Beck: A Model of Achieving Success Without Selling Your Soul

beckMy bookshelves were once wobbly with cool music.

Then I had children.

I no longer have the time, resources or stamina to keep up with sonic gems as I once did. Like many parents, my time is now restricted and my auxiliary hobbies reduced.

But I will always make time for Beck. When he comes out with something new, I buy it.


Because Beck is an exciting artist. He’s always interesting and has never let me down. His music is instantly warm, familiar, and each time not quite like anything I’ve heard before.

Isn’t that the type of author you’d like to be?

Your model doesn’t have to be Beck. He’s a good example for me because I’ve always been drawn to his music and style. I’m sure you have your own artist.

The artist you love probably shares many of these qualities.

Beck Followed His Muse

When Beck signed with Geffen for less money than other labels were offering, it was because they offered him creative control.

Good move.

Beck’s spent his career marching to the beat of his own drum and millions of fans have remained marching behind. He’s continued to make the music he wants to, enjoy his choice of collaborators, and follow his own artistic blueprint.

When it comes to your art, make sure you’re the one making the rules. Of course, you should listen to constructive criticism, but ultimately it’s your art. Bending it to make others happy will warp its individuality.

Be Persistent

Beck was living on the streets when he was signed.

I remember reading a interview in BAM!, a now-defunct but then free black and white circular that filled the music stores and littered the streets of LA back in the day. In that circular, Beck said the best thing about being signed was that he finally had his choice of breakfast cereal.

Beck kept doing what he wanted to do without changing it to suit the needs of anybody, despite the difficulty of his situation. He continued working hard because he knew that one day his hard work would pay off.

Of course that’s easier to do when you’re not even twenty and don’t have children, but we can all find the time to do what’s truly important.

Don’t Listen to the Naysayers

If Beck had been shopping for opinions in 1993 when recording his breakout hit, “Loser,” then somebody probably would’ve told him that the lyric, “My time is a piece of wax falling on a termite that’s choking on the splinters” was too incomprehensible to ever find its way to airplay.

But it launched his career and is now just one of countless loopy lines from the original Loser.

Many music critics doubted Beck would be anything more than a one-hit-wonder, relegated to the cut out bins. However, Beck continued to follow his muse, experimenting with different musical styles and found more success in 1996 with his second major label release, Odelay, which garnered him two Grammys.

Even the best authors have been told their stories weren’t good, right for the market, or were unoriginal. However, the truly good authors don’t give up on themselves or their stories. They find a way to persevere and find the right audience.

Just Do it

Beck didn’t wait to get signed, nor did he a need million-dollar studio time to generate a hit. “Loser” was recorded on a friend’s 8-track, picked up by local LA stations, then spread across the country.

Soon enough there was a bidding war. The rest is history.

You’ll have your own way of doing it, but it will never happen if you don’t get started.

Create what’s inside you, as authentically as you can, then get it in front of as many eyes as possible. With social media, artists have never had more power to find the audience that’s perfect for them.

Then, when you are successful, remember the true you and continue to nurture it.

Your audience will love you. Even more important, they will make time for your art even after their lives become crowded with too much to do and not enough time to do it.

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6 responses to Beck: A Model of Achieving Success Without Selling Your Soul

  1. Lovelyn

    Beck is a great example of success without compromising. I love his music. I didn’t know he was living on the streets before he got signed.
    .-= Lovelyn´s last blog ..Headshot =-.

  2. Louis

    Great article. I still remember when I first heard “Loser”. It was one of the most catchy and original songs I’ve ever heard. It’s too bad it got so overplayed. I think it would have been even better had it never been released as a single. “Stairway to Heaven” was never released by Led Zeppelin as a single, but it’s known as one of the greatest songs ever written.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane, and a good reminder about success.
    .-= Louis´s last blog ..A JavaScript Content Switcher That Works Without JavaScript =-.

  3. janice

    I don’t know Beck’s stuff, or if I do, it hasn’t registered, but if he flits across my radar now, I’ll be aware. I just wanted to say I really enjoyed this post.

    • Sean

      Keep your ear out. It’s great stuff! I especially like “Sea Change,” which is the album cover up top, and “Mutations,” though he doesn’t have a bad album from “Odelay” forward.

      Nice to see you Janice.
      .-= Sean´s last blog ..Mac N’ Cheese Never Hurt =-.

  4. Looking for Writers | Ghostwriter Dad

    […] started Monday with the Beck Guide to Writing, then followed on Wednesday with a post about dealing with author rejection, a particularly […]

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