Hi all – I wanted to take a minute to talk about something that I’ve been noticing a lot both in myself and my peers lately. It’s a phenomenon that I’ve experienced far too many times looking back on it, and I think in the long run it has a pretty negative effect on the music community as a whole. I’m talking about producer envy – or beyond that just jealousy in general. We are all familiar with it, that sinking feeling you get when you see someone you know (or even someone you don’t) start to see more success than you. It’s such an innate reaction, this hateful instinct to feel like it was you that deserved that success. I see it all too often, hell I feel it all too often, and it’s taken me until now to put some serious thought into the implications and what can actually be done about them.
In the 7 years that I’ve been doing this I have seen countless people rise from being underground bedroom producers to extremely successful artists – many of which were people I used to talk to on a daily basis online. I can look back on what I felt as I saw their followers skyrocket and gigs start rolling in. I remember thinking about whether or not they “deserved it”. Whether their music was really any better than mine. Those types of thoughts never really went away, and I started to grow incredibly spiteful towards artists who made a name for themselves writing music that I thought of as basic or generic. I became so confident in my elitism, so sure that I was a “true artist”, but the jealousy didn’t go away, and it didn’t for any of my bedroom producer friends either. I started to feel the same way even when the people I fully supported started seeing good opportunities, and there’s something wrong with that. You shouldn’t feel spiteful towards people that you want to see do well, but it actually makes sense when you read into it.
It becomes obvious very quickly that the producer world is quite literally a giant popularity contest. A race to get the most followers – and it’s so toxic to be defined by numbers. They change the way we treat each other on a fundamental level. Every day we log in and compare ourselves to the rest of the world, looking to see who’s talking about who, checking whether the number next to our name is satisfying (it never is). It’s this strange dynamic where social media scores actually have real value in determining the success of your career, and living in such a competitive world online causes people to get caught up in the relative “goodness” of their statistics.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to get out of this loop of self indulgence – how to change my perspective towards those who are doing well in their careers. It starts with shedding the idea that anything is ever owed to you, which in some ways is an unfortunate truth. No matter how good you are at writing music, no matter how strong your brand is, you don’t “deserve” anything. Success is the result of so many factors – and while the music and brand are part of that, the biggest aspect is making the right connections at the right time. In many cases, that is actually the only thing that matters. Everything comes down to putting yourself in touch with the right people, introducing yourself into a web of humans who will support you. So when you look at somebody with a lot of followers, or someone who plays a lot of shows, it’s important to realize that there is a huge team of people behind them that made that happen either directly or otherwise.
If you can make the realization that everything is pushed by groups of people instead of one individual, the concept of success becomes much more complicated. You can start to look at the people behind the success of a given artist, and by doing so you’ll notice how connected this industry really is. If something awesome happens to somebody you know, start to look at that as an opportunity to expand your connections. After all, connectivity is king in the music world.
Let me lay down some guidelines to help reduce this feeling of “producer envy” and accelerate your own endeavors:
- Be kind to all artists of all types
- Celebrate the success of others
- Celebrate your own success
- Support your peers
- Shed your ego
- Eliminate the idea of being better than someone
- Practice active kindness
- Understand that active kindness is reciprocated
Basically, it’s important to understand the fact that we are all operating within the same system. Despite how caught up we all are in our respective niches and genres, it’s essential to have a basic level of respect for every single artist or industry-involved human (think blog writers, promoters, managers, fans, graphic designers, etc). The reason is that you never know who will be helpful to you in the future. 5 years ago, I never would have guessed that the random people I was interacting with in forums would end up writing some of my favorite music, getting me gigs, making me artwork, or becoming my closest friends. It’s impossible to know when actively supporting people that may seem unimportant / too different from you at the time will end up making your career somewhere down the road. This isn’t to say you should only help people with the expectation that they will help you in return. Just keep in mind that always having that base level of respect and actively helping others is the best way to foster your own community – and that community in the end is one of the most fundamental keys to your own success.
Once you can start looking at things this way, the dynamic begins to change. Jealousy becomes insignificant when you realize that it is actually a fantastic opportunity when good things happen to people you know. If you have done nothing but show support for that individual, they may feel inclined to share their connections with you. If not, you still have increased your connectivity in a way. Just by having friends that are in touch with big promoters, artists, labels, etc, you have put yourself one step closer to being in touch with those people yourself. That’s all it really is in the end, supporting others until others support you – and by realizing that kindness is reciprocated your potential for success increases significantly.
It’s difficult to put all of this into practice, but just by being aware of your own envious emotions you can begin to actively shift the thoughts that come with them in a more positive direction. The sooner we can start to look at music as something other than a competition, the sooner we can actually start working together to bring unnoticed artists to the surface. In a world where stats seem to be so significant, it’s easy to forget that it’s the people behind the numbers that really matter. No artist is anything without support. We all depend on each other, and jealousy is meaningless when you realize how beautiful that really is.
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