There’s no doubt that today’s music industry is fiercely competitive. Because an insane amount of new music comes out each and every day, it makes sense that musicians often adopt a winner-takes-all mentality when it comes to promoting and advocating for their work. But rather than fighting each other and entertaining jealousy when another artist’s music succeeds, musicians should be working together to create momentum for their work.
“I don’t support anyone else’s music because no one supports me.”
This is something lots of musicians have probably thought to themselves at some point in their careers, though most would be hard-pressed to admit it. We often approach the communities we make music in with a jaded “what’s in it for me” attitude, and that’s understandable when you consider just how difficult trying to build a meaningful musical career is. Low pay, long hours, sparsely attended shows. Musicians can and often do pour everything they’ve got into their work for years with no tangible results to show for it.
But getting upset that the other musicians in your scene aren’t actively supporting you doesn’t make sense if you’ve done nothing to support anyone but yourself. If everyone had this attitude when it came to supporting others in music, then things would be much tougher than they already are.
The truth is that plenty of musicians actively do support each other now, whether they receive any benefits or not. These musicians are much better off than their non-supportive counterparts. These are the folks who hold up music scenes, inspire others, and create opportunities in their communities. To put it simply, they are the music community they wish to see in the world. Rather than sitting around and waiting for good things to happen for their music, they engage with other musicians in their community first without expecting anything in return.
Big things can happen when musicians take things into their own hands to create momentum for their music. When musicians stop fighting each other and start supporting one another, they have the opportunity to build opportunities for themselves. Some of music’s best labels, festivals, and venues started with musicians having conversations about what was lacking in their communities and what they could do to change things.
Big things can happen when musicians take things into their own hands to create momentum for their music.
But today, artists are having a tougher time connecting and building opportunities for their music. Petty jealousy and laziness have always served as hurdles for musicians, but isolation is the biggest modern problem musicians face. Entire musical careers are now being built and sustained on the internet, and though we’re doing plenty of commenting, messaging, and statusing, important face-to-face relationships are now harder to come by in music.
Yes, a music scene can be built over the internet, but there’s something hugely meaningful about showing up to someone’s show and talking to them after their set. Music largely lives on screens these days, but it’s created by human beings in studios, hotel rooms and basements. Music and the people who make it are better off when musicians come together and have conversations about how to further their work.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.