Have you ever had the experience of writing what you’re sure is an amazing, masterpiece of a song, only to find out once you release it no else seems to agree? Have you ever poured your heart and soul into a song or an album, that you’re convinced is an earth shattering, ground breaking piece of art that is sure to move people all around the world, only to find out that no one really seems to care?
If your career has been anything like mine, you’ve probably had a few of these moments along your journey. It’s a humbling experience to pour so much of yourself into your work and realize that it’s maybe not as great as you thought it was. Of course, maybe what you’re doing is actually great, but you just haven’t figured out a way to market yourself successfully. Either way, when you give something your all and it falls short of your expectations, it can be a little discouraging, to say the least.
In today’s post I’m going to explore why so much music that is being made fails to gain any sort of traction. Is it all bad? Does the public have shitty taste in music? Are musicians just bad at marketing themselves? Is there just too much music out there? These are the questions I’m going to explore in today’s post.
Let’s get started….
Is Your Music Any Good?
Let’s start with an obvious question, which is, how good is your music? Often times musicians get so caught up in the experience and emotion of making art, that they convince themselves they’re creating something that is far better than it really is. Making music is fun and incredibly inspiring. I’m sure we’ve all had moments where we’re so immersed in working on our music that we fail to retain any sort of objectivity about what we’re creating at all. It’s hard to be objective about art as it’s a pretty subjective experience in the first place. But we have to have some way of gauging whether or not we’re doing has value to anyone other than ourselves.
When you’re working on something like starting an internet business or building a company or trying to get a job, it’s much easier to be less emotional when things don’t work out. When I release a product for example on my website that doesn’t sell well, it doesn’t really hurt my feelings. I just take it as a sign that perhaps I misread the market and use that feedback to create something more aligned with what people actually want. I may experience frustration when things don’t go as planned, but I don’t take it personally.
However if someone criticizes one of my songs, it hurts on a different level. I tend to take it more personally. Almost as if they’re criticizing me. Of course, if you think about it, this isn’t really a rational response. Either people like your music or they don’t. It’s cool to pretend like were just making music for ourselves and that we don’t really care one way or the other. But if you’re trying to make music as a way to make money and support yourself, then you have to care what people think. Your success depends on it!
There is an enormous amount of music out there. More than there ever has been. There is more music out there than the public has time to listen to and much of it, isn’t really that good. It’s not surprising then, that if you release a song that is in reality, pretty mediocre or average, that it doesn’t set the world on fire. Your music needs to be amazing to rise above the barrage of mediocrity that’s out there.
As hard as it to be objective about your own art, ask yourself if what you’re doing is really special. Does it really compete with the best of the best in today’s market? Does your music get lots of positive feedback on social media from people that aren’t your friends? I think most of us know, deep down, when we’re on target and when we’re not. If your music isn’t ready, that’s fine, it just means you need to keep working on your craft. But don’t fool yourself into thinking your music is better than it really is.
Does The Public Have Bad Taste In Music?
I think Jon Mayer summed it up best when said, “The public is never wrong. In fact they’re right 100 percent of the time.” What he meant was, the public always simply gravitates to what they like, for whatever reason. There’s no point in endlessly debating whether or not the public has “good” taste in music. They just like what they like. Are you trying to be popular and sell a lot of albums? If you are, you need to figure out how to appeal to the publics’ sensibility. If you don’t care about being popular and just want to attract a small, devoted following, that’s cool too. But don’t be disingenuous about your goals. If you want to be the next Beyonce or Jon Mayer, own that and go for it. Don’t blame your lack of success on the public’s poor taste in art and then pretend that you just want to be an obscure indie artist, when you’d really rather be selling out stadiums.
Are Musicians Bad At Marketing?
As someone who listens to a lot of music as a part of my job description, I can tell you that, fortunately, there is a lot of really great music out there. Unfortunately it’s not all being heard. Although it’s true that there is a lot of really mediocre, average music being made, there is also some incredible unknown music out there. Not all great music gets discovered. Some musicians are great at writing music, but not so great at marketing and business. Some musicians give up way to soon. Some musicians simply haven’t had their break yet and need to keep going in order to reach greater levels of success and exposure.
One of the keys to making it in the music business is building a team of people that all play critical roles in helping you move forward. Managers, publicists, publishers, producers and so on, all play a key role in the careers of musicians. It’s very hard to do it all on your own. In fact, it’s close to impossible. There are only so many hats you can wear and there are only so many hours in a day. The musicians that I know that are the most successful, all have a network of people they work with who have helped them build their careers. No man is an island in the music industry.
Is There “Too Much” Music?
Sometimes it seems like there’s just too much music out there and that the public simply doesn’t have time to digest it all. There’s probably some truth to this idea. There is an enormous amount of music in the world and we each only have 24 hours in a day. Determining exactly how many songs exist is difficult as it doesn’t seem like there’s a consensus on how many songs are out there. According to my research there are anywhere between 97 million and one billion songs in existence, with new songs being created every day. There are over 4 million songs on Spotify alone that have never been played.
But I don’t think there will ever be too much great art. Some things are just timeless and will never get old. Take movies for example, there is also an enormous amount of films that exist, but the movie business is thriving. A lot of films are simply rehashed storylines told in slightly different ways, with different actors. Yet, they still find an audience. Good stories will never fall out of fashion.
In the same way, great songs will never stop moving people. New generations will always need new artists and new songs. Music will never get old or fall out fashion. Of course, with so much music out there, artists need to find ways to keep things fresh and interesting, to get the attention and leverage they need to attract listeners. But it’s preposterous to think that there could ever be “too much” music. Too much bad music perhaps, but not too much music.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that with so much music out there, and so many musicians making music that isn’t really that great or original, you need to do something really good and/or interesting to stand out. You need to somehow rise above the barrage of mediocre music and lackluster marketing that’s out there. There’s still a huge audience of people that are waiting for the next great artist and the next hit song and someone is going to step up to fill that role. The question is, will it be you, or someone else?
Speaking of songs, here's a new one of mine called "Sweet Little Thing". Is it any good? Fingers crossed.
The blog of musician and thinker of deep thoughts, Aaron Davison.