IMM Part 1: Introduction
“Hi. My Name is (Blank), and I’m an Artistic Bystander”
What would you accomplish if nothing stood in your way?
Say it out loud, with your own name, right now. No, seriously. Do it.
"Singularity (system theory), in dynamical and social systems, a context in which a small change can cause a large effect"
Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone describe you in such a manner as this?
"Gravitational singularity, in general relativity, is a point in which gravity is so intense that spacetime itself becomes ill-defined"
Could someone communicate, with literal gravitas, about you or something you had accomplished?
One might assume that anyone reading this could be feeling their musical identities out of balance in some way or another.
As an Artist, are you False or are you Authoritative?
As a Songwriter, are you Voiceless or are you Limitless?
As a Creator, are you Aimless or are you Deliberate?
As a Student, are you Detached or are you Enlightened?
Imagine that you could act with enough energy to generate a force for change.
What might that look like?
The Piano, the Football Game, and Sister Mary Petty-Larceny
My Grampa Bobby was the kind of grandfather who had a story for everything. As a young man, he tattooed his initials B.S. onto his arm, so naturally, all the boys at the lodge took some liberties with that low-hanging fruit.
But the man seemed to have done everything under the sun. He owned a sporting goods store with a partner who ripped him off and skipped town. He used to parachute out of planes into the St Clair River for air shows. He was roofing on the church spires downtown at the age of fourteen. He stitched up someone's injury so well while on a fishing trip, that the doctors swooned, and he earned the loving nickname Dr. Bob from everyone who heard the story in town.
My favorite story (other than sneaking off to WWII underaged, only to have his mother call the special forces camp he made it to and send him home,) was about a charity football game.
Grampa Bobby's high school football team was a bunch of hard-working grunts. Most, including himself and his brother, were likely to end up training with the Sarnia Imperials CFL team we used to have back then. Their only problem was their school sports department was lacking in the funds department. The star players were wearing garbage and everybody knew it.
The team decided to hold a charity match against the CFL Sarnia Imperials, and with a fantastic showing to match the brutal show, the coffers were ready to burst.
Unfortunately, some of the Sisters at the Catholic school my grandfather attended didn't see the need for new uniforms. And they didn't see a need to tell the football team about their unilateral decision either.
Grampa Bobby went to retrieve the charity earnings and was told that they had been used to buy a new upright piano.
My grandfather looked these self-proclaimed representatives of the Lord in their faces and asked them if the whole team was supposed to collectively strap this hulking instrument onto their backs and run it up and down the field.
Needless to say, Grampa Bobby and those boys staged a walkout protest, which was an insane thing to do at that time against such an institution.
One day he called me up out of the blue and asked me to help him fix the kitchen sink for my mother with him. I didn't hesitate to agree.
I was nineteen, fresh from dropping out of college, and thoroughly depressed.
He talked with me that afternoon and asked me what I really wanted to do if I could do anything at all, with no restrictions or obstacles. I said I wanted to play music and write songs. He told me that "that was the most important thing, so I had to follow it."
And I'm forever thankful that I got over my own perceived failings and took a chance on myself. He inspired me to apply to go to music school. I studied, practiced, and auditioned. I sobbed when I opened my letter of acceptance.
That summer we made our family trip to our parcel of Crown Land purchased decades ago north of Perry Sound at Bolger Lodge. He stayed up late with me and I played guitar for him, which was something that was difficult for me to do in intimate settings like that. But I had to show him what I could do.
It was almost a decade later that I brought that same guitar to my grandparents' house to visit him. Cancer had interwoven itself into most of the bones in his torso, and the onset of dementia escalated so quickly once he could no longer stay active.
But I played an arrangement of Willie Nelson's version of Stardust, and he started tapping his hand and humming and singing along. He revitalized right in front of my eyes in a way that was as wonderful as it was heartbreaking. That was the last time I truly saw Grampa Bobby.
I told that football story at his funeral because it inspired me through some of the toughest fights I've had to go through. And I did it defending the music program Grampa Bobby diverted me to.
This is my own personal David and Goliath story set within The Downtown Institute Network’s Knowledge Society, or DINKS for short
- The story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred. Any and all depictions of the following events bearing any resemblance to actual people, places, or events are purely coincidental. When you calculate, even the most rudimentary odds of something like that potentially happening are staggering. Really, quite extraordinary.
