Ever felt like so many people are already making music, why should you even bother?
One of the most common objections I’ve heard when I talk to people who are curious about getting into production and really dedicating themselves to creating original music is that “Everyone else is already creating cool stuff, why would I even try?” or “So much good music already exists out there, what would I have to contribute?” and “Who AM I to have anything new, unique or interesting to say?” This perspective unfortunately seems to stop a fair amount of people from going down the songwriting, composition and production path - which is a creative practice that could truly enrich their lives and bring valuable new content into the world. At the end of the day, that's a shame, and is based around a few basic misconceptions. Let's break it down a bit.
This is truly a common feeling, and it's understandable.
I’ve heard this spoken countless times in IRL conversations, from students, social media, Reddit boards, and everywhere in between. In all honesty, people were feeling this way back in the 2000's, as I recall. So, this feeling is at an all-time high in the era we currently find ourselves in, and operates on the concept that there’s only so much good music to go around. This notion is kind of funny if you think about it - but also understandable, in light of the mega over-saturation that exists within the current musical landscape. There’s a staggering amount of developing artists emerging every minute of every day - it’s unreal how many people are putting their sounds out into the world on a daily basis.
In many ways, this current state of affairs is profoundly AMAZING, and it’s a magnificent golden era for music freaks everywhere, as far as unique expression, innovation, scope of vision, and sheer variety goes. The flip side is that it’s also highly fatiguing in other ways, with so many artists who are vying for attention, jumping on certain bandwagons, wanting a spotlight and often adding to a sea of cookie-cutter genre homogenization.
The emotion that people feel when it comes to considering the time/energy investment of learning to produce, is a sense of discouragement because they worry they won't stand out or be unique enough to make a difference in an over-crowded marketplace, so they think “why bother”? As we hear all the time, there’s “nothing new under the sun” - and originality is “impossible”, as all art simply regurgitates, steals and re-synthesizes what came before it. I personally feel that originality is still quite possible, and always will be, but it's really about just being as authentically you as you can be. There are always novel and captivating things to reveal in my opinion, if we really dive deeper into our imaginations.
I too, at various stages in my path as a producer, have had these limiting thoughts pop-up as a pesky belief construct that I've had to contend with in order to move forward. It's definitely slowed me down at certain points, but ultimately it caused me to dig deeper into my inner world and what I have to say, giving me a more focused vision. The bottom line is: you can let this notion rule you and dissuade you, or you can use it to drive you and provide fuel to dig that much deeper into your unique creative voice. Authenticity, honesty, imagination and soul will tend to shine through, in my humble opinion.
This artform is limitless, and there’s plenty of room for you.
The beautiful thing is, we’re literally working within a medium that is limitless, and is fully capable of accommodating whatever peculiar, imaginative concepts or possibilities you could possibly want to feed into it. The wondrously vast and constantly evolving framework of music technology, supra-expressive instruments, and creative control at our fingertips open up a field of possibility that is absolutely boundless. You don’t have to sound like anyone else unless you WANT to, and what’s the fun of that anyway? You could literally do anything else - it just takes depth of imagination and a desire to commit to exploring what's possible. This aspect alone is truly breath-taking, and I make a point to marvel at it every single day, and every time I sit down to write music. The notion that anything you can musically conceive of (and beyond) is achievable and totally accessible, if you open yourself up to imagining, discovering and actualizing it - never fails to inspire me.
In my own experience, the key has been to always try to re-align with that perspective and shift the mentality from “what is, or should be” to “what' could be”. You don't have to make what's “there”, you could truly make what's “not there”. Simply switching up this perspective can effectively shift your sense of limitation to a sense of limitlessness. This creates a preferable dynamic where you feel fully able to be yourself, to explore the inner workings of your own mind and heart, and to tap into a sense of infinity. I feel this is a distinctly different way of looking at the artform and how you can utilize it. Electronic music is built on, and invites, radical experimentation - just trying things out with wild abandon has literally led to new genres and styles being born. So, if you start down the production path - you can go for it - get wild, free, and bold.
It's important to break away from hype, trends and conformity as an artist.
