Leadership for Creatives in the New World
Posted by Francesca de Valence on Wednesday, October 07, 2020
As a musician, artist, creative, entrepreneur on your career path, there is an essential element of leadership involved in having that career. There is no defined career path. You have to lead it in many ways.
A lot of other careers have a ladder you can climb up, a path that’s predefined in many ways. You finish studying, join a graduate program for 3 years, become a junior, senior… You can envision the path to your dream job that many people have paved the way before you, so you can gratefully follow in their footsteps.
With the music industry, there is no career ladder. You don’t finish studying music and then get a job and work your way up to success. That’s not a thing. And studying music in a formal way doesn’t guarantee you any opportunities. Those who do study music, finish their studies and are completely lost as to what to do next. There is no clarity, support or guidance. Just a lot of confusion, muddiness and uncertainty, and a significant lack of work.
I’m someone who sets out to do something knowing that I’m committed to seeing it through to a level of completion and success. That’s just who I am. When I decided I wanted to make music as my work in this world and share my creativity, I set about going to do that. And there was only one goal: success. That picture of success, to me, had been defined by the picture that my industry had painted of success: successful artists are artists who do world tours, are on commercial radio and sell millions of records. Are you with me?
When I finished my music studies, I very much felt that confusion, muddiness and uncertainty, and a significant lack of work. I knew I needed more clarity in order to achieve the success that I sought. So to gain that clarity and knowledge and understanding about the music industry, I attended music conferences, made meetings with people who I wanted to learn more from - unofficial mentors if you will, who were so burnt out themselves and didn’t have the time or space to really help anyone - recorded my songs, submitted to radio, festivals, competitions, anything, everything, played shows, toured locally, nationally (even internationally)...
But there were many things I didn’t feel okay about with my industry. I didn’t feel okay that everywhere I played music, people were selling and drinking alcohol. I didn’t feel okay with the 10pm work start times. I didn’t feel okay that it wasn’t always safe to walk back to my car after a gig. I didn’t feel okay with sound engineers ‘schooling me’ at gigs. I didn’t feel okay with venue managers confronting me in the carpark after load out. I didn’t feel okay with the amount of drugs around me. I didn’t feel okay with the things that I saw happening to other women around me. I didn’t feel okay with industry bodies that I was a member of only supporting certain people. I didn’t feel okay with the ageism, sexism, racism, genre-ism, elitism in the industry. I didn’t feel okay that creators weren’t financially valued in the creative industries. I didn’t feel okay that the industry was about big business headed by a select few gatekeepers.
I didn’t feel okay with who I would need to become to be successful in that industry. And my strong feelings about what I would have to become to be successful in that version of my reality, and how I refused to become that, all the whilst craving the same success, made me angry and bitter.
I saw the industry exactly for what it was. A system that was designed to disempower and deplete musicians, forcing us to compete with each other. It did nothing to bring people together, create community, uplift, empower, nurture and inspire people.
The lure of the success that I wanted was strong, but it was firmly locked beyond a gate. And the gatekeepers were very selective about who would be let in. No amount of asking for the keys to the gates or figuring out the passcodes would let me through. I would have to become someone who I’m not, and I wasn’t prepared to do that.
Out of desperation for change and sheer frustration, I stepped off the alluring and glittery path to music success (or what I thought that even was), side-stepping the iron gates still firmly locked, to a quiet grassy patch in the wilderness, and in this space, finally, I could breathe. In this space, there were trees, nature, sprawling expansiveness, nurturement, and not much else. In this space, I could nourish myself and create whatever I wanted - songs, community and more. In that open space, I gathered myself together, all my talents, skills, strengths, experience, expertise and I came back to my wholeness.
This is where I created something new and unique. Something that only I could create. And only from my place of wholeness. Something really sustaining for me, financially, spiritually, purposefully. What I created has become an abundant garden of possibilities for me and so many others. What I created has been the lifeblood for myself and so many struggling musicians over the past 6 years, and more significantly so, the past few months of extended isolation.
The goal post for me shifted from success to empowerment, fulfillment, self-love, thriving not surviving…
From where I stood at the iron gates of the music industry, I couldn’t see what was possible for me, I couldn’t see another reality. I couldn’t even imagine my beautifully growing garden.
For the past few months, I’ve been watching my dear friends and my music community angry at their industry. Perhaps they are just now seeing that the system was really never in support of them. They’ve had to suffer from the huge and devastating loss of livelihood as a result of a system that does not support them - a system that didn’t have a sustainable and renewable value foundation.
These musicians, who are still operating in that music industry reality, their future is muddy, uncertain and unclear. I talk to them. They are telling me this. That they don’t know what 2021 will bring for them. Venues are closing down, travel is locked down, how will they be able to tour? That has always been a main source of income for most musicians - playing live shows and touring.
