Lisa Robbin Young

From Michael Buble to Midian to Macklemore: Artists Reclaim Their Art

Shocking, but true: back in 1994, an unknown, unsigned artist had a number one hit. Lisa Loeb's "Stay (I Missed You)" became the spring board for an enduring career for the bespectacled artist - one that took a more traditional turn when she signed with Geffen Records.

Back then, it was almost unthinkable for a musical artist to go the independent route. In fact, had Loeb not lived across the street from Ethan Hawke, it's possible her song would never have made it into "Reality Bites" (and on to make history). "The industry" pretty much controlled airplay, exposure, income and identity for anyone that wanted to be a successful, profitable musical act. So it made good sense back then to get signed as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, that could also mean a lot of "compromise" - from your sound, to your look, and all points in between. IF you wanted to be "successful" you had to be willing to relinquish your identity as an artist (just ask Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, who made a lot of concessions in order to become rock stars).

The times, they are a changin'

Nearly 20 years later, independent artists like Macklemore and Midian are climbing the charts without a record deal. In fact, they're not even looking for a deal, because they believe the costs now outweigh the benefits of having more ownership of the direction of their art. And make no mistake, these are profitable artists.

Being your True Self pays BIG dividends...

Take, for example, Macklemore's hit "Thrift Shop"- which is an ironically anti-rap-establishment song featuring concepts that fly in the face of mainstream rap music (you know, spendin' all your money on broads, booze, and other "stuff") and embrace the ideal of saving money, having fun, and looking fashionable at the same time (beware, it's a rap song, so there's some, um, colorful language. #NSFW).

And people actually wonder why that song's so successful? Yeesh.

It currently stands as only the second independent track of all time to peak at #1 on Billboard's charts, and is the top-selling hip-hop track in the U.S. - take that, Eminem.

But why? And more importantly, what does it mean for you?

Frankly, we've reached a critical mass in our society where "transparency" and "authenticity" are the new standard. That doesn't mean baring your soul on national TV, or airing all your dirty laundry on your blog. It means standing more confidently on who you really are, and what you stand for in the world. Like Cheerios. Like Macklemore. Like Midian.

Now more than ever, the world needs YOU. Not some watered-down, bastardized version of you. We need your gifts, your voice, and the YOU that God/Universe called you to be on this planet. Yep, some people won't get you, will hate and even vilify you. But then there's the rest of us, that crave exactly what you have to offer. That's the key to building a Noble Empire and living an inspired life in the process.

In a recent interview, singer-songwriter Midian talked about her rising fame, and how she's turned down offers to be something other than her True Self. In essence, the offers she'd been given hinged on her changing her sound, her style, and essentially everything that made her who she is.

You choose: quick cash or long-term satisfaction?

In an world that tries to glorify the price-fixing and strong-arming tactics of guys like Steve Jobs, it's clear that you could miss out on a lot of money if you don't compromise - and you could end up paying an even higher price when you do.

Don't get me wrong, there's  lot of money to be had in the short term...

  • If you're willing to say "no" to who you really are.
  • If you're willing to accept something less than your best self/life.
  • If you're willing to go with the industry "leader" because they've got sway.

But more and more, there's even MORE money/joy/satisfaction to be had on the long tail, as people are choosing long-term satisfaction and the ability to sleep peacefully at night over the short term gain that comes from compromising yourself.

"Independent" is the new "sexy"

From self-published authors to independent musicians (and everything in between), people are able to see and derive more value from going it on their own. Even 10 years ago, this was risky business. When Michael Buble approached David Foster about producing his first studio album, Foster admitted that he had no idea how to market his music - and challenged Michael to raise $500,000 to cover the production costs (which he did). Roughly 10 years later, he's sitting atop the charts with a style that's all his own (like it or not) - and a nice label deal to boot.

(Frankly, if I had a half a million bucks, what would I need David Foster for? I mean if Amanda Palmer can do it...)

If only someone would have reminded those "idiotic" e-book publishers that already spent millions to settle their cases. HarperCollins stood their ground until the day before the Apple ipad/ibookstore announcement. Then they buckled. Now, they're paying for it.

But at least Apple stood their ground, saying they never did anything wrong, and standing up for what they believe to be right - while everyone that compromised has settled. The courts will decide their fate, but the fact remains that there are those that stand firm, and those that compromise themselves.

Where are you compromising yourself?

Not just in your work, but in your life, in being your True Self? Where are you skirting what needs to be said, and dodging what needs to be done in the name of so-called "safety"? Now, I don't mean to berate compromise thus. There are valuable times to compromise... but NOT when it comes to your principles, morals, standards, or beliefs. Because when you compromise those, you compromise YOU.

Have you found yourself (or someone you know) compromising? What happened?  I'd love your comments, questions and feedback on compromise.

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