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I’m Irrelevant — And I’m Fine With That


KeithLI ran into some music business folks the other day. We talked a lot about nurturing young talent in music and how cool it is when a up-an-coming act really digs in and learns about songwriting craft, arrangement and applies it to their art. To me, what’s important is (in this order), the quality of the songs, the arrangement, the musical performance and stage presence. There’s nothing better than an act that’s hitting on all those cylinders!

Personally, I’ve spent years of my life involved in bringing new talent up. I’ve taught scores of engineers and producers technical skills, engineered/produced acts and given recording classes to singer/songwriters. I’ve been on the receiving end too. I’ve taken songwriting workshops, vocal lessons, guitar lessons… People have given me gigs with nothing in it for them, offered advice and help and lent me their gear.

For such a cut-throat industry, there are a lot of helpful people in it 🙂

But the other night, I ran into something I’d never experienced before. Before I talk about it, have you seen this video of the old guy throwing away his canes and dancing?

It’s cute, right? Most of us like to celebrate when someone triumphs over limitations.

But are you going to hire him as a dancer? Probably not. He’s not being taken seriously as a dancer (I’m sure that’s not his goal).

I’ve been marginalized

But I’ve seen the same attitude toward me (and others in the industry). It happened to me the other night. People think it’s cool that I’m out there playing original music in my mid-50s. But they don’t take it seriously. It’s cute; like the old guy throwing away his canes. They think music is a young person’s game. The world is not exactly clamoring for the next 60 year-old rock star, are they?

But the problem doesn’t end there. Some people don’t take female songwriters seriously; others because a songwriter is too young. Female drummers and guitarists still get, “you’re pretty good for a girl” comments. Sexism, racism, ageism — you name it — it exists in music too. Talented musicians are being marginalized.

But it’s a different world now…

It used to be that being successful in music meant having a major record deal with one of a very few record labels. Selling 200,000 albums was considered a bust. Now, with just a few thousand fans, a musician can make a living. And there’s no gatekeeper in the way. A songwriter can record a song on their phone, in their living room and put it up on YouTube. Potentially, millions of people could see it (they won’t, but cutting through the noise is a separate problem).

I (and other musicians) don’t need to think about the people who would marginalize us. My music is irrelevant to billions of people. I’m fine with that. Let the pop stars worry about being “relevant”. As musicians and artists, we need to focus on the people who value what we do. If I can get enough of those people passionate about what I do, I’m golden. If not, that means I’m not good enough as either a musician or marketer.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.



About the Author

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Keith Livingston is a songwriter, musician, producer, and engineer, with roots in pop, rock, punk, classical and classics. Keith has more than a dozen CDs under his belt as a producer and/or engineer. Keith writes music about everything from science fiction and horror, to religious oppression, and of course love.

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