They know creating music is their soul’s work. Sharing their skills, expertise, talents, and their message is their lifeforce. Making an impact on others is their purpose. They live for this and without this, they are not truly themselves.
I know that feeling well - it’s the same for me, and maybe the same for you. I still make and share music every single week. I’ve never stopped making and sharing music. Even though I don’t tour in the usual way and share it like the industry says I need to, I still make and share music every week. I write for practice, I write for myself as an artist, I write for fun, I write for my club, I write with other artists for their projects, I write with my co-writing pals in Nashville and many around Australia...
But I know many creatives are really struggling to do this. Some artists who I know - who do regularly tour and record - are so burnt out that they haven’t written and shared music all year. That’s 9 months that they haven’t written a song or shared one. They are depleted. Their lifeforce - creating and writing songs - is not flowing through them. They are empty with not much hope for the future of their industry.
Some other creatives who I spoke to back in March, knew it was the time to pivot and adapt, and take a leap to do something different. But they didn’t know what that could be. They wanted it to be creative, exciting, sustainable, something they could take on the road with them (when that’s a thing again). They were asking me how I did this years ago. How I took my purpose and created something so unique that I can continue to thrive and uplift.
So I told them. And have continued to share with them.
Since April, I have been sharing with and guiding a small group of creatives as to how they reclaim their financial and creative independence. And have been helping this group of creatives birth something really unique and beautiful into the world. Something that they only can create and share. Something that can make an impact in their lives and the lives of others. These hard-working, under-valued, creative artists who are in the middle of their career, have so much to offer our burgeoning new world.
It’s been big work for them - the work of true empowerment, leadership, openness - and it’s been big work for me too - leading some of the leaders of this new world we are creating.
I am excited to share with you one of the projects that has already launched and is starting to really take off. “The Ukulele Rockers” was something singer-songwriter Erin Harrington built inspired by the community and the life that I had built for myself through I Heart Songwriting Club. When she saw that, she wanted that too, and has really stepped into that place to have that for herself.
She says: “I always felt pulled to do something big in the world but didn't quite know what that looked like. Francesca helped me to clarify the desired areas of growth, create a clear structured plan and empower me to harness my business mindset. Through this work, I have strengthened my belief in myself and my worth as an artist and entrepreneur, which has helped me really dive fully into living my dreams.
I am now working 100% for myself, doing what I love every single day. I get paid to be my unique self and have built a life around living passionately on purpose. I would definitely not be where I am today without Francesca’s guidance.” - Erin Harrington (The Ukulele Rockers www.elmukulele.com)
“The Ukulele Rockers” allows Erin to create music, share music, inspire others to grow and lift, work location-independently (which is great for when touring goes back), and make a sustainable living. If you’re a budding ukulele player, I would check out The Ukulele Rockers!
This has become something that allows Erin to continue to make and share her music. Whilst Erin. under the artist name “Miss Elm” released an EP at the start of the year, she has another single due for release in a few weeks time.
Over the past few years, I’ve felt myself slowly shedding the external layers of how I was taught to live in this society. Being adaptable has helped me find my fulfillment and freedom. Within the old system, I was stuck. But adapting to my own structure, outside of the system, I am completely free and sustainable and purposeful. I have found that by doing something with what I’m given, in a purposeful and united way, I am given more. The opportunities and possibilities open up to more.
We were taught to trust our current system from a young age. What if our current reality and system only thinks it’s in charge because we have given our power over to it?
What if we could create unique systems and structures that work for communities of people to help them thrive, transform, uplift, and be sustainable?
What does true empowerment look like? What does it look like to be the leader in your own life? What does it look like to take action from a place of feeling whole?
Can you see all of what’s possible for you from where you stand? Do you feel there is so much more for you in this world? Do you feel like you’re not quite living the wholeness of all that you are?
Would you like to explore and discover more of this for yourself? Do you have the capacity for more? Do you want more for yourself and others and this world? Ask yourself how you can tap more into that.
If you’re someone who:
Then you sound like a NEW WORLD LEADER.
I am going to be taking a small group of creatives on another adventure to reclaim their financial and creative independence over the next 6 months to create something sustainable, location-independent, scalable, and purposeful.
If you are feeling uplifted and excited reading this and you align with many things I’ve shared, then email me and let me know what moved you.
If you want to know more about how you can step into your wholeness and become a new world leader, then email me and we shall make time to have a conversation.
Top image by David Kapernick
Below image by Christophe Berjot
“Francesca de Valence is part of the new wave of grass roots pioneers, leading the way through the new and ever changing music industry. In a recent webinar, she gave encouragement, inspiration and a working model for the proactive, self-determining and flexible mindset required to meet the challenges of the current music creation and marketing model. I left feeling empowered to be brave, creative and unique” - Simon Shapiro, Songwriter and Musician.