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Reflections on being an artist in a modern consumerist society and the role of social media in re-shaping the relationship between artist and fan

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Reflections on being an artist in a modern consumerist society
and
the role of social media in re-shaping
the relationship between artist and fan

By René Mulder (a.k.a. Blooming Late) \ Written February 21st 2019


 

The title of this article is somewhat of a mouth full, so allow me to break it down a little before we get to the main text. My concern in this article is to deal with the following phenomenon:

  • I am an artist among many artists in the world;

  • I, like them, live in a time and in a place when there is an overabundance of art for people to consume;

  • Thanks to social media our creative expressions are rapidly distributed, judged, consumed, and shared by an unimaginably large (potential) audience;

  • Those same social media outlets allow fans for unprecedented means to connect with the artist;

  • The overabundance of available material plus the consumerist attitude of people in general combined with negative side effects of interaction through and behind a computer screen drastically re-shapes the relationship between artist and fan (the art-consumer);

  • The artist in such a world is challenged by a number of important questions and issues that he or she must face before deciding to pursue the life of the (professional) artist.

On a personal level I find myself disappointed, discouraged and somewhat disgusted by what I think I see going on around me. I am challenged to reconsider the purpose and value of entering the public arena as a producer of art (in my case as a musician. I used to be a visual “artist”). Do I want my work to simply be consumed by an anonymous group of people that will quickly demand more or turn attention to something else? Do I want to keep up a complex social network strategy to please people? Can meaningful relationships really emerge out of connections with fans and is that pursuit even desirable? Is it healthy to open up your life to the audience that way? Why, in the final analysis, is the pursuit of becoming a publicly known artist a good thing?

We will begin exploring these issues.

One artist among many

The world has always known its share of artists. It is probably safe to say that history is filled with more creative persons than the few famous examples we can come up with. Not every individual made it to fame and glory. In fact, being a full time artist – like a painter – was not exactly an easy path to walk. There is a reason why we have the term “Starving Artist”. In a lot of cases the fame and glory part only came after the death of the artist, who could hardly imagine the sums of money people pay for their works today.

Making a living as an artist is still challenging in our time, though conditions have improved a lot since the days of, say, Van Gogh. One particular challenge I have personally experienced is simply getting noticed, standing out in an overwhelming sea of creative works, particularly online.

With the world wide web and online platforms such as deviantArt (a place where I tried to share my visual arts in the past) it has become possible for creative people from all over the world to gather in one place and share their works with one another. This provides tremendous opportunities, but also those challenges. The same goes for musical artists. With radio, TV and online streaming services being widely available, you are now competing with the entire world.

And with advances in education and technology, many more people have access to the knowledge, tools and techniques previously only available to a select few. To put it bluntly: everyone can be a filmmaker, photographer, comic artist or music producer. Now I'm not saying everyone will be a great or even good filmmaker, photographer etc. What I am saying is that the availability of these tools enables more people to glut the stream of art that is being produced, which makes it harder to get noticed, at least online (which is where a lot of the action is taking place in our time).

Perhaps in the end it will be those seriously committed to their art-form who will get the furthest, but even then we will find ourselves being one artist among the many.

Art as a consumer product

If you ask an artist why he or she produces art, invariably they will answer somewhere along the lines of, “Its who I am.”, or, “This allows me to pour something of myself into [words/images/sounds/shapes]” Art is usually self-expression. That is why art can be both interesting and attractive as well as boring or repelling. We don't always like what is coming out of the deepest corners of someone's soul. Art is inherently personal, but there are ways to create something that has appeal to the masses. Rather than exploring what is just inside me, we can explore what is inside all of us. The more general the more people may be attracted to it. Enter commercialism: the turning of art into a consumer product.

Modern technology allows us to create things fast, easy and to make duplicates in a near instant. Chances are high that the nice painting you find in your neighbors house is not exactly one of a kind. You can get mass produced still lives and natural sceneries for a few bucks at all sorts of stores. Though that fact does not necessarily take away from the beauty of the work, it does take away some of the value we assign to it. There is a difference between owning the original and only copy of Rembrandt's De Nachtwacht (The Nightwatch) and being one of a million people who have a mass-produced reproduction of it. Granted, the value we assign to items based on rarity is somewhat arbitrary, but it does show that we appreciate the amount of labor, care and craftsmanship that was poured into the making of a masterpiece. Speaking more to my own field of creativity, I find a classical work of Mozart to be of much greater value than I do the latest dance track that was produced in a couple of hours by some dude with a computer. In fact, having personally discovered how easy it is to make the kind of music that was popular on the radio back when I was a teenager has made me value that kind of music less. It also made me think less highly of the people we practically idolized for making that music.

