Ignore Everybody

by James Pew

In December Derek Sivers sent out an invitation via his email newsletter asking musicians if they would like a free copy of one of the many marketing books that he recommends to the readers of his blog. Derek’s idea was to send out copies of these books to interested musicians, who would in turn write their thoughts about the book on their own blog. And, of course much discussion and learning will follow.

The book I received form Derek is called Ignore Everybody: and 39 other keys to creativity. Written by Hugh Macleod artists & author of the awesome blog gaping void. It has cartoons! …most of the time!

I read Ignore Everybody in one sitting the day I received it. For a creative person, its like having your past re-read to you by someone without the emotional involvement, who has enough sense of the modern ethos and of the symptoms of the failing artistic endeavor of the common creative person. Who sheds light and empowers you to exceed any notion of expectation.

Although it is sometimes very tough to hear, it is imperative that the message in Ignore Everybody does not itself go ignored.

I have purchased three additional copies of this book that I’d like to give away. I also added a little inscription on the inside cover linking to this post, and asking the recipient to read the book and pass it on.

Two copies are for a couple creative people I know locally who I feel could really benefit from Ignore Everybody (I’ll keep you posted if that turns out to be the case). The third copy I will mail out to the first interested reader who emails me at james@euphoniccsound.com (Update: The last copy has been given away).

The message in Ignore Everybody is an indie artists only hope of successfully ignoring everybody and leading their own movement.

“The more original your idea is, the less good advice other people will be able to give you.” – Hugh MacLeod

This puts the artist in the position of leader. Relying on others to lead has become a thing of the past.

Another book on Derek’s list is Tribes by Seth Godin. The message is that “the market place now rewards (and embraces)” the leaders, or as Seth refers to them “heretics.”

Heretics are the new leaders. The ones who challenge the status quo, who get out in front of their tribes, who create movements.” – Seth Godin

New media brings about new forms of human association. Today an artist must be a leader to her fans; there must be a movement and there must be a reason for people to care. Weather the idea or movement is big or small matters little. The artist is viewed by the tribe as tribal leader and is very much in demand by the tribe. This is the natural dynamic. The artist’s role is to cultivate this.

Thoughts on how to Ignore Everybody is being included in my book, the work-in-progress, Studio Manifesto: Exploring the Possibilities of Indie. Go here for the orientation. For regular readers this means the subject at hand is approached with the same reconsideration of Marshall McLuhan’s Media Theory as has been the other sections of Exploring the Possibilities of Indie. Just a warning to new readers…☺

Here are my thoughts on Hugh Macleod’s Ignore Everybody:

Since Marshall McLuhan’s time the global media environment has utterly wrapped all people into a mesh of constant electronic information – it is electronic media (telephone, telegraph, radio, television, photograph, movie, etc.) that give tribal cues defining our self-images and where we fit in the tribe. Weather it is the posture of the model in a magazine ad telling us what to wear and how to gesture, or the rock star on MTV showing us the rock star “way of life,” we have always seemed utterly paralyzed to act in any way different then the roles that have been pre-formed in the media environment.

However as we all know the newest electric media, the internet, has disrupted this pattern of mainstream media indiscriminately broadcasting to virtually all individuals, to a new segment where individuals narrow-cast to each other in both directions (and sideways too). From this we are seeing the formation of smaller tribes, or movements, entirely based on the strength of the new tribal leaders and their ideas.

McLuan was right when in 1960 he said electric media re-tribalizes man. With every news headline or episode of American Idol, North Americans are sharing in a collective tribal experience. But we have yet to succumb fully to a phenomenon, which seems to accompany the tribal order – that being tribal sleep.

It was the explosion side of the tribal cycle, the Guttenberg technology (printing press) of the 1500s that created the individual and woke us from a many centuries long tribal sleep. That phase was detribalization and is represented by everything from the previous mechanical age; assembly lines, factories, books, automobile, currency, economics, corporations with top down structure, etc.

Now it is electric technology that retribalizes man and could very well result in our being placed back into the somnambulistic state of tribal sleep.

The electric age represents an implosive re-tribalized phase. The ethos of today is about dismantling the mechanical age structures that separated people from one another. New digital media has brought back an ancient tribal situation to humankind. We are connected and involved with each other in ways lamented for by our ancestors from the industrial revolution. All notions leftover from the mechanical age will be clung too by people who will never understand what is happening, and shed by those who leap fully into the new age of Tribalism.

