There are many choices music-makers must make. Which guitar to buy, which software, which gigs to take and which ones to drop, and so on and so forth. There is another choice music-makers must make that you may or may not be familiar with. It is this: do I make music for me OR for them? In other words, where should my loyalties lie — to my own heart or to the tastes of others. It may seem an easy pick for some, but given a closer look…it may not be as black and white as you think. Let me explain.
If someone chooses the former – their own heart – and they make music without ANY regard for the listener, what could be the result? Well, for certain, they would be making music that they truly love and that comes from a pure place. They would be happy, right? But…what if the music that they truly love is great to them and a core group of fans, but does not crossover to the masses? As it is for most people who are creators (generally), that person’s joy would be tempered by the fact that they weren’t able to share their creations with as many people as possible. Music is a message, something one wants to say, if no one hears the message…well. In addition to not having a means with which to disseminate your soul’s message to the world, you may also not have the means to pay your bills (or have much clout as far as status goes). An unfortunate downside of capitalism is, if you don’t have an audience, you don’t have money. Wouldn’t it be great if we all got paid just because we created something? But c’est la vie, that is not the world we live in.
Which brings me to the other side of the – coin; choosing to make music for others. For the very reasons listed above, many many many have chosen to compromise or – forsake altogether – their true, deep, heart songs for a much more accessible version. The story lines get vague, universal, and – at times – shallow… enough for everyone to be able to stand in the water. This translates to more listeners and more financial and status-related rewards. May even get you the I-Ching of music awards – a Grammy. However, with what you gain in funds and social rank, you may lose in conscience. You know you are making music that has been toned down or has been gently painted over by someone else. You wish you were free to just “do your thing” and not care what any other person has to say about it. But, if you did that, that would bring you right back to where we first started. Vicious cycle. Complex choice.
Told ya – not so easy. I bet you can think of people you know who have made either choice and I bet that if you sat down with them and had a conversation, this stuff would eventually show up. Now some may say there are plenty of people who did not have to make the choice between the two. That they were able to make PURE music AND have widespread acceptance and success. One may bring up Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, Bjork. True, these clearly made music that was true to themselves and they had HUGE audiences and financial gain. Well….kinda. They did have producers who added a little of this and took a little of that out, right? Is that not a compromise of sorts (though minimal). Furthermore, these cases are rare and specific to timing and favorable conditions.
So….hmmm. What do we do? What choice do we make if in either choice we are bound to betray ourselves? Can we look down on people like _______ (fill in the blank) or others who’ve gone to great lengths to make music that appeals to the masses but may not be 100% true to who they really are? It is a tough choice, even more so for those who come from “da streets” and are just trying to survive and get out or from a broken home and are just trying to find people that love you. You may be wondering what I chose. Well….I have made absolutely 0 dollars off of any song I ever made. Let’s leave it at that;). How about you? Agree/Disagree? What choice did you make?