Now, with art having become somewhat of a mass-produced consumer product we also face the problem of the consumerist attitude that comes with it. Works of art can become easily disposable, much like we dispose of other products we're done consuming. With a constant stream of new images, sounds and things coming out it is easy to forget about the images and sound and things we so enjoyed yesterday. Considering the claim that people can maintain only up to about 100 connections with people, how are we to oversee the ever growing and expanding list of images (for example) we “Like” or “Fav”? How meaningful a connection can we establish with every new piece of work that comes out? How much lasting effect does it have? Or are we quick to jump to the comment box and shout: “More please!”?

When I was still a graphics artist, it was this mentality that I saw around me, and you can still find it on places like YouTube. Imagine this: you just uploaded your latest work that you poured your heart and soul into and all you get is, “Nice work. More please.” All that effort only to fill someones belly and have them beg for another bite. Before long the artist has become the slave of the audience. The provider of kicks and wows; of daily mini-orgasms that always beg for more. Art then is no longer about self-expression and pouring out your soul. It has become about finding out what appeals to the other guy and giving them their fill. You better get cooking!

The desire to connect

Besides self-expression I think there is another aspect to why the artist does what she does: she is looking for connection. Most people inevitably will want to share what they have created. This will expose the artist to potential harm in the form of criticism but also to potential good: connecting to another soul through the shared experience that was expressed in the artwork itself. Art then is a means to get to something more profound: human relationships. Sure, there can be other motives like a craving for recognition and applause; for validation, or simply for financial gain.

I discovered only yesterday that the human connection element is actually something that I am seeking. I wasn't really aware of this before. It wasn't on my radar. It came to me when I stumbled upon a forum post by an unknown (to me) artist promoting his latest album. It was his only post, or maybe one of two posts. It just had links to his works and said to “Enjoy!”. His music was kind of nice, but I had no context for it. I could not find out anything about the person. Pondering the process of getting exposure to an audience I suddenly experienced a feeling of sadness. Is this the way? Signing up on random forums with a link to your stuff and hoping people will “enjoy” it? The person didn't seem to show much interest in the forum itself, only in self-promotion. I asked myself: is this what I would do? Would I sign up for a forum dedicated to trance lovers (for example) and only drop a link to something they can consume? Would my goal be just to get them to hear my stuff, and maybe even buy future releases? Is that going to be our relationship? I don't really care about you, but I want you to care about me and my music?

To be fair, I could have contacted the person and find out more about him. In that sense, our modern situation provides us with something we didn't have before: direct access to an artist, even a famous and otherwise busy one. Social media provides fans that link. Even so, connecting via a screen is not quite the same as connecting in person. Therefor, a real friendship is hard to establish. Especially when you are one of a million people trying to gain an entrance with your favorite artist. We all understand that having hundreds of thousands of followers on your social media accounts does not have to mean much in terms of human connection.
You can also question the desirability of having potentially unstable people connecting to you so easily. Examples of unpleasant behavior abound on places like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the likes.

What is our relationship?

This then raises the question about what the relationship between the artist and the art-consumer is. Taking the commercial perspective, the artist is the producer of the goods, and the art-consumer is the consumer; the end user of the goods. You don't have to be friends. You're just business-partners. Provider and taker. But given the nature of art, I don't personally find this a satisfactory relationship. There are also easier ways to make money if that's your goal. Again... “Starving Artist”.

So far I have kind of painted a picture of the art-consumer as a selfish, thrill seeking, short-attention-span-having, demanding ogre. There are of course people who don't fit that description. They approach things differently. Maybe they really do care for the person behind the art. They appreciate the craftsmanship and are selective in what they consume. Perhaps these are kindred spirits with whom you could have very meaningful conversations, based on the thoughts and feelings your art has invoked in them. Surely these people would be comparatively rare, just as is the case with friends in general (how many people would you truly consider a good or best friend?).
I read an article that talked about so called
Super Fans, the small percentage of fans who are responsible for the largest share in your economic success. The article suggests a number of tips and strategies you can employ to connect with them, but it basically boiled down to providing them with goodies and VIP opportunities. To me, that still smacks of the commercial attitude where you do everything in your power to please the consumer into sticking around. If your aim with me is just to keep me coming back to your stuff then I'm going to feel that and I'm not going to like it.

