Learn From Legends: Robert Johnson

March 23, 2017

Godfather of blues and an inspiration for a whole generation of blues and rock and roll musicians. The name Robert Johnson these days is overshadowed by the legend that haunts his name. The legend of a man who sold his soul to the devil to become the greatest blues musician, and who died at the hands of a jealous husband. Legends are always questionable, especially when devil comes about, but with every legend it's important to question it and learn from it. What does it mean to make a deal with the devil? And what does it mean to sell your soul for music?



The Legend of Robert Johnson is, as many know, a variation on the German Faust legend. This legend has formed the basis of many literary, artistic, cinematic, and musical works that have reinterpreted the legend through the ages. The legend of an ambitious person surrendering his moral integrity in order to achieve power and success for a delimited term, sacrificing their soul for their human desires with inevitable backfire by the devils hand. With the devil out of the equation, the legend mainly questions the morality of a person and teaches us that everything comes with a price. So with that in mind; would you (as an artist) trade in your moral integrity for power and succes? And are you willing to suffer the consequences?


 So what's to consider? What are the options on your way up as an artists? Complete independence for an artists is rare these days. Modern technology has made it possible for artists to grow independently trough the internet and it has been great for those whom have the necessary skills and knowledge about the industry. But being an independent artist takes a lot of responsibilities and artists, typically, aren't the greatest at keeping their shit together. So with that in mind management seems like the right thing to do for any artist looking to grow.  But picking the right management is a hard and critical task; you may never know when you have encountered the devil. We probably all know a story about artists getting chewed up and spit out by the industry, wasted talent, claiming a little bit of shine before their misguided career tanked.

All in all, what can we learn from Robert Johnson and how do we apply it in our musical ventures? I think, essentially, the Faust legend is a story about misdirection and naivety. It's very easy to say that; "All big companies are bad!" blaming them for misdirecting their artists. But in the end the only thing to blame is the naivety of the artists making the deal. I know it can be very exciting for an artist to sign up and make your way to the top. But for every artists it's important to think about what you are signing up for and if you really need it. Do you want to be your own artist, making music only to your own expectations? Find someone that will help you reach your own audience. Do you want to be part of a certain music scene? Find someone that will make you a part of that world. There is no set way to build a career and it's important for artists to think about their own career, what they want and what to expect from their management. Otherwise there may be some surprises down the road. 




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