It's important to try, even if just temporarily, to forget what genres you feel allegiance to, or what scene you feel a part of, or what you think will be popular, or even other external definitions when you think of the music you’d like to make. Forget what everyone else is doing - there are techniques for tuning all of that out. Try instead to tune into this sense of true limitlessness, tune into yourself, and see what your imagination will conjure up if you try dropping all of your previous conceptions. This is a valuable exercise, and when you take what you find there and combine it with your deepest influences, and it’s from that space that a vision can start to form. This approach will lead to ideas that feel profoundly exciting and inspiring, and help you navigate the process of determining what you feel inclined to spend time and energy on.
Don't get me wrong, genres and scenes exist for a reason and I love them for the fact that they're a way of setting creative parameters to express certain cultural and musical lexicons. However, it's important to use what works from them, but not get limited/trapped by their boundaries. Music is where we get to be our truly weird, wonderful selves. Freeing yourself from the trends, hype and pressures of conformity is a sure way to lead into much more interesting and fulfilling territory.
You’ll most likely enjoy the process of discovering what’s possible away from the confines of that, and you'll most likely revel in what you find there. And then, if desired - you can come back to those structures and conventions with a fresh mind, and something new to inject into them.
What are your true motives?
You’ll want to examine the reasons you want to make music, of course. If it's to ride the wave of trends and get popular, chase hype and status, etc - then none of this will matter to you. If you’re truly into music for the MUSIC, and the honest expression and unbounded exploration that is possible within it, your priorities will guide you accordingly. Falling in love with that aspect of it will give you the desire and dedication to truly start discovering the vision you have to offer, and let me tell you - it’s the most beautiful mystery to explore. Using it a tool to really express, and celebrate your individuality without fear or hesitation, can really change your life. I've found it to be an incredibly cathartic tool for self-discovery. When you do this, the chances are the results are going to be interesting to listen to.
Some people have resistance to really exploring these aspects of themselves because it makes them feel vulnerable - to exposing their true emotional selves, being judged by others, challenging what’s popular and “normal”, etc. However, that’s the price you pay to discover the gems that are waiting to be found on the other side of that process, and it’s well worth the effort. Who gets into music to “fit in”, anyway? It's a medium that allows us to communicate and explore the deepest parts of our concsiousness, and I feel it shines the most brightly when risks are taken.
You'll get to discover, embrace and translate the intricacies of your uniqueness.
Each person has a unique face and fingerprint. Each music-maker, when we really translate ourselves authentically into the craft - has a unique sonic identity. So if you decide to go down this road, you'll get to truly embrace your uniqueness, even if that makes you feel vulnerable, or takes time. Because it WILL take time and effort - and you have to be in it for the long-haul, and for the right reasons. The truth is, if you come into this artform with genuine intentions, you’ll love every minute of figuring out how to tell your story and express it with as much passion as possible.
The key is to ultimately just to learn how to translate your ideas, emotions, concepts and explorations into sound - and the more you learn, the more you’ll feel empowered and fluid in doing that. Making music for YOU, first and foremost - is how anything of substance will come about, as a byproduct of just learning to get into that state.
Translating your truth and individuality through sound.
Focusing on your honest emotions and sentiments, and getting in touch with your inner world is obviousy key for this, but the next step is simply to learn how to translate that, one step at a time. You can do this through your musical ideas, melodies, harmonies, rhythms, textures, sound design, arrangement - how you mix and engineer your ideas - all of these things come into focus, and are a vital component of how you translate your imagination into your sound.
So, to get straight to the heart of the matter: what’s the answer, in my humble opinion? To work through self-limiting beliefs, and shed rigid expectations. To break through cookie-cutter homogenization genre-conformity and dig deeper - deeper into ourselves, deeper into our emotions, what we have to say, and what our imaginations can really bring through into this reality. To take risks, to be unique, and to be vulnerable.
If you have any curiosity or passion for giving it a shot, I encourage you to be open to everything it has to offer, and strive to use it as a tool to bring something uniquely beautiful and inspiring into this world. I believe this approach ensures that this incredible artform will continue to blossom in the myriad of ways of which it's capable, which I feel improves the quality of our lives both, individually as well as collectively.