Miles and miles of tape, CDs, vinyl, and now terabyte hard drives, hold the music that is so dear to each of us. Artists had to make that music – conceive of it in their minds, hear it in their ears, and write it down and or record it to something so others could experience it as well. The “do it yourself” ideology within music making has risen over recent times and many people go from “point of song conception A” to “point of preservation and playback B” without the assistance of a formal label or bigger entity of a strictly business-focused nature. In many of these cases, the musicians at hand are concentrating on simply giving their songs a way to be heard and appreciated – no matter what the subsequent scale of that might become and they can enjoy the artistic experimentation that comes along as a by-product of this pursuit.
Still, within a scenario like this, it’s often those close to artists who find themselves pouring the most intense support and support doesn’t just have to mean monetary supplementation. Anything from offering rooms to practice or record; sharing around kind / excited / enthusiastic words about the artists or their works in progress with others in real life or online, attending performances at venues with minimal audiences…each of these gestures are the intangible sustenance of musicians doing things on their own. In these times, there’s often a lot of personal satisfaction and connection floating about. After all, a driving motivation for such reinforcement has to come from somewhere or the result would be neutral apathy at best. Subsequently, it wouldn’t be an unreasonable leap to say that musicians come to rely on those who bring these intangible helping hands to the table and those connections often end up being the strongest and most familiar.
Here’s where things get interestingly ironic though: The people and bonds that come from the almost familial-esque tree of an evolving artist or group can, in turn, become the default party most easily viewed under a minimized lens, if and when the idea of “more” walks into the room. Just like support can translate to lots of things in the music industry, “more” in the music industry can also mean a lot of things: more fans, more albums, more shows, more cities, or more money. Regardless through what specific vein of “more” comes into play however, all of them lead to one common denominator: choice.
Putting it simply, if a person has more objects than can be held in their arms, they must choose which to hold and which to drop. There are plenty of tricks and plenty of hustle that can go into some aspects of “more” in order to lessen the need to choose. (e.g. working on more than one song or album at once) Nevertheless, inevitably there is only so much time in the day, so smaller choices within those projects still need to be made. Where does this reality fall in with morals, intangible gestures, and an ongoing problem?
How does one choose?
It’s the weighing of choices in the music industry that shout of an irony louder than any screamo band. Once significant choices are part of the equation, how the sides of those decisions are stacked against each other is determined largely by an artist’s priorities. Sure, while there’s no one single way everybody needs to carve their musical paths, it’s funny that when faced with a choice impacting the inclusion of “more,” the very same individual connections and intangible gestures an artist may have fortified in the past, become the sensible choice for turning away in the future. Why? Because those foundations are likely to be the most forgiving and the most understanding of a bigger picture.
This is the problem. In order to breach certain facets of today’s industry echelons, the central choice of “intimate versus surface” seems to reign with an unflinching scepter, waving from on high. Intensity can remain from the first day of a musician’s creative life to their last but, where that intensity gets directed – initially at close bonds and solidified roots yet then to weaker but more numerable branches – seems to be inevitably requiring change if the awareness of an individual or group ends up shifting against the overall landscape of the music industry and its fans. The thought that one can’t continuously retain the same kind of attention to value no matter how much or little one chooses to develop their musical endeavors reveals the rub of why there can be such a wall of what feels like disconnected divide between the grassroots DIY culture and the worldwide mainstream.