With a constant stream of analytic information measured in song plays, likes, views, and other stats, it can be tempting to play the comparison game in music. Because this constantly updated information is an important indicator of an artist’s success, it could lead some musicians to constantly compare their numbers to other artists. But while some helpful insights could be gleaned by seeing how well your contemporaries are faring in today’s tumultuous music climate, it’s a bad habit to be constantly sizing yourself up against other artists. Here’s why.
The comparison game distracts you from your own craft
Every minute you spend sizing up another band is one that could be spent developing your music. In truth, whether we realize it or not, some of us are simply more content sitting on the sidelines to compare and criticize our contemporaries rather than doing the immensely hard work and taking the risks of making music ourselves. Because creating any sort of art is often difficult, thankless, and even downright painful, it makes sense why some artists feel safe looking into another band’s successes rather than making music themselves. But while it’s safe to compare, it won’t do anything to develop, enhance, or further your own music. Some comparison is completely natural and even helpful in music, but it can easily become a distraction––or even worse––an excuse for an artist not to focus on their own craft.
Success in music is more than the numbers
If you’re waiting to get up to a certain amount of plays, likes, views, or dollars earned from your music to feel truly validated or successful as an artist, then you’re probably not going to make much music. While goals are essential for creatives, holding yourself to any sort of extreme and unrealistic standard is a good way to kill your music career before it starts. What you truly need to succeed over the long-term is the sort of emotional and creative fortitude that’s sturdy enough to transport you between the inevitable disappointments that come along with making music.
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Numbers don’t tell the whole story behind a band’s success
If you think a band’s stats are an accurate indicator of their success and traction, then you’re not looking at the bigger picture. For example, if an artist’s song is featured on a prominent playlist, they or their label might’ve paid good money for it to be there. The same goes for press coverage, reviews, and even performance opportunities in some cases. Entire segments of the music industry make money from artists trying to get their music heard, and if you’re not experiencing the exposure and success you want, it could be because you’re not willing to make the financial investments to help you get there.
The reasons why some artists break and some don’t is complicated, and spending your time sizing your music up against someone else’s is a bad use of your time. If you really want the best chance for success in music, get back to work.
Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator currently residing in the great city of Philadelphia. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.
George Erdner - March 21, 2018
In one respect, I totally agree. In another respect, I think you’re totally wrong. Measuring your commercial success against other artists is a futile waste of time. On that, you are correct. But you failed to mention how important it is to compare your finished product against others. The best musicians and bands were often engaged in friendly rivalry with other musicians and bands to surpass the quality of the others’ production. That back and forth of creative effort was often a positive driving factor that lead to better music.
Darwin - July 15, 2018
“The best musicians and bands were often engaged in friendly rivalry with other musicians and bands to surpass the quality of the others’ production. ” Where on earth would you get that idea? I’ve been working in the industry for 10 years and have been in the studio with some of the greats. I can tell you, as a matter of fact, when mature artists are on the grind the only thing they care about is making their own sound as perfect as they can. Their level of excellence is generated from within.
oga nice - March 22, 2018
thanks very much give more advice please
Uno - March 30, 2018
“But you failed to mention how important it is to compare your work against others.”
You’re right in one respect yet you can limit your creativity by your comparison. True art comes from a deep place within us. Early on Eric Clapton’s love and respect for his music wouldn’t allow him to “sell out”. Tears In Heaven came from deep within him. There’s no way to compare art like that against others. To do so would take away from art that only you can create.
Darwin - July 15, 2018
Well said Uno.