Fear, Exhaustion & One Artist’s Admission He Needs Crowdfunding Help

By | about 6 months ago
A lost job, mounting bills, one artist is determined to make his best music yet despite a world of setbacks.
2016-07-25-fear-of-crowdfunding

Next week I’m going to launch a crowdfunding campaign for my new album, No Weapon, and I’m terrified.

For a few years now people in my circle have been suggesting I do some crowdfunding but I’ve scoffed at the idea every time. I don’t know why I constantly refuse to ask for help. I think maybe deep down, under the thin layer of whatever phony rapper bravado I have left, my ego won’t allow me to admit that I can’t do this by myself.

During the third consecutive year of writing and recording this album, and as my studio expenses were nearing the $10,000 mark, I lost my job. At this point in my life, losing my job was like standing at ground zero as a massive financial asteroid crashed dead center between my eyes. Forget about making music, my lifeline had been cut off and just surviving however many months before I could find a new job was going to be a struggle.

It was then that the crowd funding suggestion first came up through a friend of mine, and I immediately shrugged it off. Instead, I opted to eat cereal and peanut butter sandwiches three times a day for two months straight while I scraped the money together to continue recording. I have no idea how I did it, but I managed to keep the album rolling along while paying my rent and bills, and one year later, I hit the finish line with the best album I’ve ever made.

It took four years to make No Weapon. It’s dizzying to think about where it began and where it ended. This album has seen me through a break up, a new home, a lay-off (and subsequent exit from the corporate world), a new relationship, a new job in the film industry, the beginning of my life as a stepfather and an engagement. When I listen to the songs I can hear different periods in my life. I can hear everything from the excitement of finding real love to the lows of scrambling to find money so I could buy a loaf of bread. There is one particular song on the album that I recorded on the day I lost the last $10 I had to my name. The anger and sadness in my voice still makes my stomach turn. It’s hard for me to listen to that one.

In the early summer of last year the final masters of the album were delivered and it was one of the lowest moments I’ve ever experienced. After months of pushing through a haze of hunger and self-doubt, what I came away with was a mush of sounds that didn’t resemble anything listenable. But in no way did I blame the engineer who did the first round of mixing and mastering on this album - he didn’t have the tools or the time to do the job properly. He was mixing on a pair of cheap headphones in my dining room as I stood behind him, obsessively combing over everything and making insane demands. In all honesty, I’m surprised he stuck with me as long as he did.

But in that moment, where I was at both artistically and in life, I had reached a breaking point. I hit the pause button on my phone, took off my headphones and buried my head in my pillow. I couldn’t believe that I had starved for this. I couldn’t believe after everything I had been through I was still no further ahead than if I would’ve just taken a break until things got better financially. I cried out of frustration and sadness. I was broke, starving and sitting on an album that sounded like it was being played through a tin can.

As the months rolled by I got a new job at a movie studio and picked myself up from the ashes again. I reconnected with my first engineer and producer from my early days of making music and handed the album over to him. For nine months he stripped down and rebuilt every song. We went through multiple mixes and tried everything we could to bring these songs to life. This guy literally bent over backwards to reinvigorate my vision - and he did it on a super mega homie deal. For what I was paying him, he worked at a relentless pace on a sweatshop salary. Words can’t describe how grateful I am for what he did and I don’t think I will ever be able to reciprocate the dedication or energy he put into my album for virtually no other reason than for the love of the music. If there’s anybody who deserves credit for this album, it’s him. Without Jason “Roswell” Garner, No Weapon wouldn’t exist.

In May, when the final masters were delivered to me and I crawled across the finish line for a second time, I became aware of yet another bill that would halt the release of the album. It wasn’t a huge sum of money, but after spending over $10,000 making the album then buying an engagement ring and saving for my wedding, it was just enough to set me back again. I needed to release the album in order to pay for this bill with the sales, but that would not be possible.

Fuck.

That’s when a crowdfunding campaign became less of a suggestion and more of a reality. This time there was nowhere to turn, if I had to pay this bill on my own the album release would undoubtedly be pushed back again.

DOUBLE FUCK.

Around this same time, an opportunity to hire a publicist for this album arose but of course I couldn’t afford it. For my entire career since my first album, a publicist is something I’ve so desperately needed but it just wasn’t in the budget. Everything that I had accomplished, all of the support I had received from the blogs and websites, it was all done completely on my own. But I could only get so far doing it by myself. There were so many doors that were closed to me and so many channels that I couldn’t access without proper representation. Having somebody who could open these doors and bring me to the world at large was a necessity.

So I decided to mute my ego and jump into the crowd funding pool once and for all. I have to take this shot. This may be my last opportunity to take a calculated risk and the reward is more than worth it. I will pay the last remaining recording bill out of my pocket if there is a slight possibility that I can hire the person who can finally push me through the doors I’ve been standing in front of all these years.

But what if I fail?

That nagging feeling of self-doubt keeps tugging at the back of my mind. I’m not afraid of failure. I’ve failed in life more than I have succeeded. The fear really derives from the idea of failing publicly in front of the people who never believed in me and proving them right. This is a fate that I cannot fathom.

I don’t know what it is about Vancouver, but this place seems to breed more naysayers than anywhere I’ve ever been. Anytime somebody tries to do something out of the ordinary, it feels like there is a collective cynicism amongst the community around them. I’ve heard it so many times, “You know, this person is in a band still,” or, “That person still thinks they’re gonna become a famous artist.” Every time I’ve heard it, I know the minute my back is turned they say the same things about me. Maybe it’s the same way all over the world and I just haven’t spent enough time anywhere else, but the lack of goals and aspirations amongst these people is depressing. It’s as if they let the sun set on their own dreams and so they take offense at the prospect of somebody else pursuing something outside of what’s readily available to them.

Failing in front of these people would be torture. Just the thought of it makes me cringe. I’ve been so dedicated to beating the odds for so long that to have to admit that I’ll never “make it” in front of them might make me spontaneously burst into flames.

I am the underdog, I know that. If this were a UFC fight the odds against me would be so astronomical that I probably shouldn’t even show up to the arena. The likelihood of my finding success with music at any time in my life isn’t great, but I have to take this one giant leap of faith to see if it can be done. If Buster Douglas can knock out Mike Tyson, then I can raise enough money to hire a publicist and have my day in the sun.

I haven't given up yet, I just need to take my most fearless step yet and ask for help. 

By Jason James, an artist, freelance columnist and writer. You can listen/download his most recent album, "Pyramids in Stereo." You can also contact him here and here.

Photo Credit: Facebook

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