Music is collaboration. Musician to musician – artist to fans – artist to label /industry… Now more than ever, in this time of such independence, I am struck by the interdependence of things.
And music, being a shared experience by two or more – strikes me as a perfect vehicle for interdependence and a distinction that could benefit all artists and music creators.
It’s a new time in the world. Old structures are collapsing, and new ones are being built – but not in the same way. In the past we fought for independence and won – now the fight is for co-creation, collaboration and it all depends upon interdependence. Truth is, whether you like it or not, we cannot exist without each other (not very well or comfortably anyway). And – we are interconnected to every living thing and being, whether acknowledged or not. We are one giant conglomeration of atoms and energy in motion – together.
And there is a new way of looking at it – a new paradigm that exists between independent and dependent: interdependence. It even feels good saying it.
In 2020, we have more independence than ever – the internet is huge proof of a whole world virtually at our fingertips. But it’s an illusion that we are on our own – we cannot exist without someone on the other end. We are interdependent. Interdependence means “dependent on others for some needs.” In other words, you can’t produce everything you need. Interdependence is the idea that you as a person depend on other people for certain things. The same is true of families, towns, and even countries. The people who use their own hands to make everything they could ever want are rare these days. More common are people like you, who get different things from different people.
Music being one of those things. It generally isn’t produced alone (nor should it be). Every time I hear an artist say – “I wrote, played & produced everything on the record” – it almost always means it could have been better had more people been involved (and no worries if you’re that artist – I used to be too – it’s the nature of proving yourself). But in honesty, all hit records have a team of people evaluating, tweaking, perfecting etc.. all ensuring its success – there’s a reason for that. Sure, you can sit in your room and play or street busk by yourself – you can even write, perform and record your entire album on Garage Band or Pro Tools, but who says that’s a good thing? Maybe as a learning tool for understanding production… The sad thing for me as a coach is that I meet artists all the time whose true potential is never realized because they try to do it all on their own and don’t get the right guidance.
I recently spoke to a music professional who is helping artists by offering them opportunities on retainer – one of the new ideas emerging out there. He’s a connector – he finds placement for songs in Film & TV, he gets artists deals – but rather than taking a slice of the pie, he’d rather get paid upfront on a monthly retainer – easier for him and in the long term easier for the artists too because nothing comes from the back end. That way the artist owns their music 100%. More and more of that model is emerging and it makes sense. It also teaches artists how to invest in themselves instead of waiting for someone else to invest in them and then take it all back (controlling the artist in the meanwhile). My new pal commented that as he listened to me talk to artists, he said, “While it’s good that you encourage artists to find their ‘true north’ – it’s often not commercial enough and then we have that problem.” I responded that when I tell artists to stay true to themselves, it doesn’t mean living under a rock or reinventing music in some weird genre or not listening to feedback from professionals – the opposite is true. I mean that they need to work harder to find their originality – not be indulgent. One of the reasons I am pushing artists in that direction is that far too many a have been pushed into this “copycat” mode to ensure sales and it’s robbing us of the individuality that is necessary to create great music. We need to move away from the formulaic approach that dominates the airwaves and encourages artists to create again. And instead, encourage them to work together – because great records and even great songs are usually the result of great collaborations. The day of the DIY independent is over-glorified (most get buried under the workload and stop making music) – and anyway, who wants to be a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to your music – do you really want to be writer/performer/mixing engineer/producer/publicist and label when you’re bound to have holes wearing multiple hats?
No matter how hard anyone tries to skip off to a desert island – or insists upon doing everything themself (same thing in my book), you have to continue to take off your blinders and get in the real world. What’s more, the opinions of others –filtered by you, of course – can offer ideas where you fall short – and no matter who you are, there are always things you can easily miss.
Music is now available mostly free from independent artists trying to promote themselves, yet the world is dependent upon musicians to make the music we listen to.
Musicians are dependent upon other musicians to inspire them and play with them, and artists are dependent upon people listening to their music and hopefully continuing to give them some money to make it. Artists are also dependent on music industry professionals such as management, publicists, radio promoters, distributors, booking agents and such to help them get their music out there – more proof that it can’t be done alone.
So anywhere you use the word “dependent” or “independent”, replace it with “interdependent” and see how that feels. Who really wants to do everything on their own?
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