Early in 2014 I took on a commission to write a book about the music industry in the 21st century.
I’ve never written a book. Oh, I’ve tried! But as Rachel (mother of the pop star who lives in my house) never tires of telling me, I’m not a completer-finisher.
‘Completer-finisher’ was a term I’d never heard till we got together, and frankly, I wish I never had. Labels, once attached, have a tendency to be self-fulfilling.
When I was a kid, constantly injuring myself (including breaking both my wrists in two separate accidents) my mother told me I was ‘accident prone’. To an eight-year-old that sounded like ‘a thing’. I thought I was doomed to a life of breakages, bruises and bandaging.
This belief was compounded age 11 when I lost the sight in my left eye, playing with swords backstage at the school production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Princess Ida. (This was back in the Irony Age, before Health & Safety was invented).
In due course, I found a cure for ‘accident prone’ syndrome. It wasn’t hard. I just learnt to take care, watch where I was going, and understand my physical limitations.
‘Complete-finisher’ though – that’s harder.
I am a serial ‘starter’. Which is why, currently, there are five musical projects sitting on my hard drive in various states of undress.
Some are fully clothed, ready to hit the town. Others are virtually naked. Others still look slightly foolish in socks and underpants, unable to decide on smart-casual, or the fully suited and booted look.
When I say ‘project’, I mean album. So, five albums – that’s 60 tracks or more. Ask me why I don’t finish one track before starting another. Go on. I dare you.
I imagine most songwriters think, as I do, that the song they are currently writing is among the best they’ve ever written. Which is fine if you’re in a band, or have a record deal and can get in a studio with a producer and other musicians. You can go in the studio tomorrow and fully realise your song in two or three hours.
But if you’re me, you have to write them, record them, add all the instruments yourself, produce it, arrange it, engineer it and mix it. After a while the process gets in the way. Another song comes along, fresh as a daisy, so you hop on for the ride.
And that, my friends, is how you end up with 60-odd songs at various stages of development. Don’t give me ‘completer-finisher’.
And in any case, I finished the book. Yes I did. It’s now with the designer and in a week or so I’ll be reading the finished proofs from beginning to end, and then it will be let loose on unsuspecting teenagers with £6.99 to spare and a smartphone or tablet on which to download it.
My ‘book’ (which will be an App) might end up being the Brief History Of Time for wannabe music stars. We all bought Brief History, didn’t we? Nine million of us. But did we read it? No, we did not. Well, a few did, and came out none the wiser.
At least The Music Business is easy to read. Its ‘big bang’ (the invention of the phonograph) is not quite as complex as the beginning of the universe. And there are no black holes to explain (well, except, where did the artists’ money go?).
But would I care if even one million people buy it and no-one reads it?
There’s a lot of crap spouted about the music industry. And if you have the energy to go and check the ‘facts’ as reported by the media, you’ll find the internet an absolute cauldron of spite, inaccuracy, debt-settling and bungle-headed opinions.
I’ve spent 16 months reading and discarding this rubbish on your behalf. I’ve distilled 200 years of history and millions of internet words of advice into a book of somewhere between 80-100,000 words. (Yes, I lost count. So shoot me.)
I talked to people in the industry, some of whom were incredibly nice, and incredibly helpful. Others were mealy-mouthed and miserable. But all their wisdom, separated from their dross, is in there.
I suffered all this for you – well, you and the other 990,000 people I hope will buy it. So, funnily enough, yes – I do care if no-one reads it. I feel a bit like comedian Flip Wilson, who would finish his act by explaining to the audience why he’d like some applause; “a big hand”.
As he put it: “Damn right, I want a big hand. Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr want a big hand, and $10,000 a night too. All I want is a little old jive big hand.”
And while we wait for that big hand, life slowly returns to what passes for ‘normal’ in my world. Hopefully, for instance, this blog may pick up pace again. And if I can stifle my natural instincts, perhaps I’ll work on one song at a time, till I’ve finished each project.
But am I going to become the consummate ‘completer-finisher’? Hmm. Sorry, Rachel. I seriously doubt it.