Maverick Musician Musings
By Shanta Paloma
This is the low-down…. It ain’t so easy, sometimes, being a musician. There is literally no job security. We get no sick time, no vacation pay, no retirement plans. I have spent the past 11 years supporting myself as an independent woman living alone, as a professional musician. I’ve done everything and anything when it comes to employment as I scaffolded myself to working strictly as a musician. I have been a music teacher, working 6 days/week between pretty much every music store & school in The Pioneer Valley, MA. I have even designed, pitched and facilitated music classes, making jobs for myself. In the past few years, I’ve performed professionally on a regular basis, having several residencies. At my pique – 3 regular gigs a week at a rate high enough that I have had my own badass apartment.
As a professional musician, I have played hundreds of cover songs for 3-4hrs at a time for whatever crowds were at all the restaurants, bars, festivals, parties, boat trips, events, fundraisers and big shows in my region. I can play Stairway to Heaven, November Rain and Sweet Home Alabama. I can figure out a Taylor Swift song in 60 seconds. I can then teach that song to 5 year girl oldor a 65 year old man. I can play Sublime & Jack Johnson for drunk dudes at bars. I can play Lady Gaga, Madonna, Rihanna & Paula Abdul for bears. I can play both Melissa of both Etheridge & Ferrick variety. I can play anything a woman is expected to know – Fiona Apple, Sheryl Crow, Jewel, Hole, 4 Non Blondes, No Doubt… I can play Scottish Folk Songs, Bossa Nova Jazz Standards and Spanish Classical.
The learning I gained from teaching & performing has been wonderful because now I can quickly play the stuff I love listening to – Bright Eyes, She Wants Revenge, The Cure, Lovage, Atmosphere, The Darkness, Bjork and Portishead. Honestly, life is GRAND because when I fall in love with a song, I get to put it on and wear it around. I get to know songs intimately. I get to use what I learn from them in my own creativity, writing a song a month for the past two years. By the way, I have been playing the very first performance of these songs for my longest running residency – Bishop’s Lounge in the quirky town of Northampton, Massachusetts.
While doing all this, I have also gotten myself a Master’s Degree in Social Work from one of the top schools of its kind. I am a free-spirited musician, but despite stereotypes, I work hard. Moreover, I have had a total of 5 days vacation in eleven years. I’m not complaining – it is a Labor of Love! All my life choices have come straight from my heart. A gypsy soul has gotta do what a gypsy soul has gotta do. And she does it!!
The only thing that has been spiritually painful in the past 11 years is that I LOVE traveling and meeting new people. But alas! Getting the time to do this has seemed to be a big challenge for a self-employed artist. It saddens me because I love the sharing hearts and minds with different people. I love new perspectives and I embrace diversity. (Perhaps there is so much variety in my music?! Haha). I want to learn from so many people in other parts of the world that it hurts to not travel. If you and I have never met, I want to meet you.
The other thing that has been hard for me is that most every time I have gotten a “real” job, in an attempt at some financial security, The Universe throws me back to my One True Love ~ Music. I have worked as a secretary in a law office and as a Forensic Clinician in the county jail, but the only thing that really makes sense to me is writing & performing music. Don’t get me wrong ~ I am grateful for all my experiences, positive and negative. They have enriched my mind and my art. But life keeps grabbing me by the shoulders, spinning me around, spanking me on my tush and saying “Shanta ~ go write songs.”
The question is ~ how does one sustain themselves as a singer-songwriter in this day and age? I do fairly well as a professional performer and I am working towards bigger licensing/publishing agreements. But still, these days, more than ever, we artists need to create something out of nothing , in order to survive.
Whether you are a musician or not, you may have heard that the music industry has changed. Artists no longer get scooped up by a record label by playing a lot of shows. Nope. The audience is at home watching Youtube.
Moreover, the current DIY musician business model is ever evolving, at an exponential rate. As soon as we figure out a “formula,” the game rules change. As soon as we get a hold of a social media platform, we see it change right in our hands.
In other words ~ there is no right way to do this. There is just your own way. And my way?! My way is to share my talents freely…. My Way is to share my bliss with you, in the hopes of entertaining you in some way. If I can help somebody feel some catharsis… feel validated… release some emotion… feel understood… smile… dance… sing…. be inspired… use me as a model of a woman doing her thang… Well, then I am serving humanity. The thing is ~ happy people are more apt to be kind & strong in a happy moment. Let’s share Happy, Let’s share Sad. Let’s share all the feelings we have ever had.
I do share myself freely and I watch the Universe reward me in wonderful ways. It has really been quite *magical.* Maybe money is not the only currency because I live like a Queen on a pauper’s budget. I believe is is all because of the perspectives that I entertain.
When it comes to how to “sell” my music, My Way might be unconventional. I mean, I am a woman suddenly taking-off and going to 27 major cities and national landmarks across the country to give spontaneous concerts, for free. But as weird as that may be, who would turn it down?
Perhaps it is strange for a woman to travel as a lone wolf. Perhaps it is maverick of me to put aside all the systematic methods most indie musicians employ. Well, I have collected and read pretty much every blog from CDBaby, TAXI, Music Industry How To, SonicBids, The Indie Bible, MusicSubmit, BMI (and the list goes on….) since 2006. I’ve employed their strategies and I’ve successfully worked my regional music scene, gaining local success. (For a list of accomplishments, visit www.shantapaloma.com/thequickanddirty). But something needed to change…
A month ago, I went to an intensive meditation retreat. Having observed Noble Silence for 5 straight days, it came to me. My body burst with energy. BOOM! I realized that I wanted to go cross country and play at every cool place that would like what I have to offer! And I wanted to videotape it! Yes!! This Maverick Musician is going on The Guerrilla Gigs Tour Across The United States of America! And she is doing it NOW!!
The tour will be documented because this is a journey and a dream that many people would love to take. We can live it together via the fastest and most direct route of communication around the world – social media. Youtube, in particular. So there I will be — documenting and sharing my adventure. Subscribe to my channel.
Another reason I want to entertain others (and not just play songs in my hotel room or campsite) is that people hear messages for social change more easily, when they are seduced with entertainment. There are issues that I am passionate about. NOBODY in this world should be going hungry, homeless and without access to education, health care and all those basic security needs. We have more than enough resources for every human being to have the two bottom tiers of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs taken care of (i.e. Food, Shelter, Safety etc…) And, it is my belief that we are way too collectively aware and educated about our universe for all the hate crimes & prejudicial policies that still, unfortunately, exist & oppress. We are all human, more alike than we are different. NOBODY in this world should have to feel discriminated against because of their race, sex, gender, religion etc….
That being said, I am proud to say that 10% of any contributions to my kickstarter campaign at www.GoFundMe.com/ShantaPaloma2015, will be donated to Oxfam International. (www.oxfam.org). I respect their work and have been donating a percentage of proceeds from my debut album since 2013. Your contributions to me will also be contributions to OXFAM.
My way of serving people with the pleasures of music is to just go across the great land and share my songs straight from my heart to the hearts of the people I meet. Will I see you on the road?! Want to jam?!
Follow The Guerrilla Gigs Tour on www.Youtube.com/ShantaPaloma. *Subscribe* to be notified every time I post another video! I have a waterproof sports camera that attaches to a helmet because I plan on videotaping pretty much constantly!
Many performances will be spontaneous and the dates I arrive in each city is subject to change. So check www.ShantaPaloma.com/Tour-dates often.