If you follow pop, it’s certainly not about music but about persona. Not that pop stars don’t have talent, many actually do, but pop is so much more about the image than it is about the music. Besides, very few of them write any of their music, or if they get any songwriting credit, it’s because they happened to participate in the writing process.
And don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those oldies who wants to return to the “good old days” where music seemed to mean much more. That was another time. There wasn’t the Internet. There wasn’t the technology available where anyone with a laptop and GarageBand or Audacity could lay down decent enough tracks to get their music out there. Back then, you had to rely on the studios. There was no choice.
But it was inevitable that eventually the music business would arrive to the point where everything sounds the same. The studios are businesses. Once they find a successful niche (sound, in this case), they want to ride that wave for as long as they can and profit from it; unfortunately, it means that introducing new material that falls outside the wave has a much harder time getting picked up.
And I’m not one of those bitter artists who you hear about constantly complaining about not getting paid. I’m surely not in it for the money… and I guess that’s the point to my meanderings here. From an artist’s standpoint – not the industry perspective – what really is making it?
For me, I’ve come to the conclusion that I probably will never write anything that has real wide appeal. I certainly couldn’t write stuff that 20-something’s could relate to because I’m 30 years out my 20’s. Believe me, I’ve tried to do it; to research things that appeal to younger people; tried listening to “younger” music like screamo, hardcore, modern pop. Very little of that appealed to me.
But I do like a lot of the Indie stuff from younger artists, particularly guys like Passenger, who’s sole big hit was “Let Her Go.” But if you listen to his other stuff, while it’s catchy, a lot of times, the lyrics are WAY too deep, and you have to listen to the songs and read the lyrics over and over again. A good example of this is “Circles,” probably my favorite Passenger song. It’s about aging, and it’s a truly great song. Don’t think you’d ever hear on the radio, but that’s not the point. That song is good. Here’s a clip from a concert, probably recorded with a phone. It starts out with “Circles,” then Mike moves into “Trouble” then segues into “Let Her Go.” When you watch, you realize just how much he loves what he’s doing.
Speaking of “circles,” I guess I should circle back now to the original question. What really is making it? For me, it’s simple: I’ve always just wanted the ability to share music with as many people as I could, and gig – a lot. I do from 150 to 200 gigs a year, and if I wanted, and also if I didn’t have a family, I could probably support myself on doing music alone. I don’t have any ambitions that somehow I’m going to get discovered and get a contract. At this point in my life, I don’t have the time to do the self-promotion that entails. But I do get to gig, and as of late, I’ve been introducing more and more of my own music into my gigs. Some have caught on with my audience, others… well, I don’t do the ones that don’t really catch on much… 🙂
But to me, the fact I can gig as much as I do, is enough for me. To me, I’ve “made it” on my own terms, and that’s good enough. Maybe in the future when I have more discretionary income, I’ll put more time into promoting and playing bigger venues, but right now, I’m happy with where I am and how far I’ve come.