Nobody cares about my music.
I recently recorded my 100th song. I embedded it in a Youtube video, along with a background picture stating it's my 100th song. Then I posted the link on my Facebook page for my friends and family to see, and hopefully listen to.
My goal was to garner more likes than I did from my 99th song. I was shooting for any number of likes, to be precise. One like would have been more than I got from my 99th song.
You see, recording my 100th song was a big deal to me. It marked over four years of a tremendous amount of work, and a lot of suffering. I was hoping a few of my Facebook friends might also consider it a big deal, and press the "like" button, if for no other reason than to show their recognition of this accomplishment.
I even told my Mom that I recorded my 100th song. I wasn't very subtle in hinting that I'd like her to take a listen to it.
So guess how many likes I got from my Facebook friends, after sharing my 100th song?
One. I did actually get one like, from my Aunt. She's been the biggest supporter of my music in my family all along (I imagine I've gotten close to ten likes from her over the years).
Maybe my music sucks?
So maybe my music just sucks, explaining the epic lack of interest in it among my friends and family?
I'd sure like to think not. And what's funny is that the number of people who would even pretend to care about my music has decreased inversely to my ability to write and record music. I used to easily get five or six comments on one of my songs, back in the days when my execution was somewhat lacking, compared to my abilities today.
Something else strange...I saw torrents of the album I released a couple of weeks ago in more places than I did with any of the previous two releases. That's right, baby. People are pirating my music more now than they used to!
I'm also seeing significantly more plays on Spotify and other places where it can be legitimately streamed. And right now, for the first time, it appears that the number people who want to listen to my music for free is gradually increasing, all on its own, as a result of my doing nothing but releasing an album.
The number of people willing to pay for my music remains about the same :)
The reality of it.
What I've just described to you is the reality of life for many Indie bands and artists. I suppose many are lucky enough to have friends and family willing to support them in their endeavors. Many get out there and tour, and perform, and acquire fans through real-life interaction (and no doubt reap benefits from doing that).
But overall, Indie musicians aren't appreciated. And why should they be, when the whole entire country isn't listening to them, in agreement about their incredible talent? Why should Indie musicians be appreciated, if everyone and their dog isn't singing their praises?
Please note my sarcasm. America, and the Western World, have fallen in love with countless crappy acts, while simultaneously ignoring many awesome ones. Many a now-famous artist died before hearing a single word of praise regarding their work. For sure many great artists have died only to be permanently forgotten.
Humans are social animals.
This is the result of a term known as "social proofing", alluding to the propensity of the individual to look to the group while determining his or her tastes in areas like music, and art. The majority of people need to be told they can like an act before opening up and doing that. They need to see other people liking a particular thing before they can like it themselves.
This has been occurring as long as humans have walked the earth. "Social proofing" played an important role in the survival of our species in the early days, when people lived in small groups, hunting wooly mammoths and running from sabertooth tigers. Social proofing ensured everyone was on the same page, which was necessary for our survival in those dangerous days.
Now days, while no longer necessary, the instinct to model our tastes and behaviors after those of the herd is every bit as compelling as it was in our early days. This creates a tremendous challenge for Indie Artists, who have to fight for every fan they get. Where mainstream acts can rely on the very sheep-like ways of mindless consumers (and enormous marketing budgets), Indie Artists have only the quality of the art they put their hearts and souls into.
As thousands of years of history has proven, the quality of art in itself isn't enough to ensure the success of its creator. Remember, again, the many brilliant poets, painters, authors, etc. who weren't recognized in their lifetimes.
That's how it is.
And that's just how it is. That's how it's always been, and that's how it will always be, as long as the sun continues rising.
It's a constant source of pain to Indie Artists, working their butts off, hoping for a break, wanting nothing more than a fair shot. The reality is that the high majority of Indie Artists will never get a fair shot, the same way that thousands of our predecessors were also denied such objective opportunities.
The injustice in the music industry has caused me a lot of pain as well. I've had to refrain from working on my music for months at a time, so terribly disheartened by the fact that besides me, no one cares about my music.
I spent the afternoon a few days ago reading through the journals I've kept over the last three years. The most common theme I encountered was, of course, the injustice in the music industry. I recalled the pain I felt each time I sat down and wrote, destroyed by the fact that I never seemed to get a fair shot.
For over three years I let the injustice in the music industry drive me to depression, and force me to withdraw from my musical endeavors for long periods. My woes really never changed during that time. I just wanted a fair shot, and I wanted someone to care about my music.
It was the repetitive nature of my whining that caused me to see the folly in my ways a few days ago. Page after page I complained about the same exact thing: the injustice in the music industry. Page after page, my complaining changed nothing.
