The Learning Curve Is Steep

There’s so much I don’t know about this industry. Sometimes, I feel like it’s the first day of a foreign language class where the teacher only speaks in that exotic tongue, and you’re left to infer and imply – picking out words you understand and going with those for now. The learning curve is steep, but it’s definitely manageable, and how better to learn a language than to immerse yourself in it. Welcome to Nashville, I guess.

I feel like I know a lot about music. I can write a song that’s catchy. I can play guitar pretty well. But, music is half the battle – if not less – and the acronyms are staggering:  BMI, ASCAP, SESAC – all of which are technically the same thing, but different in so many ways. It’s easy to get caught up in the jargon and start just sort of nodding your head – like you’re seeing the words on a page, but not really understanding them. I guess what I’m saying is there’s a reason schools offer majors in music business: being an artist – especially a freshman in the field – is definitely not just sitting around writing songs and playing guitar all day.

Like I said, the learning curve is steep. Research, current events, and law are all part of the Nashville artist curriculum, and I promise you bioengineering does not correlate. It’s an entirely different field. Math – doesn’t matter. Physics – doesn’t matter. English – barely matters. With that being said, I wouldn’t trade my degree in engineering for a music business degree in the same way that I would rather learn Italian by living in Italy for a year than by learning it through a textbook.

The practical approach to learning skills is always so much better – and so much more applicable. I don’t know if it’s a generational thing, but I’d bet that few of us still read the manuals to any new thing – well, unless you’re building some IKEA furniture. We learn by doing. We learn by living. And, sure, you could make the argument that it’s a bad thing: we make mistakes. We live on a Bible of rules of thumb and heuristic principles that do the job most of the time – but maybe not all of the time.

Of course, I wouldn’t want to hire an engineer or a doctor who lives by that code of maybes – in a world where set laws of nature govern how, when, and why things will do what they do. But, music – and Nashville – isn’t that world. There’s no set path that people can point to and say, “This is what works. Do this, and you’ll make it.” All they can really say is, “Well, it worked in the past,” or “Well, this worked for me.” Sure, it helps to know the terms and have some schooling, so you’re not looking at a dictionary every two seconds, but you don’t get fluent by reading a book – you do it through immersion. So, here I am in Nashville – learning.