Dick Dale rages, music goes indie, and why you don't want a job

You Don't Want A Job

[As a special treat for BLFR readers I've invited writer Joel D Canfield to do a guest post, which fortuitously and propitiously coincides with the publication of his 10th book! — John]

You Don't Want A Job

For a short time in YouTube's early days there was a video of a fan asking Dick Dale a few questions after a show.

The chap was polite and Dick was gracious enough to allow him to video their conversation.

The fan asked how a musician could make it today. Dick stopped being gracious. Not at the fan, at the music industry.

I won't pretend I can quote his response verbatim, but Dick Dale, the man who invented surf guitar and helped Leo Fender blow up a boatload of amplifiers, made it very clear that working with a record company was a way to jump into a bottomless pit. With each album, he said, you'd owe them even more intellectual property.

Keep recording, keep working, he said, and they'll own you.

Then, finger in the camera's face, he leaned forward and shouted angrily, "And you'll never see a nickel!"

Trending Indie

It's not hard to find bands who've avoided that scene entirely. More and more musicians simply opt to record and release their music without involving a corporate middleman.

Technology, specifically the internet and advances in computer recording equipment, have made it feasible for bands to take their music straight to the fans, instead of waiting to be picked by a corporation.

Authors Take Note

As a writer, I've never wanted a publishing contract. I've independently published 10 books, with half a dozen more in the works. I won't surrender the control and profit which I'd certainly give up if I were picked by traditional publishing.

I'm doing all the marketing either way. Why should they choose what my cover looks like? Why should they have the final say over editing? Why should they decide whether it's ever released for Kindle?

Traditional publishing is driven by money, not artistic excellence or an altruistic desire to help authors spread their personal gospel.

Picture This Scene

losing your gripWalking along a mountain path, you slip — and go right over the edge. Your hired guide grabs your hand. Whew! Safety.

Then, he starts to slip.

Look into his eyes. Imagine it. This is no lifelong friend, no loved one, no trusted ally. Your only relationship is money.

When he starts to slip, would you rather be hanging from his hand, or hanging onto something with your own?

We Are Over the Edge

The economy has pushed most of us to the edge. Some have gone right over.

Those who were hanging by their employer's hand often discovered, too late, that their employer wasn't going to risk hanging onto them when they started to slip themselves.

I contend that self-employment is preferable to having a job because the more control we assume over our finances, the lower our risk and greater our reward.

In my utopian dream everyone takes responsibility for themselves as an entrepreneur, freelancer, contractor. No one has all their money eggs in a single basket.

It Can't Happen Here

On Frank Zappa's 1966 album Freak Out there's a track entitled It Can't Happen Here. That's also the entire lyrical content: It can't happen here repeated over and over in various voices and tones.

Folks who still have a job have been doing a cover of Zappa's song far too long. They pull out every reason in the book.

  • "They're good people; they'd never do that to me."
  • "I'm indispensable."
  • "I need the security of a regular paycheck!"
  • "I'll jump when I have to."

Deep inside, you know that, when it comes right down to it, no employer is going to put your needs ahead of their own. No job provides true financial security.

The Age of the Job is Over

Jobs are an artifact of the industrial revolution. Factories needed human cogs to keep the machinery of progress running.

The job, as we know it now, didn't exist for the first 99.9% of human history.

It's a nonsensical arrangement that no longer suits. While transitioning huge corporations to a purely entrepreneurial and freelance basis is today an idealistic dream, it's also inevitable.

Our children and grandchildren already reject the idea of sitting in a cubicle all day, putting all their financial eggs in a single basket. More and more young people are striking out on their own.

Within two or three generations, they'll look back at an era where a person only had one employer and shake their heads.

Better to Leap Than Be Pushed

Your job is not secure. Any time the bottom line dictates, you're history.

Better to start sorting out Plan B right now than thinking you'll sort it out that Monday morning after you're called into HR for your pink slip.

