This is the question I ask myself whenever I am facing a big decision regarding my work. As my success has grown over the last few years I have found myself asking it on almost a weekly basis. Our modern culture is decidedly lacking when it comes to role models who demonstrate how to maintain integrity in a culture that pushes mass consumerism and selling out at every turn. At some point early on in their career Fugazi decided that they were going to set some very definite boundaries about what they would (only play venues for all ages) and wouldn’t do (sign a record deal for money) . I have heard a story (secondhand) that they turned down a deal worth millions in order to keep control over their work and maintain their integrity. They never sold merchandise because it felt like a money grab, and it complicated things. When asked why they didn’t take the money and use it for great things (to change the world) Ian MacKaye stated something like, “we all have to do what allows us to sleep at night.”
I can’t say that I’ve been able to tow the exact same hard lines as Fugazi, (yes, I signed with a big publisher), but I will say that I aspire to go as far in their direction as possible (not do products for products sake, give away as much as I can for free, make things that people can afford). Recently I have been turning down deals, product offshoots, merchandise, publicity, etc. on an almost weekly basis. Because I don’t believe in it. I wish to speak the truth, and for myself that means only doing things that I can stand behind, that have a reason to exist, that have meaning for me. This feels good, and allows me to sleep at night. I am very lucky to have an agent and an editor that totally get me and stick up for my ideals too.
I feel myself getting stronger and more powerful with every “No”! But it definitely helps to have Fugazi as something to model myself after. So many times I have wished I could pick up the phone and call Ian MacKaye and say “what should I do here?” Even though I realize that if I sit quietly with myself I already know the answer.