“And I ask myself why do I put myself through it? Long flights, little pay, all for the music. It’s hard to understand why we put ourselves through this. I guess you gotta love it, to keep the crowd moving”
Shout out to my man Mr. Brady for that quote. That appeared on a song we did a few years ago called “Why I Do It.” It is, interestingly, a question that I ask myself every couple of months, usually directly following disappointing news. Maybe a release date of mine was suddenly pushed back. Maybe the turnout for a show was underwhelming. Being an independent artist is a constant battle of trying to break the proverbial glass ceiling. For every success story I see, be it a peer who is performing on a main stage at Coachella, or the one who landed that big placement on that Weeknd album, there are thousands of artists who are still awaiting that big defining moment that will elevate them from bedroom producer or local rapper into a superstar. However, if that moment never happens, does that mean everything was all a waste of time and effort?
Anybody who knows me on a personal level, knows that I oscillate between misplaced narcissism and crippling self-doubt regarding my career. One moment, nobody can fuck with me or tell me a damn thing. “I’m unfuckwittable, nobody seeing me on these beats,” juxtaposed against “what is the use, nobody respects me, maybe I should move on.” Why is this? I think that social media is unquestionably a big part of it. We have been conditioned over the years to prioritize social media love as the only metric of success, and while it is certainly important to utilize it strategically, it isn’t the end-all-be-all. You open up Instagram, scroll through, and see your favorite artist posting a selfie they took standing next to your favorite artist, and the post has 3000 likes. Then you look at your last post announcing your upcoming album, and it has little to no interaction, and therefore, you feel like your art is not that important. Or my personal favorite; you post a song on Soundcloud that you put a lot of time into, and after a few minutes, once realizing your post hasn’t gone literally viral in a matter of minutes…you go back and delete it, believing it’s a wack song since people didn’t flock to it right away. Both scenarios are all too common with independent artists, myself included.
“Ultimately, there is more than one way to define success, and as artists, we do ourselves a huge disservice if we define success strictly by only one metric (internet props) but not any other.”
Which begs the question, how do we define success? Is it popularity? Is it the clout (I hate that word, by the way)? Is it the money? Is it the art itself? There is no correct answer. Everybody has different criteria as to what constitutes success. The answer can certainly be combination of all. Ultimately, there is more than one way to define success, and as artists, we do ourselves a huge disservice if we define success strictly by only one metric (internet props) but not any other. I will never be as rich as Jay-Z, as popular as Kanye West. However, when I started making music, my goal was never to be rich or superstar levels of popularity. All I wanted was to release music on vinyl and see the world through my music…both of which I have done. We all seek validation to some degree. Just got to look within and find your own personal measure of success and not necessarily the one other people’s definition of success.
“More than ever, the perception of being active is as important as actually being active. Most of us are guilty in some capacity in embellishment, but ultimately, we gotta keep it real with ourselves and try not to let perceptions blind us.”
Another important thing to remember is that a good chunk of what you see online is an illusion. There are artists with no followers, who stay on the road and get booked repeatedly. There are artists with tens of thousands of followers who can’t fill an 100-person capacity venue. More than ever, the perception of being active is as important as actually being active. Most of us are guilty in some capacity in embellishment, but ultimately, we gotta keep it real with ourselves and try not to let perceptions blind us.
Your bestest pal,