So I like that idea of having an audience that you can engage with at a meaningful level. With the art as the means of establishing first contact. Where art is not something I make to satisfy your craving for something new and shiny, but where art is my way of communicating something to you that I cannot easily do with words, at least not initially. Where my sharing of art is my way of being vulnerable and risking the chance of getting hurt while also creating opportunities for people to respond in openness themselves. Maybe that is asking a lot, and maybe the artist (or is it just me?) is seeking things in the wrong places in an unhealthy way?
Perhaps it is simply unrealistic to demand that kind of relationship with random people who are interested in your product. Especially in the context of social media. A smaller audience of real-life friends may be more suited to the purpose of sharing yourself, with or without the means of art as a catalyst for conversation.

At the end of the day, it still comes down to this: you want your art to be seen/heard/experienced by other people. There are certain mechanics in place that will determine whether or not you achieve that goal. Part of that has to do with advertising: exposing people to your works and ideas. Actually, that's probably the biggest part of it. This requires effort and networking, and finding the right places to distribute your art. During that process you are going to encounter all sorts of people: consumerists, potentially dedicated appreciators and everything in between. Not everyone is going to “get” you, and yes, sometimes people will stomp on you. The question is: is what you create worth it? Is making the art worth it to begin with? Do you really have something to offer to the world, or are you simply adding to the already fast pool of throw-away stuff? This I ask myself too.

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Interesting read, although I'm a little less disheartened than you are I believe. I think this post has a lot in common with the "do you still make ReMixes" thread of a while back, since it touches upon why you are an artist, and what you expect to get out of it. If you truly want a personal connection with your audience, then I understand the online world can be a little disheartening. I find that the best connections with the audience come from live shows. But, other personal connections I get is with peers, and that is MUCH easier online. Working together with others, getting feedback from judges at OCR, discussing exactly the things we are discussing now - those are valuable things only made possible through the possibilities of an online community and social media.

Yes, social media (and/or internet 2.0/3.0) can bring out the worst in people and there is indeed so much content that it makes it hard to stand out. But I have YouTube videos, music, art and more that I frequently enjoy and keep coming back to and I am certainly not alone. Yes, it makes it hard for us to be noticed when there are so many others out there, but without it we wouldn't be noticed at all. I wouldn't be able to be an artist and to do the things I do without these technological developments. Furthermore, I think that we now live in a period where apps and social media rise just to get that personal connection with an artist as long as you are also an artist "offline". Especially here in the Netherlands (where you're also based I see) there are more and more initiatives to be able to meet personally with artists, see niche performances or art and to connect on a deeper level. So while I really recognize and understand the dark side of it all (and we've all had bad experiences), I also think it gives us possibilities that we didn't have before. It's up to us to determine why we do what we do and what we want to get out of it, and then decide on the ideal platform to pursue that. Because just randomly dropping something online (facebook/youtube/wherever) will indeed lead to just a consumerist connection. At least that's what I think of the issues you described :)

 

P.S. I also have high regards for the "commercial" artists that are perhaps not always the best in their musical skills, but as entrepreneurs and business(wo)men, they have a lot of skills to be able to get where they are. If building a company or a brand is your passion, and you can combine that successfully with an art form, it takes a lot of determination and skills to be able to achieve success and I really respect that.

Edited by pu_freak
typo

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52 minutes ago, pu_freak said:

Interesting read, although I'm a little less disheartened than you are I believe. I think this post has a lot in common with the "do you still make ReMixes" thread of a while back, since it touches upon why you are an artist, and what you expect to get out of it. If you truly want a personal connection with your audience, then I understand the online world can be a little disheartening. I find that the best connections with the audience come from live shows. But, other personal connections I get is with peers, and that is MUCH easier online. Working together with others, getting feedback from judges at OCR, discussing exactly the things we are discussing now - those are valuable things only made possible through the possibilities of an online community and social media.

Thank you for your response. I hope I didn't sound like I'm unappreciative of the technological developments and tools and platforms that enable us to even do what we are doing now. I do think it is great that I can have a digital camera and take beautiful pictures without having to own a dark room and knowing the finer details developing film. And of course being able to put together cheesy trance tracks on the computer in just a few hours :P Like with many things, technological advancements come with gains and losses. If we didn't have all these things we would surely have to find other ways to get noticed and our reach would be much smaller (but perhaps more personal?).

I don't think becoming a performing artist (in the sense of going on stage) is where I will be going, but if I would, I think I would experience what you said. That the best connections do come from those live shows, just like a visual artist will get the best connections standing in the art gallery. Having the extra platforms available is an added bonus, yes.

