Friday, June 22, 2007
How to Get Off the Plantation in 5 Easy Steps (Pt. V)
How to Get Off the Plantation in 5 Easy Steps (Pt. V):
5. The Giant Leap
Remember the Matrix? How one of the biggest tests of being outside of the Matrix was the leap of faith? A leap from the roof of the tallest building in the city. Into nothing but thin air. And a hope and a prayer that you would make it to another roof before you came crashing to the concrete hundreds of stories below.
Leaving your paying job—no matter what the circumstances—is a little like this. Even if you hate your job. Even if you’re merely shining shoes, screwing in lightbulbs in locker rooms, or cleaning up elephant feces in a zoo, the decision to focus on nothing but YOU and everything else be damned is the kind of decision that can lead you to living in your parent’s basement for the rest of your life—without a girlfriend, money, car, or any of life’s other niceties to speak of.
It’s a leap of faith. And there’s no way around it. Don’t kid yourself. Now sure there are certain contracts, business deals, and situations that can make you smile so hard you forget that all of life’s necessities—food, shelter, clothing—in this capitalistic world cost money. Sure, there are certain recording deals, business breakthroughs, and new salaries that will put all the questions to rest and the mind at ease. But remember the more zeros you see, the less control you have—and that doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. Often times “making it" means running from the frying pan into the high priced fire.
And yes, you’ve read that right, I’ve intimated that EVERYTHING CAN BE A PLANTATION. Sorry to break it to you. In the recording industry, if you don’t own your masters, your masters own you. And that’s just the beginning in an industry where your every expense is recoupable, and you only make 8% to 20% of the profit of the net worth of your creations (and that’s not even touching on the well chronicled robber baron accounting practices of the overall entertainment industry). So if you have any sense at all, you will always have that burning nervous feeling in your stomach. And you will realize it’s one small step for you, and a giant leap of faith.
By the way, you entrepreneurs can stop laughing at the music business wannabees. If you need someone else’s money to handle your burn rate, you will quickly realize that your chief job each month will be just to borrow and steal and wine and dine enough greedy investors just to make payroll, pay your programmers and keep your product on the critical path needed for your project to launch on time. And after it launches, guess what? You’ll need more money, more meetings, more calls to your money managers and frantic late night calls to your friends because you’ve heard rumors that the venture capitalist firm you’re working with is putting together a new board and you’re not on it. In the end, there’s no magic profit margin that can ease the situation, more money means more meetings, more hard work, and a need for better planning and execution just to keep up with Joneses who also have big billion dollar budgets and want to watch your house and everything in it come crashing burning down. How did you know that when you left your lax life of steady pay and benefits that you would never sleep again? Did you actually ask for this?
Yes, you actually did. But you’re a dreamer. And dreamers like to jump from tall buildings into the unknown. Just like this. This is the life you asked and begged for. This is what makes your life worth living. Know this and act accordingly. Your life, just like the unknown will always be interesting, and full of revelations, but seldom easy. Just ask Alice. Who realized there was a lot of light—and spinning slivers of darkness—in the rabbithole.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t leap. You certainly should. And the sooner the better. This is merely to say that you should plan carefully, gather your friends, watch your enemies, read all the small print, research your industry endlessly before you jump into it, and be aware that you are millions of miles above the ground without a net. But it’s cool. If you’re a dreamer like me, you wouldn’t have it any other way.