don’t ask people to share your music

I read a post the other day, about a musician asking people to do their bit and support independent music in India. It was a complaint that the lack of tangible support from the fans is a major reason underground, original artists are on the brink of either collapse or confirmation. The lack of funds to pursue artistic endeavours was the core of his statement.

A couple of years ago I would have blatantly screenshot the story and reshared it through my socials but there has been a catastrophic shift in my mindset and I believe it is one that every independent artist should imbibe throughout their journey.

Honesty is the best policy.

One of my students quoted the essence of dishonesty in a session. We talked about how to hold ourselves accountable and learn to take responsibility for our actions. The point was that to materialise substantial growth either as an artist or as a human, absolute transparency is a critical requisite. You can for sure climb up throughout your career, but if the fundamentals are challenged then you are prone to fall when the real test comes.

There are two things to note here –

  1. Honesty is indeed the best policy. We cannot understate this assumption. For starters, we have been conditioned to believe a very extrinsic, superficial definition of honesty. By default, to be honest means to not cheat, for financial, social, or whatever gains. But the outward projection of honesty is an undermining of such a pivotal intra-personal schematic. We have to learn how to be honest within ourselves, with ourselves.

    Are you truly giving it your best, are you sitting down for as long as you claim, are you sure you are not in a pseudo practice of art, are you sure you are not in love with the bare idea and not the essence?
  2. There is a certain degree of ignorance (innocent ignorance, if I may) in the grandeur of our artistic pursuits. Simply speaking, we don’t know any better. We know what we have been told, and our limited perspective can only take us as far as our psychological barriers to understanding.
    Of course, everyone takes their time to grow and learn. Remember how we hated lauki ki sabzi when we were kids, but now it is an exquisite culinary experience. Same thing with black tea, classical music, traditional art forms, etc. There is an inherent scope for learning and growing out of our bubble all the time, and no one is there. Maybe, Osho.

On Absolute Transparency

Romance is the core of an artist, either tragedy or comedy defined by how they perceive life, either as a subjugation for living or as a contempt to think. A sad, melancholic man with a rough beard, unkempt hair, cigarette smoke dawning over the faint blue moonlight, a glass half full of whiskey, Ghulam Ali ghazals gently sizzling through the record player, oh my… this is how romance overtakes the fundamental human objective tendencies.

We are all victims of romance in one way or another. This is a definition of a heartbroken, ill-fated, failed-in-love, another victim of life’s cruel crimes.

Or one of a writer, shrugged in books, with scratched, crumbled pages lying all around her in a mighty majesty scene of some holy deterrence of a probable ground-shattering outcome, or a sky-breaking revelation.

Where is the camera? What movie are we in?

Perhaps, this is indeed a film, and perhaps romance is the one true answer – to surrender to our chemical, neurological, and biological sensations of feelings and emotions. But this doesn’t hold in one subtle yet grand presumption.

Nature doesn’t hold any biases.

Tune in to National Geographic and watch how a Komodo Dragon hunts. Sometimes it is one of the most brutal and nightmarish scenes you will ever encounter. For some sensitive souls, it could even be traumatic. But nature doesn’t care.

Ravana meditated for ages and regardless of his morality, Shiva blessed him. Neither nature nor the inherent nature of the divine holds any biases to what is good or evil. It is merely a human contraption, a convenience.

An artist has to learn to shed off this load of romance, while simultaneously acting as a victim of the same. It is an inherent part of the process – be amazed by what you see and discover, live the dream life of a creative, wake up one morning to discover you are cringe, get over the cringe, and do it all over again until you reach a moment when good, bad, great, all have lost their meaning, and you have turned into a medium, a meta-medium, a free human, a true artist, an Übermensch.

This is transparency that opens our eyes to see what is an objective truth and what is just a false perceived notion.

If I don’t see any growth in my guitar-playing skills, then I cannot go on and about blaming that times have changed and that people don’t see what I see. There are numerous iterations of the same excuse decorated each time with an interesting intellectual disguise. But fundamentally the reason why I don’t see any growth in my guitar-playing skills is simply the lack of an objective outlook, and too much withdrawal to the utterly dreamy, ultra-realistic, über-fertile grounds of romance.