Seth Godin's free ebook The Bootstrapper's Bible is a smart and practical explanation of how to leap before you're pushed. (My book, You Don't Want a Job: Why Self-Employment Reduces Your Risks & Increases Your Rewards, explains why to leap before you're pushed.)

That horse under you, like a dinosaur, is already dead, and just doesn't know it yet.

If you've got a job, start planning for the day you don't.

If you don't have a job, you have my deepest sympathy. I've been there, and spent the past six years digging out of that hole.

Overall, it took me 25 years to realize that I don't want a job.

Do you have 25 years?

You Don't Want A JobAbout the author:
He may have taken a knock to the noggin in his leap off the hedonic treadmill, but Joel D Canfield still manages to string sentences together most days. Though he pays the bills as a web developer (self-employed, of course) he's managed to write and self-publish his 10th book, released this month. Its cheeky title is You Don't Want a Job and he believes every word of it.

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  1. Good post, Joel. A noticeable upgrade in the quality of writing on this blog (but hopefully nobody will notice).

    I've been working for myself my whole life (as a musician and as a consultant) except for a brief time in the 80s. Even when I appeared to be working for others I was usually a self-employed contractor, which gave me a lotta freedom. (Then there was one summer, age 12, when I was a paper boy delivering the Boston Globe every morning. Couldn't take the early hours though.)

    Yeah, I can't imagine it any other way.

  2. Well, I got to deliver the paper in the relatively pleasant environs of Arlingon, MA (a working class suburb of Boston) but pedaling up the monster hills almost killed me. And getting up at 5:45 am was ultimately the deal-breaker. That experience made the musician's lifestyle — which I adopted eight years later — all the more appealing.

    1. I'm a sissy: I delivered an afternoon paper.

      But what really killed it for me was that on Sunday, the afternoon paper went out in the morning. (And we wonder why the newspapers are struggling.)

  3. You're mostly preaching to the choir on this blog, I would guess, but let me play devil's advocate. Lots of folks have a family, 4 kids, and 2 dogs to support, they're not financially independent, and they don't have a lot of start-up time to strike out on their own and build a business. (Not to mention the possibility that the safety net in the US anyway may gradually get defunded.) Under those circumstances if you CAN get a job, why not take it?

    1. Hank, if I were in that situation (oh wait; I was) if a job was offered, I'd take it.

      And then I'd spend EVERY FREE MOMENT building my own business.

      I'll take issue, though, with your linking "financially independent" with "time to strike out on their own and build a business."

      I started my current business when my wife had almost died and needed round the clock care, which I had to provide because our insurance didn't cover it. Then, I lost my job, because the company went out of business. (A medium sized business nearly 20 years old.)

      So, I had an extremely fragile wife, a 2-year-old and a 17-year-old who couldn't work for a living, debt, and zero income. In a rented house. In California. (If you've never lived there, you don't know what expensive is.)

      THAT'S the situation I was in when I started my business.

      So I sorta roll my eyes just a bit when people come up with reasons they should just take a job instead of starting a business. I was shoved from an airplane with a silkworm instead of a parachute, and 6 years later, we're still living indoors and eating regularly.

      Truly not trying to be argumentative. Just trying to show that I'm not talking through my hat. I am the second least-ambitious human being I've ever known. (The least ambitious was a guitarist I knew who could, no kidding, keep up with Clapton, Vaughan, and Hendrix.)

      If I can do this, I believe that the reason most people don't is because they choose not to, not because they can't.

      Side point: er, no, scratch that. Great big main point: IT DOESN'T MATTER whether you want to or not. The age of the job is over. You can leap, or wait to be pushed. Leaping is better. Being pushed often results in falling down, hard.

      Hank, I love it when someone pushes back with an honest question. Yours is one that gets asked often. I know it's worth discussing and I appreciate you bringing it up on behalf of the other handful of folks who wondered, but didn't ask.

  4. I had both morning and afternoon paper routes.
    Dick Dale RULES!! Yes, he was Leo's guinea pig, Dick would test what Leo built, and if it didn't blow up and passed Dick's strenuous scrutiny, Leo put it into production.

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