Musicians today are faced with a question that very often results in self-loathing, self-deprecation and self-induced amnesia. Amnesia, affecting our long-term memory of what we once felt when we picked up an instrument or heard a good tune for the first time. This question being something along the lines of “Why am I still doing this?”
This state of mind is symptomatic. With attention spans getting shorter and shorter, with ways to support the artists getting more and more “convenient”, musicians are forced to be not only bilingual (in order to push their music worldwide), but they need to be social media managers, record producers and on top of that, investors & distributors of their own art. One can get lost in between only two of those roles, let alone all of them. This amalgam of socially responsible masks can lead any sane person to question his motives for even breathing, not to speak of, expressing himself.
As a musician that has to do all of those things from the other side of the Atlantic, I can testify that pushing my music to the Western market will be as successful as pushing cucumbers to a cucumber farmer, but that’s really not the problem. The problem is that art is suffering, not because of the unavailability of proper outlets for creativity, but because we are reduced to “pushing”. With everyone framing his or her own art in search engine friendly tags, we encourage a loss of identity.
Many musicians work hard (other jobs) in order to sustain their art and this is totally OK, but this combined with the pressure of performing artistically and trying to promote your own shit, puts you in a really tough place. The Internet has forced musicians to think like marketers, as we know, the most unimaginative of folks. Check most of advertising for reference.
You have definitely noticed this at shows. So many bands are so busy instragramming before a show in order to promote it, that they have easily forgotten to connect with the actual audience when they’re onstage. The most prolific of bands in many subgenres stand there as holograms, give you the bang for your buck and then leave to share another day on their social media network of choice with their “favorite” crowd with an often murmured and sometimes backhanded “Thank you!”.
Who are they? Are they your favorite band or did Pitchfork say so? Do you like one song? Do you just like them, because they passed your town? Did you have your drunk-15-minutes-of-social-fame picture taken with (insert best-looking-member-of-aforementioned-band here)? Even the bands don’t know.
Doesn’t matter. It certainly doesn’t matter to them, they’re too busy being 10 people at once – the bass player, the twitterer, the tour manager, the label manager, etc. It’s quite easy to forget who you are and why exactly you’re doing, what you’re doing & whom you’re doing it for.
Some are hiding behind DIY ethics, but managing your instagram isn’t an extension of your individuality or art, it’s a just a marketing platform where you “push” additional content, which at some point is being monetized by some smarter folks in Silicon Valley or whatever.
Unfortunately all of this leads to neglecting the most important part of our job and that is to connect, artistically and otherwise. The visually heavy internet-oriented mentality inevitably leaves us creatively exhausted, which in turn leads to a great diversity of relatively same-sounding bands and brings up the question “Why am I still doing this again?”
When I ask myself that question, this is the only positive answer I can muster – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSsRTuXfAUc
We can fix it.