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An Artist's Worth
By Beth Lawrence - 06/13/2011 - 10:02 PM EDT

I've been a professional songwriter and singer for over 30 years. Essentially, those of us who are in the music business are 'small business owners.' Unless you're lucky enough to have a booking agent; manager; marketing company; personal assistant; and press agents working for you, the chances are very good that you will be wearing many hats in the pursuit of promoting your music, much like any sole proprietor.

As an Artist, you are your own empire, and just like running any small business, you have to do most of the administrative work yourself initially, as well as being a creative genius in your spare time! If you're a full time musician, you don't punch any time clocks, but you probably work all day, into the night, and definitely work weekends and holidays!

I have found it interesting and many times a bit frustrating when well-meaning friends (who are usually the time-clock-punching types) will throw out comments like 'it must be so nice to be able to take naps during the day', or 'you're lucky - you can take time off whenever you want' etc., as though what I do is not 'real' work. In fact, my usual comeback is 'what do you think I do all day - eat bon bons and watch Oprah?!' I stand my ground when anyone questions my work ethic, and I challenge them to compare hours worked in a given week. I guarantee that their 40 hours would not compare to mine which is generally a 12 hour day, 7 days a week.

Strangely, it's commonplace for folks in our society to devalue an Artist's life - unless of course you have the good fortune to become a huge celebrity. But we are the courageous lot who have dedicated our lives to bringing joy to others. We are the court jesters of the world who gain fulfillment in touching the hearts of our listeners. We write the songs that make the whole world sing (thank you Barry Manilow)!

Perhaps we should all begin to feel our own worth more intensely and carry our artistic pride boldly on our sleeve! It's time to debunk the myth of the lazy, crazy songwriter who jots down a few lyrics here and there while drinking beer on the sofa. I believe that we were all born with a fun-loving, finger-painting spirit. Unfortunately, though, most people's creative fires are dowsed out in early youth with negative messages and suggestions that you may have heard yourself.....'your sister is a better singer, you should stick to math.' Or 'What? How do you think you can make any money as a guitar player?' Every seed needs nurturing, and it's not very commonplace to have parents, counselors and even friends who will applaud and support you when you announce that you're planning on being a full time musician or composer as your career path! Most aspiring creatives wither on the vine with this kind of negative belief conditioning, never to realize their dream of artistic fulfillment.

And so it is up to us alone to stand proudly as a budding musician or veteran singer/songwriter and know within ourselves that we have followed our heart on this Artist's journey. It can be a very bumpy road, but what isn't? We have chosen a path that others may view as frivolous, irresponsible and even downright insane! But Artists have never been known to take the safe road; we venture through the wilderness in order to capture the views that can't be seen from the highway. We are off-roaders and should be celebrating our individuality as we opt for the unique rather than the status quo.

Remember that it is a brave choice to be a music maker! It is a bold move to declare that you are a professional songwriter. It is an amazing person who commits to a life in the arts and doesn't waver when someone questions their motives for doing so. As you find joy in your freedom; fulfillment in your ability to change people's lives with your songs; and a life that is vibrant with spontaneity, be grateful that you know your own Artist's worth.

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