A Perfect Collaboration
ALL PHOTOS: Unsplash
Creating More Free Time and Community for Those in Music
ONE of the questions I ask artists when interviewing them…
is whether they get free time to unwind away from their careers. Some artists say they do and get to do other things but many say either music is their free time and relax or there is no time to do anything else! I have sort of alluded to this topic before and wanted to return to it. One of the biggest concerns I have is the sheer amount of time musicians spend doing their work. Maybe it is their passion and dream but it can be all-consuming gigging and being in front of a screen every day. If you are so caught up in making music and touring then you do not get enough time to unwind and have any sort of detachment. Some are lucky where they can get away and chill but many others have several jobs to fund their careers. Throw into the mix the demands of social media and online promotion and how much time is left for anything else?! Anxiety levels are rising and musicians are more depressed than ever. It seems like, in many ways, the business side of music is on the rise. Once was the time when artists had to release singles physically and there was a cost when the singles came to the end of the run. They were dumped into bargain bins and the whole business of making music was a lot more expensive. This article looks at ‘Dumperdom’ – that failure and physical waste – and argues musicians now do not witness failure:
“But for some artists, avoiding Dumperdom may simply be a stay of execution, and in many cases may not be ideal for mental health or longterm careers: it can’t be easy checking streaming stats each week in the way some people check their Lottery numbers, forever hoping that there’s a pot of $0.004 streams at the rainbow’s ungraspable end.
“…Have we ushered in a generation who have something in common with Les McQueen, the League Of Gentlemen’s hopeless Crème Brulee frontman who lived in a perpetual state of believing that this might finally be the year things turned around?
Just as significantly, what impact does it have on artistry? Musicians and creatives are often driven by the need to succeed but how many of them — how many of all of us — are equally driven by the fear of failure? And what, then, happens when we remove from the equation half the motivation to do well?”.
For artists wanting to shift their music; it seems streaming sites and the Internet is providing bounty and finance. This article, published in January this year, looks at the growth and current prosperity:
“The most exciting area of the industry right now is streaming--and, with more than 140 million active users and more than 50 million paying subscribers, Spotify is winning the arms race. The main reason we're seeing growth in recorded music is that Spotify, in particular, has expanded access to what amounts to a new music industry. In 2018, as it goes public and its savvy backers start to recoup their investments, Spotify appears set to solidify its dominance”.
A lot of things have got easier but I feel it is not as simple as celebrating streaming and how digital music allows artists to remain vital and seen. A lot of the artists I speak to feel so much pressure to be seen and heard. They find it hard to compete with the mainstream and the sheer effort to promote the music and be visible is taking its toll. You can share music on social media but that only goes so far. Artists now are touring harder than ever; sending more emails and, if they are lucky enough to find some success; there is that pressure to follow it up and hit even harder.
Making a success of things is about putting the time in but I feel we are not urging artists to take time away and relax. I am in the position myself: spending so much time working and not taking moments to pause and unwind. The best times are when you can have a night/day out and not feel pressured to check emails and social media. We all have one eye on that all the time and it can be an addiction! The feeling (among musicians) they will be overlooked and lose support if they are not either playing or being online creates this very negative feeling and is dangerous for mental-health. It can be hard weening people away from screens and the studio but one of the big problems is that feeling a social life is too costly or there are not like-minded people out there. It can be pricey going out and having a few drinks and, unless you know people nearby who are like-minded; how likely are you to venture out and connect with someone?! The natural answer would be to create a network for artists and musical folk that mean you can bond over music and not have to pay the world. I have been playing with the idea that we could establish clubs or events that would get us all together and not be expense. Based in various cities and towns around the country; you would go to these nights and be in a fairly quiet, exciting environment that would be about relaxing but connecting.
You could chat with other artists about collaborating and making music together; discussing experiences and sharing new music. Others, like myself, could pitch ideas and network or simply listen to music play. You could have a jukebox playing and drinks served – either international coffees or music-themed cocktails – and it would be a bit of a paradise for musically-minded people. In many ways, it would be a bespoke music café/bar that means you would not feel alienated and anti-social and the prices would be low. What I want from a break away from the screen is relaxation but the chance to still work a bit. I would like to go and bond with people like me and discuss developments in the industry and new artists to check – whilst having a nice drink and listening to some classic/epic music. In a way, this would be a cross between a networking event and a traditional night out. Having these cool spaces that are themed and well appointed – music memorabilia or artefacts around – would relax you and you would not entirely be off the clock. I do not think anyone can go cold-turkey and unhook from music work completely. You would not be glued to the phone and laptop but, instead, could talk to similar people and actually discuss opportunities and things. Having that blend of fun and a creative environment would be a great way of taking away the stress and still being busy.
If you look at existing music cafes/bars they are perhaps a little niche or small. I am not proposing a massive area that is intimidating but have a few bespoke cafes around the country. One might argue it is expensive to commute to these places and it may be hard to fund setting up these cafes. I think having something smaller and village hall-style would be depressing and incomplete and you need to design something that grabs the imagination. A crowd-funding initiative could be established and it would be a way of having these places in different locations and provide a bit of a co-operative. Those who fund the proposal could get discounts and would be helping ease the stressed and anxieties of many of us out there. Carpooling could be mooted and people could communicate with one another regarding transport – so that nobody is left out and there is that extra sociable side to things. Maybe you could have live performances and artists playing or just stick with a jukebox that would play a mix of older and new music. Maybe it is hard to get this idea floated and realised quickly but I think there is a danger many of us are becoming dislocated and not able to get out a lot. If there was a way of bringing elements of music promotion/work to a social environment then it would get us out and about and help ease the stress.
You only need look at social media and chat with those in music to know the pressure on their shoulders and how much time they spend in front of screens. Whether it is emailing P.R. companies or promoting music; organising gigs or simply being on the road and gigging – how many of us actually get out and about and relax?! Most of us feel cost and not having anything exciting to do is a good reason to stay in but, if something were designed that appealed to the musical-minded; I feel that would be killing many birds with the one stone! I am not sure what this venture would be called but having venues/cafes where we could go and chat; listen to music and create opportunities at the same time sounds like a good thing indeed. You only need go once a week but I feel the personal benefits would be clear. I am launching some ideas in music and want to connect with others but find it can be challenging online. Where do you start and how do you go about finding the right people? If this social endeavour has a website where you could register and connect with those you want to chat with – it sounds like we are heading back into the problem at hand but you need to have some electronic input – that would be a way of going about things. If there is a consensus and more input from others; not only could we find places where those in music could unwind and be sociable but there is that business/creative element. I know something needs to be done because, the way things are now, so few of us actually feel we can commit the time…
TO interact with others.