So I ripped every page out of the 6 or 7 notebooks I read through that day, and ran each of them through a paper shredder. I made up my mind that the days of my whining, complaining about the many injustices in the music industry were over. I would no longer allow myself to be dejected because no one cares about my music (not even my own family).
It's time for an attitude adjustment.
For over three years I whined, complained, and was completely torn up by an unchangeable fact of life: the music industry isn't fair. The music industry isn't about the music, or the art itself. It's about making money through the marketing of soulless crap to the masses, exploiting the sheep-like tendencies of first-world consumers.
So it is. The question is, why should that affect me? Why should that prevent me from writing and recording music, which is my true passion?
The answer, of course, is that it shouldn't affect me. Yet it has affected me, all this time. And I notice it affects many other Indie Artists as well. You don't have to look far to find an article where someone's complaining about the many injustices in the music industry, and how hard it is to make a living as a musician these days.
So it is. It's damn near impossible to make a living as a musician in the 21st century. Some people do, but very few are living the lives of rock stars.
Then, my goal has never been "rock star success". I would have told you all along that I'd be happy to simply be able to pay the bills with my music. I hear a lot of Indie musicians say that. They'd be content if they could just find a way to make ends meet. But again, very few do.
So what do you do, when you find yourself a struggling Indie artist, with no clear idea as to how you might make a living with your music?
It's time for an important question
Well, you need to start by being honest with yourself, and answering a critical question:
What am I in this for?
- The music, and the art itself?
- Fame, fortune, or "rock star success"?
This isn't an easy question to ask, or answer. You'll probably have to do some serious soul-searching to come up with an honest answer, and you might find an honest answer painful. But you're going to have to answer this question if you wish to get on with your life.
So let's say that, in being brutally honest, you realize you're in it for the fame and fortune. The solution is simple. Get out. There are thousands, and thousands of people just like you, with their eyes on the prize and their hearts in the wrong place. You'll never stand out from them.
So you want to be a rock star?
Think about it. What would it take to achieve rock star success in today's world?
It would take incredible talent, for starters. Incredible talent in itself doesn't guarantee rock star success, but it would be a requirement.
The problem is that if, like so many people, your primary concern is in obtaining rock star success, you'll neglect the development of your talent, and your art. Like many people, you've set yourself up to fail. So you might as well save yourself the heartache and get out now.
Now let's say you can honestly tell me you're in it for the love of music. Then the solution is simple. Work on your music. Put your heart and soul into it. Develop your talents even further. Even if you consider yourself to be very talented, there's always room for improvement. Keep adding to your song library and material.
Will doing this guarantee your commercial success? Absolutely not. But it will provide you with the best chance you have, because in taking this approach you'll get better, and you'll start to stand out from the multitudes so intently focused on the prize that they neglect the development of their talents.
Now this isn't to say that you can't hope for commercial success. You can. But you absolutely can't, under any circumstances, let your lack of commercial success affect the way you approach your music. You need to look at commercial success a bonus; as something that may or may not happen, and be okay with the possibility that it won't happen.
With this attitude, your heart will be in the right place, ironically increasing your odds at obtaining commercial success to well above those of the multitudes, so hungry for success that they neglect the things that might actually bring it.
With this attitude you can have some peace in your life, where the injustice in today's music industry was causing you a lot of frustration, even pain.
With this attitude, your passion for music can bring you happiness, where if you're like the way I was a long time, it's been causing you to suffer.
But it's not easy.
Of course, major attitude changes like the one I'm suggesting don't happen overnight, and aren't easy. It will take a serious, ongoing effort on your part to change your way of thinking. But trust me when I tell you it will be worth the effort. Not only will it make you a better artist, increasing your odds at obtaining commercial success, it will make you much happier.
I'm going to conclude by recommending a couple of resources that have been invaluable to me in regard to the theme of this article.
The first is a book titled, "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield (not to be confused with "The Art of War", by Sun Tzu). This is a short book containing a very realistic account at what it's like to be an artist. I purchased the audio version of this book an have listened to it many times (it's less than 3 hours).
This book really toughened me up and inspired me to get to work on my music. I can absolutely promise you that you'll be better off for having read it (or listening to it). I really like the narration in the audio version, so consider purchasing it and listening to it while driving, or in your spare time.
The other resource is a book titled "The 50th Law", by Rapper 50 Cent and Robert Greene. This one is quite a bit longer than the previous one I referenced, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I found it to be very empowering, and especially appreciated the fact that it was based on the life of someone who's made it in the music industry. Not by falling into line and jumping through the various hoops one's expected to jump through, but by going his own way.
Again, I'd recommend obtaining the audio version of this book, as it allows for convenient consumption.
With that, I want to thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope you've found it beneficial.
All the best to you and your music!