The realization that I think the human connection is important to me is I guess just another step in the process of figuring out where I want to go with my music and how I want to go about everything that comes with it. Human relationships are extra challenging for me in the first place, so I have my ways to go.

 

1 hour ago, pu_freak said:

P.S. I also have high regards for the "commercial" artists that are perhaps not always the best in their musical skills, but as entrepreneurs and business(wo)men, they have a lot of skills to be able to get where they are. If building a company or a brand is your passion, and you can combine that successfully with an art form, it takes a lot of determination and skills to be able to achieve success and I really respect that.

That's true. And having mass produced things doesn't have to be a bad thing per say (I'm thinking of Ikea furniture :P).

Can I ask you, how do you approach a live show ? Do you expect and actively seek out the connections or do you maintain a certain "professional distance" shall we say? Do you see yourself as the hired person hired to perform the gig (i.e. I'm here on the job) or more as the artist looking to share his works (assuming you're presenting your own works)?

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As another Dutch person i thought it would be interesting to shed my light on the scene as well. Not particularly because I'm Dutch, but I find the subject to be engaging and worth talking about and also found it a nice coincidence. 

Like you said, there's an abundance of music at the moment and sticking out among the crowd is difficult. I agree with this. However, what I find interesting about your post are your reasons to make music. You name "the desire to express yourself" and looking for a "connection" with people. Personally, I'm a jazz artist. I used to study music composition in the Netherlands but I'm currently located in Germany. Of course, "expressing myself" and connecting with people has been a big reason to continue making music but I wouldn't call it the driving force. At all. This is naturally a subjective thing, but I do want to share my personal thoughts on this since I feel like it might open up some possibilities for other people as well. I make music to create music. For me the reason is very intrinsic. I love music, and I love writing music even more than that. For me the art of discovery and the excitement of finishing pieces, playing in ensembles, organizing concerts, making promo photos, the whole gizmo, it's amazing. Of course, when I make music I express myself, I also connect with other people, but I think that to realize that the fact that you're making music is fun and thrilling and emotional and generally just very wholesome is vital to keep doing this thing. Generally, want I want to say is that I'm simply not dealing at all with the things you're stating above. I'm getting a lot of satisfaction from making music. 

With that in mind I want to immediately stress that there's different ways of producing music. Personally, I write music in Sibelius and then I get the musicians together and we rehearse. Then, there's a concert and people pay to see that concert and I use that money to pay the musicians. That's like, the basic version haha. With this method I personally have a great way of "expressing myself', connecting with people (both the musicians I work with and the people who consume my music) and I'm also just having an awesome time with the whole thing of writing the music and organizing everything. Besides that, as an arranger I also make arrangements for big bands and such and sell those, and I also play gigs as a flute player in orchestra's, jazz ensembles or just random other gigs. Now, I'm going to quote something I found kind of funny about your post:

5 hours ago, BloomingLate said:

Granted, the value we assign to items based on rarity is somewhat arbitrary, but it does show that we appreciate the amount of labor, care and craftsmanship that was poured into the making of a masterpiece. Speaking more to my own field of creativity, I find a classical work of Mozart to be of much greater value than I do the latest dance track that was produced in a couple of hours by some dude with a computer. In fact, having personally discovered how easy it is to make the kind of music that was popular on the radio back when I was a teenager has made me value that kind of music less. It also made me think less highly of the people we practically idolized for making that music.

The thing is that "the latest dance track" isn't so different from Mozart, or Bach or whomever else at all. That is, in principal. These people, especially Mozart were pouring out arrangements by the hour as well. The difference is that you cherry picked some of the finest musicians of their century against "a random guy on the internet". But honestly, they didn't spend that much more time on their music at all. In the end it all comes down to talent and creativity. And this thoughtlessly producing music is something I personally do as well. For example when I have to arrange something I don't really like for some kind of ensemble but I also do have to pay my rent so i do it anyway. It's like how Mozart did it, how Bach did it, how Thad Jones did it and how most arrangers and composers did it and still do it today. As you mentioned in your post, time filters things. But not just obscure artists, but also obscure pieces from famous artists. Mozart wrote a lot of music. Like a lot lot. And some of it is brilliant, and honestly some of it is sh*t. The point I'm trying to make here is that quantity isn't just a necessary thing for being a serious musician, it's even a good thing. Doing things more gives you experience and makes you better at it, it's as simple as that. 

