In some ways, being a part of the creative community means that you are now never going to truly be an independent artist, because so much of what we do is based on what other artists have already done.
Our social identities are impacted by the people around us, the era we live in, the era our parents are raised in, and so forth. Start mapping out your own musical influences, style influences, and you'll probably come around to the old adage “there’s nothing new under the sun”. Think in the context of the fact that a whole genre like Hip Hop, was created using the foundation of instrumentals from various other genres. What is new to us, is really just a new perspective on the old. What makes you you, is the combination of things you've been exposed to and in what ways, and how you choose to synthesize your recipe.
If you’ve been to art school, you were dependent on fellow artists in other ways, like for critiquing. An art critique happens when you create your art, and when you gather a group of individuals to give you feedback about it. People make whole careers out of critiquing other people’s art, writing, filmmaking, and the list goes on. Every creative is subject to an ingrained interest in what our creative peers have to say, and then unfortunately basing our own definition of success on how much validation we receive from them.
I couldn’t help but think of my Instagram feed, which is about 75% other artists (and 25% family, friends, and fans), most of whom I've never interacted with outside of an occasional like and flame comment under each other's post. In my earlier days as a musical artist, I focused a lot of my energy on Instagram in particular, and it was easy to feel like I was making art for other artists to like and comment on, rather than to find true fans or become a better artist. It was hard to find my own sound while being preoccupied with other artists and their (perceived) success.
After all, these are my peers, right? And the booking agents matter a lot. While there is no denying that the music industry is rampant with gatekeepers. Especially the booking agents; without their stamp of approval, you’ll miss out on local opportunities almost completely. Not receiving positive attention from other artists and other members of the community can feel discouraging and limiting.
But making art for other artists is the reason why so much of what we hear sounds too much alike and has no artistic value. The culture of competition that stems from capitalism stifles many creatives who are looking to make a living. To outdo someone or at least share the spotlight, one would first have to be in their lane. And with everyone jumping on the same bandwagon for a chance to take first place in the mainstream, it comes as no surprise that we have some copycats and doppelgängers in the mix.
I’m not making music for other artists. I’m making music for people like me, to revel in those distinct commonalities (sounds like an oxymoron). Maybe some of them are artists, but I’m not making music to be critiqued and validated by the creative elite. I am a black girl full of magic and perspective. I’m making music, writing stories, bringing my visions to life on film or through photos, just because I can. Because no one sees the world exactly as I see it, I can’t exactly say it’s art for art’s sake. What I can say is that the more creativity we allow to flourish, the more inventive freedom we all can enjoy.
The innovators that move generations are usually ahead of their time. We aren’t paving a path for others to follow in our footsteps. We are simply showing them that they don’t have to stay where they are; they can go wherever their passions take them, even if it means blazing a brand new trail. Do not be afraid to be the odd one out. In my humble opinion, it’s better to be the objective one and only, than it is to be the subjective best of many.
Brilliant Conspiracies Ent. Copyright 2021