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The Importance of Self-Belief
THE title of this feature tips its hat (red, of course) to a...
IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images
character in Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham. He is a figure who encourages others to eat the eponymous foodstuff – an unpopular little bug who, in the end, gets approval! It is not a coincidence the unappreciated character comes to mind. I am gazing out at the music world and seeing a lot of self-doubt and recrimination. Artists, who put themselves out there and produce wonderful stuff, are being overlooked and snubbed. Many others are questioning their worth and place in music. It is not only musicians who are on my mind: other music-based professionals are enveloped in a smog of upset and anxiety. There is a certain inevitability we would see a rise in stress and worry levels. Music is a packed and challenging industry that demands full attention and unwavering focus. One of the reasons I have penned this article is (because of) doubts I have regarding my own work. I look out at the sea of blogs and wonder where I fit in the running order. We are told Pitchfork is the world’s most-demanded and popular blog. Other sites like The 405, CLASH and Consequence of Sound are high up on that list. I look at NME and The Guardian and, whilst prolific and packed with quality – I wonder whether I am THAT much worse than them! By that; I see the work these sites put out and they receive a lot more attention than I do...
I promote my site and put out anywhere up to twenty pieces a week. Every day, something new comes from me – I have not missed a day in well over a year! The energy and time I put into my site mean I offer neglect social time and travel. The reason I sacrifice so much of myself is that goal: to become as big as the aforementioned. In terms of quality and variation; I wonder whether they are all THAT much better?! I get annoyed because bands and artists boast and brim when these sites premiere their music. They go to them first and consider it a holy chalice – even if the feature/article is less in-depth and well-presented. It seems popularity and brand is more sought-after than quality and depth – the more followers and fans you have, basically, the ‘better’ you are. That might sound like sour grapes – a nice accompaniment to the green eggs and ham! – but it is an observation on the world of music. I know these sites have more staff and time available – maybe making my work-rate more impressive – and they are shinier; have a wider readership and pool. The fact they, often, produce less work and are not that far ahead of me irks – and the discrepancy in reputation and numbers is a worry. All my work and sacrifice is designed to be in a position where someone will notice me; I am scooped by a big station/website and can monetise my creativity.
I know the reality is slender – or far-off, at the very least – but I often struggle to rationalise the gulfs and how, in many cases, quality and prolificacy are lesser markers than, well…being ‘cool’. Musicians often get into the same mindset: chasing numbers and valuing themselves in terms of how they compare to others. Many of us get into a habit of sitting on social media sites and obsessively watching for updates/notifications/messages. I have, literally, sat on Twitter – after posting a piece – and waiting for people to give it a thumbs-up and comment! That may sound beyond-sad (and is!) but many of are programmed like this. Unless my latest piece gets a dozen ‘likes’ right off the bat, and gets shared numerous times, then I am a failure. I do struggle with the fact many of my pieces are under-viewed and are not shared. I try my best to promote everything and tag artists/labels when relevant. I can only do so much: maybe relying on followers and others to share my work is not the best idea. That may sound cruel but a new thought comes to mind: should people like me value themselves in numerical terms?! Is it sage comparing yourself to others?! I feel we all get into a position where we have an idealised vision of who we are; we race ahead and impatiently chase success and respect – if we do not get where we dream of being right away...we lash out and take it out on ourselves. That might be a natural side-effect from a generation who are becoming more immersed in the machine; quantifying every portion of their life in digital terms.
It can be hard giving ourselves a pat on the back when we have high ambitions and crave success so readily. I want that radio gig – producing or presenting – and often feel like that will never come. You never know what is around the corner, mind. Too many of us feel unloved and worthless if we are not elevated and canonised right away. The hard slog and endless plugging can take a lot out of us – if we do not feel we are seeing fair returns. I get into that groove. I graft and endlessly slog to get out good pieces and (try to) match the consistency and quality of the biggest blogs. I feel there is an epidemic where we chase perfection and see self-worth in binary terms: if we reach our dreams, we have made it: if we do not get there then we are failures. I am seeing many artists being discriminated against and overlooked because of their style, looks and location. Many female artists are being promoted because of their looks – does music still favour the beautiful and sexy?! – and others, outside of London, ignored and considered inferior. There is a lot working against modern artists: it is only natural many would feel their confidence dip. I feel the only way we will all feel better about ourselves is to stop comparing ourselves to others.
That might be like telling a drug addict to put the needle down and try yoga instead – that is the power and grip a social media mindset has! – but it will make us all healthier and calmer. I know I will progress and get bigger as time gets on but, when it is all said and done; I get a lot of acclaim and support from peers on social media. I value a single person reading something I have floated out: the fact thousands are not drooling over my latest interview should not take away from the support I already have! In my case; moving into London and surrounding myself with venues, radio stations and likeminded folk will see my work get out to more people. Others need to detox from their current malaise and get themselves away from the screen. Just because you are not headlining a festival stage does not mean you are worthless. I am not a minor journalist because I am smaller and less attractive than Pitchfork. I know full well I have qualities that site does not; I am a different beast and would not want to be them. It can be, as I said, hard to cast that shell of expectation and lacking self-belief off and love yourself. This might sound like a self-help seminar but we all need to appreciate how far we have come and the support we have acquired.
Every musician I feature has a base and followers; they have produced great work and will go on to great success and acclaim. Music is not an industry that puts you out to stud when you are a certain age – like football or other sports – so we all have the luxury of time. I believe we can all get where we want to in time: castigating unrealistic timelines and equating self-worth to streaming figures and follower numbers is a paramount goal for each and every one of us! We should all detach from social media and spend far less time on it. I used that drugs analogy because that is what it feels like: if we wean ourselves off; the sweat will drip and we’ll go destroying properties and mugging old ladies to calm our gibbering bodies! I am in the same position, mind. I feel a single day off social media would do damage to my work and prolificacy – it is insane, of course. Because of this, being caught in the machine, all of my self-worth comes from statistics and algorithms. It is heartbreaking seeing musicians and professionals beat themselves up because their latest tune has only received a few-thousand streams on Spotify; their video is not trending on YouTube...or radio stations are not playing their music.
The maladies, psychological and physical, affecting the music industry is severe and troubling. We all have big hopes for our work and want to see it do as well as we can. Most of us have to make big sacrifices and work our fingers to the bone to get a bit of material out there – let alone perform it and push it to radio stations etc. I can appreciate those who dream big and have lofty ambitions: if you lack that sort of drive then you will not go far in music. We are all in fifth gear, all of the time. Self-flagellation and insane personal targets are going to damage our confidence and self hugely. I am among those who want to ‘make it’ – whatever that entails – but realise it will take a little longer yet. I think we all want to achieve our dreams as soon as possible; we feel all that effort warrants more acclaim than we actually get. Like the ignored Sam-I-Am in Green Ham and Eggs...many might question your truth and declarations now but, soon enough, they will realise…
YOU were right all along.