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Creativity V Commercialism...

I’m a musician, not an actor…

Do I have anything against actors?

No… What I do feel passionate about is the abundance of heartless musical garbage that clogs the airwaves. So many people singing songs that have very little substance or meaning, the singers sound like they are not even convincing themselves.  & even worse, they aren’t even pretending to try their hand at a bit of originality.Battles VS Backstreet Boys: Can they co-exist or will one beat the other senseless? I know which side I’m on (I did this myself with GIMP… Pretty terrrible but hey, I’m not a visual artist either… I’m a musician.)I read this nice (succinct) article by Heather McDonald called ‘Creative versus Commercial’ on my iPhone while eating a solo Ramen dinner last Friday night & couldn’t help but throw my $0.02 in as a comment. Then I kinda surprised myself with how passionate I was about the whole thing. Anyways, as I have been making a conscious effort to start writing shorter blogs, I thought my comment would be the best place to start. Here it is. Don’t forget to checkout Heathers original article for a better perspective on the whole thing.

Here is my comment from Heathers blog:
As @allen mentioned, this is something I often think about as an independant artist. At the end of the day, like @Abram mentioned, If you’re doing music to make money as a first priority, go get into accountancy or something else ’safe’. Not only are you perpetuating the problem of music being horribly tainted by commercialism, but you’re probably just as likely to win the lottery as you are to write a ‘hit’.
For me, I can’t really bring myself to write & perform a song written for commercial reasons. As I believe is a pure musical pursuit, I strive to create something unique & organic. If I write a song I don’t believe in, I feel I have ceased being a musician, & am instead being an actor.
Cabaret & theatre aside, it would seem that many so-called musicians are being actors. I hope this is understandable.
After recently watching a singer/song-writer comp, I am sad to see that the judges time & time again opt for those who fall more inline with what is already accepted rather than those who are pushing the creative envelope.
I can thankfully take solace in the fact that it still seems to ring true in general that those artists & bands who have lasting carreers, which live on long past the time they stop creating music & who have fans who are truly passionate about their music, more often than not tend to be the pioneers. The copycats may make some hell cash but at the end of the day/month/year, their music is forgotten. This is what I believe & I hope, for the sake of pure creativity, that it is true.
Thoughts, comments, abuse?

Ryan Collings is otherwise known as Stanmore Phoenix. Creating his unique alternative acoustic art rock on the streets of Sydney is where you can find him. Or at his blog you can find a bunch of links down the right-hand margin.

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Reader Comments (5)

Battles v. Backstreet boys? Interesting matchup. Unfortunately, if you gave people a sample of each and a choice of which cd to go home with, they would probably choose the Backstreet boys 9 out of 10 times.

The creativity v. art issue is an audience problem, not an artist problem. The reason pop music like that sells so well is because people want to buy it. The notion that grandiose marketing "tricks" people into liking bad music is sadly false. MTV and Top 40 radio play those songs because it targets the largest market share.

None of this is any reason to make, or even care about, plastic music. However, it is a reason to think about how self-selecting an audience your music will attract or repel.

April 12 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

Interesting viewpoint. I have to agree that the audience is just as much the problem. I guess my frustrations stem from the perspective of a artist creating art which inevitably crosses over into the business world... I still believe that all the bubble-gum music out there is perpetuating the lie.

Interesting point about marketing 'tricking' people, I don't think it 'tricks' people, but I do believe that the people who are into the Top 40 & don't look beyond it would be happy with whatever was spoon-fed to them... Maybe not, I know people are naturally inclined to be fearful of what they don't understand, & if that simple structure & predictable hook, accompanied by the currently trendy production aren't what they hear, they might turn the radio off... Of course, there are exceptions. On one of my brief listens to the radio, I recently heard BEP's "I'ma be" & was glad to hear some structural & stylistic experimentation...

Thanks for your comment.

Hey there Justin, I just had another thought about your comment...

Could you elaborate on "self-selecting an audience your music will attract or repel" a little bit more? I'm interested in what you mean.

Well, I should probably have written "musically discerning" instead of "self selecting". I think thats clearer. Basically, the way I see it is that music consumers and fan run on a continuum from those who are very particular about what they listen to, to those who are less so. We all have our preferences, but to many serious listeners, their music taste is part of their identity, and they may be just as interested in the perceived authenticity and artistry of the music as well as its entertainment value.

Then there are others (the majority, I would say) who enjoy music more like I enjoy video games or ice cream; which is to say, they like it a lot and can totally get into it, but its basically just another form of entertainment that does not stand out above the rest. I would humbly submit that (in general!), the folks that fall into this category tend to be more of the Backstreet Boys, Nickelback, and Justin Bieber fans out there.

So bear with me here...

Basically, both types of music listeners on this continuum are not going to change who they are and how they value music. No band or song is going to come along and convert a casual listener into an picky aficionado, and no amount of flash and pizazz is going to break a very focused listener out of their subculture's shell. (Ok, I suppose it happens, but its rare and random). The point is that, whatever your music may be, it is going to have a fairly set window of appeal to some slice of the population, and that slice will reside somewhere along the continuum between hardcore and casual-type listeners.

This is the lay of the land, the fixed reality that musicians have to deal with. I don't think its helpful or realistic to try and crusade against what we perceive to be disposable music, or musicians-as-actors. I don't really think the proportion of people who can learn to like more artistic/complex/challenging music like Battles can increase by all that much.

I don't think my point here is really in agreement or disagreement with what you originally wrote, since it looks like you were simply expressing your personal philosophy rather than trying to prescribe anything to people. I guess all I was trying to say is that when it comes to the "responsiblity" to promote good and artistic music in this world, I don't blame those actor-musicians for just putting on a show. I don't see it as denigrating music, even if I don't like it and preferred it not exist. I think that the responsibility is more diffuse, spread among society (i.e. the audience) itself, to value deeper art over simple entertainment.

April 13 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

Very interesting POV. I appreciate you taking the time to lay it out. I can't really disagree with anything you have said here :)

April 14 | Registered CommenterRyan Collings

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