Posted: Mar 11, 2019
Category: Giving Back
**Guest post written by Jamie Wyman, singer-songwriter and Executive Director of The Great Blue Song Project.
"You are a musical superhero. How many times have you heard people say, “I always wanted to learn to play the guitar” or, “I wish my parents made me practice the piano when I was a kid”? You are one of the few who followed through. And now that you have nurtured your musical superpower, you must use it for good. (This includes you, death metal music maker.) Here are five ways you can use your musical powers for good:
Be brave. Be vulnerable. The scariest topic for you to share is probably the one that will connect the best with your audience. If you’re a songwriter, you’ve probably already done this. If you are a musician but not a songwriter, give it a shot. You don’t have to share it with the world, but your voice is important. Writing your song could help someone feel less alone and make a huge difference in the course of their day. This is the gift of music — connection. Songwriter Harlan Howard said: “Country music is three chords and the truth.” Start with three chords and your truth, no matter what genre you love.
If you are a songwriter, you have a superpower even more powerful than x-ray vision or invisibility. You can take an experience or an emotion and turn it into a work of art that will strike a chord with someone else (pun intended). Songs are stories that reach beyond our intellectual brain and speak to something more primal. Words are great, but music adds dimension.
If someone you know is struggling with life, reach out and offer to use your songwriting powers for good. Maybe you have a friend who is depressed. Maybe your best friend lost a parent. Maybe a co-worker had a string of unfortunate events (my wife left me and my dog died…a country song?!). As a songwriter, you KNOW how important the songwriting process is for working through big challenges and crappy days. Spend some time asking your friend about his/her challenge and turn it into music. The beauty of this process is that you get to listen deeply, bear witness, and translate the problem instead of attempting to fix it. This is usually what people need — someone to simply hear and acknowledge their struggle.
If you want some help to begin the conversation, you can join our email list at The Great Blue Song Project and we will send you our Starter Questions Worksheet.
With a great microphone comes great responsibility. Even if you have a crappy microphone and two people in your audience, you have the power to use your words and song choices to help others. What’s your cause? Do you love animals or the environment? Do you have a family member who died of AIDS or lives with schizophrenia? Chances are that someone has already written a song that speaks to the topic. All you have to do to pick up the torch is cover it and say a few words to raise awareness. You might even make a deeper connection with your audience this way. Your voice gives someone else the permission to use their voice too.
You know that issue that means so much to you — puppies, global warming, or people? Go one step further and pick a night (or every night) to donate a percentage of your tips to a charity that is dedicated to the cause. This not only gives you the warm fuzzies, but it is also a great reason to point out that you have a tip jar. An added bonus is that you can get a tax write-off if you donate to a 501(c)(3) charity. Every profitable business owner (that’s you) could use more of these. The charity might even use their email list or social media to send people to your gigs. Doesn’t giving feel good?
Even superheroes have to eat. As musicians, we often get asked to play for “exposure.” The more we agree to this, the more people will give us offers of exposure. There are many good causes out there and it can be hard to put boundaries on this, especially if you have a big heart. (And if you’re still reading, you have a big heart.) Collectively, we need to put the “starving artist” archetype to rest. We create the soundtracks to people’s lives: we are there for birth, graduation, marriage, sickness, and death. No one expects doctors, teachers, or wedding officiants to do their jobs for free all the time.
We cannot give our best to others if we are hungry, homeless, or drowning in debt. If you’re just starting out and you need practice in front of an audience, you may consider giving your time and talent for free while you hone your craft. If you’ve been gigging for a few years, it’s time to put some boundaries on your giving. Pick 2 or 3 events per year that are most closely aligned with the causes you care about. When the fourth person in line asks for free music, tell them you have already chosen your charity concerts for the year and you can consider performing for their event next year. The best way to use your musical powers for good is to keep making music. If you burn out on exposure, we will never get to hear your genius."
Jamie Wyman is a singer-songwriter, speaker, and Executive Director of The Great Blue Song Project. Jamie spent the early part of her career advocating for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. She now uses her musical powers to help people who are coping with illness and grief. Find out more at www.TheGreatBlueSongProject.org.
Related Blog Posts: