That’s me a couple days ago when I was thinking about all the struggles of being a freelance experimental musician (I know, boo hoo, right?) haha. Anyway, this post isn’t for you to feel sorry for me, but rather to reach out to those of you that are in a similar boat as me.
I’ve been making music since I was 10 years old, and started producing my own music when I was 20 when I got my first cassette 4 track recorder back in the 90s. Since then I’ve created my own record label called Anthill Recordings and self-produced over 20 albums. As far as sales, some have done okay, some have had literally no attention at all, but absolutely none of them have done extremely well. At this point it doesn’t bother me that much, but there was a time when it did.
When you pour your heart and soul into something you think is unique, passionate, and extremely well done, and others do not respond to it at all, it can be a disheartening experience. At the same time when you observe others seemingly churning out the same old thoughtless dribble and getting praised for it, can be even more maddening. The problem is with our society is it rewards conformity and punishes uniqueness. This is something we all learned well in grade school. All of the most popular kids were doing whatever was cool. Football, cheerleaders, jocks, whatever music is on TV or the radio they liked, they wore all the same name brand clothes. They’re all good little sheep.
So it really should come as no surprise to me when I craft something as unique as my album Turn of The Scroct that has a measly 4 bandcamp supporters, while vaporwave artists are simply re-releasing slowed down previously released pop music and are getting thousands of downloads. Here we are again, people just following what other people are doing. There’s literally hundreds of thousands of releases like this, none of which have any originality whatsoever. Contrary to what I just wrote, I don’t hate vaporwave, and have dabbled in it myself, but took it as inspiration. I didn’t merely copy what everyone else was already doing and slap some statues in front of a Windows 95 screenshot and call it a day.
I spent time making my music, thought about it, tried to make it different, tried to make it unique. I took time to perfect my playing, as a drummer, and with all the other instruments I put on my recordings. Am I rewarded with sales? No. No I’m not. To me it’s not desirable to fit neatly into a specific genre of music. This is a huge problem with today’s music and marketing. If it doesn’t neatly adhere to a specific hashtag, nobody cares about it. Because hashtags seem to define people’s identities these days.
However, I am rewarded with my own love of creation. When I listen back to what I made, I think about how good it felt to finally be able to play the drum part I struggled with, how I was able to achieve such a strong sounding mix, how I was able to press a vinyl record after playing every single instrument on it, recording it, mixing it, mastering the vinyl, all by myself. And the few that have reached out to me thanking me for my efforts have done so in a very heartfelt manor. One listener even called me on the phone after I released my album “In The Park” and wanted to personally thank me for making it. This was really nice.
But again, this isn’t why I do it. I do it because I love the process of creation. Making something that I am proud of, that my own thoughts, ideas, focus and energy went into. Knowing it came out exactly the way I wanted it, and maybe one day people will find it and enjoy it as much as I do. But even if they don’t I don’t care. In a way, I’m glad I’ve freed myself from needing other’s approval of my music. Now I create for me. But what I do wish I was getting more of is….. money.
Yes that’s right, I said money. I work hard and I would like to be rewarded financially for my work. I don’t care if people are calling me a genius, or if my music becomes the next trendy thing, I want money, lots of it. So over time I’ve found little ways to make a bit… not lots, but I keep trying to learn new ways to make more. Some of which are making gear reviews on YouTube with my music, creating exclusive content for music licensing, as well as offering my mixing and mastering services to others. Do I make as much money as the amount of work I do? No, not at this point, but I’m going to keep trying. To me this is the ultimate struggle, but I will never give up.