Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

All about music, guitar, spirituality, personal development and being happy

Musicians – Please Stop “Making It Big”


My buddy Jefferson Thomas got a hilarious text message from a singer the other day about a bass players availability for a gig. It read:

“Is he available for a gig, or is he trying to ‘make it'”.

We had a good laugh, and let’s not forget – all humor has some truth in it!


A letter to all musicians.

We will always play music because we love it.

However in the process of us who are trying to “have a career”, “make it”, book gigs, make a living and all be the top dog, I urge everyone to take a time out.

We must realize that we are constantly being forcefed “celebrity” – America’s drug of choice (according to Chuck D of Public Enemy), and we are affected by it collectively. It’s easy to forget why we love playing music and turn the simplicity of a song into a house of mirrors.

Everything has become the web presence, the shows, the gigs, the tours, the photos, the twitter, the hits on youtube, to many of us.

It’s all very nice when these things support the music, but when it becomes more important than the music, which we have let it – all of life becomes tainted with the “never having enough”.

The sickness of the music community (and all of showbiz) wanting “something for nothing” is running rampant. Shows like American Idol and overnight internet sensations cloud worthwhile artists from public view – but worse…they spread an MTD (mentally transmitted disease) of “making it”.

Now audiences too can feel the addiction of “wow I can be a celebrity too”. When they see the average, mediocre talent that is on display it is in reach for them. A baby can sing “Hey Jude” and be a star.

It used to be that audiences appreciated seeing someone do something that they COULDN’T do.

Imagine if everyone stopped trying to “make it”.

Imagine if YOU stopped trying to “make it”. Might you not be happier? How much will actually change?

None of the people who are “making it” are fooling me. Their being flashed before my eyes is like a temporary newspaper headline.

I call on you, dear musician, to abandon “making it big”. Just do what you do, let the profundity speak for itself with its own quiet voice. Carry on and live from the heart.


Why do I write this? To give value to the music community in some kind of way. To orient students and aspiring pros in a direction that will blossom.

In hindsight, the only thing that has ever done my “career” any good was being 100% into the music and feeling the natural joy that comes from that. Everything else has NOT worked…and believe me, I have tried!


Good Luck, and groove on!


Author: Adam Rafferty

Adam Rafferty. Fingerstyle Guitarist. Recording and Concert Artist. Meditator. Philosopher. Lover of Groove.

17 thoughts on “Musicians – Please Stop “Making It Big”

  1. Someone’s writing about me. This must mean I MADE IT! I’m FAMOUS! Like totally OMG, you are my BFF!

    …cheers, dude!

  2. Thank you for writing this, Adam. Beautifully said, and right on target. Preach!

    • Well, as step deeper is the release technique stuff that Longo and Fabian introduced me to. Having a great career is fine. Wanting it so bad that we twist our shorts into a knot is what’s harmful…rock on Hil!

  3. always read your words Bro, thanks again (jammed some I vi ii V bossa nova with my teacher today! I experienced so much joy!)

    Your friend from over the pond


  4. Nice sentiment. Or are you just trying to get rid of all the competition so you can claim the spotlight for yourself? 🙂

    Seriously though, I really like your blog. Enjoyed browsing the “Guitar Spotlight” section. I’d never heard of Joe Robinson before but I’m sure I’ll hear more about him in the future. A very talented young musician!

    Keep the guitar-related goodness coming!

    • Funny you should say that. I saw the inklings of a “wanting the spotlight” sentiment possibly lurking in there…

      No, the post is more about accessing one’s own happiness and fulfillment – and being on the lookout for the MTD.

      Having anything be it a gig or money, a house – whatever – does not equal the misery of the “wanting it”. After having pounded the digital pavement putting tours together the following simply occured to me –

      The wanting is not the having.

      Sending emails is no problem, nor is taking care of biz. Booking a tour is no problem.

      People with no skills or anything – being in tabloids – and then others seeking to emulate them – is sick.

