Let’s talk about success. And more importantly, let’s talk about a phrase that’s been thrown around at more seminars and masterclasses than you can fathom. “Cutting through the noise” or something of that nature is the phrase in question. To use it in a sentence, a lot of people would talk about how, to succeed in the music industry nowadays, you need to be able to get past “the noise” that is every other musician with an idea and an internet connection. The idea is that because there’s so many people with access to the exact same tools as you, it’s going to be ten times harder to get the thing that you make shown to the audience it deserves. On principle, that is not wrong. That’s a basic fact of supply and demand. If there’s vastly more musicians trying to compete on the level that they want to, you need to have something pretty serious to beat The Noise. But I think there’s a question that not enough people are asking when it comes to this kind of mindset:
What if you are The Noise?
What if you spend your entire career trying to get to a place that you were, almost by some deterministic course of events, will never get to? What if this is the only level you’re going to ever be on as an artist because you are just someone else’s noise? The problem with this idea of other people being noise is just that, they’re other people. They’re not just random radio static to compete with, they’re other artists with ambitions and feelings who are as much the protagonist of their own story as you are yours, and there’s not enough room for all these individual success stories to reach their own conclusions.
I don’t want to offer a solution as such, because I don’t think that’s what this situation demands. This already is a solution of sorts. The industry is in a wild west kind of predicament where unsigned artists are competing online even at the most grassroots level as opposed to cultivating scenes (this is a massive generalisation I’m aware, and there are plenty of exceptions to this rule). But it will, naturally, end up with a select number of individuals being far more commercially successful than the vast majority. And right now we’re at a point where that individual could still be us, but it’s not unhealthy nor is it pessimistic to consider that you might be one of the vast majority who might not have that kind of journey ahead of them. And I guess that’s the question I ultimately want to ask; if you knew that you were “noise”, how would that change the art you make? Would you still try and tailor the thing you make to the widest possible audience even if it went against your own artistic tastes? Or would you really try and make the best thing that you possibly could without thinking about where it would end up?