Canadian Musician - May-June 2022 - Page 27

Are You Standing Still or Still Standing ?


By Steve Kenny

We ’ re two years into this new world we are living in , which is hard to believe . It really doesn ’ t seem like that long ago we were all scrambling , getting home safe from tours , canceling shows , and holding tight for “ a few weeks .” A few weeks turned into a few months and now a few years . Holding tight made sense at the star ; none of us knew what was going on . It was easy to fall into that habit and continue to stand still while we waited this out . If it still feels like you ’ re standing still , though , it may be time to reassess .

For the most part , if you ’ re standing still , it is a passive action . You ’ ve stopped and are waiting for things around you to change so you can react . If you ’ re standing still , you are in reactionary mode . You are not actively loo king for the way forward – you are waiting for a sign to point you in the right direction .
If you are still standing though , it implies an active choice . You ’ ve made the decision despite all of the obstacles to stand tall and hold your ground . I know I might just be playing with semantics here , but I think there is an important distinction .
If I can offer one piece of advice as we pass the two-year mark of this new world , here it is : If you feel like you are just standing still , waiting for things to be “ normal ” again , it may be time to make a choice . You may find out that it was the wrong one , but at least you were an active participant on the journey and not just along for the ride . Making the wrong choice is a great way to make better choices in the future .
Was the pandemic a really good reason to stand still for a time ? Sure . And while it was one that we all universally shared , it ’ s no different than the hundreds of other reasons we constantly come up with to stand still , to hold back on our big ideas until the time is right . I need more time . I need more money . I need a bigger team . I need a smaller team . If I only got that grant . If I only connected with so-and-so . If only the time was right . It never will be , though , and that ’ s great , it frees you up from having to wait for the right moment and instead just act .
If you ’ re still standing , you ’ ve weathered the storm — now it ’ s time to take action , make the choice , and grow . Whether that means growing bigger or smaller , it ’ s your choice , but you already know which way you want to go , so go for it .
When the pandemic first hit , most of us decided to stand still — to wait things out until they got back to “ normal .” It became easy to stay in this position . Over time though , choices need to be made and you can only stand still for so long . Eventually you have to move , you need to grow either bigger or smaller . Neither is better than the other , as long as you know which one you are trying to do and not just doing what you think you should be doing .
I know many artists who , even pre-pandemic , were making choices to purposely grow smaller . The allure of big tours with big bands and big budgets just didn ’ t make sense anymore . The added stress and pressure that comes with those things wasn ’ t worth the toll — mentally , physically , and emotionally . The pandemic forced everyone to re-examine how they do things and growing smaller has been a much better option for many people .
I know many artists who made the decision during these times to grow bigger . To really invest in the things that were working for them and find exciting new ways for them to work . More music , more recordings , fostering community online . It was an active decision to grow bigger and for many this has paid off — mentally , physically , and emotionally .
I also know many artists who have decided to just stand still , to wait this out until things get “ better .” And while I try my best not to judge other people ’ s decisions , it is hard not to hope these folks will find the reason to make a decision , one way or the other . It takes a lot of energy to stand still — mentally , physically , and emotionally .
Steve Kenny is a recovering musician turned artist manager , a transition some refer to as “ turning to the dark side .” He is the co-founder of Traverse Music Management and author of The Ascender , a resource for artists looking to grow their career in an effective and sustainable way . www . traversemusic . ca / theascender .