... and there will surely be a time AFTER!
Some days ago I was having a beer with a good old friend of mine, with whom I shared a couple of music projects when we were teenagers. While reminiscing, a thunderbolt struck us both: "do you remember what it was like, when we didn't need to think in terms of streams, followers and views?". Besides chatting a bit more about it, as we parted company I kept on thinking how radically different our approach has been, compared to someone who wants to start nowadays, regardless of your age.
The first feeling I got was gratitude: gratitude because I felt lucky to be born in a timeframe where there was enough technology to ease the approach to music, but not that much to spoil it. My idols and models at that time, I could barely see them on a videotape (one, not hundreds) or listen their cassette, then CDs. Music was all I got from them. No Instagram profile showing me their marvelous life, them counting money or being surrounded by girls on a boat; no daily stories about a beef they had with this and that. The music projection I received wasn't polluted by useless aspects of their life. Translation: my kid's mind wanted to play/sing as good as them, period.
Believe it or not, despite I started doing music at the age of 8 (which makes 28 years to date), I never cared for fame until a decade ago. I played, sang, practices, invested, traveled, bought/sold stuff all for music's sake. I realize today how much I'm grateful not to have had my mind tapped with trivial things; I got the time to prove to myself I truly loved what I was doing, especially in a period where you weren't shouting the entire planet 24/7 what you were doing, begging for a little attention. It all started and ended in my room, rehearsing, on stage (with rare bad-quality video recordings).
You won't endure something you don't love. That's as sure as it gets. And what bothers me the most nowadays is that apparently we even try to skip the part in which we practice, get better, experience, get acquainted and find our own sound and style. It's not only about the "quick fix/solution" society mindset we all live with: it's even worse. How do we even want to skip all these hours? By aspiring to, we're actually revealing MAKING music is not what we're actually after; it's rather "EXPOSING IT".
The powerful means that connect us instantly have quickly led us to overlook what, how and why we do in favor of telling it. But if we all agree (or that I shall suppose) music has everything to do with a part of our inner self, shouldn't we be extremely concerned and interested in how we groom and cherish this process?
I realize that's extremely hard to silence all these inputs and disturbances because views and streams are no longer just tools; they became an extension of personalities. Some jobs have come to light only in function of visibility and exposure. This is quite easy to grasp: whenever there's a temporary breakdown of the major social media platforms, there are a lot of people who don't know what do you and they can't work/earn. Translation: without my followers and my exposure, I'm roasted.
Well then it's pretty easy to ask: would you still do music, if you couldn't upload it and share it constantly? If tomorrow the new trend was "the artist will no longer be a superstar but rather a missionary carrying around his music at his own expenses", would you still long for a career like this? How much time do you spend making music because you like, ESPECIALLY when nobody is watching? Be honest as you'll be answering!
Worldwide fame and superstars were born more or less with the music industry as we know it today (about 70 years ago). That means, it wasn't always like that and subsequently, it won't always be like this. The first music instruments date back 40.000 years (yep, you read it just right). Folks: filling arenas with the purpose of selling tickets, merch, records etc is an insignificant tiny flash of a moment in this time span. And guess what: humanity has always made music, even when they couldn't scale a billboard or win the music awards.
The same music business we have known for the past 70 years is quickly dying: some don't wanna see it, some pretend it's just a bad period, some blame the internet, the streams etc. Although nobody knows how what we know today will become the new standard(s) of tomorrow, it is pretty clear to me that whether you'll have a career in music or not will depend almost entirely on you. Big corporations and labels will no longer "step down" from heaven showering your project with money; they're out of it. If you haven't already, read this article that states how music execs have publicly admitted they're depressed because they don't understand how to break a new artist. What does this tell us? They're not even good at what they're supposed to do. In exchange of the intellectual property and exploitation of your artistic creation, they should be building opportunities, leading your growth and helping you establish your career. Now, they just stated they don't know how to do it. Ouch!
You know, to me this was a huge relief: the giants and masters of the business are folding and saying "guys, we know less or as much as you in developing a new career". Fantastic, then I know I'm on my own. There's no irony in my words, I'm genuinely relieved. Knowing when there's no one else to blame leaves empty space and energy that can be deployed in a more productive way. The services that were once provided by labels are now available in tons of different forms. People like me, who can help get your plan together, running and growing, have been replacing the obsolete concept of artistic directors, label managers, PR managers etc. Artists helping other artists. People who can teach/help you with something because they have been doing it personally, day and night.
That's why, from whichever point of view, I can't help by getting to the same principle over and over again: do you want to do it or not? If you understood that nobody knows how to turn you into the next Taylor Swift, would you still commit yourself pursuing your goal?
A business is a business and nothing lasts forever. Many of the things that could represent a great business in the 18th century are long dead. Our music business will either evolve or die, but not music. It'll last as long as humanity will. That means that when all structures and certainties collapse, it always comes down to two options: give up because you don't know how to do it or ACCEPTING that ways are found, they don't just lay ahead of us shining and ready to be taken.