Hugh MacLeod’s book “Ignore Everybody” is about resisting tribal forces of sleep and conformity. A tough, but necessary, pill to swallow for many creative individuals.

Hugh’s message is to do things for the right reasons – not for any expectations or romantic notions you may have. Because things rarely, if ever, work out the way you plan them or expect them to. And because life simply isn’t fair and seems to take a morbid joy in crushing even the most passionately dedicated romantic.

Here is a sample:

Your plan for getting your work out there has to be as original as the actual work, perhaps even more so. The work has to create a totally new market. There’s no point trying to do the same thing as 250,000 other young hopefuls, waiting for a miracle. All existing business models are wrong. Find a new one.”

In describing Hugh’s own artistic endeavor – drawing cartoons on the backs of business cards – he said, “There was no commercial incentive or larger agenda governing my actions. If I wanted to draw on the backs of business cards instead of a “proper” medium, I could.

Hugh’s point is you can not be concerned with anything outside of the idea itself – will it make me money or famous? Will it get me girls? Or played on the radio? Forget all that stuff. If your goal is to write, record, and perform great songs then you must go “all in” in doing that. Forget about fame and money and sex and all the clichés that many aspiring musicians can’t seem to get over.

If you are creating art for these misguided reasons then the art becomes secondary, generic, and uninspiring. And it won’t be a pleasant experience for you. The notion of the tortured artists is a romantic one placed there by the media. Be real.

The scariest part is that people pick up on the level of love and authenticity that goes into your work, and you can be forgotten faster and more often, if you don’t create something that is uniquely yours, truly inspiring and free of all the insane and ridiculous notions of what an artist is supposed to be.

Here is another example of the “tough pill” nature of Ignore Everybody:

If your business plan depends on suddenly being “discovered” by some big shot, your plan will probably fail.”

Or,

When your dreams become reality, they are no longer your dreams.

At times Hugh seems like he has crossed over to the dark side of cynicism, but then he says:

Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in Kindergarten.”

And,

The more you practice your craft, the less you confuse worldly rewards, and vice versa. Even if your path never makes any money or furthers your career, that’s still worth a ton.”

And, two of my favorites…

The best way to get approval is not to need it.” And “Stay ahead of the culture by creating the culture.”

One idea that really struck a chord with me was the Sex & Cash Theory.

The creative person basically has two kinds of jobs: One is the sexy, creative kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills. Some times the task at hand covers both bases, but not often.

This is advice I could have used several years ago when I quit my day job to become a music industry mogul. It didn’t quite work out that way and needless to say the need to pay the bills (and to further seed my music business) forced me back into the demoralizing servitude of the “day job.” Years later I was able to quit the day job again, this time for good.

Now I spend my days (and nights) working on music at my business Euphonic Sound Recording Studio. But the Sex & Cash dynamic is a big part of the balance we seem to have struck at the studio. On the sex side of things is Studio 2.0, this is my idea, my movement, how I have become a leader and ignore everybody. Others have joined me and our business is a success.

Besides working with artists under Studio 2.0 I also spend a little time working on my own music – which I have zero expectations for. Having zero expectations is what makes it fulfilling to do. If your art is not fulfilling, then its forced.

With our Studio 2.0 approach we get to work with great artists like new folk singer/song writer Andrea Gauster, who we also represent on our label Broken Window Records or metal band Volition Aire. Its mostly sunshine and lolly pops and lots of love and creativity. ☺

But there always has to be the cash side of the sex & cash equation. I am definitely not creatively fulfilled by every artist I record – although, there are different types of fulfillment that go along with helping someone achieve their dream, doing a good job, and getting paid fairly for it.

Sometimes, to pay the bills we do commercial or educational music stuff too. Hugh Macleod’s other job as a copywriter provides the cash equation for him, similar to the scenario at Euphonic Sound. Sometimes we work with great artists and contribute artistically both as producers and musicians; sometimes we only engineer. Guess which one is more satisfying? And sometimes we get commissioned to compose and produce something for some other application, like music for corporate youtube videos, or for someones web site or web product. This balance allows us to “keep the lights on” so we can work on what we really love.

Final quote from Hugh MacLeods Ignore Everybody – “The only people who can change the world are the people who want to. And not everybody does.”

Do you?

Thanks to Derek Sivers for sending me a copy of Ignore Everybody. Check out the other great books recommended by Derek Sivers.

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