This is a waste of time unless you want to subject yourself to a very true, organic, and excruciating artistic process of discovery and actualisation. Rock and roll is a part of life, unlike Kurt Cobain and Hendrix, we shouldn’t let it become the only reality of our existence. There is family, relationships, travelling, learning, children, friends, and so much more to life than just the mortal surrender to a song that said that life is for phonies.

Getting out of your Head and Embracing the Ordinary

Blaming the fan base and the ever-changing framework of society is not a novel idea in any sense. People hate change, of any kind. It was the same when records started to come out, limiting the length of a song, it was the same when Indians diverted from their classical roots, it was the same when The Local Train broke the traditional performance scene, and it is the same when hyper-niched, novel organic, and more human artists are on the rise. And it will be the same in the future as well. This is the mark of human civilisation, we adhere to whatever is familiar and disdain anything original or that which doesn’t suit our conveniences and asks for a dramatic internal change.

As artists, we need to get out of our heads, limit the scope of identity as soon as it turns dictatorial, and learn to let go. As simple as that. We are not special in any way, if there is something that makes us special, it is that we are as ordinary as anyone else.

Zen Buddhism admires this notion when people accept the ordinary. It is very cruel to accept this for someone who thinks they are special and the world owes them. A healthy level of narcissism is essential, of course, but as soon as we transcend into territories where entitlement encourages our views and beliefs, something is innately wrong. And no amount of outward change could change it, only a devotion to an excruciatingly uncomfortable intra-personal dialogue, an ability to accept when you are wrong, and a willingness to grow can only save us.

We are all ordinary people and that is the beauty of it. No amount of hard work, natural talent, or supernatural ability makes us any different to how we should be perceived.

On Artist-Fan Interaction

It is okay to ask people to share your content online and spread it so that it helps us in our pursuit of art. It is even healthy to go out and be there in the community. But it is not okay to complain and whine when they show disinterest in you or your art. They don’t owe you anything.

The pursuit of art is the pursuit of the divine. It is essentially a healthy conglomerate of Bhakti, Gyaan, Karma and Dharma. It is a service to our species and universe. Releasing a song, an artwork, a set of poems, or a photo book, is an offering to the grand design of things.

Among all the great works of art and human capacity, we are serving a meagre offering. Being an artist is about embracing the grand, more abstract, sometimes metaphysical origin of human existence – something that is bigger than you. If it is good, or if you know how to play the game, then of course people will love it, embrace it and share it to their fullest capabilities. When people fall in love with your art, they will do anything and everything for you. Ask any Rajni fan out there.

It is not about getting bitter at the recurring thoughts of non-growth, or the seven years of bad luck and an incessant stream of failures, not at all. The pursuit of arts is both highly subjective and innately objective.

Subjectivity, feelings, emotions and expression carry you through this journey of connecting with other people, and souls – subjectivity is your way to realising the bigger meaning of being human and the importance of a community; but objectivity keeps you sane, keeps you on your feet, keeps you grounded, keeps you moving forward, and makes sure there is food on your table, clothes on your body and there is a promise of a roof over your head.

A song, the art is too pristine and divine to be thought of as a way to sustain a modern social life, it is merely a way to connect with our fellow human beings. Learning how to grow, and making a fortune out of your brand, is a separate form of art in itself.

What we lack as artists is the inability to draw a bold, dark line between the two.

If people are not resonating with what you have to say, then dig deeper, study yourself, study the greats, learn the requisite skills, hire relevant experts, and see where you can make changes and adjustments and make your story clearer and more accessible.

Saying ‘my art is above ordinary‘, ‘people don’t understand my art’, and ‘it is not for everyone’, is either a sign of an inflated ego or a fundamental insecurity hiding in your blind spot. Music and art are essential, innate human abilities to feel things, you don’t need a degree, or certification for Kabir’s dohe to show you the divine.

Keep doing your work, and surrender yourself to it. And maybe hire a manager, or a consultant if you need to reach more people. Don’t change who you are, but do keep that possibility alive, because failure is not death, stagnancy is.

But most importantly, don’t complain!


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