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About success and popularity in music

The more I go through life, the more I realize that everything I consider valuable is actually only valuable to me or to an insignificant amount of the population. This isn't a hipster post where I detail why everyone else is wrong and you all need to wake up, but is more of a realization of how much of a misfit I am. This isn't anything to be proud of either, the mere fact that I have to point it out is only part of the problem, the reality is that we worship divergence and uniqueness as if they were something good, but no one actually believes that, you WILL be actively punished for being different and it took me way too long to realize this very obvious fact.

Here's the situation: I have this weird music project that no one really likes and I have to come to terms with my failure, of course, I can't possibly be the one at fault, RIGHT?

So it must be society's fault :

The music industry is rotten dude!

It's all a popularity contest!

It's no longer about the music!

This all is so wrong on so many levels, but it is what many people think, and I did too, ever since I started making music.

Let's see what's wrong here:

The music industry is part of one big popularity contest

Of course it is, music today is part of your identity, it is something you wear as a brand, so just like there are trends in fashion, there are trends in music, people make a conscious effort to fit in with what's cool, or quite the opposite, they try their hardest to be as unique as they can be, so they can appear "interesting", don't be too extravagant though, you'll just become a weirdo.

Moreover the industry itself is popularity contest, those who are successful get to where they are because of the people they are friends with, the rare cases of randoms without any connections becoming huge artists can be explained by their charisma, being "likeable" is a much bigger factor than "talent" or "hard work". Think for a moment how many celebrities are low on agreeableness, beauty, or have strong political opinions, you'll find it hard to find many, and the few you can list are constantly being harrassed for it.

This guy makes a great point about the recent Billie Eilish success. Pause here and go watch the video, it's really eye opening.

Continuing on, what if you only want to be creative, but don't want to participate in the social circus? Well don't expect to ever be as popular as those who heavily market themselves.

This isn't necessarily something evil, it is simply the nature of social interaction, we are always competing for status, how people perceive you is very important, you could even make the argument that it is crucial to your survival, so we've been selecting ourselves to be as competitive as we can be for millennia.

This is a especially harsh reality in creative domains, in other fields your product competes against other's work, at least, there's an objective comparison to be made, but in art, you are your product, it is your vision what matters the most, it's all subjective, so who you are as a person matters, I would say it is more important than what you make in fact.

How to thrive if you aren't the most popular person out there?

Wish i knew ;)

The current situation breeds resentment

You hear far too often that pop music is garbage, that it is souless, the equivalent of artistic junk food, while there's some thruth to this, I've just outlined that this is the nature of the beast, as a musician you have no option other than give in, to SELLOUT!

Oh no! My soul is with Satan!

Black Metal Miku.
Black Metal was supposed to be a reaction agaisnt pop culture, but it grew to be, pretty popular actually, turns out even counterculture sells.

A proper system would be one where your family and friends care about you and what you make, but, alas, we have mass markets, today a regular guy has to compete against an industrial machine, while before recordings were a thing people had instruments at home and would enjoy playing them at parties, these days no one wants to hear the stuff you produced at home, when they can listen to something produced in the world's most expensive studio, by a team of very talented producers, who hire the best musicians out there, so you no longer get the same joy fom making music, as you inevitably compare yourself to something you will never beat.

Another problem that comes with industrial society, is that you are not responsible for your own survival, and thus, even what would have been free time in simpler organizations, is now time you waste "not producing". If you can't make money with something, you are very unlikely to invest into it, so while we are experiencing incredible economic growth, and things are more affordable than they have ever been, we are starving for time.

Little it matters if you can make great records at home, with gear that costs next to nothing and sounds better than the stuff they had in the 80s if you can't monetize it, and can't afford to put thousands of hours into it.

Logged hours.
This is roughly how long it took me to make my last 2 songs. I made 15 bucks off of them. Not very profitable. (I do have a license, I just like how it tracks my use time, so I haven't bothered to put it in >.<)

Resentment, however, leads to nothing positive, as dreadful as the situation is, once you acknowledge it, you eventually accept it, and once you do, you can rejoice in the fact that there's never being a better time in human history to make and share music, you'll probably never achieve status pursuing it, but a Gundam aficionado or an anime figure collector does not expect anything out of his hobby, and yet it fills him with joy.

Music is a surrogate activity

Art is not a necessity.

I couldn't care less about the psychological or spiritual need for it, when push comes to shove, art will always be pushed aside, so it is only natural that it will be valued less than productive activities, it is disposable after all.

Only a handful of fulltime musicians can be supported by any given economy, this is ok as no one NEEDS to devote themselves fully to an artificial goal.

When a recreational activity ceases to be for fun, it loses it's very reason for existing.

So have some fun will ya? And let others have some too, and if you happen to like what someone makes, LET THEM KNOW IT! It makes a huge difference!

Well then. All you have to do is make music on the side and get a real job? Not quite, if you don't devote yourself fully to your day job, you won't climb the status ladder, and will have less time for music. So you suck at making music AND you suck at your regular job! No good!

I don't like the idea of treating music as a hobby, because it's a lot more than that, ask any musician, any artist for that matter, they will tell you it is their life, it is their reason to be, it certainly is for me.

What's the solution here?

Wish i knew ;)

For now the best I've come up with is not sleeping LOL.


Thanks for reading! Have any ideas? Please leave your comments, suggestions, or anything that can add to this post down below.

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Have fun.

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About success and popularity in music

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