The Ultimate Sell-Out
While training the new staff at our first-ever Sonos Store, I asked, “How many of you are in a band or are musicians?” Almost all of them raised their hands. That means that for most of them, Sonos is their day job. Like any musician, they’re dreaming it will be their last. What advice could I possibly give them as someone who turned her day job into a career?
Well, first, that I once shared their dream. When I was a line cook, record store clerk, barista, etc., I remember that day jobs always came with a tinge of humiliation. A little bit of, “this isn’t really me, what I should be doing, what I’m capable of…” For me, the most humiliating day job was not the one that required me to clean the toilets at the end of the night. It was the one that took me back to my small southern women’s college in Decatur as an (egad!) staff member. Specifically, I was the Student Activities Coordinator responsible for arranging undergrad mixers, playing matchmaker to sorority types, and booking the entertainment. After having been such a star student, I could just hear my professors saying to themselves, “What happened? So much potential! Tsk tsk.”
I swallowed my pride for the great pay, reasonable hours, and health insurance. And then I discovered the budget! Wow- so much cash to pay bands! I booked them in the auditorium, the amphitheater, even with peach cobbler in the date parlor. There was Catpower when she was still Chan and working at Fellini’s; there was the now-famous-artist Roe Ethridge’s band, Joybang. Goodie Mob played with their then lesser known friends Outkast, and Suge Knight showed up– just days after he was rumored to have shot Tupac! Ken Vandermark and Hamid Drake came down from Chicago and suddenly Jazz Studies wasn’t history, it was now! I paid them all well. I made a little money myself. Meanwhile I used the office photocopier to make my band fliers, and the office fax and email to land a record deal with the label of our dreams.
I had hoped that deal would be the end of day jobs for me too. But it wasn’t. The years that came after- writing, recording, rehearsing and touring- were always accompanied by day jobs. After six years, four albums, and at least as many jobs, I actually longed for a simple life where all I HAD was a day job. An easy job that might leave the world a little better than I found it. That’s what I set out for.
Here’s what I learned along the way:
First, if you’re looking for something easy, you might as well give up.
I remember cleaning up while hearing Chan sing, what took many more years to register:
“Never give up no, never give up
If you’re looking for something easy
You might as well give it up”
Second, there is no end to day jobs. EVERYONE has one. Trent Reznor made more on his deal with Apple music than he ever made on his music. If you’re very lucky it will be completely related to what you do best.
Finally, the most you can hope for is that you bring as much of yourself to the work you do every day as humanly possible, that the thing you most enjoy making is the thing that makes you money, and that you’re in an environment where you can make that thing as good as it can possibly be. That last one may sound cliché, but it takes chops, courage, tenacity and support to deliver a creative vision without compromises.
That’s why the new Sonos Store at 101 Greene Street in New York is so special for me. We didn’t ask each other to settle or sell-out. We took the creativity and vision of a few, combined it with the determination and hard work of many, and we’ve ended up with the very best home for music we could make.
Ultimately there’s only one thing that’s worth selling out for: it’s the balance between earning a living and living a fulfilled live.
What makes that balance changes over time for each of us in ways impossible to predict. When I first heard Paid In Full, I never imagined someday going to work, finding that balance, and seeing Rakim there. I’m going to do that tomorrow, and I’m still going to be thinking of a master plan every step of the way…
“But now I learned to earn cause I’m righteous
I feel great so maybe I might
Just search for a 9 to 5
If I strive then maybe I’ll stay alive
So I walk up the street, whistling this
Feeling out of place cause, man, do I miss
A pen and a paper, a stereo, a tape of
Me and Eric B and a nice big plate of
This, which is my favorite dish
But without no money it’s still a wish
Cause I don’t like to dream
About getting paid
So I dig into the books of the
Rhymes that I made
So now’s a test to see if I got pull
Hit the studio, cause I’m paid in full”
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