information about two somewhat distinct identities.

    I know you're largely known as a bassist for hire, but I know you've also done some creative work. Was this ever an issue for you, and how did you choose to resolve it? Any thoughts that you could share may be helpful. Thanks!
  2. jmjbassplayer

    jmjbassplayer Justin Meldal-Johnsen

    Mar 25, 2005
    Likes Received:
    The notion of ever losing work because of your personal music would be the result of some strange rationale by rather myopic individuals. Particularly if they already know your merits and skills when it comes to blues, funk, jazz, etc.

    I might suggest a better separation of "church and state" however, in that your website for the types of bread and butter gigs you would be soliciting/fielding should be completely separate from the website representing your personal endeavors.

    I've never had this particular issue, no. But I don't get called for the type of gigs where people would doubt my capabilities because of some oblique arty music I did. Most people who call me do so because of my more traditional work.

  3. The Lurker

    The Lurker

    Aug 16, 2002
    Likes Received:
    This thought just occurred to me.... I have many of the same problems in my day job (consulting environmental engineer).

    When starting out, you take the jobs and projects you can get, as a result of which you wind up pigeonholed because of it (as a 'wastewater guy' or a 'gas station guy'), and you have to spend the rest of your career trying to keep your options open and stay diversified just to keep work coming in, unless you're lucky enough to become the reigning go-to guy for a certain thing.

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