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April 17, 2013
How to Respond to Tragedy as a Musician
Like you, I was stunned and immensely saddened by the explosions that took place at the end of the Boston Marathon on Monday. So far I'm not aware of anyone I know who was at the scene or otherwise directly affected. But that really doesn't matter. When tragic events like this occur we are all affected in some manner.
And we each have different ways of reacting to and coping with disturbing displays of senseless violence. I mean, don't natural disasters wreak enough havoc on our lives? Why would certain individuals be so hard-pressed to ruin the lives of innocent people?
What can we do about it? And as a musical artist with a fan base to speak to, what can you do about?
Here are a few important aspects of this to consider:
1) Write a song about it. You're an expressive being. That's why you became an artist. So put that creative sensitivity to good use and channel your confusion and emotions into a song.
The song can be an obvious or not so obvious reference to Boston (or Sandy Hook, Aurora, Egypt, Israel, Baghdad, Kabul, etc.) Also, a song inspired by such an event doesn't have to be sad or political or only about loss. It can also be about the care and helpfulness on display by the majority of people when bad things happen. Choose an aspect of the tragedy that resonates with you and write it.
Doing that alone can be therapeutic for you, even if you never let anyone else hear it. But if you decide it's worthy of public consumption, share it. Your song just might touch and help a lot of other people too.
2) Do a fundraising event - if appropriate. Think this one through before you commit to it. An event to raise money for a cause should have a purpose and be very focused. With a natural disaster, it makes sense to raise money for widespread general purposes, such as the Red Cross. But with an event like the one in Boston, a more personal touch is best.
If you know a specific person who was injured or whose family is being adversely affected, having an event to raise money to cover their expenses would be a good one. The more specific and personal, the better.
3) Address it at your live shows. This week in particular you should think through how and if you will mention the Boston tragedy when you perform in public. And if you do bring it up, in what context will that be?
Here's my two cents ...
It's real easy in the aftermath of these senseless, unthinkable acts to feel angry. It might seem like a great outlet to vent your frustration by lashing out at whoever did this. You could create solidarity by whipping the crowd into a frenzy of "we're fed up" unity.
But is that the best use of your platform? Is anger the response you want to create among your tribe? Is revenge the feeling you want to leave your fans with?
I can't answer that for you. Only you can. But another option to consider is focusing on the goodness of people that is on display in horrific situations. Consider the mass of people who raced to help those in need on Monday. You could use your clout to generate more love and cooperation ... and less fear and hate.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying we should roll over and turn the other cheek. I'm all for the proper authorities tracking down exactly who did this and apprehending (or eliminating) them. But if I'm not in a position to do that myself, focusing on anger and frustration doesn't do me or anyone any good.
Again, it's your call. But I suggest you take a breath and get clear before expressing your views on tragic events - now and in the future.
4) Reference it online and by email. The same sentiments I expressed in the previous paragraphs apply to your online and electronic communication with fans. Think about the ultimate message you want to convey and the real feeling you want to leave people with. Is it one of sorrow? Grief? Hope? Change? Love?
There's no one right answer here. But thinking it through can make all the difference in the world.
When you're an artist with any amount of a fan base at all, you have a responsibility. Your words matter. People care what you think. You have the power to sooth people during tough times and help them get through it.
Don't take that power lightly.
With much love to you and yours,
-Bob Get more tips like these when you subscribe to my free Buzz Factor ezine — the longest running music career tips email newsletter on the planet. Since 1995. Learn more about the free subscription here.
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Bob Baker is an author, speaker, teacher, indie musician and former music magazine editor dedicated to showing musicians of all kinds how to get exposure, connect with fans, sell more music, and increase their incomes.
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