The Rules

As a musician I live by Lefsetz’ creative rules, more or less. Which are:

  • Be real. No lying. No pretending to be someone you're not. Fully inhabit the art.
  • Commit fully to the quality of the music
  • Be patient for success
  • You’re not in it for success, you’re in it for music.

But there are easy counter examples. Studio musicians do most of the performing for hit songs. And instrumentalists in general are mercenaries. The front person benefits from being a purist, but the band members need to be adaptable enough to play in a lot of bands.

Also, musicians past the age of seeking to be famous still want to play, and maturity has taught them that compromise is a lot better than not playing at all. If you love jazz piano, playing a lite version for money in an airport lounge is not awful. Just leave the grating Sun Ra riffs for another day and use the gig to indulge your Art Tatum.

The rule is that there are no rules. If the art works, the rules can change to include anything.

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