Monday, September 29, 2008

CDs and Books and Massive Anxiety Attacks, Oh My - Arends

There is a lot of talk these days about the perilious future of both recorded music and book publishing. As a recording artist and author, I furrow my brow in the general direction of both topics. I was intriguiged by this recent article by music journalist Chet Flippo. He refers to a "massive anxiety attack" that has plagued the music industry for some time and discusses specifically his concerns that commercial uncertainty is breeding an artistic insecurity that is robbing recording artists of their "mojo". (I think one can draw some parallels to what is happening to many authors in the world of book publishing as well.)

I just began recording my 10th CD in August, and I have difficulty giving a solid business rationale for the undertaking. Digital distribution models (both of the legal and pirate variety) have radically changed the income potential for artists, which is a nice way of saying I won't make very much money. And my plans to record songs that would fit neatly in the direction my speaking and touring career has been going were all shot to bits when a passle of new songs literally showed up and wrestled me to the ground -- songs that remind me of a line from an old Mark Heard song: "I'm too sacred for the sinners, and the saints wish I would leave."

So what am I doing? Why am I doing it?

The other day an acquaintance asked me (in a non-threatening, interested way) what my objectives were for the new recording I was working on. And I hemmed and hawed for a bit and then finally told the truth.

I want to sing honest songs. I want this cd to be better than the last one--a deeper pocket or a sweeter line. I want to record some bit of something that gives me and maybe someone else goosebumps. I want to be moved, and to move someone else.

Like most artists who are also Christians, I walk a fine line between calling and indulgence; I could not honestly tell you the ratio between flesh and spirit at any given moment. But this is what I know. We must all tell our stories, as truthfully and as beautifully as we can, and God is such a good God He can and will use our efforts. I've seen it more times than I can count. And I don't know if that gives me mojo, but it gives me motiviation. And I can't wait for the next recording day.

I think the Flippo article reaches a pretty fine conclusion:

"So what can we as individuals do? I try to follow the advice of my high school Latin teacher, who I have increasingly realized was a very wise woman. 'Just tend to your own garden," she would say. "If we all do that, things cannot help but get better.'"

I don't know the future of recorded music or book publishing or painting or sculpture or theatre. But if we tell our stories, as honestly and beautifully as we can, things can't help but get better.


I blog, therefore I am at:

Songville (brand new site for songwriters) (where I muse on Stuff That Matters)

Wrestling with Angels (where I park my Christianity Today columns and other pieces)

Carolyn Arends Newsblog (where we post goings on, twitter updates, and other news relating to my work as a recording artist and writer)


N. J. Lindquist said...

Carolyn, I think that is all we really can do. Being true to God, ourselves, and others is pure gold, especially in these days when things are so much about saying what others want to hear and manipulation and marketing.

I keep hearing Joshua's words - "Choose you this day whom you will serve (or what)... but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

Carolyn Arends said...

Thanks, N.J., and thanks for the way you model that truthfulness.

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