There is something relentless about the necessity for constant self-promotion particularly among independent musicians (and I’m talking about myself here). This comes from many sources but among other things it perpetuates an anxiety many of us already have that we are not good enough and are somehow failing even as we continue to find ways to make and release new work.
This too often leads us to measure the value of our work (and each others) in categories given to us by the advertising platforms we can’t help but use to communicate about it, and the streaming platforms we can’t help but use to distribute it.
The abundance of available metrics encourages us to believe that art and music is a measurable popularity contest and the goal is a kind of validation via algorithm. And yet the fact bananas out sell apples doesn’t tell us anything important about either – not how they taste, how they smell, which one works better in a pie, which you put in a smoothie etc.
I’m aware this could all sound like the preemptive self-justifications of another grizzled independent artist before their new record comes out. But as I get older and as I work with younger musicians as a teacher, I think a lot about how I can continue make this sustainable, not just financially, but mentally and artistically too. I feel this as part of a community of musicians in London and the UK, many of whom I know often feel two steps away from packing it all in. And they’re amazing.
I salute everyone who has the gumption and determination to have an idea and see it through. This is always worth celebrating. For our own hearts we ought to measure the depth not just the breadth of the connections our music makes. Of course we all try to spread the word to as many people as we can but the final tally represents the success of our marketing campaign not the value, quality or usefulness of the work, and that’s important.
So let us be that person who shares their friends work and remember that it’s the human connections we make through the music that what will continue to sustain and nourish us, not the first weeks streaming numbers…