Somewhere along the way we got lost. Somewhere in the onslaught of content, YouTube videos, Instagram chops, trends, viral videos, and memes we seem to have forgotten what it means to be a musician. We forgot where we came from.
Remember your first music lesson? It was probably with someone much older, much wiser than you. Maybe they walked a little slow but they became an absolute superhero to you when you heard them play - soaring over scales, leaping over songs in a single bound. Everything they did was effortless, the product of hours of practice, years of playing their instrument. They knew every fret, every nuance of their weapon and they wielded it as if it was an extra limb. You looked up to them so much. All they wanted to do was teach you what they knew, and all you wanted to do was fly.
We all started here - with an absolutely unwieldy passion to make music.
Every one of the producers, the drummers, guitarists showering their Instagram feeds with their individually primed and prepped daily success stories started in the same exact place. We all heard something amazing and that was it. We locked ourselves in our rooms and practiced and played and listened and filled our hearts to the brim with music until we had to let some back out again. So we formed bands, wrote songs, played shows and made music that nobody had ever made before because we were overflowing. We sucked - so, SO bad... for longer than we knew. We went through all the stages of musicianship: inspired, amateur, proficient, self-proclaimed genius, educated, novice, eternal student of the craft. We just wanted to be as good as our teacher, to make music, to be a superhero.
And now we’re here. We are all excellent musicians. We might even be ‘proficient’ if we have the audacity to admit to that. We have unlimited educational resources, cheap gear, lots of opportunities. Every one of us started out with the same goal, but now we’re here and we don’t really know what to do. Because now the goal isn’t to get better. It isn't to make music. Now the goal is to be the best and make the best music. We think we have to compete with each other.
So here we are with blinders on each side of our head - only thinking about us, how we can get the most likes, how we can impress the audience more than the other songwriter in town, how we can move our product and get the attention of the mob. We “try to get” people to listen to us. We trick them. We’ve collectively decided that music has no value anymore so we offer them free clothing, beer, food, anything we can think of in return for listening to our song. We pressure people. We peddle our wares to people who aren’t paying attention. We beg them to spend time on something that is already in their pockets.
We have it so wrong.
We think our music isn’t special anymore, that it doesn’t have value, when in reality it’s the very thing that has kept us going so strong for so long. It’s what defined us, taught us lessons that no person or parent or school could ever teach, what crafted our personalities and formed them into clay in front of us so we could finally see and understand who we are.
We’ve become confused, and now instead of crafting songs that come from the heart and mean something to us, we make videos that will catch attention. We strive for originality, virality. We pull stunts and do musical antics on an invisible stage and we’ve completely forgotten where we came from. Songs are getting shorter and shorter and less meaningful. We need to extend our attention span from the length of a TikTok video to the length of a record. (An actual record, where you have to get up if you want to skip to the next track.) We need to realize that music is the most valuable thing we have and it deserves our respect. Our music has changed us, and it can change others. It can change the world.
But right now we look like a million rats running shoulder to shoulder on the same treadmill. Each of us looking straight ahead to a destination we’ll never reach. Not a single one of us ever turned to the left or right for even a minute to consider the value of their neighbor’s passion. We’re all just trying to be discovered, to ‘make it’, without considering that we have so much potential for a community surrounding us that if we just stopped and listened for a minute we might find what we’ve been looking for the whole time. If we simply turned to a fellow musician, embraced them, and welcomed them to the team, they might have finally ‘made it’. They might feel discovered. We might all finally feel some respect, some recognition, some support, and find true success and validation just by looking around us. We might feel like we have a team to rely on.
We all came from the same place. We're all doing the same exact thing.
Let's do it together. #TeamMusic
Cover photo by Felix Koutchinski
(Photo by Ben Collins)