There is truly so much noise in the music industry today, and it’s hard not to drown in the sea of competition. There are so many insanely talented and hardworking artists out there trying to “make it” . Instead many artists are trying to navigate an undefinable path and follow cookie-cutter templates of success.
How do you adapt to an ever-changing industry that doesn’t sleep? Why do we push ourselves to find “it” in a world that continuously tries to spell “it” out for us?
The world tells us that to be successful in the music industry, your name has to rub letters with the clouds and compete with the sun. The world tells us that you need to be backed by the most renown record companies, sell-out the largest venues, and break bread with the most prestigious names in the industry.
I don’t believe in “it”, and I refuse to be another “nobody” who blindly advises you how to be “somebody” in the music industry.
I’m a producer. I’m an audio engineer. I’m a writer with mad respect for music. I try to never lose sight of that foundation. True originality stems from the foundation of what we are. The heart of our artistry depends on it. There are so many artists who are trying too hard to be the next (insert famous person here*) to the point that they begin to lose grip. Their love for music is quickly forgotten before the first royalty check even makes it to the door.
The first spark of genuine inspiration is gold. It’s so delicate. It’s when we forget about the spark that our foundation begins to drown into mush. Then, all we have left is the chameleon of an industry to cling to; titles, accolades, money, fame. All of those things are plastic. How can we value any of it? It’s all molded to a shape-shifting entity.
Trends come and go, and you’ll break the heart of your artistry (and your neck) trying to keep up with all of it.
Do It for Yourself
I aspire for humble success. I don’t want to chase after the commercial light. The truth is, there are actually artists out there who are still making a comfortable living without blowing up the box office. It’s possible.
In one of my previous posts, I talked about Stones Throw Records and the lush underground culture that has grown from the rubble of rejection. I admire how there are still strong industry professionals who stay true to their craft. They don’t cater to anyone but themselves and their loyal following. It sounds selfish, but is it really?
I attended a Beat Battle last year in which upcoming producers had the opportunity to showcase their work before a panel of industry judges (other producers, artists, and label owners). I distinctly remember a harsh comment aimed towards one of the contestants:
“It sounds like you just made that beat for yourself. You should make the beat for us.”
No, if anybody tells you that you should be making music to please people, they’re being selfish. It’s your art, not theirs.
I think that as artists, we need to embrace our unshakable right to create as we see fit. Ignore what is going on down the street, close the window, and just create. Stay true to your element.
Back when I first started, I made music specifically for myself to listen to. Today, that’s odd to a lot of people. “Wow, you listen to your own music?” Yeah, I do, because at the end of it all, I make music because it’s something that I enjoy, and it’s mine alone.
Creativity shouldn’t be a tool to complete the chore of pleasing an audience. We all make music, or have decided to be apart of the music, for numerous reasons. There’s only one reason not on my list: attention. From it, stems all of the plastic aspects of the industry that have sadly become the grindstones of artists who are chasing after the clouds.
“It” Doesn’t Exist
At the sample level, all music is the same. It doesn’t matter who you are or the music you make. At the core, there isn’t a single characteristic about one artist’s work that can separate it from another.
Music is fundamentally made up of the same thing: waves. I won’t sit here and type out a physics lesson, but you should know that there is no reason to feel inferior to about your music. So, stop comparing it to everything.
When you look at it this way, there really isn’t any room to say, “That’s not music.” What is music? Tell me that. I’m pretty sure that there isn’t an objective standard that music has to meet to get a gold star. It’s all about perception. There’s nothing truly better about the music that is on the radio. There’s nothing truly lesser about yours. So, get it out of your head, and get to work. It’s a blank canvas.
There is no cap to your potential as an artist. Have you ever really thought about it? There is nothing stopping you from taking the next step, but you can’t wait around for the path to reveal itself. You have to find it. It takes hard work, trial, error, and everything in between.
Don’t sit around waiting for success to stumble on your doorstep with a check and a Grammy. Don’t chase after an overnight success story, and don’t try to base your work ethic and efforts around the chance to live one.
Make Music and Enjoy It
There is a lot of work required to push your career forward; Networking, management, promotion, the list goes on. Above that, you have to strive push yourself forward and avoid falling into to a cycle. We should always try to look at everything from multiple angles and quit looking for an easy way.
You have to make music, love what you do, and stick to your guns. There is no secret.
Do you, don’t forget what brought you here, and you’ll never need to worry about anyone or anything.