After hours at the grindstone, you’ve probably gone through great lengths to polish your music, not to mention strenuous legwork to promote it. At times, putting yourself out there feels like stretching your neck over the chopping block. You have critics, like myself, who hunt in packs, waiting to pick the meat off of your latest release. On the other hand, you’re casting your music out to a sea of followers and potential fans. Music preferences are bound closer to us than the cards we hold to our chests. Tastes are built from deeply personal experiences and trends are bound to change. So, how do you find satisfaction with the music you create when your work is floating between current trends and everything is on the line?
Every moment, we’re exposed to a colored flip book of content that only ends when the faucet stops dripping. We consume media every day and that includes music. Many artists find it nearly impossible to wedge themselves in the middle of all the noise. It’s not easy to get loyal fans, let alone three minutes of somebody’s attention. How do you continue to write fulfilling music when the pressure of trending culture looms overhead? Instead of trying to stay ahead of the pack, adopt a healthy strategy to cultivate satisfaction about the music you write and toss everything else out the window while you’re at it.
Criticism & Praise
Everyone has an opinion, and it’s impossible to conform to everyone’s tastes. Criticism is inevitable. This doesn’t mean you’ll face a raining hellfire of negativity, but it’s good to know how to process it when the pitchforks are at your door. Critics tend to pin badges however they see fit, so don’t take it personally. Remember, music is subjective, so instead of picking at wounds from a nasty review, brush it off and carry on. Still, I’m a strong believer of constructive criticism. Loot what advice you can and find ways to incorporate it into your writing or production process to better yourself.
It’s easy to get starry-eyed after getting showered by praise, but it’s important not to let it all go to your head too fast. A head rush of flattery highly addictive, so try not to get consumed with scoring fixes of attention in return. If getting famous is your only end-goal, you should probably find another blog to read.
Believe it or not, limitations can benefit the way we make music. By default, trending culture can present an obstacle course of limitations for artists who’re trying to earn a sustainable living without following “the new black” of the music industry, whether it’s a particular sound, image, or lifestyle that’s currently on the menu. Keeping your head above water is a test of resilience. Beating the piranhas to the punch bowl is something else entirely.
Lock yourself in the center of a room and arm yourself with your creative weapon of choice. Sometimes the best ideas come when we’re completely detached from distractions. Music becomes a meditative practice once we unplug ourselves from external influences like the media, career stress, or the infamous social buzz. The extra “fluff” can all be ignored to exercise genuine creativity.
Believe it or not, the studio isn’t always the best environment to write songs. Being cooped up in the studio can conjure the unnecessary pressure to deliver the gold. You’ll work up silent expectations in your subconscious that’ll be foiled when you walk home without a rough mix. Of course, if the studio is where you lay your hat, go for it. Some artists get fired up in the recording room, and there’s plenty of equipment to experiment with; however, I stress the need for a creative space outside of the studio. Although more tools can be perceived as more possibilities, too many options can water things down. Allowing ourselves to work with the bare essentials encourages a way to develop songwriting and arrangement skills without getting carried away with production specifics too early.
What does any of this have to do with being fulfilled?
To put it simply, learn to identify and appreciate your own personal creative process. Don’t be afraid to sit in the grass with a guitar and a notebook. You’ll be surprised at your potential.
Trends come and go, and life is too short to worry about what everyone else is doing. This is especially true in the music scene. We’ve all seen article subheadings say outlandish things like, “This season of artists is the foundation of next year’s throwback playlist of 2019,” and so on. If you find your finger getting snagged on every headline, it might be time to lock yourself in a room with your guitar.