The music wing and much of the school were falling apart. That was evident in every class that I attended in my first few weeks at The Downtown Institute Network’s Knowledge Society (or DINKS for short)
Then these vague "Vote Yes" posters started appearing, plastered all over the hallways of the school. They had little to no information, just a pretty artist's conception of a new building. Further investigation revealed it was a referendum for student fees to be raised to build a sports facility.
The Sports Council and the Student Government were being run by the exact same people. This decision would benefit a few at the expense of so many.
But no one even knew, and if the voter turnout went below a certain level, it would be kicked to a committee of the same people who want to build it, approved, and democracy dies in darkness.
The public was being cheated, and I could help but think of my Grampa Bobby carrying a piano on his back, trucking down a football field into the endzone.
People needed to know what was happening that was so unfair. People needed to be able to choose for themselves. But they didn't even know they had the opportunity to choose.
Someone needed to tell the truth, but I wasn’t sure if I would make a difference.
Emails were sent to high-level administration, student council, various heads of departments, and wings of the school asking for clarification and information on what exactly was happening with this "Vote Yes" referendum.
95% of responses I actually received were so much non-answer patronizing fluff, that I had to get my email address drycleaned from then on.
However, an email reply from the Student Newspaper thanked me for my interesting revelations.
My full essay was printed in the letters to the editor section, and the front page was the start of an investigative series into the shadiness of this setup at the hands of student government and school administration.
I didn't intend to be risking much of anything. Perhaps I didn't think through the level of coordinated pushback from administration forces within the school.
Waiting at my locker for me between classes that afternoon, was a woman from the school administration office. She served me documents telling me I was officially an opposing party for a sanctioned election, without ever having asked or signed a thing. Now I was held responsible personally if anything happened that could be attributed as interfering or inappropriate to the other campaign.
Then she left.
I tried my best to remember and internalize the story Grampa Bobby told.
I was motivated to speak up and act because I saw the opportunity to motivate others to speak up and act
I was suddenly shown the power of having a mission.
“The Nerds! They’re Organizing!”
A collective emerged around the shared mission: we wanted to expose a culture of corruption so it could be changed. Groups within different programs within the school coordinated campaign efforts.
Some of our most effective collaborations were with the Technology wing. It was a glistening shiny new oasis within the school, and the brilliant minds within had no idea the music wing even existed. They felt compelled to use their advantages to help out a fellow nerd community.
This drew wide interest from the school newspaper, as well as anonymous phone calls and secret meetings with members of staff from various departments.
As the aggression from the other side escalated, I was willing to risk increasingly more. The whole thing felt so unfair, but I was committing too much of myself to the project and wasn't listening to my body telling me to slow down. Exhaustion started to get the best of me.
One day, I was happening down the music hallway during a mandatory program event in the theater. The wing was deserted save for a few tall humans in bright neon green "Vote Yes" shirts.
An absurd number of posters were plastered over the walls in the music wing leading into the main hallway. Nearly floor to ceiling, even covering the events boards and the posting for Performance Ensembles.
I couldn't stop myself, but I compulsively needed to let them know they were being dicks in the hallway of the DINKS.
“You know hanging that many posters here like this, this is going to get ripped down in like two seconds.”
One of the culprits, stacks of papers the color of highlighters, turned to face me. It was the President of the Student Council. And the Head of the Athletics Council.
I heard combined shouts from the poster crew. They were going to report my threats to the administration. My campaign, therefore me personally, would be held responsible. The campaign would automatically be disqualified.
This meant the referendum would go to a vote by a council seated by admin pushing Vote Yes, as well as the Student Council President. The very same person before me who wasted so much paper for something so spiteful, it was almost impressive if it wasn’t so stupid.
I received warnings on my record, and meetings with admin, culminating in my near expulsion. All of this after falling for a trap designed around a campaign technicality.
Election day arrived. The voter turnout was record numbers. They had never seen anything like it at the school before. The percentage of students voting was bound to hit the threshold to keep it from getting kicked down the line for poster boy’s League of Extraordinarily Lame Supervillains.
The ballot got hacked. It was a sloppy job. One might ponder the merits of someone making it look like the nerds in the tech wing tried to change the ballots.
The election was held off until after reading week. The week preceding was declared no campaigning.
The music wing rolled carts of gear into the center hallway nexus of the school and began playing together, jamming every sing-along song we knew. People stopped and sang with us, people took pictures
We passed out flyers that simply said VOTE.
The President of the DINKS came to the event and decided to chat. She did not expect my composure, nor my well-laid-out arguments.
I leaned in close and told her: “If the referendum is to be truly democratic, the administration shouldn’t be involved with the campaign. And if the posters had said this,” I handed her a VOTE flyer. “None of this would have happened.”
