Rip-off vs. Creative

A few years ago I judged a 'battle of the bands' contest at a local university, which can be a lot of fun or complete torture. This particular contest was very middle of the road...just average. After each band or artist performed they got to spend five to ten minutes with the judges (which consisted of 3-5 music industry professionals) to be critiqued and get some "insider" tips. These critiques could either be very uncomfortable (if the band didn't agree with your thoughts) or it could be incredibly encouraging and rewarding. At this particular contest after two or three of the bands had performed I started to get frustrated. Every band that had played so far either sounded like a complete rip-off of an already established and successful band or their songs were about as deep as a puddle and not very good to boot.

After the third act performed and we sat down with the band to chat I posed the question, "What are you guys reading?"

Silence. They looked at me like I had gone completely loopy.

I asked them again, "What are you reading? What are you doing to feed yourself creatively?"

It wasn't a huge shock to hear that this band (and many of the acts that followed them) weren't reading anything of substance that was challenging them, making them dig deeper, or think about other things other than what they were comfortable with.

What were these artists pouring into themselves to feed their creativity? Were they just trying to ride on what other artists were already doing (aka being musical rip-offs)? They were writing shallow material that it offered no lyrical depth and the same old hub-bub that we have heard a million times over.

Why are we so content with mediocrity when it comes to our craft? Is it laziness? Lack of time? Fear?

What are you doing to feed yourself creatively? Spiritually? Though this entry focuses on the musician, within any life or career we need to feed our lives, minds and souls before we can pour out anything of substance.