      The over emphasis on the celebrity aspect that is promulgated by TV and media is a sickness, just like porn.

      Happiness is right here! And for music to be good, and progress the youngsters and pop stars have to bone up, study and put fame aside.

  5. Well said. I kind of saddens me when I hear a young musician say that their goal is “to be famous.”

    As Miles Davis said: “I ain’t no entertainer, and ain’t trying to be one. I am one thing: a musician.”

  6. Well said. It saddens me when I hear a young musician say that their goal is “to be famous.”

    As Miles Davis said: “I ain’t no entertainer, and ain’t trying to be one. I am one thing: a musician.”

  7. But John – I gotta admit…I love entertaining, I love making the rounds and feeling a sense of accomplishment. I am not all about music….but I am happier when I am, and meaningful things happen when I develop music.

    Take the SW arrangements. A spark of creativity comes for an arrangement like “Superstition” but then there’s just enormous follow through to get it out there, record, dvd, gig and so on.

    What I am personally investigating is an inner “un clutching” in myself so that I can go about biz clearly, and not fall for the MTD.

    FYI an older jazz cat once told me Miles was no dummy…once told Diz “Man, all you need is a white rock guitar player with long hair”…(Mike Stern) so he was well aware of creating the mystique – with the crazy outfits, sunglasses etc. I think Miles reacted against the Louis Armstrong type personality of kissing up…but eventually learned which side his bread was buttered on, in a more modern way.

    Thanks for posting!

  8. I like your philosophies, Adam. You have a talent and it feeds your soul. Be a ripple in a pond of life and know that your ripples flip the lilly leaves sometimes.

  9. Hey, Adam,

    Listening to A Prairie Home Companion just now on the radio and decided to email them to put in a good word for you – you could handle that gig! I think Tommy E has been on there a few times, plus I know the VP at Minnesota Public Radio and Dan Newton, the accordion player,who’s on all the time…. who knows? Look for some exposure… I sent them a link to your Youtube channel.

    You are almost famous, don’t quit on me, now! 🙂


  10. Sorry, Adam, ironically, my previous post might not be in the same spirit of your blog, but I wanted to put it in somewhere and grabbed your latest post to respond to! Of course, you are contributing in a big way, just by following your muse…. I would just like to see that furthered, so that others can share in your joy and talents!


  11. At first, I thought about writing you that I did not agree.

    As a “musician for my soul”, but employed in a totally different field in order to have a steady income, I am a bit suffering the fact of not being able to “make a living” only with music.
    So, the idea of ‘making it’ was always there, a subtle but steady hope that someday I could let music have the main role in my life.

    But reading through your article, and comments, a second time (and reading more carefully!!), I think I finally got your message:
    “musicians, don’t pursue fame and fortune, but concentrate on your art, your skills, your passion”.

    And, on this, I totally agree!
    Thanks for making me “think” about this topic


    • Yes, that’s it – but there’s a complexity to the whole thing, which I acknowledge.

      I am still a pro, trying to have a career – and I have to think about practicing things, getting gigs, travel, photos, mixing CDs – that does not go away.

      What I am commenting on is the inner priorities and keeping the eye on the right goal, and coming from a place of detachment and an “it’s ok” feeling.

      To remember that “making it” is a result of having a fulfilling life. If the gigs support the notion of “making it” that is bass ackwards…..subtle difference.

      You’ve heard the saying “money is the root of all evil”…same idea it’s the attachment anania that makes people do things, not the money itself.

      So you see it’s part of our journey in all areas of life – to navigate an upward bound career, but keep our heads on straight.

      Thanks for posting.

      • Thanks for this post, Adam!

        The original line in The Bible is actually “the LOVE of money is the root of all evil”, which totally demonstrates what you’re saying.

        It’s that wild desire to “make it” or be famous that can corrupt the joy of being a musician. Nothing is wrong with being a successful musician that makes money doing s/he loves, but if the desire stems more from wanting to be a celebrity than being a musician, happiness will always be fleeting.

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