Then, going back to my first point about producing music. I don't know what kind of art or music you make but assuming from your post I assume that it's something that you create by yourself and then release upon the internet. This is an entirely different approach than mine, and it isn't any better or worse, just different. And this is important to keep in mind. Because, what you're basically doing is that you're using this media, the internet, which you have many opinions about that directly contrast the way you want your way of making music to be, as your only way of releasing your music. It's counterproductive. I personally would never want to make a living from just uploading songs to the internet and having them be consumed by people I don't know. For the exact same reasons as you. But, I personally chose to just not do that. Of course, I still have to maintain a social media account for my band, book gigs, schedule rehearsals, write music for annoying people that you really don't want to work with but have to because they're paying you for making that arrangement, and other such things that proper adults do. But that's life, it's the way professional musicians in my field deal with things. And that's a completely different way other professional musicians in their respective field deal with things. My way might not be your way. But if the way that you're doing music currently isn't satisfying for you, then realize that there's other ways to do it as well. 

And here's why it's funny again that we're all Dutch here, because we're basically all growing up in the same environment. And yet we can all have different experiences, different perspectives and different working tools even though we're all just trying to make music. Which I think is also a nice proof that it isn't too late to change your way of looking at music, and the way you make music and produce music and find something that suits you and gives you the satisfaction that you want to get out of music. Because it's all possible, and in the end it's also the most important thing. To somehow have making music be intrinsically satisfying for you.

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13 hours ago, Bowlerhat said:

As another Dutch person i thought it would be interesting to shed my light on the scene as well. Not particularly because I'm Dutch, but I find the subject to be engaging and worth talking about and also found it a nice coincidence.

Thank you for joining the discussion with your valuable insights. :)

13 hours ago, Bowlerhat said:

Like you said, there's an abundance of music at the moment and sticking out among the crowd is difficult. I agree with this. However, what I find interesting about your post are your reasons to make music. You name "the desire to express yourself" and looking for a "connection" with people. Personally, I'm a jazz artist. I used to study music composition in the Netherlands but I'm currently located in Germany. Of course, "expressing myself" and connecting with people has been a big reason to continue making music but I wouldn't call it the driving force. At all. This is naturally a subjective thing, but I do want to share my personal thoughts on this since I feel like it might open up some possibilities for other people as well. I make music to create music. For me the reason is very intrinsic. I love music, and I love writing music even more than that. For me the art of discovery and the excitement of finishing pieces, playing in ensembles, organizing concerts, making promo photos, the whole gizmo, it's amazing. Of course, when I make music I express myself, I also connect with other people, but I think that to realize that the fact that you're making music is fun and thrilling and emotional and generally just very wholesome is vital to keep doing this thing. Generally, want I want to say is that I'm simply not dealing at all with the things you're stating above. I'm getting a lot of satisfaction from making music.

I understand. And I share those other reasons for making music with you (fun, discovery, learning, emotional reward etc.) I think my personal history has a lot to do with how I perceive things now, which may make the story a little less relatable for other artists. All my life I have been kind of struggling to get noticed, to get attention. At an early stage in life I “discovered” that you need to have something going for you if you want to get that attention. I wasn't strong, or attractive, or whatever. My selling point then became drawing. And people would usually applaud me for my drawings, which would make me feel good. Then, as we got older life became even more of a popularity contest (high school). To make a long story short: I became increasingly isolated from peers and thus began craving the attention more (while at the same time having strong reactions against the popularity contest mentality).

Years later I ended up online which allowed a shy person like myself new opportunities to interact with people and discovered that I could get a lot of validation for the artworks I shared. But still, the online world was just as much a popularity contest which just frustrated the whole thing.

By now, I don't want to fall into that trap again of trying to seek attention and validation. I am still struggling to find my place on the playground with the other kids, so to speak. To state it bluntly: I don't want to always play by myself.

So while I do get a lot of satisfaction out of making music, I don't want to be the only one listening to it (having just my mom say “nice melody” also isn't very rewarding ;P)
 

You sound like you're a more stable, mature person who doesn't have that baggage. Also, having the dedication, experience and drive to do what you do seems very helpful. I'm generally very discouraged because of a number of failures in life. There are some personal roadblocks for me if I ever want to go that direction. And again, that may not be the road for me. I only discovered my musical talents a few years ago and I'm not going to bet all my chips on this. In fact, I do have other priorities in life. That said, I do want to see how good I can get and maybe I'll discover new paths along the way. I still have a lot of maturing to do in the first place (autism doesn't help...).