On the day of the referendum, the percentage of students voting surpassed the threshold. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 64% of the student body voted, which left the administration dumbfounded. I know, because I watched the looks on their faces while we collectively oversaw the vote-counting all night.
A Mission and Message Hewn from Stone
I found a sense of purpose in fighting for people.
I gained experience organizing and planning in an advocacy role.
I learned in trial by fire some valuable lessons about politics, media engagement, and strategies for war.
However, everything comes with a cost, and this was no exception. I lost so much time that should have been committed to school and practice. I also lost all of my supply of energy, leading to burnout and collapse.
What came from that journey is the refining of a mission. I’ll let you in on the last half of the INW Mission statement (you can view the whole thing here):
Musicians and Creative Entrepreneurs shouldn’t have to rely on others who don't really care about their growth, progress, or outcomes, using the outdated social media spamming approaches to reach an audience, or copy what others are doing instead of investigating why it worked.
Our goal is to create integrated collaborative communities, leading to a healthy ecosystem for musicians and creative industries.
Together we can enrich the lives of others by empowering their creative momentum and promoting positive mental well-being through artistic endeavors.
The future will be better through the countless lives of others, moved by a revolution in artistic creative strength for positive change.
A few things that all of you for sure need to hear most. Some of you will need to have all of it screamed directly into your eardrum with a megaphone
- No one should have to work hard for free
- No one should have to work hard to barely scrape by
- You don’t have a business plan and it shows
- You might be successful with your music, but you suck at business
- When people aren’t paying attention to your music, you aren’t giving them good enough reasons to
- You should ask yourself often if you sound like you or someone else
- Releasing music without a strategy is a waste of your energy
- It isn’t a strategy if you don’t understand what you are doing and why
- Keeping tabs on finances isn’t important unless you like eating
- Maintain multiple income streams or collapse is inevitable
- If you don’t figure out these important steps, your music will fail
- If you think modern music sucks, its because you aren’t working hard enough
- Viewing other artists as competition comes at your own peril
- Not all songs have to mean something, but there are enough songs that mean nothing
- If artists who don’t stand for anything can get attention, think about what can happen to those that do
- Stop complaining about the way things are and start changing them
- You aren’t lazy, you just lack purpose
- The tools today allow artists to become “The Beatles” of their own self contained ecosystem
- You are letting the mental health stigma hold you back from leading a musical movement
So let us all take a minute to internalize some of the problems, pain points, and unhealthy amount of obstacles we encounter together as creative entrepreneurs, shall we? I'll go first with some I've encountered over the years:
- Not knowing the language or terminology to express or communicate your musical ideas in clear ways to yourself or other musicians
- Learning the respective terms and song structure, frameworks, parts, etc.
- Musicians with valuable skills are not able to get paid a fair wage.
- The need for so many different aspects covered for projects.
- Not understanding you can be a self-contained business.
- Losing venues and spaces to gentrification.
- Most people that claim to be fans of your music simply aren’t when it comes to paying for it.
- Being taken advantage of by venue owners, promoters, and people “in the industry” making promises.
- Disagreements between band members because goals or direction haven't been clearly communicated.
- Lack of input in process within/outside of the music because of feelings of inadequacy, lack of expertise, or the perception of these shortcomings projected onto you by others
- Need to gain additional skills to remain agile enough for changing marketplace, industry, and the ability to adjust to new realities post COVID
- Musicians who become parents need ways to remain connected while adjusting to the new realities of life as a parent
- Also, need new ways of income since performance regularly may not be a possibility
- You May not have an understanding support system that realizes you can't be available at a moment's notice like you used to
- Avoid being a “music teacher” among thousands, offer a unique and differentiated solution and opportunity for progress and growth
There is something about the energy of a place or a crowd that you get a sense tension could arise if we cross paths.
People fear what they don't understand.
When I am in a situation where I feel real and authentic, I am in my element, entertaining, providing a warm and inviting relaxed atmosphere, doesn't matter through what medium.
I can be with people who deeply understood, people who were willing to understand, and people who were experiencing a happening for the first time
Group Energy, wordplay, music or shared creative interactivity, pageantry and showmanship, improvisation, and making people laugh.
Through this, we can find Joy, Relief, Camaraderie, and community, with a shared feeling of having a true experience
So, our next step is to build this foundation and keep building out into the cosmos.
Let's get started.
At INW Media we want to make the business side of the creative industry more inclusive to the artists that create the content, which can restore truly inspirational creative movements.
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