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"When Will We See You On MTV?"...Thoughts of an Independent Musician

“So when will we see you on MTV?” “When will we be hearing your stuff on the (mainstream) radio?”  “You should be famous by now.”  “When you’re famous we can say we knew you when.”

These are all questions and statments that I’m certain many relatively well-known touring independent musicians and bands (including myself) hear on at least a fairly regular basis.  I don’t know about you, but I usually feel slightly taken aback when I hear statements such as this even though I know the person or persons making the statement/s probably mean well.  I’ve sat down to think about why these feelings arise when I hear such statements.  When I think about it though, certain key words from such statements that are frequnently uttered when they are made: MTV, radio, and (most prominently) FAMOUS.  That then raises the question; What exactly is fame nowadays? 

In the age of the internet (also known as the Age of the Independent Musican), more and more independent musicians and bands are carving their own success independently without the help of major labels.  If one uses his/her/their resources correctly and wisely, a musician or band can independently have a long lasting and successful music career AND have complete control of their music, image, brand, etc.  I’ll use one of my childhood heroes, Debbie Gibson, as an example.  Even though she and I are in completely different genres of music she still remains one of my role models in music.  Why?  Because she is in complete control of what she does and does not set limits to what she does with her career.  She still releases albums (on her own indie label), tours, has been in films, stage productions, runs a performing arts camp, develops fundraisers for various charities, still maintains a nice-sized fanbase, and probably alot more.  Yet, it amazes me that whenever I venture onto message boards pertaining to her, I often see statements like “Oh, well she’s not famous like she used to be so her career is obviously in the toilet.”  Yet, with all she’s doing, I’d say she’s doing pretty well for herself and has the freedom to do her career as she sees fit.  Too me, that’s pretty successful.  But then there’s that ugly word again…FAMOUS. 

After thinking about this, I’ve come to the conclusion that people obviously tend to equate fame with success when in many cases, that can be the furthest thing from the truth.  Reality TV stars are famous.  Heck, many serial killers are famous.  But what have they done for that fame?  It seems that many people (often unintentionally) seem to place fame and notoriety over accomplishment and achievement.  While I still have many goals I want/need to accomplish, I say I’m doing pretty well.  I have my production company, my debut album and songs are selling all over the world, I’ve toured/am touring, I’ve recieved airplay on internet, indie, and college radio, I’ve released music videos (and had them rotated on internet and music tv channels), have had my music on 9 compilations to date, have had my music featured in several publications, have enjoyed internet chart success, and have had some of my music liscensed for video, tv, and film projects.  Yet, even with all the dirt coming out about artists being ripped off by the major labels (some even being shelved before they can even release anything), MTV and VH1 playing nothing but reality shows, the string of mediocre one-hit wonders being churned out each month (AND everyone’s music sounding the same nowadays), I still hear the statements mentioned at the beginning of this article.  Tell me, why I would want the latter?

If I were doing my music 20-30 years ago, getting onto a major label and MTV definitely would have been a goal of mine.  But times have changed and record labels, MTV,etc are not what they used to be.  While being and indie musician is alot of work, I’d rather do the hard work and reap the reward of doing my career and music as I see fit and having that freedom. 

Tiffany Apan is a singer/songwriter/musician/actress/model/writer.  She released her debut album “Poet” in early 2008 and is currently at work on her second album titled “Elements.”  You can check out more of Tiffany, her music, and projects at , , and .

Reader Comments (2)

You are right on with your comments and thoughts. So many of us musicians get those statements, and you don't know whether to feel flattered or depressed by the way people think. But we've condluded that 'making it' is defined only by us.

June 10 | Registered CommenterCal James

Thanks Cal. Yeah it is often mind boggling how some people seem to miss the big picture and think that success is defined as being the "toast of MTV" when in reality, the "toast of MTV" is usually the 'Flavor of the Month.' But sometimes it's no use trying to change people's minds. You just need to do what you do and have success in a way that makes you feel good about what it is you do. It is frustrating though when others can't see it that way.

June 10 | Unregistered CommenterTiffany Apan

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