13 hours ago, Bowlerhat said:

With that in mind I want to immediately stress that there's different ways of producing music. Personally, I write music in Sibelius and then I get the musicians together and we rehearse. Then, there's a concert and people pay to see that concert and I use that money to pay the musicians. That's like, the basic version haha. With this method I personally have a great way of "expressing myself', connecting with people (both the musicians I work with and the people who consume my music) and I'm also just having an awesome time with the whole thing of writing the music and organizing everything. Besides that, as an arranger I also make arrangements for big bands and such and sell those, and I also play gigs as a flute player in orchestra's, jazz ensembles or just random other gigs.

I understand. What you're describing sounds pretty cool. Like you do get to play with the other kids in the playground. And yeah, that approach certainly sounds more fulfilling than just making music behind a computer screen. Hmm, so maybe desiring for the music to produce the connections is going about it the wrong way. Its asking too much of the work and of the people listening to it. But in your case, you already have the network and the social skills to pull something like that together. For me, even starting a connection, let alone maintaining one is an insurmountable task (again, the autism)

13 hours ago, Bowlerhat said:

The thing is that "the latest dance track" isn't so different from Mozart, or Bach or whomever else at all. That is, in principal. These people, especially Mozart were pouring out arrangements by the hour as well. The difference is that you cherry picked some of the finest musicians of their century against "a random guy on the internet". But honestly, they didn't spend that much more time on their music at all. In the end it all comes down to talent and creativity. And this thoughtlessly producing music is something I personally do as well. For example when I have to arrange something I don't really like for some kind of ensemble but I also do have to pay my rent so i do it anyway. It's like how Mozart did it, how Bach did it, how Thad Jones did it and how most arrangers and composers did it and still do it today. As you mentioned in your post, time filters things. But not just obscure artists, but also obscure pieces from famous artists. Mozart wrote a lot of music. Like a lot lot. And some of it is brilliant, and honestly some of it is sh*t. The point I'm trying to make here is that quantity isn't just a necessary thing for being a serious musician, it's even a good thing. Doing things more gives you experience and makes you better at it, it's as simple as that.

Hmm, I see your point. I guess I said that out of ignorance. Time spent doesn't have to mean much, that is true. And I guess I've got to let other people have their own process too, even if that involves glutting the stream with what I perceive as amateur stuff. We all start out as amateurs.

13 hours ago, Bowlerhat said:

Then, going back to my first point about producing music. I don't know what kind of art or music you make but assuming from your post I assume that it's something that you create by yourself and then release upon the internet. This is an entirely different approach than mine, and it isn't any better or worse, just different. And this is important to keep in mind. Because, what you're basically doing is that you're using this media, the internet, which you have many opinions about that directly contrast the way you want your way of making music to be, as your only way of releasing your music. It's counterproductive. I personally would never want to make a living from just uploading songs to the internet and having them be consumed by people I don't know. For the exact same reasons as you. But, I personally chose to just not do that. Of course, I still have to maintain a social media account for my band, book gigs, schedule rehearsals, write music for annoying people that you really don't want to work with but have to because they're paying you for making that arrangement, and other such things that proper adults do. But that's life, it's the way professional musicians in my field deal with things. And that's a completely different way other professional musicians in their respective field deal with things. My way might not be your way. But if the way that you're doing music currently isn't satisfying for you, then realize that there's other ways to do it as well

I'll clarify. I make music in my own time, for me. I started learning to play the piano a few years ago and quickly moved into making music digitally to save time on writing sheets. That opened up new possibilities that got me into writing for other instruments as well. Since I love VGM and have known about OCremix I do remixes on the side, as part of the overall learning process. Knowing there are more appreciators of VGM I figured I'd share my stuff here. I needed a way to link to my works, and that's why I have the Soundcloud account. I am not actively or seriously pursuing a musical career, nor am I advertising to get exposure.
If it was my goal right now to get exposure and find meaningful connections with fans, and I wanted to not just have random people consume my music, then I agree 100% with your comments. I would not be approaching things in a very productive manner.

13 hours ago, Bowlerhat said:

And here's why it's funny again that we're all Dutch here, because we're basically all growing up in the same environment. And yet we can all have different experiences, different perspectives and different working tools even though we're all just trying to make music. Which I think is also a nice proof that it isn't too late to change your way of looking at music, and the way you make music and produce music and find something that suits you and gives you the satisfaction that you want to get out of music. Because it's all possible, and in the end it's also the most important thing. To somehow have making music be intrinsically satisfying for you.

Well, I trust your experience more than mine. I'm looking at it from the perspective of a (somewhat jaded) outsider but you and pu_freak have positive experience and knowledge of the inside situation. I think it is what I perceive about the music industry, modern society and people that is making me unsure about wanting to enter it.

