I do make songs still. I just needed an exaggerated click-baity headline to compete for attention in this unpredictable economy. But I don’t make songs at nearly the rate I used to and not nearly the same way. Instead I’ve been mostly making short videos of half-songs, song ideas to sell to others, and in-studio edits of the making-of variety. And I’ve been finding that far more enjoyable than making actual songs. Not because its easier, it can be, but recording and editing video can be its own art and thus pita. But mostly because the online fan engagement on these short videos along with the short time it takes to make them really makes it difficult to put the hundreds of hours and dollars I typically have spent in the past producing and marketing a full song just to not see half the engagement I get on a short home video.
Why is that? Well there can be many factors. I think the most obvious ones are video content is king today with video being incorporated into every major platform and attention spans are shorter. In order for someone to listen to a full song, they usually have to leave the social media platform they’re on and thats just an eternity in internet time. Then there are less obvious factors like are my short videos just better than the full songs I’ve released? I don’t think so but I’m open to the idea. Like don’t get me wrong there are countless artists still making full songs and doing well. They’ve just managed to find the right marketing angle with music that connects with the current large listening demographics and streaming playlist curators more, which can be very hard to do even if you make music that many people find great as there are successful artists that complain about not fitting onto curated playlists (read Sango’s recent tweets). I like to think i make great music but maybe my music is more accessible to this generation presented in non-traditional ways like being broken down into short videos. I also think with the increasing prevalence of online and digital savvy, having slick visuals and highly processed content just doesn’t stand out like it used to. In 2015 a high-end music video uploaded to Facebook would immediately gain hundreds of views within an hour regardless of how good the music was, it was just rare, now with quality cameras being cheaper and editing software being more accessible anyone with a few free afternoons can get great visuals so now I’m seeing really great music videos get less plays than someone recording live violin samples into their drum machine on a smartphone. There’s something raw and personal (even if its arguably manufactured) about video shot semi-professionally at home with an iphone or decent dslr, its why Tiktok users that make millions are still talking directly into their smartphones from their room, even if it is in mansion, even if they do have a $350 gimbal attached to it and $3000 worth of lighting equipment outside the shot.
In a way this way of releasing content has reinvigorated me as an artist. After years of putting so much into songs only to be low-key heartbroken over and over trying to get people around to listen and support, knowing you have a much larger fanbase, you just need a push to reach them but being drowned out before you can. Being sidetracked by people that want to help that see your talent but have their own ideas for it, putting on great shows but not having enough people come out to support, getting good local press but it not meaning much in a city that doesn’t really have a thriving music economy/scene, being confused by marketing advice that doesn’t really apply to an artist looking to challenge the market, etc. I struggled to trust my writing, I struggled to trust my instincts with music, I second-guessed myself, my friends would joke about how many times I edited music and changed things over and over. Its because there was so much riding on the one song I could afford to release professionally a year. I’ve never considered myself a hobbyist and don’t really approach music as such, though I respect those who do. I want to earn money as a musical artist, I’ve invested thousands of dollars into equipment and growing my skills, I’ve put years into my work and artistry. I want to be as organic and free as possible but if theres no audience for my work I really want to invest my creative energy elsewhere. I have little passion to write, let alone release what I write professionally if there aren’t enough people in the world that find it interesting enough to pay me to do it for a living. Maybe that means I’m not a ‘real’ artist, I don’t know, but thats just my motivation, connecting with people, expressing myself fully-but inspiring others in the process and based upon the small yet fervent real support I get I have good evidence to believe that I do have an audience if I could only break through past the waves of people that find me ‘interesting’ or talented yet aren’t really fans, you know the ones that ask for features, beats, performances, etc that acknowledge my talent and potential and want to use it but don’t really consistently look for, listen to or support my music that kill the social media algorithms for me.
So I’ve found new life as an artist outside of releasing songs traditionally. I’ve gotten more into sample packs, music licensing, and am now making short videos. All low cost investments that can yield big gains and engagement while allowing me to make the music I personally want to make, just in a different format. I still see value in creating full songs, spending big bucks on quality mixing, mastering, high quality videos, and releasing in industry standard ways and will likely get back to that once I’ve built my audience where I want it to be.
But I think it says something when artists that have done all that and struggled to get where they want to be are able to get exponentially greater results just uploading a video of their artistic expression in its rawest form. I think the internet and social media have really shaken things up and as artists it’d be wise to see how we can use it to our advantage and remain as independent as possible.