Maybe it is too early for me to make final judgments and perhaps I need to get out of the isolation more and actually find people who are artists. To learn more about the field.

Given my personal limitations I'm honestly not sure if a professional music career is for me, but perhaps I can do something on a smaller scale, with smaller expectations. I do want to keep making music, that's for sure.

Thank you for your respectful and helpful response :)

.

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I just wanted to point out what a nice a pleasant discussion/conversation we have here, and thank you for being so open and honest René!

On 2/21/2019 at 7:38 PM, BloomingLate said:

Can I ask you, how do you approach a live show ? Do you expect and actively seek out the connections or do you maintain a certain "professional distance" shall we say? Do you see yourself as the hired person hired to perform the gig (i.e. I'm here on the job) or more as the artist looking to share his works (assuming you're presenting your own works)?

Well I don't expect anything, but the connection is something I like most about doing live shows. I do play in a band, so it's not me by myself, meaning I also get the added social benefit of rehearsals. But we usually play at smaller stages for a crowd of friends/acquaintances who bring their own friends or at (free) events that are close to us, making it easier to get to know the audience. I usually stay for a few drinks after we play, and it's really fun to talk to people what they liked and what they didn't like, and just expand your network and get that connection. Granted, this approach is something you need to like to do (networking), but that's really one of the things I like about doing live shows as opposed to making solo tracks digitally.

 

On 2/22/2019 at 12:36 PM, BloomingLate said:

Maybe it is too early for me to make final judgments and perhaps I need to get out of the isolation more and actually find people who are artists. To learn more about the field.

Given my personal limitations I'm honestly not sure if a professional music career is for me, but perhaps I can do something on a smaller scale, with smaller expectations. I do want to keep making music, that's for sure.

In my opinion it's always too early to make a final judgment about anything ;) I think that talking with peers and showing your music to them (such as here on OCR) can make you more confident and at least get you that personal connection. But making music digitally is just not ideal if you're really looking for a connection. It's very difficult to get your own faithful audience online and even more difficult to have an online group that supports everything you do instead of wanting more of the same. This is something even popular artists on OCR (which I'm not) struggle with their own original works. On the other hand, there are a lot of people in this community who are also more or less socially isolated and were never the popular kids at school, so to say. I'm always surprised by how many artists here (also) have medical issues are other issues that give them a social disadvantage and connecting with them is certainly a good way to get more personal connections - they really understand you. What I'm trying to say is if making music is your dream, don't give up - you can become a professional. I just don't think that it will get you the personal connections your looking for. However, connecting with peers is a way you can get those connections in my opinion.

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Your thoughts remind me of the lifecycle of businesses and how it compares/contrasts to musicians. Stick with me.

The general guidance for startups is to not immediately go out and compete on the largest scales. Rather, start with a small group of specific customers and please them greatly. In other words: don't try to start by making an Apple Watch competitor. Maybe start with something like a smart watch dispatch radio for police officers, and nail that market space. Then slowly expand your target customers from there. Specific to general. Niche to mass appeal.

Musicians often follow a similar route, to varying degrees. Coldplay evolving from a Radiohead sound towards the most cliche pop sounds of today. Taylor swift from country to pop. We can all probably think of examples from our favorite bands. It's not just evolution, because everyone evolves. It's evolution from narrow appeal to broad appeal.

The difference is that in business, that kind of growth in customer base is (by and large) applauded. Whereas in art, it's often feels like a watering down of the message. Sure you have a larger community of fans, but the connection is less specific, and thus less strong.

I guess that's just a slightly different way of expressing the same things you're thinking about. The tools for broad reach are so strong these days that it really tempts artists to try moving from specific appeal to mass appeal. Or to skip the specific phase entirely. And I don't mean just successful acts. Even the people making music in their bedroom may be producing and judging their own work through that broad lens, perhaps crowding out some more niche expression that would otherwise have found welcoming ears somewhere.

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On 2/23/2019 at 6:50 PM, pu_freak said:

I just wanted to point out what a nice a pleasant discussion/conversation we have here, and thank you for being so open and honest René!

I'm enjoying it too :)

On 2/23/2019 at 6:50 PM, pu_freak said:

Well I don't expect anything, but the connection is something I like most about doing live shows. I do play in a band, so it's not me by myself, meaning I also get the added social benefit of rehearsals. But we usually play at smaller stages for a crowd of friends/acquaintances who bring their own friends or at (free) events that are close to us, making it easier to get to know the audience. I usually stay for a few drinks after we play, and it's really fun to talk to people what they liked and what they didn't like, and just expand your network and get that connection. Granted, this approach is something you need to like to do (networking), but that's really one of the things I like about doing live shows as opposed to making solo tracks digitally.

Sounds great :) I think I would probably like something like that better than say being Mr. Fancy DJ in front of a crowd of 10.000 anonymous people (but I can understand how some people may find that to be very thrilling). And when your audience is made up of a lot of friends I think that has the added benefit of them not dropping you the moment they lose interest in the music. And with friends of friends there is a probably a higher chance of meeting like-minded people.

As a side question (and other people may answer too) : how do people you meet (in general) respond to the fact that you're a musician? Do they show interest and do they want to know more? I'm asking because I recently read an article that listed "your musical instrument" as one of those things you probably shouldn't bring up in conversations, for fear of boring people. I was kind of taken aback because I figured most people like and listen to music and would be very interested in hearing more when they learn you make music. Every time I tell people I take piano lessons and make music they show like...zero interest (and I'm not even boring them with esoteric facts related to the instrument!). If it were my rock collection*, then yeah I would understand, but come on! We make musics man!

On 2/23/2019 at 6:50 PM, pu_freak said:

In my opinion it's always too early to make a final judgment about anything ;) I think that talking with peers and showing your music to them (such as here on OCR) can make you more confident and at least get you that personal connection. But making music digitally is just not ideal if you're really looking for a connection. It's very difficult to get your own faithful audience online and even more difficult to have an online group that supports everything you do instead of wanting more of the same. This is something even popular artists on OCR (which I'm not) struggle with their own original works. On the other hand, there are a lot of people in this community who are also more or less socially isolated and were never the popular kids at school, so to say. I'm always surprised by how many artists here (also) have medical issues are other issues that give them a social disadvantage and connecting with them is certainly a good way to get more personal connections - they really understand you. What I'm trying to say is if making music is your dream, don't give up - you can become a professional. I just don't think that it will get you the personal connections your looking for. However, connecting with peers is a way you can get those connections in my opinion.

Yeah, I think I understand what you're saying. And I think I'll try to kind of separate the two things more: making the music and getting the connections. Connections can be made in other ways too.
I was thinking about checking this local orchestra that occasionally comes together for practice. That might give me the "practice" of going out and trying to connect with people. I might even learn a thing or two about orchestral instruments :)

* I don't really have a rock collection... well, maybe a tiny one

 

57 minutes ago, Patrick Burns said:

The difference is that in business, that kind of growth in customer base is (by and large) applauded. Whereas in art, it's often feels like a watering down of the message. Sure you have a larger community of fans, but the connection is less specific, and thus less strong.

I guess that's just a slightly different way of expressing the same things you're thinking about. The tools for broad reach are so strong these days that it really tempts artists to try moving from specific appeal to mass appeal. Or to skip the specific phase entirely. And I don't mean just successful acts. Even the people making music in their bedroom may be producing and judging their own work through that broad lens, perhaps crowding out some more niche expression that would otherwise have found welcoming ears somewhere.

Hey Patrick, thanks for also chipping in.

I think that's an interesting point. From a business perspective that seems like a very smart way to go, so I guess I can see why even artists who are trying to make a living would go that route. Now that I think about it, I think there are three elements in play here and which element you value the most will determine your direction:

1. The product (the song, drawing, painting, sculpture etc.)
2. The consumer (the audience, fans)
3. The business (your income)

If you value your product the most and you want to stay true to yourself, chances are you're not going to go for the "broad" approach (to use your terminology).
If you value your customer getting what he wants the most, chances are you are going to go for the broad approach.
If you value being able to pay your bills the most, then the move to the broad approach also makes more sense.

I think actually finding a niche is pretty hard these days since our lifelong exposure to the mainstream music (its everywhere!) almost programs you to go that direction. I seriously can't follow a classical piece that doesn't repeat every 8 measure, and that shows in my music :P. Even when you look at tutorials online I'm stunned by the amount of people who are basically just trying to copy what is popular today. I'm not judging them, but I am observing it. Doing something original - especially with music - is a challenge.

 

One final thought that came to mind as I was pondering what we've been discussing so far is that I'm going to have to let go of wanting to control my potential audience and how they'll treat my music. I can't micro-manage each and every listeners behavior, nor can I choose who is "worthy" of being a fan. So if my fear is to have my beloved product end up as something people consume and then forget... not much I can do to stop that.

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